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“Mum! Mum, please let me in!”
She sat on a slightly unstable, wooden desk in an abandoned classroom, her eyes cast downward at the thick blanket of dust covering the floor. The small group that had gathered on her behalf was knocking wildly on the door, begging for entry, but she ignored their pleas. She had to be alone, to fester in the infection of her guilt. There was no other way to truly confront the horrors of her decision to raise Harry from the dead. What had she been thinking?
What had happened to Hermione Granger Weasley? She once had been the extremely clever girl who, armed with knowledge and a few choice texts, could take on anyone or anything. Was she the same woman who helped put an end to house elf suffering, and who had worked with Kingsley Shacklebolt to help eliminate laws favouring purebloods? Would she ever again find the young mother who snuggled her children at night and felt safest in the arms of her husband, but who could argue her way out of most situations with logic and sheer tenacity?
She was broken, bent over with tears dirtying her sunken cheeks. Alone, without Ron, she was completely useless against an unpredictable foe and pathetic in her attempts to justify her original actions. A dangerously thin shadow of her former self, Hermione’s emotions were always tinged with crippling guilt and anxiety, and she found it easier to sit in a forgotten classroom alone rather than confront her children, who would almost certainly die because of her actions.
Suddenly the loud, pleading voices disappeared, and she finally felt safe enough to let out a small sob. Her breath punched through the air quickly, almost like the sound of the Hogwarts express barrelling down the tracks. She had sworn to herself that she’d never lose it like this again, like she had the night after Ron had died. But still it consumed her, and she succumbed to it only because she felt like there was nothing else left for her to do.
As she continued to decompose into panic and pain, she did not hear the sound of the door unlocking. Not until Headmaster Flitwick stood before her did she realize that she was no longer alone, and she quickly wiped her eyes and attempted to regain some semblance of composure.
“H-headmaster F-Flitwick I’m s-s-sorry,” she stuttered, finding her hands useless against the slick sheen on her cheeks.
“Hermione Granger.” His voice was thin but still had the unmistakable singing quality of the man that had taught her so many years before. “It’s been several years since you and I have been able to talk.”
She nodded. The headmaster looked up at her and smiled through the ancient folds of his face. He was garbed in simple royal blue robes, much unlike the fancy, embroidered sets Professor Dumbledore often donned. Despite her grief and emotional turmoil, she still had great respect for the man who had taught her to be confident in her charm casting ability.
“I’ve been headmaster here a few years, since Headmistress McGonagall passed, which I’m sure you know. She was a great friend of mine, and I try to emulate her and Headmaster Dumbledore through all that I do. I know that you were close with Minerva.”
Hermione nodded like a first year student, drinking in his words. She felt equally repulsed by and grateful for his company. Her thoughts were a tangle of desolation and intrigue. Swallowing the darkness of her mind, she turned her full attention to the Headmaster.
“They were both wonderful leaders of this school, and now I have the pleasure of having their portraits hanging in my office. Although Albus does sleep quite a bit. I envy him. But no matter, I did not come here to discuss how much he snores, because it is quite a bit and I sometimes have difficulty concentrating.”
A small, polite laugh erupted from her, and she was instantly ashamed. Still she could not find the words to speak to him.
“The situation that our country is currently facing is one of the worst threats we’ve seen. Teddy Lupin tells me that we’re going to have to present a united front, some sort of staggered attack in the coming days. I, of course, nodded and smiled at him, and promised him whatever resources I could give him. But an old man like me has no place flying around on a broom stick, leading counter offensive attacks. That’s something the young adults ought to be doing. I am an educator, and this school will always be my number one concern.”
“Of course.” Her voice cracked.
“You know, Hermione, it always puzzled me why you didn’t end up in my house. Of course, I am grateful that you didn’t, because you might not have become such dear friends with Potter and Weasley. And far be it from me to question the Sorting Hat. But you are one of the smartest witches to have ever walked these corridors, and it goes without saying that I was always bitterly jealous of Minerva during those times.”
This time, her smile was genuine.
“I know a thing or two about magic. But did you know I also know a few things about history as well? This very well may be shocking for you, why I chose to teach Charms over History of Magic, but do you know that old Professor Binns would have shown up to class regardless, and sat right on top of me while we both tried to teach! I’m not very tall, but using the argument that he could not see me was offensive. I’m glad I ended up with Charms, much more interesting in the long run.”
Hermione recognised his attempts to cheer her up, but did not feel patronised. She had always been very fond of Professor Flitwick at school.
“But because I know a little about history, there are some things that I can tell you, Hermione. It is magically impossible to raise the dead. The only way this has ever been achieved is through the magical artifact known as the resurrection stone, which was lost at the end of the wizarding war and never recovered. You know the story?”
“Of course I do, I was the one that told Harry and Ron about it when I realized we were dealing with the Deathly Hallows during the war,” Hermione replied, a little more impatiently than she had intended.
“I know. And yet, when you saw Harry lying there on the table, and you saw the pain that your friend Ginny and her family were going through, mixed with your own sorrow, you tried to bring him back to life.”
Her stomach knotted painfully as a fresh wave of tears threatened to fall.
“I…I wasn’t thinking, I thought…I just thought…”
“It is easy to let our emotions drive our actions. It happens to the best of us, the smartest of us. Even you. Those who normally have kept a level head, when confronted with deeply personal pain and loss... it happens. You are not the first person who has tried to raise the dead, nor will you be the last. You did not want this to happen, you did not try to make this happen, and you are not responsible for this happening.”
“How?!” Her emotions betrayed her again as a tear escaped. “I said the words, I performed the magic.”
“Yes, you did. You performed harmless magic on a corpse. But you did not pull those chemicals off the shelf. You did not knowingly mix them. As Professor Longbottom has told you, those potions that you brought in, that was very powerful dark magic left over from Voldemort’s reign. They were extremely volatile; there was nothing that could have been done. The alternative to this was that someone walked by and bumped them by accident, which would have unleashed the terror into the world. The spell you performed did not do this. It was the potions, Hermione. It was an accident.”
The rock in her stomach began to slowly dissolve.
“I’m sorry, I am so sorry.”
“Don’t apologise, dear girl. You don’t have to apologise to anyone. You need to talk to Teddy Lupin and tell him everything you know. From there, you should decide which front you want to fight on. You can stay here at Hogwarts if you like. We have a board that will be discussing important strategies while looking after the children that remain here as well as caring for any of those individuals that are brought back as refugees. Or you can go out with the team and fight on that front. But whichever decision you choose, it will be the right one for you.”
“Oh, I’m not staying here. Even if my children weren’t volunteering to be the first in line, I have to be able to see what’s going on. I have to stop this.”
Flitwick peered at her through half opened eyes, the smile returned to his face.
“I suppose that would be the reason you weren’t a Ravenclaw. Ah well, it was your loss, Miss Granger.” With a wink, he vacated the room, leaving Hermione with a renewed since of confidence and a sudden desire to go talk to her nephew-in-law.
Teddy Lupin sat in a large oak chair opposite Hermione, attentively listening as she recounted the harrowing days that led up to their arrival at Hogwarts. Her tone was steady and without emotion as she spoke, and when she had finished her tale, he leaned back in the chair and interlaced his fingers across his chest. She had requested the private meeting nearly an hour before, and now she was exhausted both physically and mentally.
“That’s everything?” His voice was gravelly and rough, as though he had been talking the entire day.
“Yes,” she said quietly, before taking a deep, steadying breath.
Nodding, he rubbed his eyes and managed a wan smile.
“Thank you for telling me this, Hermione. It’s information that we can definitely use. I did know parts of the story from Neville and such, but hearing your first-hand account will be beneficial to us. ”
She searched his dark brown eyes for validation, praying that what she had divulged to him had not destroyed her reputation in any way. She remembered Teddy Lupin as a young boy who had spent weekends besides her own children. So vivacious, despite the tragedy that befell him before he was old enough to walk, he had grown into a well behaved teenager and demonstrated himself to be a remarkable metamorphagus, just like his mother. The heavy, dark shadow of the past hung between them, obscuring the true lines of reality into a muddy, complicated mess.
“So, what’s your plan?” Hermione broke the uncomfortable silence, still unsettled by his lack of warmth toward her.
“We’ll have to go out in two teams. One of them will be tasked with massive destruction of as many zombies as possible. The other team is a search and rescue for anyone that might still be alive and fighting. I know there are some people out there, and this zombie epidemic, or whatever you want to call it, can’t have reached all corners of Britain yet. We’ll have a couple people with us to set up refugee camps away from Hogwarts, hopefully with the same protective spells Hogwarts employs.”
“That’s actually a great idea. In my experience, as I’ve said, the zombies don’t react to magic, they can’t be killed by magical means. But I find it very interesting that they can’t penetrate our defences here. I don’t know if I’ll ever fully understand all the enchantments that protect this castle, but I hope that we can create other areas for a safe haven. I assume you’ll be saving muggles and wizards alike?”
“That’s the plan. Of course, Hogwarts is for wizards only, again due to the enchantments, so our satellite camps are going to be well armed with enchantments and muggle weapons. The one thing I really want to avoid is martial law developing. People need to understand clearly who their leaders are. And we need to find a safe place for all the government officials. We’ve lost the Minister so we have Percy, but to my greatest knowledge the muggle Prime Minister and the royal family are still alive and safe in London. I’ll send someone soon to assure their safety. One of the King’s sons is out of the country, doing some sort of work in India. Besides them, there are people all over the country that need help. As soon as I leave here, I’m going to go to London and explain what is happening to the Prime Minister, because we’re going to have to work together with muggle forces, and they’re going to need to understand what to expect from us.”
He paused then, and Hermione noted how very tired he looked. The last couple of days had aged him tremendously. Pushing long strands of chocolate hair from his eyes, he took a deep breath before continuing.
“You mentioned that Harry had some type of special powers that maybe the other zombies don’t. That he seemed to be seeking out his family members and raising those who he knew. Is there some…way that he might have retained some sort of cognisant awareness?”
It was Hermione’s turn to sigh.
“I don’t know. If he had some functioning thought process, surely he wouldn’t seek out his own family members? I don’t know if there is something else at work here…”
“I think Harry can disapparate.”
It was a simple statement that seemed so utterly absurd, yet was the only possible explanation.
“That is it!” Hermione startled herself as she spoke, the high pitched, agitated tones of her voice bouncing off the walls of the room. “He can disapparate. That’s why he’s going after his family members, why he went after Dumbledore. It’s also the reason that we have zombies all the way in Scotland, when the trouble started in London. Maybe he was dead, but whatever the hell it was that mixed in that room, combined with my magic... It must have reanimated something in him. Enough to harness raw magical energy but not return all mental faculties. And it would make sense that he is the only one that can do it, because none of the other zombies would have the same combination of magic. It makes him harder to kill because his position is always unpredictable.”
Hermione was suddenly extremely annoyed with herself for not coming to that conclusion sooner. It seemed so easy, so black and white. Of course he could disapparate. Teddy didn’t seem to share her enthusiasm, but he nodded slowly as her epiphany blossomed.
“So how do we kill him? How can we track him?”
“I don’t know yet. But I agree with your strategy to get the muggle military and police forces on board. They can help with the search and rescue for muggles and then we can focus on wizards and witches. Can you answer a question for me, though? Of the two teams, which one is more dangerous, in your opinion? The search and rescue squad or the destroyers?”
“I’d say probably search and rescue. Some of the people out there might not just be stranded, they could be actively engaged in battle with the zombies, and the team would have to fight. Those that are destroying the zombies theoretically could stay mounted on their broom the whole time and just fly. It depends on the situation.”
Nodding, Hermione briefly closed her eyes, embracing the darkness she found there. The long golden fingers of the lazy sunset stretched across the room, further illuminating the exhaustion in Teddy’s features. The collar of his white button up shirt was drenched in sweat, and his discomfort with the situation made him appear more like his father. Hermione could see Remus Lupin in every expression of Teddy’s face, at the edge of every word he muttered. And she had no problems reading the disappointment in his face as she recounted her story earlier.
“You don’t think less of me, do you?” She asked.
The question put her on edge, but she fought back any urge to return to the mess she had been earlier in the day. Suddenly she cared deeply about what he thought of her. Perhaps it was because she’d watched him grow up in front of her eyes, caring for him the same way she had for any of her nieces and nephews. Still yet, it could be because he was the authority charged with leading the offensive strategy against the zombies. Either way, she was embarrassed to admit even to herself that his opinion in that moment was gold, and she desperately needed him to be on board with her.
“No, Hermione. I don’t. I couldn’t. It’s a lot to swallow, I’ll give you that, but this isn’t your fault. I just…I’m so tired. I think I’m going to go to Victoire, have a quick conversation with her, and then turn in for the night. I will be able to approach all of this with a clear head tomorrow.”
Nodding, Hermione stood from the table and smiled at Teddy. “That’s probably a good idea. Before you go, though, I have a request. For my children… Hugo and Rose… and for Lily and Albus too… can you make sure they get assigned to the destroyer team? If they are flying, I know they’ll be ok. “
Nodding, Teddy offered a small smile that did not touch his eyes. “Rose, Hugo, and Lily I can deal with. Albus will be a different story, but I’ll do what I can.”
“Thanks.” She gave him a quick hug and sent him on his way. Despite being ravenous and feeling physically weak, she still had one more stop to make. Since a curfew had been established for all persons in the castle under the age of 16, the halls were relatively quiet as Hermione skirted a corner to the stairwell. She had a small flash of déjà vu as she laboured up the stairs, remembering all the different times she’d skipped up this same path, library books in hand, her bushy, unmanageable hair bouncing along. The innocence of her youth suddenly became a painful memory, and she pushed it out of her mind. She had become an expert at avoiding complicated, damning thoughts, and instead she thought only of her destination—she was going to see Draco.
She found the infirmary to be completely abandoned and easily snuck in through the large doors. Everyone else had most likely gone down for dinner. Draco rested in the same position that he had been the night before, with a few exceptions. A pillow was folded gently under the knee on the side of the amputation, with his stump floating above the thin mattress. On the other leg, a pillow was similarly lodged under the calf, keeping the pressure off his heel. Both of his arms were propped up so that none of the bony prominences of his elbows were touching the bed. These modifications prevented Draco from getting any skin openings due to lying in the same position.
His face had a dreadful pallor, as though death were merely seconds away, and his thin lips were colourless, cracked and dry. Her stomach twisted into a thick knot as she approached the bed.
“Draco,” she stated monotonously, her head dipping so that her chin touched her chest. She hesitantly reached out and touched a hand to his cheek. A slick sheen of perspiration greeted her touch. His forehead felt feverish, but the sides of his face were so cold.
“Story.” His eyelids fluttered, and Hermione yanked her hand back in fear. “Story.”
His voice sounded different than it had the night before, the intonation and volume strong.
“Draco? It’s Hermione! Can you hear me?”
His eyes slowly opened, and he peered at her through heavy lids, his sleepy steel gaze locked on her. She swallowed and adjusted her red button down shirt in nervousness, unable to predict his behaviour.
“Astoria, we have to get out of here! They are coming, they are coming.”
Her heart lurched as she watched him glance anxiously around the room.
“Draco, I’m not—“
“There’s no time. You have to go to Scorpius, tell him, Astoria, you tell him that I love him.”
Hermione stood with his mouth agape as Draco mumbled a few strings of unintelligible gibberish. The strength of his speech began to diminish.
“Draco, who is coming?” She asked, suddenly unsure why she was playing into his feverish delusions.
“The…the monsters. They… I saw them… I was coming home from work… they are only a few minutes away…you’ve got to run. Run. Go to Scorpius, find him. I’ll protect us… I’ll protect our life. Go to Scorpius… I love you Astoria… I love you so much… tell Scorpius… tell him… tell him that I love him. Tell him… Astoria… promise me... promise me…”
For once, Hermione wasn’t crying due to guilt or her own pain. The tears running down her cheeks were for a man who had once been her arch enemy, who lay dying before her, pleading with the love of his life to go on without her, to find their son who he cared about so much.
“Run, Astoria. Run.”
And then, Draco fell away again, lost in the abyss of all consuming illness. But Hermione did not cry for him anymore, now her tears were for his wife. Because when Astoria went to find their son to tell him, she had found his house empty. Scorpius had run away to be with Rose. His mother had gone to protect her son, and instead she found no trace of Scorpius. What she had found instead was nearly instantaneous death.
When she returned to the Great Hall, dinner had nearly finished. She grabbed a plate and nibbled feebly on a turkey sandwich before returning to their quarters in the Room of Requirement. Rose and Scorpius were huddled together in front of the fire, their conversation a muted tangle of hushed tones and sobs. Deciding not to interrupt them, Hermione wandered to her bed, quickly noting that Hugo had taken up residence there, his head propped up on his arm while he wrote animatedly on a piece of parchment. He was prone with his knees bent, feet crossed at the ankles, just as he had always positioned himself as a child.
“Oh, hi Mum,” he greeted, not looking up from his ferocious scribbles.
“Hi, sweetie. Are you moving in here from your Common Room?”
“Yeah, I just kind of wanted to hang out with you guys. Tomorrow we’re all leaving so I decided it would be good for me to spend the night in here.”
“Ah. Where are your cousins?”
“Dunno.” Hermione smiled at him, and suddenly felt the urge to pull him close to her and never let him go again. She highly doubted that her sixteen year old son reciprocated that feeling, but the fact that he wanted to spend the evening in their room spoke volumes.
“Scoot over, would you? What are you writing?” She poked him in the ribs to expedite the process, and he glared at her briefly before shifting over so there was enough room for her to sit.
“I’m writing all the different ways I can think of to kill zombies.”
“Oh, you are? Can I see?” She smiled at him encouragingly.
“I’m not done yet,” he huffed. “I just have to spill all this out of my brain first. Maybe it will help Teddy, I don’t know if he ever played video games.” Hermione suppressed an urge to roll her eyes.
“Come on, Hugo. Just let me hear a few.” She made a point to allow her bottom lip to protrude.
“Oh, God, Mum. Fine.” He cleared his throat. “Number six: Dig a large hole in the ground. Pour petrol on the zombies. Blow it up with dynamite.”
“Number twenty three: find a wood chipper. Add a ladder. Lure zombies up with bait until they fall in the woodchipper and explode.”
“You cannot be serious. How do you even know what a wood chipper is?”
“Number seventeen: lure zombies onto railroad track. Run them over with the Hogwarts Express.”
“Alright, I’ve heard enough!” Hermione exclaimed, putting a hand up. “Run them over with the Hogwarts Express? Are you…I can’t even…”
“It’s always a possibility. We could knock out a few hundred of them that way.” He regarded her with a steady, serious expression.
“Ok, Hugo. Ok. I’m sure Teddy would love to hear your…ideas. But we should get some sleep. It’s gonna be a big day tomorrow and I want to make sure you’re well rested.”
“You think I’m really going to be able to sleep tonight? Seriously, Mum?”
Hermione knew he was right, and that made her more nervous than ever. Tomorrow, everything would change. They would no longer be hiding behind the walls of the castle. Tomorrow, the real fight would begin, and there was nothing she could do to stop it now. She would never sit by and watch war happen around her. Wondering for a fleeting moment what her own parents would have thought of her predicament in the last war, had they not had their memory wiped, Hermione kicked her son off the bed and settled in for the night. How wonderful it would be to point a wand at herself and selectively erase pieces of her memory that would be better off floating in the bottom of oblivion. But no, her choices were made, and the only answer forward was clear.
Tomorrow, all hell most likely would break loose. And as was true to her character and nature, Hermione Weasley planned to be right in the thick of the action. And it wasn’t because of guilt; she was springing to action because she was a Gryffindor, brave and valiant, and she would protect everyone that she could in the name of the house that helped raise her to greatness, zombies be damned.
A/N Once again, big thanks to my awesome beta AccioHPFF! I thank you all so much if you are still with me this far, and I promise you in the next chapter things are about to get exciting again!!!
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