Finally! What happens next after chapter 1!
Acknowledgements - The Alpha Fight Club crew (IP82, ChuckDaTruck, Nukular Winter, Japanese-Jew, Sirius009, Jmcqk6 and Cubdom) all had their grubby little hands in this. Beta work by the always rockin FairyQilan. I'd also like to thank all those who commented in the preview thread on FFA and DLP and to all those who voted for this story and its characters in the 2nd Annual DLP awards. Special thanks to Ichtys for the disclaimer!
Friendly Reminder - The events of Chapter 1 take place between the events of Chapter 17 and 18. If you haven't already, you might want to refresh yourself with what happened.
Chapter 18 - With Claws at Your Back to Send a Chill Through the Night Air
Your eyes pry themselves open. You could do with a bit more sleep, perhaps an entire week? Still it's not a good idea. The dreams weren't very nice. It's been said that magical folk like you are sensitive to the cries of the dead. Some of the normal folk can claim to have seen or felt one, but people or as good old Uncle Vernon would say 'Freaks' like you can regularly hold a conversation with ghosts.
So imagine being in the middle of a dead city where several thousand magical beings were killed in a short period of time? Yeah, good times - nothing like waking up in a cold sweat! Hands were reaching for you clawing at your skin. You've had your share of nightmares. Hell you've even had the infernal fucker responsible for all this in your head personally, but what you just experienced was down right vivid. Almost like reliving your mad dash to get the Bank's door closed, but you didn't make it. The most horrible screeching is coming from somewhere? Please for the love of all that's good and righteous in the world make it stop!
"Puny James finally wake up!" Hack stops his singing. Either you're still dreaming or the Troll knows the lyrics to Hotel California. Too bad he can't sing that well. Collins told you it was a true story involving their wizard lead guitarist and this enchanted ruins in the American southwest that he barely made it out of alive. Of course, he could have been bullshitting you - again.
"Hey Hack. My name is really Harry. We've been over this." You sputter as the troll shoves a plastic bottle filled with water at you. You prop yourself up along the wall you were laying against. Bill is heading over towards you.
"Are you back to stay this time?"
"I reckon. How long was I out?"
"Six hours give or take. How do you feel?"
"Do you seriously want an answer? I feel like hell." Which, given where you are, is a pretty accurate description.
"What happened to the thumping dead outside?"
"Silencing charm. They're still out there. We just got tired of listening to it. The lobby is secured. Every so often one wanders down the steps from the offices above. You were exhausted and pretty banged up after your little hero stunt thing. We were already starting to transfigure walls and what not to force them to come at us single file, when you and Hack bum rushed the door."
Hack smiles. You should make friends with the things living between his teeth. You see them often enough. "We crush lots of skulls together. Had to crush Glurg's skull. Hack not like that."
You look at Bill slightly confused. Did Hack have to put Glurg out of his misery? Bill answers, "No, Harry. Place is swimming in Necro Wards. The troll and the four goblins got back up an hour after they died. We had to take their heads off. If anyone else goes down, we'll have to do the same."
"Can't we cancel the wards?"
"They reappear. There must be some Master Ward that spawns new Necro wards throughout the city. It's the second most impressive thing I've seen since I got here."
Curious, you have to ask, "Okay, what was the most impressive thing?"
"Harry, you were throwing off so much energy you were glowing. I've heard of people strong enough to have a visible aura before. Kwan has too. Thundercloud says he once saw a witch in his youth who actually did it."
You feel a bit uncomfortable sort of like when everyone saw you talk a conjured snake out of snacking on Justin 'I've got a hyphenated last name', "Must have just been a trick of the lighting or something."
"Not likely. Not that much light around here and if you are wondering why your right hand is bandaged? It's because your wand was fused to the palm of your hand. You might want to polish it and clean it. It smells a bit like burnt flesh. If I had brought Fleur's pensieve, I'd show it to you. Maybe we'll get one here. It'd sure be nice to have one of our own."
You start to deny it again, but realize it's futile, too many years of the Dursleys telling you that you're nothing special. Fuck them! You rock! You kick major zombie ass! It's about damn time you and the rest of the world realizes this! "So, tell me more about this aura thing."
"Harry, do you remember the first set of ruins when you went back to get Kwan and he collapsed? That's magical exhaustion. You pushed past that point and kept going. I wouldn't have got within twenty meters of that door. Kwan said he wouldn't have got there either. You did. I watched you banish three Inferi off of Hack's leg at the same time. One of them hit that pillar three meters off the ground. If Dumbledore or anyone else ever doubts that you're the real deal, I'll show them that memory. You want to try a spell?"
You nod your head and he summons your wand. A simple light spell is tiring, but you can do it. Kwan has walked up. You should have noticed. He usually sneaks up on you just to scare you. Maybe you're still a bit out of it. "When I collapsed, it was over a day before I could use magic again. Don't be stupid and strain yourself! Perhaps do something useful instead, like make Kwan food?"
It's tempting to try and transfigure him into something, very tempting. You holster your wand feeling a bit naked. "Where's my gun? I'm not going to stand here and be defenseless. Charm my shotgun to a new ammo can and I'll make stir fry." Kwan agrees and sets about enchanting the weapon with a reloading charm. Many of the bodies have already been cleared away. At first you think someone vanished them, but then you realize that they were shrunk instead and tossed into a hastily made fire pit. Smart move, as shrinking takes less out of you than vanishing something completely. Then again, it's not like you're out here with the effing DA at your back! There's a reason these people are professionals.
With Hack's help you get the kitchen equipment unpacked from the trunks. The goblins are inspecting the crystalline lattice that powers the bulk transfer system. They don't look pleased. They were a bit upset at not being able to use Worg, until the 'filthy human' transformation potions were fully out of their systems. Their weapons hadn't been very effective. Though, eight bears would only have been bigger snacks for the Inferi. At least you know that the potion chooses the form based on their personality types. Take that Hermy!
"You guys eat stir fry too?"
"Explain human, what is stir fry?"
"Rice, meat, vegetables and some soy sauce and sesame oil for flavoring."
"Yes." The leader replies after some thought. Probably the first time a human ever offered to cook something for them. You don't mind it as long as you don't have to watch them, or Hack for that matter eat.
"Then keep working. I'll make enough for everyone." You're not sure if the Gobs lost their cook, but you'd rather they work on the way to get more supplies and reinforcements here. Especially as you glance at the hopefully indestructible windows and see shapes outside.
Collins is sprawled on a sleeping bag about five meters to the left of where you're busy working on food. He's moaning and groaning slightly. You ignore it for a minute or two, but it's getting louder. A look over at Bill and Kwan shows they've heard it too.
Collins lets loose with an ear splitting scream and sits straight up. He grabs his wand and fires a blasting curse. It smashes into the counter that you played tap dance by the Inferi horde on. Shit! A meter higher and it would have hit the bloody windows!
So much for resting your magic, "Expelliarmus!" Dazed and still out of it the hitwizard is an easy target as you blast the wand from his hand. You sag to the ground with the effort.
"Stay back! Stay back! Get the fuck away from me! They're everywhere! The eyes! Stay away!"
Kwan is already beside him calming him down. He looks worried. "Probably happen whenever we try to sleep. Place is cursed like nowhere I've ever been before."
Bill nods in agreement. "I agree. It's worse than anywhere I've ever been as well. We'll have to ration our Dreamless sleep. Maria, check the locker and see how many doses we have."
Thundercloud helps you to your feet. "Harry and I can sleep in our animal forms. It should affect us far less. Our totems should also help counter this. You and Maria will especially need your wits about you."
Jake Collins coughs up the water that Kwan gave him. "How much sleep did I get? Feels like I didn't get any."
"Shit! How are we supposed to get by on naps? I hate this fucking place already! We should just stun each other!"
Bill looks thoughtful and waits for Sanchez to give him a number. "Not exactly healthy, but we'll do that two nights and use dreamless sleep on the third night. With our Animagi out of the loop we've got enough of the potion to last a month."
It looks like no one else really cares for the idea of being here for a month. Hell, by then you might actually be begging to go back to being Dumbledore's toilet paper. Now that your adrenaline is gone, this place feels wrong. You search for the right word for a minute before it hits you, defiled. This place is defiled. It's like living inside a cancer.
Dinner is a sobering affair, lacking the usual witty banter that you are used to. The silencing charm wore off halfway through eating and the pounding on the doors and windows resumed. Sanchez recast the charms muttering what could have only been Spanish vulgarities.
The goblins seem to enjoy your cooking, albeit with heaps of salt. Blood pressure must not really be an issue among their kind. Hack loves it. Though, you could probably dump a steaming pile of feces on top of his dinner and he wouldn't care. In truth, it wasn't your best effort, but under the circumstances you doubt that Wolfgang Puck could have done much better.
The lobby remains dimly lit. Bill has a hastily rigged alarm ward on both sets of steps. You're giving Hack his third helping when the one at the far end goes off drawing everyone's attention. Two shambling mounds of dead flesh cross the barrier. Collins pulls out his Desert Eagle and stalks towards them. At three meters, he switches to a two hand grip and proceeds to blow massive holes where there heads used to be.
"If I can't fucking sleep then, I might as well be shooting something. Who want's to help me clear the upstairs?"
You agree to help and could use the practice with the Mossberg. Hack wants to go as well, but he's too big for the upstairs floors. Bill seems a bit uncertain about you going without using magic. He comes with. You end up taking your shotgun, the enchanted ammo box and as a last resort a Browning Nine Millimeter with a thirteen round clip. There are a total of five upstairs floors to go through, but no time like the present to start. Bill resets his wards to the top of the landing as the two move up to the second level. You flick on your magical glasses and the corridor lights up like a neon sign. You set your ammo can at the top the landing. As long as you stay within thirty meters, the gun will reload.
Bill looks at the two of you and points to the Necro Wards. "I don't have to say stay alert and be careful. I doubt they bothered to trap the upstairs, but if you see any ward other than these or the basic building wards, fall the hell back. I'll check for traps and you two clear the rooms. Put your hand on any shut door you come to. It might be silenced, but the room could be filled with Inferi. That's what we call in the trade, 'Opening Davey Jones' locker.' Don't be reckless or stupid. Both will get you killed. Alright, let's go."
You obviously don't quite understand Goblin architecture. The concept of straight lines and right angles clearly didn't appeal to them. In a way it's rather disconcerting, something akin to being in those carnival fun houses. Crazy old Arabella Figg took you once when you were seven. Made you swear up and down not to mention it to the Dursleys. Makes you wonder how much the old bat knew about what was going on. By extension, you wonder how much Dumbledore knew. One of these days old man! One of these days...
You jump at the staccato roar of the AK-47 firing. Shit! Collins could have used the silencing charm for fucks sake! Scratch two walking dead. Trash litters the hallways. You wonder if you brought the wrong Weasley with you. Old Molly Wobbles could keep the entire Slytherin House busy next summer cleaning this mess up and if the Necro wards got some of them, well no big loss, except maybe Greengrass and Davis. They're easy on the eyes. Still a pair of hardcore bints, but attractive, hardcore bints just the same.
Returning your attention to the task at hand, you step over the corpses. You turn off the glasses for a minute to rest your eyes. Bill stops every few meters and mutters a quick detection spell. "We shouldn't have any problems on the second and third levels. The fourth and fifth levels were for Gobs only. There might be some lingering wards set up by Curse Breakers for the bank managers. We'll need to get to the bank manager's office anyway. It should have a master ledger of the vaults and possibly master keys. I don't see anything out of the ordinary so far."
"Bill, where are all the dead Goblin bodies?"
"Not sure. I'm worried about that myself. My guess is they're in the tunnels waiting for us. I banished a couple of corpses towards the vault entrance and a set of wards at the entrance to the vault tunnels destroyed them. Maria is already inspecting them. Problem is dropping them might free a few hundred corpse walkers in one shot for the ultimate DJ's locker."
There's a thumping sound on the door in front of you. The door opens inwards. "How many?"
Bill listens at the door. "More than one, at least two. Fortunately the rooms aren't that big. We go on three."
"Wait! Is that one, two, three and then go? Or is it one, two, go on three?" It's an age-old argument.
Bill looks at you. Collins shakes his head, "I can't fucking believe this. One! Go!" He turns the doorknob and kicks the door open.
Four of them are in the room. Still no Gobs. You blast one, but mainly try and stay out of Collins' way. This is his therapy session. It's disconcerting how a room with four zombies in it is rather dull. Better not become complacent! Riddle might be insane, but he's not an idiot. The walking dead are only the first line of defense. He's got a sense of grandeur.
As you clear each room, Bill puts a locking charm on the door to prevent them from being reopened. Inferi from the upper levels will be restricted to the hallways. The next room has a balcony. Stepping out onto the balcony, you get your first look at Hell on Earth. Most of the buildings are collapsed. A few still stand. The streets are full of the dead. Below you there is a horde of Inferi staring up at you and reaching with their arms. Screw up and you might end up out there with them! Something is circling in the air.
"Thestrals?" You ask pointing towards the shapes in the darkness.
"No; back inside. Those look like they used to be Abraxan. Shit! The Necro Wards affected them too!" You remember the beautiful creatures pulling the Beauxbatons carriage. These look like something out of a bad nightmare. Finding the Master set of Necro wards might be a very good idea.
You edge back inside not wanting to draw the attention of the fliers. It makes you wonder what else the wards affected. Goblins used all sorts of creatures to protect their vaults.
Three hours later, you're tired again. Floors two and three are now clear. Bill's inspecting Kwan, Bill and Sanchez are up inspecting the wards leading to floors four and five. The good news is that they appear untouched, meaning Riddle never bothered going up there. The bad news is that they appear untouched, meaning the Goblins like they privacy and took steps to protect their senior officials.
Bill told you that you could look at his mission log. You're downright curious what he wrote to them.
We have discovered an entrance into the Lost City. We are attempting an assault by the time you read this. Our exit point is full of Inferi. I suspect I will continue to be able to send but not receive messages from you.
I'm taking Harry with me. Yes, you've read that correctly. I've had Harry all this time. You sanctimonious bastards! I'm disgusted that I called several of you friends and some of you family! We decided that with us out of your reach that whatever resources you have trying to find him would be better spent doing something more useful. Call off your search. You want to know something? I think he's safer with me in a cursed city then with you idiots!
Both he and I would like an explanation as to why he was treated the way he was, but I doubt anything you say will be satisfactory. Dumbledore, you can imagine my surprise upon learning that Harry didn't know what he was up against. Were you going to make him play the same guessing game that I had to about the objects we are searching for? Rest assured - he does now. It was almost as interesting as what Harry had to tell me about the item from the Department of Mysteries. Consider this my resignation. I'll work for Harry now, thank you very much. Of course, given where the money was coming from, I believe most of us are already on Harry's payroll. Oddly enough, I think I'll try a novel approach and actually help Harry train for the task ahead of him. Lupin, before you get any cute ideas about cutting our purse strings, you might want to remember where the money you are spending is coming from and what Harry can charge you with if he chooses.
Mum, Dad, what the fuck were you thinking? In all my life I have never been so ashamed of my family name. After all Harry's done for us. Dad and Ginny owe their lives to him! If you're keeping score, I do as well. Have you no shame? Fair warning - should you ever put me in the position of choosing between you and Harry, you will be very shocked at my choice.
We have successfully breached our target. We sustained losses. One troll and four goblins perished. Our initial task will be to secure our landing site.
More to follow.
You know Bill is a good liar, but you doubt that he could fake much anger in his words. There was always that nagging feeling that this might be some bizarre scheme of Dumbledore's to allow you to train yourself. It was impressive how he switched from icy coldness with Dumbledore to the raw anger directed at his parents. His shot to Lupin wasn't really necessary. The raid on the ruins left you with more than enough money to run this operation into next year. The Order doesn't need to know that.
You pick up your own journal. While reading Bill's letters you think about Luna. Your last letter to her was somewhat easy. In a way it was a guilty indulgence, knowing that she wouldn't be able to respond. You were able to effectively say goodbye without any consequence. Now that you have survived the initial assault, you must decide on how to proceed now. Is it shameful of you to wonder if she is waiting and watching for the book to glow again?
We made it through. There were Inferi everywhere. I collapsed in exhaustion from fighting them. We've managed to clear the lobby and a few of the upstairs floors.
This place is cursed. It's hard to sleep. Everyone keeps waking up with violent nightmares. Thundercloud says he and I should try sleeping as our animals and the nightmares will be less intense. Our brains are slightly altered in that state. I suppose there's a joke in there somewhere, but I'll leave it to you. Also, he says that our animal totems should help ward against the evil that surrounds us. This gives more doses of Dreamless Sleep for the others. Even the Gobs are affected. Thankfully, Hack isn't. Guess there is something to be said for being a Troll?
I looked out into the cavern. Words can't really describe it. This place defines evil. I wouldn't wish this place on anyone except the bastard that created it. The wards recreate themselves! Anyone who dies is reanimated one hour after they die. Hack's friend Glurg and four of the Goblins died. We had to destroy them later, when the Necro wards got to them.
I've got to go. It's my turn to try and sleep. I hope you are well.
Sleeping in your jaguar form did indeed dull the nightmares. They were only run of the mill terrifying dreams, instead of the full blown screaming night terrors. You stay in your form and walk around to stretch your legs.
You prepare another meal. The repairs on the bulk transfer platform continue, but without much in the way of progress.
Two hours later, you are assisting Bill and Maria with ward removal from the steps to the fourth floor. Both are very knowledgeable in warding for the Goblins. Between the two of them, the removal becomes an exercise in repetition. They let you do a few of them. Feels good to do magic again. The fourth level is completely devoid of Inferi. That should be a good sign, but for some reason that makes you more concerned.
The Bank Manager's office should have a master inventory book in it detailing the contents of every vault. Otherwise, there will be an enormous amount of vaults to open. The ledgers in the main lobby merely contain the monetary amounts in each vault. There's quite enough to go around. Everyone will be pleased.
"Here it is Harry. This is the set of wards negating broom travel inside the bank. Show me what you got!" With fluid movements of your holly wand, you begin disenchanting the series of wards that prevent broom use in the entire building. The wards are carved into the structure up in the Goblin only area. You admire the ingenuity behind it. You would've already had to control the bank to get up here to negate the anti-broom wards.
Both of the Curse Breakers look on in approval at your efforts. At least everyone can now use brooms. It will make getting up to the fifth floor much easier. For the first time in the past twelve hours you crack a real smile as Bill climbs on that ridiculous Zambrano broom and you are treated to the advertising charm yet again. Maria uses an old Mexican broom called a 'Speedy Gonzales' after the little cartoon character. These days it would be more aptly named after the other mouse, 'Slow Poke Rodriguez.'
Now equipped with working brooms, the wards on the stairs leading to the fifth level are no longer a factor. Maybe, if you are bored, you'll come back and break them later for some practice. Thinking around the problem! That's part of the beauty behind Curse Breaking. The bloke or bird setting them up can't account for another person's imagination! Hell, the fact you all are even in this place to begin with is a testament to creative thinking. You want to give three cheers for creative thinking as Bill opens the door.
Hip! Hip! Oh shit!
At one time, the creature in front of you was a beautiful winged stallion. Now it is a thing with only chunks of leathery flesh clinging to its bones. You stuff your wand in its face and tonare the fuck out of it, blowing it and door back.
With the carcass clear, you get your first look at the fifth level. There's a reason Riddle didn't disenchant all the wards from the fourth level up.
He attacked the fifth level first, clever bastard! Gaping holes exist where the ceiling used to be. The entire level is pretty much open to the air. With this being the highest and most level point in the cave, guess where all the undead flying horses hang out? Guess who just destroyed the door and one of them drawing all their attention? Forget Davey's locker! You just open up fucking Davey Jones' corral!
You send a bone crusher into a second one. It takes a leg out, but misses anything vital.
"Harry, fall back! We'll fight them in the hallway below us!"
It's a good plan. Maria flies back down. Bill leaps over the railing and casts a spell to cushion his landing. You hop back on the Dragonfly and accelerate away from stampeding death.
The Goblin wards work in your favor as the first creature explodes. Guess you won't have to break those wards any more. You land next to Bill wondering whether you should use wand or shotgun. Wand wins out as you toss the shotgun to the ground. The wards destroy another Abraxan. The three of you concentrate your firepower on the next one. As long as they keep coming at you single file, you should be fine!
Sometimes you wonder why you have to think things like that. Karma, fate or whatever has taken such an interest in your life must enjoy times like this. No sooner than you decide that everything will be fine, life throws a wicked googly at you.
In this case the googly is the undead horses deciding that trying to get to you using the stairs was too slow. Some of them have decided to come right through the ceiling. You dive out of the way of pulling Sanchez with you as one crashes through just above you. You decapitated it but it managed to kick Bill pretty hard, sending him to the ground roughly.
"Sanchez, get Bill out of here! I'll hold them off." You begin hurling destructive spells covering your strategic withdraw. Okay fine, it's a retreat! Another one comes through separating you from the two Curse Breakers. Okay, now it's a problem. You send a pair of reductors that don't stop it, but certainly slow it down. "Keep going! I'll lead them off." This hallway is a death trap! You mount the Dragonfly and go right back up the hole the last one created. There are about a dozen still on the roof and they take to the air after you. You bank hard. With luck they'll follow you en masse. Up into the darkness and cold air you fly, tossing cutting curses over your shoulder. You catch one of them in a wing and watch it spiral down towards the city below. You flatten out against the shaft of your broom and pick up speed the ceiling of the great cavern is clear of rock formations and has a smooth almost polished surface. Thundercloud said that when he came here once in his youth that a scene similar to the Great Hall at Hogwarts would simulate day and night. Now there is nothing but the dim glow left allowing you to barely see where you are going.
The big question in your mind is what other flying creatures were in the cavern. Right now all that is chasing you is about a dozen of the winged horses. You slow to bring them closer and release a salvo of spells at the nearest one. Damn! Missed the wing and the head! This could take a while now couldn't it? Time for a new plan, stop their wings from beating and let gravity do all the hard work.
"Petrificus Totalus!" Normally a body bind on an undead creature is, for lack of a better description, a bit of a waste. That said, in this case it's a smashing idea, with an emphasis on smashing, as the first one plummets to the street. 'Today's forecast gloomy, with a prevailing sense of doom and chances of Necropegasi falling from the sky at just around one hundred percent!'
You drop horsy numbers two and three. Now that's what you call thinning the herd! It's tempting to gloat some more, but something's coming. Whatever it is, it's big and fast. It's another Vipertooth! 'Maverick! Goose! We have inbound!' Bank and head lower! This was easy with the horses you could out fly, but now you have creatures of two different speeds after you. You toss a couple of heavy hitters at the critter with minimal effects. 'C'mon Harry, think!'
You wheel around making another lap. Everybody changes course with you. You hit another Abraxan with a body bind while you wait for inspiration or the dragon, whichever catches up with you first! Those claws will cut you to ribbons. 'Okay! Calm down! It's not a dragon. It's just a big fast zombie! It won't react like a dragon would.'
"Accio Brick!" You summon a brick from a building in dire need of renovation. "Pello! Engorgio!" You banish it and enlarge it trying to literally hit it with a brick wall. It works, but it only slows the Necrodragon down. Now what? That was your best idea, so far.
You dive at the last second twisting out of the way of the Abraxan that nearly collides with you. Fuck! You roll under your broom and snap an easy body bind off at it.
Dodging occupies your next minute as you attempt to get clear of the dragon and all the Abraxan still in the air. You could fly out the mouth of the cave and have it collapse when it reaches the exit and the end of the wards - wherever that is? But then how do you get back into the city? C'mon think! You can't Portkey or Apparate your way back either. Portkey, portkey, portkey! You can't use it on yourself, but why not try it on the dragon!
"Accio Brick!" This time instead of enlarging it, you slap a sticking charm on it and turn it into a Portkey destination the second set of ruins you explored. They should be somewhere in range. The banished Portkey hits and seconds later chunk of the dragon roughly the size of you vanishes! You need to get it on the wing! Otherwise making it lighter will make it faster and, somehow, that doesn't seem fair does it? The next Portkey misses. The one after that hits the dragon, but doesn't stick! Your luck isn't improving. You have to dodge out of the way of the closing dragon and can't catch the next brick. The Abraxan occupy your thoughts for the next couple of minutes as you dispose of two more. It's turning into a free for all up here and 'all' is still a much greater number than you would like!
The next brick you were certain missed, not that you really have time to admire your handiwork, you are a bit busy and all. Much to your surprise, it was a headshot! The cave shakes with the mass of the dragon crashing to the ground. Thank the powers it didn't hit the Bank! Several small buildings adjacent to the impact collapse. Wouldn't it be nice if it fell on the Horcrux and you could all go home?
With the dragon out of the way, you concentrate on immobilizing the rest of the Abraxan. It takes another fifteen minutes and more than one close call for you to achieve tactical air superiority. You soar alone in victory! With a big old grin on your face, you do a victory barrel roll over top of the crowd outside the bank.
Your antics dispersed much of the crowd around the bank as you land on the second floor balcony. Though they will eventually return. "That's right! I own you bastards! Who's the man! Me! I'm the man!" Damn, it's good to be alive!
"Harry, you realize that you are taunting a crowd of Inferi?" Thundercloud's voice interrupts your victory celebration.
"Don't stop me! I'm on a roll. Everyone okay?" You give the crowd below a few more fist pumps in the air.
"Bill has some broken bones. The troll destroyed the two Abraxan that followed them back to the lobby. How are you?"
"For a change, not a scratch. Hopefully, it's the start of a new trend. Think I should do a victory lap?"
"Do you feel that it's really necessary?"
"Be right back!" Hell yes, it's necessary! You take in the architecture on this trip around the cavern. Most of it is crumbling stonework. One structure fairly intact is what used to be the magical school in these parts. It isn't nearly as impressive as Hogwarts, but no one there is going to manipulate you. Maybe kill you, but not manipulate you. It's a Ziggurat style structure. Too bad there aren't any windows; you could do a bit of impromptu salvage operations. You should ask Thundercloud what the school's name is. The school has a Quidditch pitch, only four of the goals are still up and what accommodations for the spectators were once there had long since collapsed. Much of the stuff that is still standing has an Incan or Aztec look to it. A few of the buildings have a gothic look to them, Euro trash influence no doubt.
The dragon damaged what must have been their Ministry building. The Ministry, their Magical School or the Bank - those are the three biggest candidates for Riddle's trophy case. Bill and Fleur were convinced that it would be in the bank. You lean more towards their Ministry building. It doesn't really matter where the Horcrux is. If it's in the city and the Gobs try and claim it, you'll destroy it. If it's in the vaults, you'll destroy it. The logic has a certain appeal to it, doesn't it?
Returning to the lobby, you see Bill resting. Kwan patched him up. The kick from the Abraxan shattered his collarbone and bruised some ribs. He's out of commission for a bit. You give a brief explanation of all the chaos you caused outside.
Hack gestures with his club to the two Abraxan tossed over in the corner. "Hey Hack, you crushed some more skulls!"
"Hack take care of dead horseys! Crush more skulls! Damn! Hack horny!" Hack whacks the ground with his club and looks over at Sanchez with a longing look on his face. She thankfully isn't listening. You have to admit that he has some basic needs, doesn't he? Damn, as if the nightmares weren't bad enough, you didn't need that imagery!
Two hours later, you're back on that balcony on the second level with Collins and Sanchez. You went and retrieved the Mossberg from the upper level. Currently, you are engaged in a shooting contest with the other two. Collins is beating both of you handily. It would be one sided even if he wasn't using an M-21 sniper rifle, but with the targets only twenty to thirty meters away he doesn't really need the scope. You watch him tally up three more kills before stopping.
"Why didn't fire drive off the Inferi?" It's been bothering you.
Sanchez answers, "We found wards tied to the Necro wards. The best we can tell is that they prevent the Inferi from seeing red and yellow. They can't see the fire to be afraid of it! It's impressive work."
"Damn! Wish I would have known that! I could have just made myself glow red or yellow or something."
"Do you actually know a spell that would make you turn red or yellow? I thought so. Probably wouldn't have worked. Inferi can't really see through disillusionment or invisibility, but they can still sense the living. You're way worked out pretty good. Collins! Beer!" The shrill, ugly hag barked and the hit wizard tossed her a can. Collins initially wanted to do a drinking game, but you're glad neither you nor Maria wanted to be completely pissed with his skill. "I should be down looking at the wards leading to the vaults, but Bill wants us both to do the initial survey. Hell, you should be there too Harry. You've more than earned it. You got a pair of serious cajones! You crazy little English fucker!" The hag cackles at her new term of endearment.
You smile as she chugs the can and crushes it in her meaty paw. She takes the M-21 and gets three hits, but only one kill. This triggers a volley of profanity from her.
She puts a mark under her name and hands the rifle to you. The score currently is Collins with about one hundred; he's only missed like three times. You have sixty-two, and Sanchez is at fifty-eight. You notch two more head shots out of your three attempts.
Sanchez looks on rather disgusted. "I'm going back downstairs. We're starting work on the wards as soon as Bill is up for it. You'll need as much rest as you can get."
You follow her out to the hallway and watch her head down the hall. As Bill would say, 'Golden rule - inside the ruins, no one goes anywhere alone.' Once she's on the steps she looks back and gives you the thumbs up and descends back to the lobby.
"Still got three more clips? You want another go?"
"Nah. I'll miss too much. How'd you get so good?"
"Used to go hunting as a kid. Only time my dad wasn't falling down drunk." Collins methodically mows down seven in a row before changing the clip. You draw your wand and work on matching him reductor for gunshot. You need the practice with your magical accuracy as well. He slows to match your pace.
"That's cool. I wish I had gotten to do something with my dad." You say in between incantations.
"Maybe, but not in my case, kid. I was eight. Dad was on the sauce again and beating the shit outta mom, me, and my two sisters. All I had was an empty gun. I pointed it at him anyway. I'd had enough. Did my first bit of accidental magic that night and whacked my old man with a reductor curse. The wizards came and explained what happened. Guess what my mom told them? She said, 'Take that murdering little bastard with you!' Family is overrated." He opens fire again missing the first two, much to your surprise. Maybe the psychotic hit wizard has a heart after all?
What the hell can you say to that? You'd like to think that if James and Lily Potter hadn't made the ultimate sacrifice, your life would have been just a teeny bit better than it had been. There's no sense wasting time worrying about whether or not dad would've turned you into a junior Marauder or not? This, right here and now, is your life. The only one you've got. The only person going to make your life better is you. Life has thrown a lot your way. You're still standing and you aim to keep it that way.
Instead of answering, you decide to try a spell out. You've been itching to try this one spell out in combat since Thundercloud taught it to you. It's his most powerful elemental conjuration. "Golem Mobilis!" The outward rush of magic is debilitating, but you watch in satisfaction as the earth itself rises in response to your power. It forms a roughly humanoid shape between two and three meters in height, an improvement over the ones you managed in the dueling hall. At your mental command it begins to attack the nearest group of Inferi. Hack would probably make short work of the construct with his club and superior speed, but in this instance against a mindless foe, it is more than up to the task.
It's a bit disappointing to know that, in comparison, Thundercloud's golem is more defined and quicker to respond. The only thing that makes you feel better is your conjuration looks bigger. The age old question - is it the size of the golem, or how you use it? More practice is required. Wonder if it would impress the examination boards? Hell, given the quality of instruction at Hogwarts a properly cast protego is cause for celebration!
You need some more practice before you can challenge the old Animagus to a game of 'Rockem' Sockem' golems. You can hold the spell for about a minute before you have to let up on the energy holding the construct together. The golem totters and collapses to the ground before crumbling back into the dirt from which you conjured it. You could probably add seven or eight more kills to your tally, if you were still keeping score.
Two clips and five reductors later and it's the end of the first round of Inferi Clock Tower Sniping. Collins mutters that it's no challenge and suggests that the next round be done from the fourth floor balcony for added difficulty. You head back down to the lobby shaking your head at his comments. It's time to try and rest. There are some nasty wards to break and no telling what might lurk behind them.
Author's notes - And there you go, a look at what is left of the magical city and the possibilities of what adventures lie ahead. Rest assured, it will not be one giant Zombie fest. Things are about to get harder for our intrepid band of adventurers...