HP ZombieFest

Where Harry Potter and Zombies collide


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Dead Men Walking
zombiefest
zombiefest_mod wrote in hp_zombiefest
Author: slumber
Title: Dead Men Walking
Characters: Harry Potter, Luna Lovegood, Theodore Nott, Zacharias Smith
Rating: PG-13 for some violence
Word Count: ~4500
Warning(s): Some violence involved in the killing of the undead
Prompt: A little bit of kinky_kneazle's "Harry wakes up in the infirmary to find the school deserted and has to figure out what's going on" made it here, but Harry did not wake up at Hogwarts. Then I took "zombie apocalypse in the HP world" and ran with it.
Summary: Of all the things that she believes in, Luna Lovegood wants this on record: she is very sorry it's the zombies that turn out to be real.
Author's Note: I had tremendous fun writing this, so thanks to deirdre_aithne for running the fest. ♥ I took a few liberties in defining what is and isn't a zombie in the HP world, and if it helps, my ideas are pretty much influenced by Mira Grant and Max Brooks. (In fact, each section's title is taken from Max Brook's rules for surviving the zombie apocalypse.) Thanks to C & S for their feedback, and A for the eagle-eyed beta job. ♥ Hope you enjoy reading!




they feel no fear, why should you?

It is in Harry Potter's humble opinion that he’s spent an inordinate amount of his life waking up in hospitals. Today--fuck, he doesn't even know what today is--presents no great deviation from this norm. All he knows is that he is unconscious one minute and awake the next. First there is nothing, and then the glaring lights and sterile walls of a hospital, infirmary, sanitarium, or something similar. White walls, white cotton sheets, white lights. Every. Single. Time.

Harry Potter wakes with a groan, a dry throat, and a fuzziness about his head that he has long since associated with waking in hospitals. Unlike most other times, though, there is no immediate rush to his aid, no concerned friend by his bedside. The table beside him has a couple of "Get Well Soon" cards and wilting flowers in a vase of yellowed water. The curtains are drawn around him and when he flings them open--

This is new.

St. Mungo's is empty. He stumbles out of his bed--no wards signal for a Mediwitch, even as he knocks out a tray full of beakers and vials full of coagulated liquid. He wonders how long he has been sleeping and his stomach growls, reminded of the time that's passed since he's eaten.

Harry has not forgotten how to walk, but the act of putting one foot in front of the other, of taking that first step and taking another, of making sure he stays upright, is a lot more trouble than it's worth. His legs refuse to hold him up and even though no one sees it, he flushes when he has to reach a flailing arm out to grab the door handle.

Goddamn but he's hungry.

The hallway outside is a mess of discarded potions and hospital equipment. Harry tiptoes around a puddle of dark purple that is slowly, systematically searing a hole in the floor. He belatedly realizes he is barefoot and he wonders where he might find his shoes. Or any shoes.

"Hello?"

There is no answer. By now, he doesn't really expect one. He passes by the stairs--Level 4: SPELL DAMAGE, not that it helps him remember what sort of damage he suffered--and against his instincts, he decides to go up a floor. Level 5, the St Mungo's directory tells him, houses the visitors' room as well as the tearoom, and he really is famished. He wonders how much food might be left upstairs. He knows wizarding food is different from Muggle food, but Merlin, he hopes there are the same number of preservatives in both--at the very least, he needs to get something in his system before he even so much as tries to figure out what to do next.

Get shoes, probably. And then find someone he knows. Maybe then he can figure out where everyone's gone.

He's beginning to get into the groove of walking again. One foot forward, the other foot after. He reaches the fifth floor with little more than a stumble and he's okay with that.

The tearoom takes up the entire fifth floor. He visited it once, when Arthur Weasley was in the hospital. The little tables and chairs are scattered haphazardly, abandoned much like the potions and hospital beds below. He hears a scuffling sound from the tearoom kitchen.

"Hello?" he calls out, voice so raspy and thick from disuse he hardly recognizes it. Merlin does he need water.

There is no answer. Harry frowns before walking towards the kitchen. Something tells him to carry a weapon--where is his wand, fuck, he never even remembered to look--so he grabs a chair, but it is too heavy for him. He nearly stumbles over a broken table leg, nearly cuts his toe on it, so he picks that up instead.

Better.

"Hello?" he calls out again, and the rustling noise stops. Or is no longer there. He thinks it stopped when he first said hello, and the grip on his table leg--what a feeble weapon against what could be a troll, or a squirrel, who the hell knows--tightens.

The kitchen door is slightly ajar; there are lemon cakes covered by a clear plastic dome on the counter, but Harry smells something cooking in the kitchen. Real food, like a boiling pot of stew on a rainy fall day or chicken pot pie on a winter evening. His stomach grumbles in response, tells him to get on with it already, so he nudges the door open a little bit more.

"Luna!" He'd recognize that scraggly, waist-length, pale blonde hair anywhere. She is crouched by a cupboard, rooting through its contents. Her hair is tied, plaited, swinging down her back. She turns to face him and he cocks his head to the side.

Luna stands up. She's always been lithe, and it's odd to see her thin body strapped with so many weapons.

"What's all that about?" Harry asks, stepping closer. "Hey, got any food over there? I'm starving."

"Hello, Harry Potter." She smiles, but for some reason it doesn't reach her big blue eyes.

And then Luna shoots Harry in the head.


use your head; cut off theirs

Of all the things that she believes in, Luna Lovegood wants this on record: she is very sorry it's the zombies that turn out to be real.

She's gotten good at dealing with them--her arms are toned from all the flinging and swinging, and she's even figured out how to cut at an angle that reduces the inevitable blood spatter to a minimum--but as the head rolls unceremoniously to the ground and she studies the rotting flesh and the flies that swarm its insides, she wishes it had been a Crumple-Horned Snorkack instead.

"I wouldn't have to kill you, and I can write about it in the Quibbler finally," she tells the doubly dead corpse. She can still write about zombies, but they're just not as fun.

The sun is high, the day stretching the summer long. Luna cleans her blade quickly before she pockets it with ease. She's been playing with it since she was old enough to listen when her dad warned her about touching the pointy bit, but the handle sometimes feels too short and she worries one day they'll learn to grab her before she can swing at them. She reaches for her back pocket, where for hours now a leather holster has been sweating a patch in her left arse cheek. Her finger burns a little as it grazes metal--apparently she needs to keep the holster closed--but she closes her hand around the grip and takes the revolver out.

It's fascinating how well it fits her palm.

She weighs it, tests the feel of it, deciding ultimately to hold it with both her hands to steady its aim. Muggle weapons are odd, though more useful than wands would be in this situation. That was the first tip her father wrote in the Quibbler, and it's a pity no one read it. (Not that it helped her father any, the poor man. Taught Luna all she needed to know about blades, but forgot to be careful himself.)

"What did he say again?" She allows herself the dangerous luxury of closing her eyes. She always does best when she visualizes. "BRASS, yes. Breathe." She inhales, lungs filling with the smell of putrid flesh and the asphalt of empty streets.

Wands probably accounted for half the casualties, if someone were around to count how many wizards died from wayward Incendios and Fiendfyres gone awry. They all thought they were being attacked by Inferi, armies of reanimated corpses that live to serve the dark lords that raised them from their shallow graves.

"Relax." She allows herself to exhale, her eyes wide open again. The corpse before her is freshly dead; he wears the robes of a Ministry worker and a five o'clock shadow on his chin.

Everyone knew about Inferi and the magical fire that defeated them, but they weren't dealing with Inferi. Her father had warned them about it, about what happens when still living wizards begin acting like Inferi--and even the Quibbler's most loyal readers just wrote back to tell him that was an old wives' tale, the stuff of stories told late at night, in hushed voices as lightning and thunder battled outside castle dungeons.

"Aim." She steadies her gun, guides it with her left hand so it draws a straight line from her shoulders to the head.

Ten Tips to Survive the Rising, her father had written. Xenophilius Lovegood had always been the visionary. She'd cut his words up from the Quibbler and folded it into a neat little square in her back pocket, and that had kept her safe.

"Slack."

She knows every word by heart now, even though it never said anything about Muggle guns. But they are practical, aren't they, little handheld metallic things that let you protect yourself from a distance--Muggle wands, she'd call them, but wands at least heal as well as hurt. Well, they heal as much as they can, at least. There are some things they remain powerless against.

"Squeeze."

The force of the blast throws her back a step and Mr. Ministry Worker's head explodes, just one more splash of red on an already bloodied street. Luna regards the revolver thoughtfully. Her heart is pounding against her rib cage like it wants to be free and she can feel her veins pulsing with blood. Her hand is shaking and her knees feel like they're about to give, but she's glad that all she needs to know is one mnemonic and a charm.

"I think I'll keep you," she decides.

The streets of Diagon Alley are empty. There is no one else in sight as far as she can see, so she takes the moment to loosen her hair from its yellow bun and, with quick fingers, braids it so it hangs down her side. It can be dangerous--zombies will grab at anything they can and short hair is important to survival, but she might as well join the undead the moment she starts letting fear govern her life. What difference will either fate make?

She reaches Quality Quidditch at last--she'd have been here earlier but Apparating has its own risks, and she'd rather see danger from fifty yards away than Apparate directly into the middle of it--and hesitates because she thinks she hears something moving inside.

By instinct, her hand moves to the hilt of her blade. It's funny, only a few days ago she would have reached for her wand. She wonders how long it takes before it's the gun she wants.

From inside there is a rustle, a fluttering, and a flapping of wings. A snowy white owl hoots and flies away, disturbing some broken sticks and knocking them aside as she does.

Luna reaches for her wand this time. "Accio broom!" No sense going in, is there?

The first broom that flies out to her is broken at the end. The second one is splintered where you're supposed to sit. The third, a child's. Of course it makes sense that not every broom that remains is perfect, but Luna doesn't think it should take her until Broom Number Thirteen to find something decent.

It is a Cleansweep, not top of the line but looks durable enough. Luna has never fancied herself a looter but as she mounts the broom and kicks off, she supposes a looter she has become.

Flight gives her a new perspective. She hovers around Diagon Alley and sees for the first time what the end of the world looks like. Her stomach grumbles an agreement, and she nearly starts another conversation with herself before she realizes it is merely telling her she is hungry.

She doesn't like the idea of being on the ground now, but the tearoom at St Mungo's is on the top floor. Perhaps there is a way to enter from a roof or a window. Technically, is that breaking and entering? She's never trespassed before, not unless you count that foray into the Department of Mysteries in her fourth year.

Brooms, she has forgotten, are a little harder to fly than thestrals. She steadies herself and heads toward St Mungo's, already a looter with the intention now of becoming a trespasser as well. This life of crime does not suit her, but as she flies above a small crowd of shambling wizards, she thinks it's maybe a little better than a life of not-living.

She really is sorry about the zombies.


keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, keep alert!

For the love of Merlin, Theodore Nott is goddamn tired of running.

First of all, he's just not built for it. His legs are long enough, yes, and it isn't like he spends all day eating treacle tarts and pumpkin juice, but he prefers sprints, not marathons, and it just feels like he's been running for far too long.

Secondly, he wishes that was a figure of speech, not a bloody literal description of his day.

Theodore turns a corner and lets out a happy sigh of relief when he finds it empty. He leans down, rests his hands on his trembling knees, and takes the moment to wipe the sweat from his brow.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale, exhale, inhale exhale inhaleexhale. He is panting hard, wheezing almost, but as long as that is the only sound within a mile, he is happy.

Of course not a second after that, the moaning starts anew, faint at first before rising to a crescendo.

"Bloody hell," he growls, reaching for his gun. His father might have had conniptions when he saw his son with a Muggle weapon--Theodore can't remember now if he pulled the trigger before or after his father Turned--but his father is no longer in a position to continue connipting, as it stands.

Four of them appear around the corner, scraping limb and tattered robes against the cobbled alley. One of them is still holding a glass of wine in his stiff hand. Theodore squints--it looks like Professor Slughorn, actually.

He swallows the lump in his throat and holds his breath, but his heart refuses to stop beating its panic against his chest. He wonders if they can sense him, and his question is answered when they lurch toward him and moan with what decomposing throat boxes they may have left.

Theodore holds the gun steady; his gaze is unwavering. Four shots later, he wonders if Blaise Zabini's mother is alive somewhere amidst all of this. (She's likely lounging on an undisturbed yacht in the Mediterranean.) He'll need to thank her and her propensity for Muggle methods of execution. (Protection, she'll insist on clarifying.)

Ironically, it may be what saves his life.

Theodore fumbles with the weapon, his fingers still unfamiliar with the grooves and triggers that Mrs Zabini had been so adept at showing him. There is a click, and finally he manages to open it. There is only one bullet left, just enough for him to duplicate until he needs it again. He hopes he doesn't. He performs the spell a few times and fills the cylinder accordingly, keeping the extra bullets in a pocket. He looks up and the coast is clear, but he's not sure how long it lasts that way.

The problem with running away is that it’s so rarely done with a destination in mind. Theodore knows he has to move, but he isn't entirely sure where to go.

There is more moaning now. He'll have six bullets ready, but what if there are seven? He won't have time then.

"Geminio," he whispers, tapping the gun instead of the bullets. He smiles. What did Ravenclaws usually say? Two guns are better than one.

He looks up when the moaning grows louder and counts thirteen of the bloody bastards approaching.

"Fuck it," he says, tucking one gun in his holster and keeping the other in his hand before he starts sprinting away from them. His legs can carry him still, he thinks.

He hopes.

He breezes past a few stores, wonders briefly what he'd do if one of them came out to greet him. Really, anywhere in the streets is dangerous. He runs by The Leaky--Muggle London might not be at risk yet. The group following him have somehow doubled in number, he's not entirely sure how. He ducks inside The Leaky and, without thinking twice, locks the door behind him with a ward that he hopes will hold. He rests his weight against the wooden frame before collapsing at its feet. He really is tired of running and if there are gods, he hopes to the high heavens they allow him this respite.

The Leaky Cauldron is the site of what must have been a battlefield. There are prone figures on the ground, some headless, others only just. Theodore isn't sure what he fears more, the possibility that one of them may rise again, or that he meets whoever was responsible for them.

"Who's there?" someone calls out. The voice is low and female, soft but unafraid. It also sounds vaguely familiar.

"Theodore Nott."

"Oh, from the thestral patch. Hello, Theodore."

"Luna?" Theodore asks, because he almost doesn't recognize the woman who emerges from the shadows of The Leaky. It isn't that her cheeks are sooty or that her long hair, usually flowing free, is tangled in a simple bun. It isn't that her radish earrings are gone, or that Theodore can make out a long blade against her hip, or that her skin is speckled with blood. It's that her gaze is hard and unblinking on him when otherwise it would have been caught in a daydream. Perhaps the wrackspurts have finally left her.

Behind him, the door gives a little, pushes back against him. He startles and jumps away. He doesn't know why he doesn't hear them--maybe that's the only thing the wards are good for, but they are scratching at the door from the other side now, clawing for entry.

"Did you bring friends?"

"As a matter of fact, I was rather trying to avoid them." Theodore glances behind him. The knocking doesn't cease, and Theodore thinks he saw a hinge come undone. "Bollocks."

Luna merely draws her blade--is that a machete?--and holds it between both hands. "Do you have a weapon, Theodore?"

He takes both guns out.

"How progressive and Muggle-forward of you," Luna says with obvious approval. She signals him over and he walks a few steps to stand beside her. "How long do you think the door can hold them?"

"It was a simple Protego; I don't think we have more than two minutes."

"Well--" and here she gives him a wry smile--"you can't run forever."


no place is safe, only safer

Zacharias Smith will do anything to find the truth.

It is his badge of honor--he knows never to take anything at face value, not when most wizards are content to let themselves be swayed by the court of popular opinion and Ministry propaganda. This is what he tells himself when he loses his hold on a jut of rock and nearly falls to his death. His arm slams against the stony wall, leaving shallow scratches on his skin. Strong winds and salty waves whip against him, but he clings on, stubborn and determined. Relentless.

There is no story, his editor tells him, but Romulus Vane has lived too comfortably for too long to remember what the thirst for truth feels like. Both Vane and the Ministry tell him that the Dark Lord is dead, and with him, his army. Still there are persistent whispers and wisps of rumors, and Zacharias Smith has been around long enough to know that where there's smoke, there's fire.

His foot finds purchase in a swath of flat surface and he leans his weight against it, inching slowly until he is confident enough to leap into the angry black waters and swim towards the cave's entrance.

This isn't the first time the Ministry has tried to cover up the Dark Lord's return. He was only fifteen when they announced that Cedric Diggory had died in an accident at the same time that Harry Potter claimed he had been murdered. Back then Zacharias could only decide who sounded less like a liar.

Not this time.

This time he'll find out himself. He stumbles into the cave, robes heavy with the sea and teeth chattering with the chill of the midnight air. A quick charm warms him and he looks around for the invisible door that he knows is in the cavern. Harry Potter's biography (authorized, presumably to keep unauthorized biographers from snooping around where Potter didn't want them) hadn't specified its exact location, so he places his palm against the walls and clears his thoughts. He walks a slow, deliberate circle around the tunnel, senses on high alert for a hint of that secret entryway.

He feels it seventeen steps in, the faint pull of something raw and out of place. Something sinister and magical. This portion of the cave looks no different from the rest, but he whispers a spell and coaxes the door to reveal itself.

Zacharias smiles. He's always said it takes blood, sweat, and tears to write the news. He picks up a small rock and transfigures one end into a sharp blade.

Sweat and tears he's already shed. Today it's blood he'll spill.

The cut stings, but only just. He rubs his arm against the rough rock, wincing as the uneven surface digs into his wound. The entryway flashes bright silver before disappearing completely, and Zacharias forgets all about the pain.

Eyes wide, heart still, he steps inside.

He is at the edge of the inky black lake of Harry Potter's tales. (How does a cave so small manage to hide a body of water this large?) There is no greenish glow in the distance anymore, no horcrux left to protect, so Zacharias conjures light from the tip of his wand. This is as far as he needs to go; his interest is not in what was once protected here, but in what has been protecting it.

The Dark Lord is gone, but time and time again evil will insist on rearing its ugly head. The Ministry has its hands full keeping rogue wizards at bay, but all it takes is one well-planned coup.

All it takes is one willing army.

Zacharias lowers his wand to the surface of the water. There are still many wizards who thirst for power, but not all of them have an aptitude for the Dark Arts. Creating an army of corpses requires a certain level of skill; it is much easier to take over one that already exists. And here, in this lake within a cave, is the last known location of such an army.

He knows he is supposed to reserve judgment until he has all the facts, but in truth he doesn't expect to see what he finds. He has been so certain that someone--the Malfoys or the Rookwoods or whomever--has already summoned the Infer that he doesn't know what to do when the dead jump out from beneath the murky water.

Zacharias screams. He nearly drops his wand but instinct kicks in and he grips it harder instead. Spindly arms wrap around his legs and bony fingers dig into his flesh, but he kicks and flails and with his free hand he grabs onto a ledge. There are a hundred of them, maybe more, and the once-still waters churn with their awakening.

"Incendio!" A flash of bright light, a ball of flaming orange. The Inferi retreat, but only for the precious minute that the cavern is lit with fire. Zacharias is frozen in place with shock, wand practically welded into his palm. When the lake plunges into darkness once more, and the Inferi advance upon him again, he casts another Incendio. This time he doesn't waste his opportunity.

He runs.

There is no story to be found here, no uprising to warn the populace against. He isn't disappointed--he has his facts and he has his life. He scrambles back toward the tunnel by the mouth of the cave. The Inferi are close behind him and the entryway remains open; a third Incendio buys him more time. He can't wait for the cave's magic to seal the Inferi inside it, so he aims a curse at the tunnel ceiling, bringing down a thundering of rocks and stone to block their way.

Though he hates the idea of plunging headfirst into water so soon after the Inferi just tried to drown him, he has no choice but to swim. Zacharias jumps into the pool and paddles as fast as he can out into the sea, where he has never been happier to hear the roar of waves crashing against stubborn rock and the howling of the winds.

Once he is a safe distance away, he Apparates back into his flat. He takes the time only to peel off his soggy robes and dry himself with another charm before he collapses onto his bed. He swallows a healthy dose of a sleeping draught and tucks himself under three thick blankets, but he tosses and turns and his dreams are fraught with the vengeful dead.

He gets up not two hours later to get ready for work, head pounding with lack of sleep and the lingering terrors of his night out. He considers calling in sick but he is meant to cover the opening of a new apothecary at Diagon Alley. It is trivial news, a store opening, but Shacklebolt might be in attendance and Zacharias wants to talk to the former Minister of Magic. He doubts Shacklebolt will contradict the Ministry, but he might still have an insight or two worth publishing.

There is only a smattering of wizards present when he arrives, and none of them have anything important to say. To top it off, he can barely keep his quill steady and his notes are turning into a splotchy mess. A fatherly hand touches his arm and when he turns to snap, a familiar face greets him with a worried look.

"You look rather pale, m'boy."

"Sir."

"Were you a student of mine? No, wait, hold on--" His voice lilts with sweet liquor. "Smith, is it? Zachary Smith?"

He isn't keen on niceties at the moment. He thinks he should have gotten sleep instead. "Sorry, professor," he mumbles, moving to find someplace to heave. He trips over something instead but someone grabs him just in time to keep him upright.

"Zachary," Professor Slughorn asks. "What is that?"

Zacharias turns to look. The hem of his robes has caught above his knee and there, on his calf, is a deep and ghastly gash.

"It's nothing, sir," he says. It is harder to keep his eyes open now, harder still not to slur his words. His throat is dry and he must have forgotten to eat, because his stomach growls with hunger. "It's just a bite."

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*shivers with dread*

I liked the way to timeline jumped around, so that the end was really the beginning.

I'm wondering two things:

1. What part Harry had played in this story before ending up in Mungo's. The obvious is easy to identify: his death showed us how cold Luna can be, and his POV showed us that the world as he knew it was gone, and most importantly, that it was his story that Smith had been investigating when he was bitten. However, we are never told exactly WHY Harry was in Mungo's to start, and why Luna felt the need to kill her friend. Was Harry, perhaps, somehow involved with Smith after he'd been bitten - maybe one of his first victims (but somehow he survived the change)? Is that why Luna shot him - because she recognized that he was a dead man walking, but his body just hadn't caught up to that fact yet? If only this missing piece were filled in for us, we could make the connection between ending and beginning.

2. Since the story is told backwards, does Luna having a gun at all mean that she took it from Theo's dead body? Or, did she and Theo split after defeating the zombie hoard at the Leaky, and he gave her one of his two guns? I'd love to know his fate.

Perhaps you might be enticed to write a sequel that answers these questions??? Pretty please with sugar on? I'll even make you another banner for it. :)

p.s. LOVED the connection to your other piece, "The Quibbler's Guide to Surviving The Rising." CLEVER!

I decided to keep some things vague because I think part of the creep factor could come from just not knowing the full story and leaving it to the reader's imagination. :P In my head Harry was already way far gone (he was shambling, and his voice sounded weird because he was moaning but he didn't process that in his ~zombified~ head) but I don't see how your interpretation could be ruled out either!

I will tell you that I couldn't kill Theodore so I had him split with Luna and give her the gun. :D

I don't know about a sequel but I kind of like the universe so I feel like maybe I'd end up writing more, maybe. I can't thank you enough for the banner, btw, it's so kick-ass! :D

Thank you again for the comments!

(Deleted comment)

Re: Dead Men Walking

Awwwww, what awesome things to say! <333 Thank you so much and I am sure yours is great! <3

Luna is my fave, and this is totally glorious.
I love the reverse timeline structure because it works really well here, and I like that Harry Potter dies early. Something about Theo using a spell to replicate his gun seemed very fitting for his character. Sucks to be Zacharias Smith, but hey, no one likes him anyway.

Double bueno, my friend.

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