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A while ago, i was postponing some work i felt insecure about and went on a little the walking dead binge watch. I combined it with day dreaming about ginny harry post apocalypse, like that fic idea you had. It was excellent. Safe and fun thoughts to be in. After witch i did the work and i am now reaping the first rewards. Just sharing what a happy place your blog is for me, even the smallest posts. :)

Amazing how something so dark can be comforting and help reboot our energy and mindset. Glad to even tangentially be part of you taking excellent care of yourself. And great job going back and getting that work done!

In reward, have the first chapter of the hinny zombie apocafic that I'm not sure I'll ever finish. but sometimes taking a break from something before going back to it if we can is a great idea!

Wasteland

Harry wakes in a world that has completely changed. Forced to learn the rules of this new reality as fast as he can in order to survive, he comes across someone more than capable of teaching him. If she would just stop threatening to shoot him long enough to answer a damn question. (harry/ginny, zombie AU, post-apocalypse, magical!harry, muggle!ginny)

warnings: death, suicide, blood, gore, violence, viral pandemic, apocalypse, general end of the world unpleasantness and tragedies

Chapter 1

“It is just about time, I think,” Dumbledore says, voice calm and unhurried as he inspects a silver pocket watch hanging from a frankly ridiculously long fob.

Harry shifts his gaze from the gleaming metal to Dumbledore’s face. With his white beard and robes, he’s hard to pick out against the blindingly white background.

“Time for what?” Harry asks, feeling like maybe he’s forgotten something.

In answer, a train glides silently into the terminal. Dark silhouettes move behind the curtained windows, soft sounds like laughter and voices just far enough out of reach to be indecipherable.

People, waiting to greet him.

“Will you board?” Dumbledore asks, knees dancing up and down under his palms as he taps his toes rhythmically against the ground in what feels like childlike wonder.

A question with an obvious answer, because isn’t this train exactly what Harry’s been waiting for? It feels like it’s been a long time that they’ve been sitting here. Waiting for something. And here it is—warmth and welcome and calm. The kind of calm he’s rarely experienced in his life. At least not that he can remember.

A door on a compartment slides open, golden, warm light pouring out like a path across the empty space.

Before Harry can get to his feet, he registers a peculiar feeling in the pit of his stomach. Like a quiet tug, like something has snagged the back of his robes and won’t let go.

“You are free now,” Dumbledore says.

Yes, Harry knows this. He is free of something that has long held him down. But this is somehow different. Something of his own. He could shrug it off, he knows. He just kind of doesn’t want to.

“I think maybe I’m not quite ready,” Harry realizes.

“If that is your choice,” Dumbledore replies, and Harry can tell he’s pleased, though not without worry as the train door slides shut.

“What is it?” Harry asks.

Dumbledore’s head tilts to the side. “As you know, death is just the beginning. That is even more true in the world you return to than it was before.”

This seems overly cryptic, even for his old Headmaster. “What do you mean?”

Dumbledore smiles. “I’m sorry. Not all things could I foresee.” He gets to his feet, and Harry does as well. “Just remember, Harry. Remember that to live, you must remember what it is you live for. Let your heart guide you, as always, and I have no doubt you will find your path.”

He touches Harry’s cheeks, eyes warm and full of pride as he looks down at him.

“Now wake.”

* * *

Harry wakes with a gasp, the echo of the last question the mediwitch asked him before he closed his eyes still echoing in his ears.

“You don’t feel anything?” she asks, smile friendly from beneath her wimple as she pulls the now-empty flask away from his lips.

Sirius, the arsehole, is smirking over her shoulder at him.

Before Harry can get the word “no” past his lips, he’s out.

It was all hazy after that. Vague passing words and images, more likely dreams than rooted in reality. Was Dumbledore there? No. That makes no sense. His long-dead Headmaster probably had not kept him company while his soul repaired itself after an experimental procedure.

They’d promised it wouldn’t hurt, he remembers. Maybe it hadn’t, but now as he struggles to open his eyes, his head feels like it’s splitting in half. Not an unfamiliar feeling, to be honest, but this time not accompanied by the usual flare of emotion or vision of Voldemort doing something particularly nasty somewhere. It’s just a sharp endless ache.

And maybe that means something. Maybe it actually worked.

With a groan, he cracks his eyes open, his brain having a hard time making sense of the sight in front of him—dark and irregular patterns of what it takes him a moment to realize is the ceiling above him. It wavers unhelpfully, though he assumes that is just his vision and not the stone that is shifting.

His hand gropes blindly to the side, bumping against a flat rock with his glasses folded neatly on them. Slipping them on after a few aborted attempts, he notes that they haven’t helped his vision all that much.

He licks his lips. “Sirius?” he asks, the word coming out as little more than a croak.

There’s no response.

All he can hear is a trickle of water somewhere nearby and the moment he identifies the sound, it triggers a deep, ragged thirst in him. Harry rolls to his side, body heavier and weaker than he expects, knees and hands hitting the rocky ground as he falls to the floor. He crumples, limbs shaking. Reaching out with his forearms, he drags himself towards the sound of water, reaching the edge of a small pool. He scoops water to his mouth, heedless of the cold water slopping down his chin and neck and soaking his shirt. He drinks and drinks like he may never find the end of his thirst, his arms tiring before he does.

Flopping over onto his back, he lets his arms fall wide. The irregular rocks of the ceiling tell him he’s in a cave, not the monastery. The sacred grotto, he assumes. As he stares up at the ceiling, it isn’t clear if the moss is glowing, or the rocks themselves. He closes his eyes against the pulsing light.

See you on the other side, Harry. The last thing Sirius said to him.It isn’t exactly proving true. They hadn’t been sure, though. How long it might take for him to heal. If Harry would even survive the attempt.

Apparently, he has.

Reaching for the ledge of the platform he’d been lying on, Harry drags himself to his feet, one hand braced on the rough wall as he tries not to trip on the cloak twisted around his body. He looks for any sign of his wand or shoes, anything other than the thin bedclothes he’s wearing under a brown woolen cloak of sorts. There’s nothing though, the space empty of anything other than rocky walls and ceiling and the trickling pond.

His legs are shaky, his head still pounding, but as his vision clears, he can make out a square of white light in the distance. He stumbles towards it, very much hoping it’s the way out.

His legs start to feel more solid as he goes, like his body is beginning to adjust, muscles slowly remembering how they work. Approaching the square of light, he’s very relieved to see that it is the cave entrance.

There’s slight pressure across the front of his body as he passes through what he assumes is a ward of some kind. Hopefully one that will trigger a warning and send someone down to look for him.

He steps outside, the rush of sound and light and wind hitting him all at once. His head spins, hand tightening on the rough stone wall as he fights off a wave of nausea.

Slowly the world around him settles, eyes adjusting to the searing brightness. He’s on a narrow ledge, the rock dropping steeply away towards the sea. Waves pound against the rocks, a faint spray of mist and salt against his face helping to further clear the muddled mess in his head.

Harry retreats, hoping to duck back into the cave to get out of the wind and bright light, but the entrance has disappeared, more likely carefully obscured behind a ward again.

“Dammit,” he mutters.

He slides down against the rough wall, sitting on a rock. It’s freezing, though his cloak does seem to have been set with some sort of warming spell. In the light, he can see the flash of runes along the hemmed edge. That doesn’t keep cold from seeping up into his sock-clad feet.

Hopefully someone will come get him before he freezes to death. Huddling down as far into the cloak as he can, he settles in to wait.

He’s too miserable to sleep, and eventually boredom and curiosity set in, Harry looking around for anything of interest, or just anything to distract him from his discomfort.

There’s a shallow puddle on a large curved rock next to him, collected from a recently passing storm. Leaning over it, Harry sees the grey sky reflected on the surface. His own face slides into view as he shifts closer. It’s hard to make out, the planes of his face almost feeling foreign. Bracing one arm on the rock, he leans closer, brushing his hair back from his forehead. For a second the skin looks smooth, untouched.

Like maybe it’s actually gone.

Wind ripples across the puddle, Harry’s face fracturing and obscuring. He rubs his fingertips across his forehead, finding the familiar spot, and he feels it, just the faintest ridge, like a scar finally healed and beginning to fade.

He closes his eyes, reaching out for that hated, vile connection he spent so many years learning to block, to keep Voldemort from manipulating his mind or emotions.

There’s nothing there. Just the continual sweeping rush of the wind and the nearby roar of waves beating against the cliffs.

He is completely alone. Perhaps for the first time since he was a year old.

Leaning back against the jagged cliff, he feels the unexpected press of tears.

It worked. It actually f*cking worked.

Just as Sirius promised. And, maybe, just maybe, this means he doesn’t have to die. That the sacrifice he’s been so carefully trained up to accept in the name of ending this war, stopping Voldemort, maybe it won’t be necessary after all.

Maybe he actually gets a future.

“This will work,” Sirius promises, hand firm on his shoulder. “We’ll get that bastard out of you and then we’ll finish it. I swear to you. All you have to do is survive. Do you hear me?”

Harry opens his eyes, the swelling sea stretching out in front of him. Had that happened? Has Sirius finished it? Or does Harry still need to play his part? Does he need to kill Voldemort himself? His heart thunders away in his chest, a solid reminder of the life ahead of him. But also the stakes of this war.

It’s time to find out what’s going on. There’s no more room for waiting. It’s time to end this.

Getting to his feet, he looks up the narrow set of stairs hugging the cliff face.

At least the climb will probably help keep him warm. Wrapping the cloak tighter around his body, he starts to climb, swearing each time he jams his toe or steps on a sharp pebble.

It seems to take an eternity, but he finally crests the ridge and gets his first glimpse of the monastery, very much hoping to see people already moving towards him. Maybe a nice warm bowl of stew, or a massive mug of tea with more sugar than will properly dissolve.

What he sees instead is the lonely stretch of rolling heath and a crumbling stone ruin tucked in between a few scraggly trees. Lancet windows empty of glass and complex vaulting fallen in on itself.

Harry blinks, wondering if his brain has been damaged in some way, his eyes not able to make sense of the sight in front of him, nothing like the memory he has of this place from what feels like only moments before.

The building looks to him what he imagines Muggles looking at it have seen for the last 300 years since the magical religious order was forced into hiding with the Statute—a crumbling series of medieval arches and cloisters.

Is that what this is? Did whatever they did to his brain when they removed the horcrux…is he somehow now a Muggle? Is he going to hit a Muggle Repelling ward and wander back off into the distance without even realizing it?

Only one way to find out.

He reaches one of the outlying buildings first—the groundskeeper’s cottage, if he recalls. It’s burned down to the foundations, a haphazard pile of singed beams and a partially collapsed chimney the only clue to what the space might have once been. Not a recent fire, either, Harry thinks, kneeling down to touch the hearthstones. Not just the lack of heat and smoke, but the green plants and moss starting to take over the ruin telling him months rather than days or weeks. Maybe years.

Years.

If this is somehow real, if he’s not imagining it. What the hell could this possibly mean?

What happened here?

Harry knows the monastery to be lively with a branch of magical brothers and sisters, the last of an order set in place to be caretakers of the very cave he woke in. An ancient magical site with healing properties. But now it is a true ruin, scorch marks on the stone, windows broken, beams fallen.

For all the violence of the scene, it is eerily peaceful.

Harry walks the perimeter, passively noting the pattern of fire damage through the pounding in his head. Though hard to see with the growth of green over the scars, it’s somehow too regular, too controlled. As if it were magical. Done on purpose. But why?

Around the back, the brother’s garden is overgrown, various plants gone to seed or brown and shriveled. A row of trees along a tumbled stone fence bears small apples, probably not quite ripe, but at the sight of them Harry is too hungry to care for such trivial worries.

He plucks a few apples from the tree, immediately eating them. They’re hard and tart and he forces himself to stop after two, knowing he will pay for that if he doesn’t, but picks a few extra, shoving them in the pockets of his cloak as he moves to finish his circle of the property.

It’s a harder task than it should be, Harry tripping and falling in his distraction.

“f*ck,” he says, wincing at the pain in his hip as it smacks solidly into some sort of a branch or bar. Clearly he’s even weaker than he realized.

Pushing back up off the ground, his hand closes around something that it takes him a moment to realize is a bone. In a pile of bones. A nearby skull gapes back at him.

A human skull.

With a hoarse cry, Harry scrambles back, wiping his hand on his leg.

The meager bites of apple roil unpleasantly in his stomach as he stares down at what is clearly the remains of a person, the tattered remnants of fabric and some dried hardened bits of flesh. Like they’d fallen on this spot and weren’t buried. Felled by the killing curse and left to be eaten by wildlife.

He scans the rest of the space, horrified to see at least another dozen similar piles.

Had the war come here? Had the Death Eaters tracked him down? Was this all to get to him? Did Voldemort win?

Harry’s entire body prickles with sudden awareness, adrenaline thundering through his veins. Forcing his squeamishness aside, he searches through he remains, needing a wand in his hand now. He finds nothing, reminding himself that the monks and nuns here did not wield wands, invested as they were in the old magicks.

“We have no such need for parlor tricks,” the head of the order had said with a serene smile full of faith.

Only now he, along with the rest of the order, is more than likely dead. An order that managed to hide and maintain themselves for 300 years. Wiped away completely.

And Sirius—

Harry squeezes his eyes shut, refusing to even entertain the idea that Sirius is somewhere in this pile of anonymous bodies.

Right now, he just needs to find a way to f*cking survive. Because if the war with Voldemort isn’t done, he’ll finish it. The way he was always supposed to.

Forcing himself to his feet, he shifts through the rest of the remains, not finding a single wand. But he does find a fairly intact pair of shoes. He also loses the small amount of food he managed to eat, gagging and throwing up during the process. He keeps going though, making a complete circuit of the building, aware of the sun shifting lower and lower in the sky.

Back around at the garden, Harry is forced to realize that he isn’t going to find any answers here. He also doesn’t have the slightest form of protection. Can’t make fire, doesn’t have a way to light his way, or build shelters. He has no food and no water.

And no one is coming.

He digs up whatever he can from the overgrown garden, a few gnarly carrots and a handful of underripe apples. On impulse, he also grabs a moldering old rake with metal spikes on the end, using it more as a walking stick, but feeling mildly better having it, for all he knows it isn’t going to protect him from sh*t, let alone a Death Eater if one should come across his path.

He sets off in a southerly direction, vaguely knowing the location of the monastery, and hoping to come across a road or a Muggle village at the very least. He eventually finds a game path worn into the grasses, leading him over mostly treeless hills.

As the sun dips lower and lower, slipping below the horizon, Harry makes out what could be the silhouette of a fence far in the distance. He keeps on as long as he can before he starts tripping on things in the dark. He finds a tree among low shrubby bushes.

He spends a miserable night huddled at the base of the tree wrapped in his cloak, burrowed into the bushes in search of any sort of warmth. He dozes in and out, never truly falling deeply asleep.

Ignoring the lingering ache in his head and body, the constant gnawing thirst and hunger, Harry pushes on as the sky finally lightens.

By midday he’s at the fence line and follows it to a dirt track that slowly widens. It doesn’t look like it’s been driven on in a while, but it’s still a sign of civilization which will mean water and food and some way to make contact.

He ignores the fact that it will likely be Muggles. He can’t exactly be choosy right now. Or worry about how he will explain wandering in from a place the Muggles don’t even know exists.

He comes across a sheep carcass first.

It’s a lot like the bodies back at the monastery, scattered bones and lingering bits of flesh. Must have died and been eaten by some sort of scavenger.

Harry shudders at the thought and keeps moving.

Movement on a distant hilltop catches his eye. Another sheep, he imagines. One luckier than this one. But it’s hard to tell at this distance.

He finally spots a building a few hours later. He stands on a hill watching it, trying to catch any movement of people, but the chimneys are clear, no sounds covering the distance. The adjacent paddock is empty of animals.

As he gets closer, a low stone wall lines the gravel lane, enclosing a yard with a few sparse trees. The door to the whitewashed stone outbuilding creaks as it listlessly shifts in the wind. A car sits in the yard, a tire swing hanging from a tree, other toys strewn about the yard.

The main house is built of dark stone, white casing windows on the top floor. Neither of the chimneys on either end of the gabled roof are giving off any smoke.

Weeds have grown tall up across the doorway and windows on the ground floor.

“Hello?” Harry calls out, his voice feeling unnaturally loud in the silence.

There is no response.

Crossing the yard, Harry steps up to the front door. He knocks, the sound echoing loudly. He waits, but there is no answer. He glances back at the car, the empty paddock.

Reaching out, he grasps the doorknob, cautiously easing the door open. “Hello?” he calls again as he steps inside.

The interior of the house is musty and dark, sunlight barely penetrating the dirt-darkened windows. From the shaft of light falling through the open door, Harry can see that dust has settled across every surface. A collection of chairs and couches sit around a fireplace, black soot streaking up the whitewashed walls.

The whole place smells of rot and decay.

Harry crosses over to a phone hanging on the wall, lifting the receiver. He’s greeted with silence, tapping the cradle a few times, but there’s no dial tone. Not that he’d know who to call anyway.

There’s a tin of biscuits sitting out on the counter and Harry can’t resist pulling it open and shoving one in his mouth, his stomach rumbling painfully. He nearly gags at the taste. They’re horrible—irredeemably stale, more sawdust than anything—but he’s hungry enough to force it down.

A dragging sound from upstairs has Harry spinning on his heel, the tin lid hitting the ground with a deafening clang.

“Hello?” he calls again, not keen on having to explain trespassing and helping himself to food, no matter how old.

There’s no response, just another low scraping sound. Feeling an inexplicable need to maintain the pressing silence, he eases up the stairs, placing his feet carefully. The stairs still creak mournfully underfoot.

At the top is a long hallway, two doors leading to rooms along the front of the house, one of them with a trunk pushed across it. At the end of the hall is what appears to be a loo. But it’s the long white wall on the rear of the house that catches his attention. Someone has written on it with what looks like dark paint.

forgíe us the wrangs we hae wrocht

th’ de’il sunder us

Harry feels his heart thud away in his chest, wondering why someone would write that. Turning to the first room, Harry opens the door. It’s a bedroom, a double bed taking up most of the space with a wardrobe on one wall. In the corner near the front window is a chair. In the chair sits what was once a person, a shotgun still in what is left of their mouth, the spray of blood and brains on the wall behind dark with age.

Harry slaps his hand over his mouth, nearly doubling over as hot nausea burns at his throat. He stumbles back into the hall.

The scraping sound has only become louder, the second door listlessly pressing out against a chest that has been dragged across the doorway. The door hits the chest and then falls back. Again and again.

“Hello?” Harry asks, his voice shaking as he moves closer.

With the chest in place, he can’t really see inside the room.

“Is someone in there?”

There’s no answer, Harry leaning down to pull the chest away from the door enough to peer into the room.

A hand emerges through the widened crack, flying out at Harry with alarming speed. He stumbles back, tripping over his own feet and falling hard against the wall behind him.

He doesn’t think he’s hit his head, but there is also no way he is seeing what he thinks he is seeing. The arm is pale, grey skin stretched over bone, the tattered remains of cloth hanging from it, slimy and grasping.

Harry gropes for his wand, finding nothing but air.

The scraping escalates into an insistent thud as someone—some thing—pushes harder and harder against the door, something like a growl echoing out into the hall. The chest scrapes along the floor, a face emerging after the arm. Harry barely gets a glimpse of a desiccated, decaying face, mouth wide and gaping—one ratty ribbon hanging from what might have once been a pigtail—before he recovers, kicking out with his feet, slamming the chest back into place. Rolling back up to his feet, he puts both hands on the door, shoving it hard. He rams it against the grasping, insistent arm over and over before it finally pulls back into the room, the door shutting with a solid click.

“What the f*ck, what the f*ck, what the f*ck,” Harry pants, shoving the chest firmly against the door before turning on his heel and thundering down the stairs.

He doesn’t stop running until he is back out in the yard. He spins around in a circle, having no idea where to go, what to do.

His eyes land on the car. He rips the door open, sliding into the driver’s seat. Groping around, he finds keys still dangling in the ignition. He grasps them, twisting them, but the engine is dead, the ignition just clicking and clicking, and Harry knows next to nothing about cars except that this is a very bad sign.

“f*ck, f*ck, f*ck,” he says, banging the palms of his hands against the steering wheel.

He rests his head down against it, his breath thundering in his ears.

He must have imagined it. There is no way he just saw what he thinks he did.

Turning his head to the side, he sees newspapers spread across the front passenger seat. Pushing off a hand-addressed envelope from on top of a copy of The Scotsman, he peers down at the date.

March 23rd.

2004.

Harry curses. More than three years after he went under the procedure at the monastery. And this paper doesn’t seem recent either, to judge from the way the edge crumbles under his fingers, how it’s browned with age.

There’s a larger broadsheet underneath, this one a copy of The Herald.

STAY IN YOUR HOMES

The headline covers nearly the top half above the fold. Harry sits up, carefully unfolding it. Still no explanation of the strange hemorrhagic fever sweeping through London.

Harry skims the article, most of it speculation about the disease’s origins. It maybe came from France, perhaps originally from China or the Americas. Spread by blood and bodily fluids. Do not go to the hospitals, even if you suspect you have the disease. Isolate in your homes and wait for help.

Harry looks back up at the house, thinks about the body he saw, the decayed nature of it. They’ve been waiting a long while from the looks of it.

But not the thing. Not the other…person. That looked dead, but was still moving.

An Inferi? In a Muggle house?

Harry closes his eyes and he’s instantly back to the last time he saw an Inferi: in the watery cave with Dumbledore, the army of bodies rising up out of the lake to protect Voldemort’s locket-horcrux. The swirl of fire from Dumbledore’s wand driving them back despite his weakened state.

That was the night so many things became so crystal clear. Above all the understanding that Harry himself would have to die, just as Dumbledore did, body falling, falling, falling from the top of the tower. Snape standing and watching it happen, long before Harry would finally learn of his true loyalties, loyalties that would get the potions master killed less than a year later.

That was Harry’s last night at Hogwarts as a student before he went on the run with Sirius, his godfather endlessly focused on finding any other way to defeat Voldemort. They’d looked for years even as they destroyed every other one of Voldemort’s horcruxes they could get their hands on.

Each minor victory had only moved them one step closer to the inescapable fact that as long as Harry lived, Voldemort could never be defeated. Harry would have to die. Even Dumbledore hadn’t been able to see a way around that.

That didn’t stop Sirius from searching, even as the war grew around them, not a loud, concussive battle, but one played out in politics and laws and Muggles and Muggleborns disappearing with barely a ripple.

Maybe it’d been selfish, taking the alternative procedure Sirius found rather than just facing Voldemort like the prophecy always said he would need to. Maybe that shortcut is what lead to this, whatever this is. The wrongness of this world that has been here from the moment Harry woke, no matter how much he tries to ignore it.

He leans forward, resting his head against the steering wheel.

He’d much rather think he’s woken in a nightmare. That maybe he’s still under and this is all an elaborate hallucination? Or that he’s just cracked under the pressure of prying out that intrusive fragment of Voldemort’s soul entwined with his.

Is he imagining all of this? It’s the only thing he can think of, and yet everything in him is screaming that this is real. No matter how implausible, no matter how horrible. This is real.

He rubs at his forehead, an old habit. He feels cut off, almost wishing, for a second, that he could still reach out and steal glimpses from Voldemort, that he could know what the hell is happening. Where he was, what he was doing. Where the fight he spent too long running from is happening.

The lack of connection is haunting, mostly because he can’t know if that means he’s just no longer a horcrux or if Voldemort is gone too. If what’s happened in that house and is written on the cover of the newspapers, is this Voldemort? Has he finally achieved what he always wanted? The complete obliteration of Muggles? An endless army of Inferi to conquer the world?

And what could Harry do about it even if it were true? He has no wand. He doesn’t even have proper trousers for f*ck’s sake.

He looks at the house.

Gathering the tattered remains of his bravery, Harry opens the car door, stepping out into the yard with its abandoned toys. He walks back to the front door, hesitating slightly before pushing it open and stepping inside. He listens carefully, and all he can hear is the slow rhythmic thumping of a body against a door.

Near the front door is a peg board hung with coats, scarves, and the like, most of them large but a few in the small scale of child. A dusty jumper is hung carelessly across the back of a chair in the kitchen.

Harry reminds himself that no one in this place is in need of any of this anymore. Beating the jumper free of as much dust as he can, Harry pulls it on over his head. He kicks off the worn, ill-fitting shoes he took from the abbey and tries the various pairs of boots by the door until he finds the ones that fit best.

What he’d really like are some trousers. Maybe a blanket. He looks up the stairs.

Thinking of that thing upstairs in the bedroom, he picks up an iron poker from the fireplace before easing back up the stairs.

Up in the room with the body, Harry finds a pair of corduroy trousers, some thick woolen socks, and after another moment of hesitation, pulls a blanket off the foot of the bed. He tries to ignore the soft, incessant thumping coming from the next room.

Stopping in front of the body, Harry considers taking the shotgun. But even if he could face trying to get it free, he has no idea how to fire a gun, has never even held one in his hands. He’s probably more likely to shoot himself. In the end, he decides to leave it where it is.

“I’m sorry,” he says to the body. “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Whatever this is.

Passing back by the loo, he roots out some painkillers from the medicine cabinet before going back down into the kitchen. A quick search turns up a tin of beans and a jar of some sort of preserves. Harry takes a spoon and a can opener and heads out to the yard.

Getting back in the car, he pulls the door closed, locking it for good measure. He eats the tin of beans, flipping through the paper for any more clues, most of the pages disintegrating as he moves them. Partial, crumbled muggle faces look up at him.

Once he finishes with the food, he curls up in the backseat of the car, pulling the blanket over himself and closing his eyes.

He sleeps fitfully, and once the sky starts to lighten, he eats the jar of what turns out to be some kind of pickle, filling the empty jar with water from the yard pump.

Going once more into the house, he finds a rucksack, filling it with his meager haul of another two tins filched from the kitchen, a pot, a box of matches, and the blanket with the jar of water carefully wrapped in it. After a moment’s consideration, he picks up the iron poker.

Turning away from the house, he looks down the long winding road. He needs to press on. Needs to find another person. Needs to figure out what is going on.

He starts walking.

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