Draco sat, cold and uncomfortable, against the trunk of a tree. He could just see the road through the trees. A breeze rustled the branches overhead, its sound mingling with the other night noises of the woods. Over the past month, both he and Potter had become adept at identifying the common sounds that surrounded them in the woods. Draco sighed. Hard ground and open sky made quite a contrast to the luxurious manor he was used to. His mind started to drift as he thought about all the comforts of his old life- the food, running water, his own bed- he suddenly stiffened as a realization hit him. The woods were silent, unnaturally so. He stood up slowly and carefully, looking around for whatever had caused the change. As he stood in the darkness, ears and eyes straining, he heard hoof beats. That could only mean one thing, Draco knew- demons were nearby. He walked quickly over to where Potter was asleep on the ground and shook him awake. Potter's eyes came open, and he rose to a crouch, silently questioning the reason for the awakening. Draco put a hand behind his ear, indicating that Potter should listen. He did so, and understanding dawned in his eyes as he heard the hoof beats.
They both crept as silently as they could into the cover of the woods and away from the road. Neither of them had any desire to watch those things go by. Close enough to see was too close by far. Once they had gone several feet, they turned to parallel the road they had been following the previous day. They both knew they would never get back to sleep, and moving was a more appealing choice than sitting and doing nothing until the sun rose. They maintained as straight a course as they could through the undergrowth that tried to arrest their progress. They walked for several hours with brief breaks until the sun was directly overhead. They sat down to rest with their backs each leaning against a tree trunk.
"The trees seem to be thinning," Potter said.
Draco nodded. "Maybe we'll see if we chose the right direction soon."
"We better have." He didn't need to remind Draco that they were out of food; after all, they had had no breakfast that morning.
They sat for a few minutes in silence then got up and continued walking. That was probably the only even moderately good thing about this whole business, Draco mused. He was getting more exercise than he'd ever even considered doing. His thoughts were cut short as they exited the trees and saw where they had been heading.
The ground sloped gently downward, and nestled in the shallow valley, lay a small town. Even from where they stood, he could tell it was empty. Everywhere was empty these days- empty of humans anyway. They approached in a crouch so as not to leave their outlines against the sky, and as they drew closer, Draco realized that it had been a muggle town. There was a time when he would have been satisfied by their fate or at least unaffected. Now it was a reminder of what had happened to all of them, wizard and muggle alike. The thought of wizards brought a pang as he wondered about his parents. Were they okay? Were they even still alive? He shook his head irritably to discard such thoughts; worrying wouldn't change anything.
They came to the edge of the town without incident. Knowing that the road would be watched if anything was in the town, they climbed over the fence that surrounded it. Looking around, Draco realized that they were standing in what used to be someone's back yard. The grass was starting to look overgrown, and the bushes were starting to get out of hand as well. As he realized where they were, Potter headed for the door without saying a word. Draco followed; a kitchen was as good a place as any to look for food, and it was somewhere to start. Potter grabbed the door handle and jiggled it to see if it was locked. He then pulled out his wand and muttered "Alohamora," so Draco assumed it had been. Potter pushed the door open slowly and peered inside. "Seems okay," he said.
"Alright, then let's get started. We don't exactly have time to waste," Draco said as he drew his own wand. They headed in with their wands at the ready, wincing at every creak of the floorboards. Everything was starting to get dusty, and Draco knew it would only get dustier. His lip wrinkled in a sneer as he realized that he would be digging through that dust looking for food. Of course, he was already pretty filthy from not being able to take a shower for a month, but the thought that it would only get worse as time went on disgusted him. How dare those demons make him, Draco Malfoy, rummage through filth to survive! It was beneath him! Then the sight of the kitchen drove all such thoughts from his mind. He ran to the pantry while Potter ran to the fridge. Twin grins of relief spread across their faces as they saw that no one else had raided the place yet. Draco pulled out everything that looked useful- canned goods, a bag of trail mix, unopened bags of cereal. He left the noodles; they couldn't risk a fire to cook them. He put it all on the kitchen table and turned to see what Potter had found. There were bottles of water, a block of cheese, some apples and carrots, and a bag of lunchmeat. These joined the other goods on the table, and the two of them started stuffing their findings in carrying sacks. Draco had put an expanding charm and a weight reducing charm that his father had taught him on the sacks they were using, so they were able to fit everything in and still have room for medical supplies. Draco didn't like relying on muggle medicine, but since neither of them new any healing spells, they had to make do with what they could find.
They made their way through the rest of the house looking for a bathroom since that was where Potter had said muggles kept their medicine cabinets. Draco found one and beckoned Potter over as he entered. He opened the cabinet and started pulling out bottles. Draco didn't know what all the different pills were, so Potter was the one who decided what they would take.
Once Potter had finished putting bottles in his sack, they both made their way back to the door. As they passed a window that had been left open by the previous occupants, they froze. A faint sound was coming in and getting louder by the second. The hoof beats were back.
Harry only froze for a second as he heard the hoof beats. Then he grabbed Malfoy and dove away from the window, deeper into the house. "How did we get here before them?" Harry whispered as he hunkered against the hallway wall and pulled Malfoy down next to him.
"Maybe they found someone else to play with on the way; does it really matter? They're here, and we're here, and that's not a good combination. Let's get out of here," Malfoy said in a strangled whisper. Harry glanced at him and saw that he was as white as a sheet.
"Alright," Harry said and led the way to the door. The hoof beats were even louder outside as they made their way back to the fence. Harry peered through a gap and stopped breathing when he saw the demons only a few yards away with some four-legged creature with them. Its shoulders were huge and round, and its back half looked tiny by comparison. It had a heavy collar around what little it had of a neck, and one of the demons held a chain that was attached to the collar. Despite all this, the only feature that really drew Harry's eyes was the set of giant teeth in the beast's mouth.
"What do you see?" Malfoy asked as he found a gap of his own. Harry hadn't taken his eyes off the demons, but he heard Malfoy's breath come in short, fast gasps and knew he must have seen them too. "What is that thing?"
Neither had ever seen the four-legged thing before, but as he watched it Harry realized it reminded him of something. "Well, I can't say I know what it is, but you see what it's doing with its head?"
"It looks a bit like a dog sniffing the air." When Malfoy didn't say anything, Harry asked, "Do you think it can smell us?" Right then, it swung its head in their direction, and they could hear it growling as it pulled at its leash. The demons reined in their horses and started conversing in some harsh, guttural language.
"Time to leave, I think," Malfoy rasped.
"No objections here." They moved away from the fence as quietly as they could, but they could still hear the dog creature grow louder as it sensed its prey getting away. They ran through the house and out the front door and found themselves in the deserted street. Empty houses stretched on a winding street to their right, and they could see a plaza with a fountain to their left. At the same time, they heard a crash behind them as the dog broke through the back door. Without pausing to think, they dashed right, hoping to find more shelter away from open spaces. They had passed one house when they heard a second crash and then scrabbling on the asphalt. Harry glanced over his shoulder to see that the dog had skidded as it landed on the street, but it was already launching itself after them, and by the sound of it, the demons weren't far behind. He faced forward again and pushed himself to run even faster. Malfoy darted into a narrow alley between two houses, and Harry followed him. What they found was a twisting maze of streets and alleys that seemed to lead nowhere but in circles. They followed it at random, with no idea of where they were going. The only thing they knew was that death followed close on their heels, and they dared not slow for a second; the only reason they hadn't been caught yet was the dog's tendency to slide as it rounded a corner.
After what felt like hours, but could only have been minutes, they broke out of the maze, and found themselves in what Harry assumed to be the center of the town. It was a large open area surrounded by storefronts. As they ran across the deserted asphalt, Harry noticed that there was a row of three multi-story buildings to their right. He grabbed Malfoy's arm and yanked him over to the gap between the first two buildings.
"What the hell are you doing, Potter! Are you trying to get us killed?!"
Harry shoved him toward the fire escape on the middle building. "Up," he ordered. "That thing might not be able to climb very well."
"Well maybe it can't, but I'm sure the demons can climb just fine," Malfoy grumbled even as he began to run up the stairs.
"They're slower than the dog," Harry said as he started to climb as well. "And maybe all we need is the advantage of height."
After that they saved their breath for the stairs. Snarls and growls accompanied them on their way up and encouraged them to run faster. Harry glanced down when he was halfway up and saw the dog starting to claw its way up the wall of the building. He started to panic, and flung out his wand arm, shouting "Reducto!" The spell hit the dog directly in the face, knocking it to the ground where it shook its head dazedly and tried to recover. Harry knew they couldn't relax yet though; he could hear the demons getting closer and knew that at any second they would come out of the alley. "Keep running," he gasped as he started upwards again.
"What do you think I'm doing?" Malfoy snarled back.
Harry decided it wasn't worth responding, especially since Malfoy had increased his pace. They reached the roof of the building and lay down flat to peer over the edge. The demons had gathered around the dog, and seemed to be discussing something while they shot glances at the fire escape. Harry and Malfoy wriggled back from the edge and cautiously stood up when they were far enough back not to be seen. "What do we do now?" Malfoy whispered.
"Let's see what's on the other side of the building." So they made their way across the concrete to the back of the building and peered over. They saw another maze of streets stretching out, and at the very end, the edge of the town.
"If only we could reach it!" Malfoy moaned. "But that thing will probably smell us as soon as we set foot on the ground."
Harry kept searching frantically for a way out of their situation that didn't involve them being ripped to pieces. After a couple seconds, his seeker's eye saw a round metal cover in the street right behind the building. "There," he pointed. "We can hide in the sewers."
"The sewers?! That's disgusting, Potter. Besides, it won't work. The dog will just lead the demons to the entrance, and then the demons will follow us down."
"Not if it doesn't smell us." He could see Malfoy about to object again, so he hurried on. "Do you know any spells that will change the way we smell?"
Malfoy closed his mouth and frowned in thought. "Well, there is something that might work. I can't guarantee anything though."
"Those are probably the best odds we can get. Do it."
"Alright. Just remember that you asked for it," Malfoy said with a malicious glint in his eye as he raised his wand. "Puteorus," he said, and suddenly, Harry found himself enveloped in the worst stink he could ever have imagined. He gagged and pinched his nose shut. Then Malfoy grimaced as he turned his wand on himself and cast the spell again.
"Well," Harry said through his closed nostrils. "Let's get down there." Malfoy nodded with a similarly plugged nose. Then they heard heavy, booted footsteps on the fire escape stairs and knew that the demons had figured out where they had gone. Harry quickly located a service ladder, and used his wand to let it down quietly. They then scrambled down it as quickly as they could without making too much noise, and ran over to the sewer cover. Harry pulled it up, and Malfoy slipped in and down the ladder. Harry practically dove after him in his haste to get away from the demons and get the sewers closed again.
They walked a few feet away from the ladder, unable to smell the sewers past their own stench. Exhausted after the long chase, Malfoy fell against the wall and slid down it to a sitting position. Harry followed suit, and closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the wall. After a few moments he asked, "I don't suppose you have a counter-spell?"
Malfoy shook his head. "No. We'll have to let it wear off."
"Wonderful. How long will that take?"
"A few hours I think. It varies slightly."
"That's just great. We should probably stay down here until it does. That dog might smell us again if we go out. Especially when we smell this strong."
Malfoy grunted noncommittally, but Harry decided to take it for agreement. They didn't say anything for a few more minutes, but this time Malfoy broke the silence. "You know," he said. "I've wanted to use that spell on you since I learned it. Never even occurred to me that I'd be doing it to save your life."
Harry snorted. "I bet you never thought you'd be saving my life by any means, let alone a stinking hex."
He heard a tired laugh from next to him. "You're right about that. Of course, I never exactly imagined the world being overrun by demons either."
"No one did," Harry said quietly. He stared across the channel to the opposite wall. Where had the demons come from? Surely someone must have at least known that they existed even if not that they were coming? Why had he never heard about these creatures? But the wall held no answers. Harry's natural curiosity and need to know what was going on suddenly hit him even stronger than ever. "Where do you think they came from?"
"How the hell should I know, Potter?" was Malfoy's irritated reply.
"Sorry. I just really wish I knew what was going on."
"Get used to not knowing," Malfoy said unsympathetically. "It's not like we have any way to find out." He paused for a second, then continued, "And if you even think about investigating, I'll hex you to next Friday and back. It's my neck on the line too."
Harry, who was definitely not considering investigating, replied in exasperation, "I know, I know. We keep doing what we've been doing. We keep our heads low and stay alive."
"Preaching to the choir, Potter."
They sat silently for hours. Harry, worn out as he was from the harrowing flight through the city, dozed off several times, and he was sure Malfoy did as well. Eventually, he realized how hungry he was. "Want to eat?" he asked Malfoy.
"You can if you want. I for one would rather get out of this stench before I eat anything." Malfoy stood up and brushed his robes off, an action that did absolutely nothing. Harry realized that he had a point, so he stood up as well. He started to climb the ladder, but Malfoy stopped him. "Maybe we should try to get across town below ground."
"Not a bad idea. Any idea which direction we should head?"
Malfoy paused, then pulled his wand out and said, "Point me." The wand pivoted, then pointed to the right of the ladder. "That way. Something you would know too if you had thought about it," he added with a scathing glance. "I mean, it's not like you don't know that spell." Harry glared at him but decided it wasn't worth replying. They set off down the tunnel in their customary silence, with Malfoy casting the Point Me spell whenever they came to an intersection. In this manner, they reached the edge of town without any further demon interaction and fled to the relative shelter of the woods.
A/N: Merry Christmas! This chapter is my gift to all of you. =)
Thank you to Mumia0813 for reviewing and reminding me to get this chapter out!
I'm trying to write longer chapters, so please bear with me; I'm not sure I'll manage to make them this long all the time.
There was supposed to be a line break last chapter at the end of Harry's scar-induced dream, so I'm hoping what I did in this chapter works.
Also, I revised some things in the previous two chapters. Nothing major, but feel free to check it out.
PSA to my readers (2/11/19): No, this story is not abandoned; you can stop worrying. However, I started this story with literally no plan whatsoever, which is the primary reason I barely touched it for three years. The last part of that three years was a conscious decision to wait until Darksiders 3 was released and I'd had a chance to play it. Problem is, after playing it, I looked at this story and went "I still don't know what the scrap I'm doing with this." So I decided that the best thing, both for me and for the story, would be to completely start over from scratch. To that end, I am currently in the process of planning the new (and hopefully improved) Harry Potter and the Apocalypse. The already existing chapters will likely not appear in the new version, though I might use parts of them. I won't delete them from though, just in case people still want access to them. Once I start uploading new chapters, the old ones will be moved to a new story titled "HPA: the First Attempt." I'm afraid I can't offer a timeline for when I'll start posting again, but I wanted to give you all an update and let you know that progress is being made, slowly but surely. Hope to see you again in far less than three years!