"The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to the other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creatures that cannot."
-Mark Twain; What is Man?
Chapter 19: Kill and Run
His jail stood alone in a cold, bricked room.
There were no windows, the only light shining from the bright white lights in the ceiling.
Under the lights Paul Weatherman's face was an ill mask. His once healthy hair looked oily and his skin was waxy, clinging oddly to his bones and sagging at the neck and ears. He had only been here for a few days and already looked like a skeleton of his former self.
Rossi looked at the chart beneath him and shook his head. On paper, this man was completely healthy; his visage told an entirely different story.
"Mr Weatherman, I'm sure you're aware that at the moment you're facing lifetime in prison after 12 counts of first degree murder, assault of a federal agent and possession of illegal weapons. Is there anything you would like to say before we leave? "
There was no answer.
Rossi shrugged in a tired manner and shook his head at Reid and Prentiss. The three gathered their belongings and began to walk out.
Paul's fist rang against the bars.
The sound interrupted the silence, and the three retreating figures paused.
"Wait. Please?' The voice was harsh, weak. 'I'll tell you all I know. I've…got nothing left to lose now."
Three seats were hastily situated before his jail. Rossi seated himself elegantly and searched his pockets for paper and a pen, supplied in short order by a seated Prentiss. Reid stood hesitantly behind his chair, hands tightening so his knuckles stood out. He was trying his hardest to ignore the incessantly vibrating phone in his jacket.
"She's taken it personal. That Mudblood. She's the new target."
"So Alexis has a plan then?"
"Well, the last I knew, she was going after the parents. Lure her out and all that. That way, the Mudblood'd know exactly what she went through."
Rossi glanced at Prentiss, who was already on her phone to Garcia.
"Please continue Paul. Do you know where she would take the parents, when she had control of them?"
"You've still got some misplaced loyalty, don't you?' Reid spoke for the first time. 'Tell us and do yourself some good. Trusting that woman was the worst thing you ever did."
Rossi gave Reid a sharp glare, effectively quieting him.
"I'm not lying.' Paul was emotionless. 'I honestly don't know."
"Can you hazard a guess?"
"No. Actually….' He paused, thinking. 'She did mention something about the time they first met."
"Do you know when and where that was?"
"I wasn't with her that day. It was weeks ago now, and she came back, so excited – rambling on about how she'd seen the 'bitch and her friends that ruined everything.'"
Rossi nodded and gestured for Reid to come closer.
"Get Harry and Ron on the phone, we need to find out where she's going immediately."
Australian Botanical Gardens
The trees rustled ominously as Hermione walked steadily down the shaded path. She felt rather in the manner of Hansel or Gretel walking to the witches' house and the doom that awaited them. Around her the Gardens were curiously deserted as she made her way towards the centre. She could hear a waterfall hidden behind the trees and the call of birds and insects. Hermione's skin itched from the bites of mosquitoes and the oppressive heat. In her hand she grasped the coordinates tightly, crumpling them and smearing the numbers beyond recognition.
Hermione hadn't even needed the assurance of her taxi driver that she those were in fact the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the Botanical Gardens, she had known immediately that it was where her parents were.
It was, after all, the first place she had seen Alexis.
So it was towards the centre Hermione went; knowing that she would find her parents there. She wished desperately for Ron and Harry at her side, but she knew, instinctively, that this was something she had to do alone.
As she walked around a bend, the view cleared and she stumbled onto a large grassed field ringed by large eucalypts and backing onto an undercover area. Hermione blinked, blinded by the sudden brightness of the sun.
In the shade of the trees was a couple on a picnic blanket. They and Hermione and were the only people in the clearing and their laughter was free and unworried. The blanket beneath them, striped with red and black, was laden with food and drinks – more suited for a party than a couples outing.
Hermione was suddenly haunted of the same image repeated over and over again throughout her memories; only in her mind, there was a little girl with them, laughing with them and running around, sharing small pieces of her parents' food when she had finished her own.
Now, there was no little girl to be seen.
Alexis materialised at the edge of the shelter, hair bedraggled and eyes crazed. She grinned at Hermione and shook her head violently at the wand clasped in Hermione's hand. She lifted a hand, trembling slightly, to her mouth, making a 'shh' gesture and gesturing to Hermione's oblivious parents.
Hermione felt a feeling of dread settle over her. The threat was obvious - if she tried anything, her parent's lives were forfeit.
Her distracted mind almost caused her death in that moment.
A shard of green light came towards her, and Hermione threw herself to the ground.
From her position on the ground she cast several non-verbal disarming charms and hexes', defending in turn Alexis's spells. A stupefying spell caught her in the shoulder before she raised her shields, and Hermione took the advantage.
She picked herself up from the ground and ran.
She sought cover at the side of the undercover area, her chest heaving up and down from adrenaline. As she gathered herself and cast a shielding charm, she heard nothing from around her. She dared a glance around the edge of the shelter, her shield deflecting a disarming charm. In that quick glance she gathered that her parents were unharmed, though they seemed worryingly inactive. Hermione leapt from her cover and caught a crucio in the chest. She fell down, a scream clawing up her throat. Enraged, she fought strongly against it, raising her wand toward Alexis. The spell lifted, and she rolled herself to the side just as a scythe landed where her head had been.
"Give up Granger!"
The voice was yelling, inside and outside her head. Hermione cast off the imperius, firing back a darker hex, which Alexis neatly avoided. Hermione had expected this though, and sent a premeditated hex to Alexis, halting her progress. She walked towards the immobile figure, close enough to see Alexis' face clearly. In her eyes, there was a flash of fear as Hermione raised her wand.
The weak woman before her trembled inside. Her wand was removed from her hands, and those then tied behind her back.
Hermione stood back for a moment, adrenaline still coursing through her. Alexis snarled at her silently, and she shook her head, looking towards her parents.
Her parents, who still sat together on that picnic blanket, were smiling as brightly as they had on the September 1st so long ago. She wondered, briefly, if perhaps her parents weren't better off without her. But she wasn't the one to make that decision – she knew that now…
Her Mother suddenly coughed, violently, as though deprived of oxygen. Hermione turned in horror, heartbeat high in her ears, to see Alexis concentrating deeply on the couple.
Hermione, in a moment of helplessness, released Alexis from captivity. She felt herself thrown backwards, and her grip of Alexis's wand loosened to the point of dropping the wand.
Cursing herself, Hermione tried valiantly to yell, knowing already she had numerous charms on herself.
Alexis' grin danced above her, and a hand came into her field of vision.
"Shall we finish this?"
Hermione accepted the help, wavering before the other, battered woman. Alexis began to circle her, whispering manically as she did.
"You know what will happen, don't you Mudblood? You're clever, and you've already examined every scenario, and know what each one ends with. Say it."
There was no sound, excepting the harsh breathing of both.
"My parents will die."
That was greeted with the cruellest smile.
Alexis, now standing at Hermione's back, muttered beneath her breath, only for the blue light of her spell to ricochet off an invisible shield.
For just a moment, something like an otter danced in the blue expanse above.
The fight began again in earnest, with each fighting tooth and nail. An immeasurable amount of time later, Alexis stood, wand outstretched, at the exterior of the bubble enclosing Hermione's parents.
Hermione, in a moment of terror she had never wished to return to again, felt her anger overtake her.
A blast of green light arched from her wand, and Alexis fell.
The voice, it was so familiar. Hermione smiled at him.
"Are fine. They're in the ambulance now. Just, close your eyes."
Hermione obeyed, and she let the beckoning darkness in.
A/N So...I've been gone for months now, and while I have excuses I shan't undermine your intelligence by blathering on about them. Needless to say my absence has been inexcusable, but to make up for it, in the smallest measure, I have partly typed the next chapter which should, should, be up within the week.
You all have been so patient, and wonderful. Bless your cotton socks.
Love, Original Weeping Angel.