Chapter 8 : Better Him Than Us
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The curses hit him so quickly he didn’t have time to react. Within seconds, his wand flew from his grasp, his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth, he was bound in ever tightening ropes and levitated, roughly, into a barn loft. Just as he realized what was happening, he came face to face with a bloodied and dirty, but savagely grinning redhead.
“Hello, git!” Ron spat, backhanding the Death Eater so hard that it immediately raised a welt on Yaxley’s jaw.
“Ron! Stop it! We agreed not to hurt him!”
“No. I agreed not to Crucio the tosser!” Ron backhanded him again and Hermione grabbed Ron by the arm.
Ron’s lust for vengeance momentarily sated, he relented. Casting off Hermione’s stern look, he asked, “Are you sure you can do it?”
Hermione’s face betrayed the war of emotions that was raging within her. “Yes. But I’m still not comfortable with it.”
“Mione, we don’t have any other choice.” Hermione gave a slight, but troubled nod.
A look of pure, unadulterated fear spread across Yaxley’s face as the pair took him by the arms and Disapparated. It took several hours before the trio finally arrived just north of Dover, overlooking the coast to the east.
As they hurriedly hatched their plan in the barn, Hermione had contemplated using Legilimency on Yaxley to get the answers they needed. She dismissed the thought rather quickly, knowing that her talents did not extend that far. Ron, on the other hand, had to be talked out of harsher interrogation techniques. They had settled on conducting a series of tests to validate both what they heard and what Hermione believed. The last test, however, troubled her. Nonetheless, she didn’t have a good alternative for what Ron had thought up.
As Ron kept a firm hold on Yaxley, Hermione rummaged in her beaded bag, pulling out some parchment. Waving her wand over it, she cast her charm. The parchment took the shape of a bird and began to fly east, out over the sea toward a small island. It abruptly stopped, as if hitting a wall, just short of its destination. Flicking her wand again, the parchment-bird flew back to her.
“Now, we need something muggle-made.” Hermione looked around them, settling her eyes just past where Ron held Yaxley. “That will do,” she waved her wand at a pop bottle.
“Remember, it’s Wing-gar-dium Levi-o-sa,” he chided to try to lighten her mood.
Hermione suppressed a smile and levitated the bottle out toward the island. When it hit the barrier it stopped; she then moved the bottle back from the barrier several feet and gave it one strong push forward, before ceasing her spell. The bottle shot straight ahead and landed on the island once her levitation spell was broken. She nodded knowingly.
“That’s what I thought.” Hermione declared. “The wireless was right, so far. Anything, or anyone, with a trace of magic can’t move through it. But it has no effect on the non-magical.”
“Alright. Let’s move farther south and see if we can get a look at this focus point of yours from a safe distance,” Ron said.
It took some scouting, but they eventually found a good spot. They Apparated to the top of a wooded ridge that provided excellent cover. It had a commanding view of the plains below. The channel was visible in the distance and, across it, Calais and freedom. But, it wasn’t the vast geography that struck them as they looked south over the plains.
“Gods.” The word escaped from Ron’s lips at little more than a horrified whisper.
What they saw made their blood run cold. To the south the dead were piled in heaps. Hundreds, maybe thousands lay strewn across the plain. Entire wizarding families lay rotting in the dim sunlight as carrion birds picked over the remains. But the smell . . .the air was filled with the sickeningly sweet smell of rotting meat, and the sounds of thousands of flies angrily buzzing about. Almost as if by reflex, Hermione's hand covered her nose and mouth. Ron's eyes began to water in torrents. The pure horror of this charnel house was overpowering.
After the agonies of the past few days, this new assault on their senses nearly broke them.
Whatever reservations Hermione had with Ron’s plan evaporated as she took in the horrific scene before her. She turned on Yaxley and raised her wand, “Imperio!”
Using all of her might, she overcame his will. Then she nodded to Ron.
Pointing his wand at Yaxley, Ron lifted the Incarcerous curse, but chose to keep the Langlock curse in place. He handed the lead Death Eater back his wand and steeled himself to survey the killing field. Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be any Death Eaters within line of sight. With some effort, Ron thought he’d found the most likely spot where the focus point should be: the densest concentration of corpses.
Her brow furrowed in concentration, Hermione focused on the island to the east of them, which was still just barely visible from their new vantage point. Yaxley turned on the spot.
But instead of appearing on the island, as Hermione intended, Yaxley Apparated below them in the plain, striking the barrier. Ron took a mental picture of the spot where Yaxley first appeared as the lead Death Eater was immediately thrown backwards from it, landing thirty yards to the north. An ear shattering bang shook the air. Dozens of Death Eaters began to appear fifty yards from the Teeth. They must be using portkeys, Ron thought to himself.
Hermione’s voice was pure panic. “Ron, I can’t bring him back! The Teeth won’t let him Apparate; he must be too close!”
Turning to her in alarm, Ron shouted, “Break your hold on him! Don’t look!” Ron pulled her to his chest, shielding her from what he knew was about to happen.
Ron watched it unfold. Yaxley had just regained his feet and began to run, desperately waving his arms. But any plea he was trying to make to his cohorts was either made too late or was simply ignored. The rapidly appearing Death Eaters hurled a wall of curses at him. Yaxley was dead before he hit the ground.
In spite of himself, Ron shuddered. Better him than us.
AN: I do not own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.
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