The room was large and round, rich wooden panelling decorating the thick stone of the walls. Mina had always thought it a very stuffy room, the council always holding their most important meetings there, trawling through the dreariest of subjects in the dreariest of settings. Someone had hung bright yellow curtains in a desperate attempt to add a bit of colour and life to the room, but the thickness of the fabric on dampened acoustics making every sound drop out of existence as soon as it was said.
Mina stood at the back with Sonyea, their backs pressed against the wall, gazing over the sea of witches and wizards who were whispering suspiciously among themselves. There hadn't been much in the way of explanation when word had reached them of an important gathering, and she guessed that such cloak and dagger would have, no doubt, offended quite a few witches and wizards who prided themselves on being in the know. She could see their furrowed brows as the frustratedly asked those around them what they knew, relaxing somewhat at not being alone, before voicing their indignation at being summoned like commoners.
Demalden Ogen stood, his customary emerald green robes vibrant against the drabness of the room and the brown robes of the individuals that sat either side of him. He was a tall, his skin dark, a large pointed hat always sitting slightly crookedly on his head, planets spinning across its surface in the most hypnotising fashion. He had come from far across the sea, quickly proving himself to be an incredibly powerful wizard and apt leader, being both strong-willed and fair in all his decisions. When he had been appointed as spokesperson for the magical council, no one had doubted, even Arden had looked up to the man with awe. Now though she noticed that his opinions had somehow been darkened with disdain, questioning every decision that he and the magical council made.
"Quiet!" The mumbling instantly stopped, and all spectators turned their heads to the front, their gaze's expectant. Mina pulled her shawl tighter across her shoulders, the material was soft in her fingers. Nervously she traced the pattern of blue flowers across its surface. Of late these meetings had spelt nothing but bad news; updates being only of those that had been lost, missing or otherwise murdered by the muggles. Most had been innocents, young children that had wandered too far away from their homes and being caught casting a spell. Every name that was spoken, every horrendous act that was described made her think of Edward and her guilt grew as she was forced to face her feelings for the man that had once aligned himself with such villains.
"My friends," Mina noticed how tired Demalden seemed as he spoke, his words laden with sadness, "we live in dark times." Mutters of agreement rippled through the crowd and Sonyea leaned towards Mina.
"Stating the obvious don't you think?" Mina nodded, flashing her friend a tight smile.
"The Council, as appointed by the magical community, have met to discuss our, precarious predicament and we have," he took a deep breath, rubbing his forehead before continuing, "we have come to a difficult decision."
Many witches and wizards shifted uncomfortably in their chairs, muttering nervously to their neighbours. "The Battle of Black Lake has dealt our way of life a substantial blow and, in spite of our victory the war has not ended. Even as I speak plans have been set in motion to eradicate our way of life and eradicate us." Gasps of shock came from all around the hall, people reached for one another to find comfort, hands grasping robes.
"We nine have agonised over how we, and the people we represent, should proceed and we see no other option but to do this as peacefully as we can. The Battle at Black Lake caused serious bloodshed and we lost so many good witches and wizards to needless violence. We cannot go on as such, we will not allow it. Muggles have announced their stance, separate from our way of life and we shall not hinder them on such a path, separating ourselves from theirs." Mina felt Sonyea grip her arm, looking up and seeing her eyes wide with horror. Mina followed her gaze and felt her stomach knot with worry.
Arden had stepped into the room, black robes wrapped around him, a gold symbol blazoned on his back in bright gold. It shone as he walked quickly through the crowds of people who, becoming aware of his presence, began, once again, to whisper to one another, till the whole room abuzz with their speculations. Seven figures filtered in behind him, their robes matching, hoods pulled up to cover their faces. Mina thought she recognised some of them, young wizards that had returned from the Black Lake who Arden had surrounded himself with, desperate to feel like a hero even though he had not fought beside them. It was obvious that whatever path Arden was determined to walk down would be neither peaceful nor free of bloodshed.
"The council believes," Demalden continued speaking over the din, "that we should forge a new life hidden from the muggles. This is not new, many have done it in other places across the world and there are magical creatures that have lived this way for centuries. We believe it is time that we join them."
"And what, Demalden, of our right to freedom?' Arden had his wand pressed against his throat, amplifying his voice, so it filled up the stuffy room and drowned out all other sounds. Mina almost didn't recognise the ton; he was so calm, so sure of himself, very different from the nervous wreck of a boy that she had grown up with.
"Lord Arden Masarvas," Demalden eyed him curiously, gesturing for the young wizard to step forward.
"You forget your manners when addressing the council." A blonde-haired witch with rosy cheeks, spoke sharply, the tip of her pointy black hat moving in the air.
"I forget nothing, Lady Greengrass, I only wish to remind the council members, that each witch and wizard present here today has the right to make their own choices. They should be able to choose whether they wish to cower away from the world, or whether they wish to make a stand and fight for their way of life." People were listening to him, she could see them straining in their seats to look at him, whispers of affirmation reached her ears. As the seven gathered around Arden, Mina gripped Sonyea's arm in dread. Hermione could sense the worry, there was a palpable tension in the air.
"And might we remind you, Arden, that the people appointed us to make the important decisions for them." The man who spoke slowly stood; he was tall, standing only a little shorter than Demalden, his features sharp and pointed.
"An excellent point, but surely something so drastic as this should be given to the people. Let them decide which path they want to take." There were several shouts of agreement from the crowd, and Demalden noted them all with a cautious expression, stepping back, drawing himself up to his full height.
"This a grave decision to make. If given such a power, what would you decide?" He asked it slowly, reaching into his robes. Mina moved forward, instantly cut off by other witches and wizards rising from their seats in order to see the drama unfold. None had ever seen fit to take a stand against Demalden and even if they had they would never have dared to, he was a powerful wizard and only a fool would pit themselves against him.
Arden, seemingly unperturbed by the powerful council members before him, turned his back on them, raising his arms high, "I would say that we fight, I would say that we take what is ours, what magic has given us, and we drive the muggles out like they have driven us out of our homes." Those that agreed, agreed violently, their cries louder than any of those that opposed his words, their wands raised in the air. Mina swallowed the fear in her throat, trying to push forward again, stopped by Sonyea, the tips of her fingers digging into her arm as she shook her head. Her friend's face was deathly pale as if she sensed that something terrible was about to happen.
"So, we fight, Arden, and what if we die?" Those that had vehemently agreed with Arden seemed to sober at these words, stilling and turning their expectant gazes towards the young wizards.
'We will not die." He said it so simply as it were a truth that had been written in the stars for centuries. "Do we not have magic? Isn't the very essence of the world coursing through our veins? Do we not live as one with all the creatures of the earth, even those in secret? Why should we hide? Why should we run? They should cower before us."
"Not everything needs to be taken with blood, we could all happily exist side by side." Demalden tried to interject, struggling to be heard over the clamouring protests.
"And wait for them to find us? Wait for them to kill us? You would protect those that would seek to find and destroy our kind? You would grant them possession of the world and leave us in shadow?" He turned back to the man, and a realisation seemed to flicker across the council members features, each of them slowly reaching into their robes. Mina felt the shift too, reaching for her own wand.
Arden had divided the crowd, that much was obvious, great arguments breaking out within the room. Withes and wizards that had known one another all their lives shouting at one another, red-faced and angry, accusing fingers pointed as if the person before them was the very reason for the turmoil that had befallen their people.
"The council want what is best for our people." Demalden's wand was gripped in his hand, and Arden simply turned to the crowd.
Mina could not hear Arden's reply over the noise, but she saw that many of the council members had stepped in, their faces twisted in anger as they spoke to her friend. There would have been a time when she would have been proud of him for such achievements, would have look on happily as he stood for something and took the lead. But now all she saw was the shadow of hate that had made its way back from Black Lake infecting her friend and turning him into someone she no longer recognised. The room was not behind him, but nor were they against him; he had simply wandered in and planted a seed of doubt, basking in the chaos as though he had designed it that way. He could not hope to lead anyone to victory under such conditions, but she knew he didn't see it like that. There was smugness on his face, a cockiness in the way that he strutted before the council.
"Mina this cannot be, Arden he…" Sonyea shook her head in disbelief, grasping at Mina's shawl and tugging it off her shoulders slightly.
"What is he talking about, he's never fought a battle in his life." Sonyea attempted a nervous chuckle, the amusement dying on her face quickly as she watched Arden spit something back at the council before he once again got lost in the surge of the crowd. A hex flashed across the room and sent a witch flying against the far wall. There was no indication of who had sent off the missile, but Mina watched the effects of it bloom across a woman's face in angry boils as her husband stooped over her quickly muttering a counter-spell.
It was not unheard of for petty arguments to break out among their kind and for curses and hexes to be thrown, but Mina felt as though the badly aimed hex was just the beginning and worse things were to come.
It was as if the universe had heard her thoughts and decided upon action, as within a few seconds the room seemed to melt into mayhem, spells flying across the room freely, crashing into witches and wizards alike, missing people completely and smashing into the walks, leaving burning little craters in the wood. The mayhem seemed to fade however as Mina's eyes were drawn to a burst of green light. At first, she thought that Arden had been hit, that his insubordinate attitude had resulted in one of the council members becoming impatient and ending his life where he stood. But she realised that he had cast the spell and that it had hit Demalden. She imagined she could hear the thud as his body hit the floor; it was a dreadful sound, like the end of everything as she knew it.
The other council members were rushing to the defence of their leader, only to be stopped by Arden's robed followers who seemed to burst out of their crowd, spells already leaving the ends of their wands.
"Mina, we need to go," Sonyea shouted, pulling out her wand and quickly disapparating. Mina glanced around wishing that it were all a dream, wanting the noise, the fighting, to end. She let out a sob as a woman was hit by an errant spell, green bursting across her chest and sending her body flying through the air. She landed at Mina's feet, her eyes wide open and glassy, blood dripping from her nose.
Mina took her wand in her shaking hand, lifting it slightly to cast her spell. She watched the rest of the council members one-by-one disappear into great grey clouds, that quickly imploded into nothingness. With a shaky breath she followed them, closing her eyes in the hope that when she opened them, everything would be as it was before.
Hermione opened her eyes, blinking several times as she realised, she was back in the room with the green pillars. She took a few shuddery breaths, her body shaking from the rush of adrenalin. She couldn't believe that things had fallen apart so quickly, well-placed words working to shatter the community that had been evident in that room. Glancing around she noticed that Draco was still experiencing his memory; silvery smoke, wrapped around his frame in tendrils, tears glinting on his cheeks. She made her way towards him hesitantly, watching the wisps of smoke slowly dissipate.
"Malfoy?" She jumped back quickly when he fell to his knees, throwing up onto the polished floor, his face looking almost grey in the candlelight. He lifted his shaking hands up to his face and stared at them in such a haunted way, that Hermione was certain he was seeing something that she couldn't.
"Malfoy?" She hesitantly placed a hand on his shoulder. He stumbled to his feet and met her gaze, his grey eyes darker than normal.
"Malfoy, what happened?" He leant over suddenly, shaking his head from side to side, his hand gripping at his stomach.
"I think I'm gonna throw up…"
Hermione realised quickly what was happening, whipping out her wand and shouting a levitation spell, sighing in relief as it hit him before his body thudded to the floor. She hurriedly knelt at his side, tapping the side of his face gently.
"Malfoy, Malfoy. Wake up." She shifted his fringe out his face, noting that his forehead was beaded with sweat. "Malfoy are you okay?" She smiled when he blinked drearily at her, pressing her palm against his warm cheek. "Are you okay?"
"Granger?" The sight of his grey eyes searching hers made her breath catch and, the way he said her name was so different from normal, lacking in its usual harshness. The sound of it sent some sort of thrill chasing through her stomach that made her lean back a little, shifting away from him and away from the feeling, there were more pressing matters to consider.
"What happened to you?"