The mist swirled around her as she fell, a plethora of colours shimmering in its silver depths. It moved like water, lapping at her skin the feel of it soft as velvet. She struggled for breath as emotions ripped through her making her heart hurt and her stomach clench. She could feel the kiss of tears on her cheeks and the bubble of laughter in her throat that disappeared into the swirling liquid as if she had made no sound.
Echoes of thousands of voices called out to her, so many different people; whispering, shouting, screaming and crying. She tipped her head slightly, trying to work out what the voices were saying but, as soon as she did, they faded into the din their words indiscernible. Unfamiliar faces jumped out at her making her pull away violently, squeezing her eyes shut in a desperate bid to ward them off. She concentrated on the feel of Malfoy's sweater gripped in her hand. She hadn't been able to see him as they'd fallen, but she could still feel the soft wool pressed against her palm and took some sort of weird comfort in it.
Suddenly, she wasn't falling, the world was dark and she could no longer feel anything gripped in her hand. Strange colourful shapes danced in the darkness just out of focus and no amount of blinking made them clearer. Hermione tried to walk towards them and realised she couldn't move, couldn't even feel her own legs, her feet against the floor. It was as if she were suspended mid-air, held by some unseen force and when she screamed no sound left her mouth, only silence and the strange burred shapes. Panic bloomed in her chest, HELP, HELP ME. She screamed it with everything she had, but the darkness remained quiet.
Hermione groaned as a pain grew in her head, throbbing with the beat of her heart and a voice whispered things at her, a voice she didn't know.
'Edward, Arden. What happened?" Hermione shivered as wind bit at her cheeks with a ferocity that made them sting. A gap opened, and light flooded into Hermione's eyes and her head screamed in protest, the gap immediately closed again. She felt a dizzy sort of sickness bubbling in her stomach.
'Breathe, Mina. Breathe.' The voice was soft as it echoed around her.
Who are you? Help me. There's been some mistake. The voice didn't respond to her questions, instead light flooded her eyes again. The world before her blurred for a moment, shifting sickeningly on its axis before sharpening painfully into focus. The sea of faces contorted in hate and malice all looking at her made her want to shrink back into the darkness. Their black robes sheltered them from the snow falling lazily from thick grey clouds that choked the sky above their heads. It was dark, and only the flickering light of two torches, held by two stern-looking men garbed in purple robes, lit those gathered. Snowflakes sizzled in the quiet, as the flames snapped them greedily out of the air. She could make out the looming shadows of great hills that rose up either side of her, and at the farthest end of the valley, the clouds glowed orange as if some great fire roared in the distance.
Help me there's been some mistake. Hermione tried to plead with the people before her, but her words fell into nothingness and the crowd remained unmoved and unphased.
'Edward, no, no, no.' The voice echoed through her head as Hermione's gaze travelled down without her permission. She was tied to something hard and uncomfortable, rope wrapped around her middle, thick and tightly bound so that even small movements were almost impossible. She began to shake at the sight of piles of wood gathered around her feet, twigs biting into her thighs painfully. She didn't recognise the white dress she was wearing, didn't recognise the faces and most of all, when the wind blew, the hair that fell in front of her was straight and blonde, so golden amidst the grey. Hermione whimpered silently, realising that whatever magic they had found had taken her out of her own body and placed her within someone else, somewhere else.
This isn't right, this isn't supposed to happen. She tried to breathe, searching through her back-catalogue of facts to find something, anything to explain her predicament, growing more frustrated with herself when her thoughts muddled incomprehensively. She thought of Harry and Ron, of Hogwarts and Crookshanks, of the Gryffindor common room, anything to bring her back to reality, anything to anchor her to home. But nothing worked and the more she tried to focus on them the quicker they seemed to disappear, fading into thoughts of Edward and of panic and into the fear that she knew wasn't her own but felt anyway.
"Mina, Mina, Mina." The voice was deep and resonant and Hermione felt disgust overwhelm her. Whoever the man was Mina didn't like him.
"Look at me, Mina." Slowly Hermione's gaze lifted. He was handsome, long brown hair falling down his shoulders, a goatee around his smirking mouth. He was donned in black robes, the ancient rune for seven emblazoned in red thread on his chest. The torchlight danced in his eyes in a wicked way and the gaze that met hers was not a kind one. Hermione felt the shiver of fear that shook Mina.
"Arden." It was spat from Mina's mouth like a filthy word as glimpses of a younger Arden flashed through her mind, the weight of betrayal that hung off them made Hermione's heart hurt.
The man sneered, and Mina shook her head, sending another wave of dizziness rattling right into Hermione's stomach.
"Arden, please. It doesn't...It doesn't have to be like this."
"You made your choice." Mina's head lowered in shame and once again Hermione was staring at her bare feet, just visible through the gaps in the wood. They were muddy, caked in filth, and frozen right to the bone. The white dress was sticking to her skin as melted snowflakes wet it through. She shivered again.
"Good witches and Wizards, my fellow suffers in this long and brutal war." Arden's voice echoed across the valley and the crowd hushed to listen. "Magic is our blood, is our life and right.' The crowd cheered, Mina looked up to watch as bright globes of light shot out the end of wands and flew into the grey clouds. Arden raised his hand, and silence fell.
"But there are those, those that would take it from us, condemn us to death. Those without such gifts, without such right." shouts of indignation rose, clamouring over one another to be heard.
"They crawl in filth and deal in blood, lies and death. They will take our world from us if we don't stop them."
"KILL THEM ALL." A voice shouted and the once again the crowd cheered.
Arden raised his hand again, his black sleeves moving in the wind. "All in good time, my friends, all in good time. First, we must weed out the weak links among us, those that are sympathetic to the filthy muggles cause. Those that would see us fall, see us crawling in the dirt, those that would see us dead." The crowd roared in anger and Mina whimpered. Images flashed around Hermione, memories that she guessed were of all the people before her. They spoke of happier, simpler times.
"Sympathetic to those who do not believe magic is our gift, our right. This," He turned to Mina, pointing an accusatory finger that may as well have branded her a traitor. Shame flooded through Hermione deeper than she'd ever thought possible like it was rooted inside of her and grew great branches that stretched throughout her limbs.
"This, harlot has given herself to one of them. Dirtied herself with their filth." Arden turned to her again and Hermione saw hurt flash across his cold features.
"Arden, please," Mina begged, her voice hoarse.
"This whore has betrayed us, she is a traitor to her own kind, a traitor to magic. She has their filth running through her veins. Her fate is for you to judge. Witches, Wizards, I ask you," he paused solemnly, "I ask you to decide. What should be we do with this, with this Mudblood."
Hermione felt the pain of the statement, recoiling in anguish. The word seemed to hold so much more venom, all the times that Draco had called it her paling in comparison.
The crowd was shouting, flinging insults at her.
Mina glanced around desperately, her heart aching.
Edward. Images of a man with short black hair flitted through Hermione's head, there were so many of them and each of them filled her with such indescribable happiness at the same time as filling her with such indescribable pain.
Arden lifted both his arms, "My good people, I will not only give you her life but the life of the muggle who lay with her. And then we will bring a war to the rest of the traitors, a war that they have never seen before. And we shall be triumphant." Arden paused a moment, his arms wide and wide smile on his face as his followers shouted and cheered his name. He raised his hand finally to quit them, " Bring forth the muggle."
Hermione could feel Mina's heart hammering in her chest, panic sticking in her throat making it hard to breathe. The crowd parted, and two robed figures pulled a man along by chains. Hermione heard Mina scream as the thin man was chucked into the dirt before her. Blood dripped down from a gash in his forehead, filth clung to his pale skin and, when he looked up, ghosts shifted in his eyes as if he'd spent a lifetime haunted.
Hermione's vision blurred, and she felt the wetness of tears on her cheeks.
"Edward, no, no, no." Hermione didn't know it was possible to feel so tortured, so torn and pained, she felt as if her insides were being ripped out and pushed back inside of her all at once. The man's face crumbled as he took in the scene before him.
"I'm sorry, Mina, I'm so sorry." One of the robed figures holding his chains pointed his wand down at him, muttering something under his breath. Edward feel to the floor, back arching in pain as a scream ripped through the air.
Arden wandered closer, his eyes shining in triumph. "I told you, I'd never let you go, Mina. You can't save them, and you won't save him." Arden pointed towards Edward, who was clawing at the earth, trying to get to Mina.
"Arden, it doesn't have to be like this, what about peace? What about all the things we talked about when we were little." Mina struggled to get the words out between sobs and shook when Arden's face hardened at her words, his eyes glimmering with unshed tears. Leaning forward he spat in her face.
"There can never be peace as long as men like him still breathe, with whores like you at his beck and call. They kill us and kill us." He looked down at his feet then back up at Mina, the tears and hurt were gone and all that was left was malice, malice that made him barely recognisable.
"The only way to stop it is to break the cycle," he said louder, addressing the crowd. "And it starts with these two." Arden reached out a hand.
"Torch." A robed man, his hood covering most of his face, stepped forward holding a torch, flames licking at the air.
Edward was pulling on his chains viciously and Mina turned to look at him.
"It's okay." She whispered, turning back to Arden. For a moment it seemed as if he'd changed his mind, that he'd reach forward and untie her, that he'd smile at her like he used to. Hermione felt all the hope, saw all the memories and watched them all fade away as Arden lowered the torch to the wood at her feet.
"MINA!" Edward was screaming, "MINA, NO, PLEASE, JUST KILL ME, KILL ME." He begged, turning to his captures, sobs wracking through his body. "MINA. MINA I'M SORRY, I'm so sorry."
"Shut him up."
Someone muttered a spell and Edward fell to the ground again.
"Edward," Mina mumbled it pathetically, tears falling from her eyes, shoulders shaking as the wood crackled around her spitting sparks into the air. Hermione panicked as she felt the heat of it biting into her legs, this wasn't supposed to happen, she wasn't supposed to feel physical pain. Once again, she tried to think of Hogwarts, of home, of her parents, even of arguing with Malfoy, but as the fire grew, she found it impossible to think about anything but how much it hurt. About how much she just wanted to live and be okay.
The crowd was cheering and chanting, and Edward was screaming, Hermione could see him through the haze on his knees, shoulders slumped in defeat. The pain unbelievably increased.
Help me please, I don't want to die, I don't want to die. Hermione shouted it as loud as she could, trying to grit her teeth against the hurt. Instead, Mina just cried out in pain.
There was a burst of green light and Mina shouted Edwards name. The heartbreak was almost as intense as the heat. Smoke got into Hermione's eyes and in her lungs, and then she couldn't breathe.
Help me, HELP ME. I'm dying, please. She screamed at the top of her lungs, eyes snapping open as she realised her voice was echoing back at her. She was in the room with the green pillars, warm snowflakes were hitting her cheeks. She sucked in air greedily, arms and legs shaking at the memory of being so close to death.
Draco was on the floor in front of her cheek pressed against the stone floor, his face pale and grey eyes wide open in fear.
"Malfoy?" She whispered, glancing around, noticing that the white bowl had disappeared. She tried to get her shaking limbs to move. Draco pushed himself up with difficulty, backpedalling away from her.
"Stay-st-stay away from me." Draco was up on his feet running towards the door, stumbling every now and again as his legs gave way beneath him.
"Wait...what did you see?" But Draco ignored her, disappearing out of the room. Slowly the images melted out of existence, and each candle floating about her was slowly extinguished. Hermione pushed herself forward, hurtling out the door just as the last bit of light was blown out.
Stumbling to a stop, she realised she was back in the hall just outside the stairwell, she glanced around and noticed that Malfoy was nowhere in sight; buckets and rags were still sitting where they had been left from when they'd cleaned the walls.
It felt like an age ago. She leant against the wall, trying to calm her racing heart, hands shaking at her sides. Whatever she'd experienced had been real, and she'd felt everything, known everything as if she had been Mina.
She knew Pensieve's didn't work like that, weren't supposed to feel like that. Whatever had been in the room had been unknown and she needed to know. Slowly she scooped up the rags and buckets, heading back to Snape, giving the stairwell one last glance.
She would begin with the only place she knew well enough, the library.