Rain splashed into her face as she ran, the cold of it stinging her cheeks. In the darkness, she tripped falling into the mud heavily. Gritting her teeth, she gripped the sodden earth beneath her, her fingers closing around clumps of mud, as she heaved herself back onto her feet. Gathering her sodden skirt into her hands, she lifted it as high as she could and began running, ignoring the burn in her lungs. The familiar prickle of fear danced beneath her skin and stood the hair up at the base of her neck. It had become a constant companion over the few weeks that she had not heard from Sonyea, pumping through her veins, as much a part of her as her own blood.
She was certain the body had been that of a young man, lying in the entrance to Sonyea's hideaway, his skin puffed and bloated in the dampness of the cave. The air had been thick with the smell of death, and Mina had retched in the corner, her stomach turning with fear and disgust. There had been no sign of her friend, even the chairs she had transfigured, had returned to being rocks, no longer under the influence of her magic. When Mina had searched, not a scrap of her friends magic remained, telling her that wherever she had gone, she had left some time ago.
Lights from the village dotted the horizon and Mina sped up, gripping the notice in her hands even harder, almost recoiling at the feel of slick wet parchment pressed against her skin. The ink had long since been washed away, but she could it as if it were burnt upon her eyes. The words bold and black scrawled in a sickeningly artful way. Notice of Execution.
The letters had wobbled in and out of focus as she'd read the names. Most of them were faceless, fellow witches and wizards reduced to black scrawl upon the pages, their lives limited to a time and a place. But one had stood out, had screamed at her, reached out with all its impossibility and gripped her with panic.
There was already a crowd, men and women mingling in the square, their voices barely audible over the sound of the wind and rain, as if the whole of life had been muted, and only her heart pounding in her chest could be heard. She swallowed the burn of anger as she looked from face to face, those that had come out in droves to watch death with sick fascination. Coats tugged around their bodies, feet stamping the floor to keep out the chill, and the excited wide-eyed search as they waited for the prisoners to be brought out. Waited for her friend to meet her end. She wondered if they'd cheer if they'd look into the eyes of those they had condemned and actually cheer at their passing.
Her hands curled into fists as she thought of how she'd defended them, how she'd fought openly for things to be different, for bridges to be built, for the people before her to be free from the wrath of men like Arden. But against the flickering torchlight, she saw their ugliness, and it made her want to hurt them.
The sky lightened somewhat slowly, the sun choked out by the thick grey clouds that continued to spill out sheets of rain, the drops splashing in puddles at Mina's feet, and bouncing back up. Mina's stomach turned as she noticed the gallows, ropes hanging down in preparation for the execution, swaying side to side in the faint wind. With great determination, she went to move forward but stopped suddenly. Her body frozen in place as she looked up.
Two guards walked up the wooden steps, their steps echoing across the square and hushing the crowd as they all turned in disbelief. Between them they dragged a young woman, her face beaten and bloody beyond recognition. She'd been stripped naked, her thin body covered with burns and cuts. When the men dropped her she fell on the wooden floor of the gallows heavily, unable to stand.
Hermione thought she might scream at the sight, feeling a sickness in her gut, her heart breaking with her own hurt and Mina's. It was Sonyea, of that Mina was certain, her hand moving to cover her mouth as if blocking a scream, but she couldn't speak, she couldn't move. Instead, she stood dumbly, as her friend, slowly and shakily, tried to lift her body from off the podium, her arms wobbling with the effort.
A man with a scar across his face, heavily armoured, and looking rather smug, made his way up the podium, standing next to Sonyea as he addressed the crowd. 'There is a plague upon our land, a plague of evil, that could have only come from the devil himself.' There was a murmur of fear among the crowd, whispers of terror passed from one to another, and still, Mina could not move. The man cleared his throat and continued to speak.
'This witch,' he gestured half-heartedly to the woman at his feet, 'will be the first of many to die. We will purge our land, we will take back what is ours, and remove the devil's power.' People seemed to cheer in appreciation at the prospect of death, groups huddling closer together, craning their necks to get a better look.
With a nod, the two soldiers marched forward, grasping Sonyea under the arms and hoisting her up. The spell that had held Mina in place, was suddenly broken and she found herself able to move, pushing forward through the crowd, Sonyea's name bubbling in the back of her throat like a cry, sounding like a whimper amongst the hush of anticipation that had settled.
She'd almost made it, her hand grasped around her wand, her face set and determined, when someone grabbed her, strong arms pulling her back. She fought, trying desperately to pull her wand out her pocket.
'Let go of me,' she sobbed in frustration, pulling away. The person increased their grip, yanking her back through the crowd, then wrapping their arms around her.
'Mina.' Mina stilled, recognising his voice instantly. She turned to look at him, his clear blue eyes looking into hers with such sadness and guilt, that her own tears welled in her eyes. She heard the lever being pulled, the trapdoor opening and letting in all the noise of the world. The sound of the crowd cheering, her friends chokes as she stopped being able to breathe. Grief clawed its way up from inside her and tore out her mouth in a silent scream of agony. With closed fists, she beat Edwards' chest, and he held her. Tugging her body closer to his as he whispered words into her hair, that she didn't bother to listen to. Then she was gripping his shirt, and crying and shaking, and remembering everything good and wonderful about Sonyea. Everything the woman had given up, had said, had done, had risked for her.
It took Hermione a moment to realise she was back in the room with the Sensieve, as the tears kept falling from her eyes, and the hollowness of loss had opened up inside of her, the space vast. Draco's shirt was gripped in her fingers, wet from the rain falling from the ceiling, and wet from her tears. His arms that had been wrapped around her moved.
'Er, Granger.' Draco said, she could hear awkwardness in his voice and wanted to scream. She could hear his heart thudding in his chest, could hear the quick short, sharp intakes of breath, and wondered if holding her disgusted him that much.
'Can you just… just not be a dick for one second.' she sniffed, gripping his shirt tighter, and burying her forehead into his chest to hide her tears. He didn't move for some time, and Hermione had resigned herself to getting absolutely no sympathy from him. But then he took a step forward, his arms encircling her waist as he pulled her closer.
Hermione's shoulders shook as she cried, grateful that Draco said nothing as he held her, only rested his chin on the top of her head.
'What if...what if Harry..' she sobbed, she couldn't bring herself to finish the sentence, but Sonyea dying made everything seem so real. Draco didn't say a word, instead, he pulled back looking down at her.
His hair dark with the rain plastered across his forehead and Hermione's breath caught in her throat as she saw sympathy, shimmering in the grey depths of his eyes. Cautiously, as if uncertain of her actions, he lifted his hand, dragging the pad of his thumb against her cheek, the connection sending tiny little sparks of magic across her skin. She was acutely aware of his other hand, still holding the small of her back, fingers splayed, the warmth of it seeping through her wet shirt.
Hermione wondered if this was what his kindness looked like, wondered if beneath all his malice he was a good person. A decent person.
'Potty isn't in the habit of dying, is he?' Hermione let her lips part slightly in shock, realising that Draco Malfoy was actually trying to make her feel better. She inspected his face for any signs of cruelty and found none. He was simply staring into her eyes, a strange sort of intensity swirling in his own. Quickly she pushed herself forward, wrapping her arms around the Slytherins neck, and hugged him, closing her eyes against all the fears and worries she had for Harry, concentrating on the infuriating blonde, and how strangely nice it felt when he held her.