The change was bewildering, one minute his arms were flailing as he fell and the next his feet were planted on solid ground. The sound of delicate music and quiet chatter replaced the voices and the red face of a rather large man replaced the ever-changing colours of the mist. Draco tried to move, panic settling in the pit of his stomach when he realised, that once again, he had no control. He was trapped.
"Commander." The man spoke. He was dressed in a suit of gold and red so bright it made Draco's head hurt.
"Ah, Lord Barnes, a pleasure." Draco felt the strain in Edwards' words as he spoke, drawing the obvious conclusion that talking to the larger man was anything but a pleasure.
Edward bowed slightly to Lord Barnes, allowing Draco a glimpse at the tiny crystal glass he held awkwardly in his large hands.
"The pleasure is all mine, I assure you." Lord Barnes commented, his voice clipped, his own bow barely perceptible due to the sheer size of his belly.
"How are things out there, we showing those miscreants what for?" Lord Barnes spoke enthusiastically, raising his fist and shaking it in the air. Edward suspected the man had no idea what war was being waged and against whom, but nodded his head regardless.
"My men are the best, victory shall be ours before long." There was no confidence in his words. He and his men had been sent to the highlands on the whim of the king, having heard rumours of a grand castle that he simply could not leave to the hands of such barbarians. Any battle fought that far north was destined to end badly, but he and his men had got farther than most, their success owed mainly to Rhylan who was his eyes and ears and somehow managed to traverse the highlands far better than a native. The King's sudden need for his presence in court had caught him a little by surprise, dragging him back home where he was bombarded by invitations to various rich people's homes, where they peppered him with questions of the battlefield, their eyes wide and needy as they begged for descriptions of the witches he had slaughtered.
"Very good, very good. You'll be back out there before long I shouldn't think. Doing what you do best." Edward smiled uncomfortably at his words, grimacing down into his crystal glass.
"I shouldn't think. The King only wished my opinion on a small matter." Edward shifted his feet, breathing a sigh of relief when the man appeared not to have seen through his lie. It was true it was a small, minuscule matter, but it was a worrying matter that filled his heart with dread. Eradication, extermination were just some of the words that had been bandied about as the king nodded his head in agreement, asking leading questions of him about the state of the magic users. They were dangerous there was no doubt about it, more powerful than he'd ever expected. But they died just as easily as any man when cleaved in two and he wasn't sure he could agree with the complete destruction of a race, no matter how problematic they seemed.
"Wonderful, wonderful. Now you must have stories of the front line..." To Edwards relief a woman gracefully appeared at Lord Barnes' side, interrupting the dreadful question he'd been about to ask. "Ahh, Commander may I present, Lady Sophia Barnes, my wife. My dear, this is Commander Edward James, the man I was telling you about."
The woman was incredibly beautiful, her red hair braided and hanging over one shoulder, the length of it trailing down, drawing attention to her ample bosom.
"Finally, we meet. My husband has told me all about you. Somewhat of a celebrity so I'm told. Youngest ever Commander in a hundred years, tis no mean feat." Her voice was sultry as she pushed her hand between them. Edward bowed again, taking her fingers in his and pressing a light kiss to her knuckles. The heady scent of spices was incredibly intoxicating, leaving Draco feeling a little dazed. The woman flushed, her eyes sparkling with pleasure.
"I assure you that what I have achieved is nothing so grand." Draco felt Edwards sadness as his mind was filled with images of death and slaughter, good men that he had known and lost.
"Nonsense man. Ahh, Lord Vond. Dear, keep Commander James here entertained while I go and see to our other guests." He muttered, turning to Edward once more, "Always an honour."
Edward gulped at his wine, turning to the admire his surroundings and the sight left Draco in awe.
The hall was vast, carved vines wound their way up the walls and across the ceiling, painted in the same gold as Lord Barnes' attire. Red roses were carved in bloom surrounding a large chandelier that Lord Barnes had assured Edward was of the finest crystal and Draco could believe it, his own home housing something very similar but he was sure the one in the Malfoy Manor ballroom did not sparkle so much.
There were people dancing, their clothes unlike anything Draco had seen before; the women wore huge colourful gowns that sashayed as they danced, and the men wore tunics embroidered with dizzying patterns. Draco noticed that almost everyone was wearing a mask of some kind, with feathers and sequins and all number of jewels attached to them. Draco felt slightly more at ease, it reminded him of the balls his mother and father hosted. If there was one thing he knew well, it was etiquette.
"How are you enjoying the masquerade, my husband invited only the best." Draco felt Lady Sophia's arm slip through Edward's, her upper body pressed flush against him.
"Quite well, my Lady. You and your husband have excellent taste." Lady Sophia flushed, slapping his arm playfully.
"You flatter me, please call me Sophia." The second part was added like a secret that made Edward feel uncomfortable, Draco could feel a knot of uncertainty in his gut.
"I bet this," she elegantly gestured to the hall around them, "is far more enjoyable than the battlefield?" Edward didn't seem to agree wholeheartedly with the comment; while he considered the lack of death a definite improvement, the huge ballroom was by no means a safe place. He remembered his father warning him that, the worst kind of viper's dress in the finest clothes, the poison slow to spread and ever more fatal than any wound inflicted by a blade.
"I know where I stand on the battlefield, my lady." He mumbled taking another drink. Lady Sophia seemed unimpressed with this answer.
"I've told you, call me, Sophia." He ignored the comment, choosing instead to glance around the hall, there were faces that Edward seemed to recognise and didn't rate too highly. Draco couldn't keep up with all the memories and so gave up, trying to drown them out with his own thoughts. He wondered vaguely where Granger was, cursing her for getting them into this mess.
Edward turned, crystal glass pausing mid-sip as he noticed the couple who had entered the hall. The man was hardly worth mentioning, not even registering for Edward as he looked at the woman. All the memories cleared apart from one; a young girl, her face defiant and angry, green eyes glittering with such bravery.
"You're just a bully and you always will be."
Draco felt familiarity settle over him as he realised she was the girl from the fire, she was Mina. She looked beautiful, staggeringly beautiful; a butterfly mask covered most of her face, and the dress she wore was moonlight silver, sequins shimmering on its surface as she walked. Her blonde hair was pulled into a bun, curled strands of it breaking free and framing her lovely face.
Draco panicked as he recognised the man, Arden. He looked younger and healthier, but there was no denying it, even without the robes he could point him out anywhere. He could feel the fear, muted beneath all of Edwards emotions and wished that he had some sort of power, some sort of control. Instead, he was helpless, leaning close in Edwards body to whisper something to Lady Sophia".
"My lady, who is that?"
"I do not know, one of Lord Arden acquaintances would be my guess. That man has always had… peculiar tastes." Edward wasn't listening, he watched as Lord Arden moved away to talk to some men and left her standing alone.
"Excuse me a minute." He mumbled, making his way around the dancing couples to where she stood.
Confident and self-assured, Edward stopped by her side and spoke,
"Forgive me, I do not believe I know your name." The woman turned to him, a small smile playing on her lips, green eyes glittering in amusement from behind the mask.
"You're forgiven, I have not told anyone my name."
"A travesty I'm sure." Edward's words, though sounding gentlemanly and assured, seemed somehow wrong, as though the man had practised such things over and over, perfecting them. Draco knew the difference, he had seen it in witches and wizards who had married into privilege rather than being born into it as he had. Their conversations, though correct, always felt stilted and the way in which they navigated any social gathering seemed slower somehow as if they were moving through water. The only individual he had ever met who had perfected the art and not been born into it was Blaise' mother, but then she was a special case, been a head and shoulder above even those that had been born into the pureblood world.
"On the contrary, I think those who make themselves known are overcompensating for something, Commander James.' She flashed him a sickly-sweet smile and Edward chuckled, a flush of joy rushing through him at her obvious disdain for his attempt at conversation.
"A butterfly, that's an interesting choice," he said gesturing to the mask on her face. She nodded, tilting her head to one side.
"I've always found them to be incredibly, magical creatures." As she said the word magical her eyes glittered with delight and Draco thought he saw the wings of the butterfly move a little.
Edward shifted uncomfortably, glancing around quickly before leaning forward,
"A dangerous word to be using around these times, my lady."
She smiled and dismissed his warning with a sigh,
"I fear that it is the only word worth using around these times." Edward shook his head in disbelief, stepping in front of her.
'Surely you cannot mean that?' He asked seeming both invigorated and unnerved by the nerve of her.
"And if I do, Commander?" She raised one lovely eyebrow.
'The you should speak of it quietly, my lady. There are large ears and small minds that surround you."
"And which do you have, Commander?" Edward seemed to consider the question seriously, tapping the crystal of his glass and gazing across the sea of aristocrats in their little huddles, no doubt whispering about 'the young commander and the beautiful stranger' idly concocting rumours of how such a pair came to be so acquainted.
"I have seen the evil magic has wrought, forgive me if my mind is a little closed to such mutterings."
Mina's nose wrinkled in anger, her small mouth pressed in a cold, hard line.
"And what of the evil men have wrought? Innocent lives lost, for what? For fear of the unknown, because of differences that are neither evil nor the devil's work, just differences."
"You are passionate, My Lady, but you cannot speak of what you do not know. I have fought battles against such individuals that practice these arts, they are known to me and I fear them all the more for it."
"What I do not know," Mina muttered it to herself, laughing humourlessly. "You believe yourself an expert, Commander, because you have murdered people with this gift."
"Those that have tried to murder to me yes, as is anyone's right. I did what I did for myself and for the people I protect." Though Edward drew himself up to his full height, Draco felt no pride in his words, as if the man did not fully believe them himself.
"You speak as though you are a hero, but all I see is a bully with a big sword." Edward drew back slightly at her accusation.
"A bully? What must you think of these individuals that as you say are so gifted? Are they bullies for drawing first blood? Or are they, as you seem to believe justified in their attack."
"War is never justified, only little soldiers like you claim it so."
"Little soldiers, My Lady…"
"There are two sides to every story. You pity the hunter who is killed by a beast, and rally together to bring back its head and garb yourselves with its pelt. And what of the pups that starve in the cold, without their mother protection, without her to warm and feed them? You are blinded by your rage, by your anger and your hatred so much so that you only see your side of a tragic story, when the truth is so much more brutal."
"There is little that could surpass the brutality that I have seen."
"Perhaps," she finally met his gaze, "but have you ever considered magic users as anything more than a threat."
"Should I have?" Mina's eyes flared with anger, her chest rising and falling.
"Only a fool would not consider such."
"You have dangerous ideals, My Lady."
"They are the only ideals worth having, especially when talking to men like you. Good night, Commander." She moved to step around him, but Edward caught her small hand in his. Draco watched the same memory of the little girl with bright green eyes, flicker into view.
"I'm sorry if I offended you. Please allow me to change your mind about me, My lady."
"How would you propose to do that? To do anything so mystical as go back in time, is the devil's work." She bit back sarcastically, and Edward chuckled lightly, shaking his head.
"You're unlike any woman I have ever met."
"You should fight fewer battles and talk to people more, perhaps it will challenge that narrow mind of yours into opening a little." She raised her chin into the air and Edward admired the line of her neck.
"I doubt any would enthral me quite like you." He paused, stepping back and lifting his hand with a bow. "Allow me this dance, my lady, and let me at least attempt to change your mind."
She stared at his hand for some time, looking uncertainly at those who had stopped to watch the drama unfold. Eventually, she stepped forward, her soft hand slipping into his, allowing him to lead her to where the other couples were dancing. Standing in front of one another, they began the steps. If he could of Draco would have shook his head at the graceless display that was Edwards attempt at dancing. Luckily Mina seemed to find it a little endearing, her lips curving slightly before she fought back a smile.
"Tell me your name."
"I thought this was about you trying to convince me that I was wrong about you. I don't see how my name has any bearing on that."
"Forgive me," He nodded, stepping around her till he was once again looking her in the eye, "you're right," with a sigh, he continued, "when I was a boy…"
"We're going back that far? I fear we only have one dance sir, not all night." He laughed at her wit and noticed with a flush of pleasure that she was smiling also.
"If you will but let me speak, my lady?" He grinned as she blushed, her cheeks turning the most handsome shade of red.
"When I was a boy, I was strong." Mina rolled her eyes, he ignored her and continued, "In the day I would wander into the forest behind my house, trying to find anything that I could fight and kill to prove myself to my father."
They stepped away from one another and Edward paused in his story, but Draco could still see it playing in his mind.
"One day I found one of them, practising his spells. A boy just like me. I thought if I brought him back to my father then he would be proud. I... I hurt him." The woman was obviously enthralled by the story.
"What did you do?" She asked in awe.
"I hit him and hit him till blood poured from him. He begged me to stop but I…I didn't listen." Draco could feel Edwards guilt, as he smiled sadly at Mina. "His little friend tried to stop me and I was going to hurt her too. Then…" Mina's brow furrowed as he laughed. "then a little girl stepped between us, she was fierce and angry. She told me that I was nothing but a bully and that was all I would be." He looked down at her pointedly and Mina deliberately avoided his gaze. "I fear that she may have been right, I know little of that young boy, what he felt, what I did to him, though I do remember something…"
He noticed that her hands were shaking with fear.
"Really?" She asked, lifting her chin in defiance, an action that reminded Draco far too much of Granger.
"Wh... what's that?" she stuttered. Edward stopped dancing, leaning close to whisper.
"The boy's name was Arden." She jerked away, but he gripped her wrist tightly, holding her in place.
"Do not worry, your friend will not come to harm, just tell me your name." He asked his eyes pleading. She tried to get away, but he gripped harder.
"Please." Her gaze seemed to soften.
"You're still a bully aren't you. Desperate to get what you want." Edward's heart sped up in his chest.
"I knew it was you...the moment I saw you…please...your name?"
"I... I…" she stuttered looking behind her at Arden who now stood staring at them both, anger evident on his face.
"Please, my lady?" She paused in her struggle, smiling gently.
"Commander James, I assure you, I am no lady." Edward shook his head, the pad of his thumb brushing the back of her hand marvelling at the softness.
"That matters little to me." She flushed again, the view pleasing Edward thoroughly.
"My name is Mina. Good night, Commander James." She went to move away again but he held fast.
"Please, call me Edward."
With a nod, she smiled. "Good night...Edward," she muttered, green eyes boring into his.
Draco was shocked when the face in front of him was no longer Mina's but Grangers. He ripped his hand from hers quickly, sneering down at her. Hermione however seemed not to have noticed, gazing up at him in awe.
"Can you believe how beautiful it was, how real?"
"Does it matter, Granger? They're dead now." He headed towards the door, brushing his fringe from his face and wiping the 'mudblood' germs off his other hand.
"That can't be it, there has to be a reason why we are seeing this."
"Yes, Granger there is," he stopped turning to her, "it's because you can't keep your nose out of anything. You've just got to go ahead and poke your snout where it doesn't belong."
"Come on, Malfoy, you've got to be a bit curious." Draco shook his head, hoping she wouldn't notice he was lying. Of course, he was curious, he'd been sucked into a magical bowl twice now and experienced the memories of a man he had never even heard of, how could he not be?
"Fine...fine, just shut up, please," Malfoy spat, rolling his eyes when Hermione grinned with delight.
"Great," Hermione muttered, walking up to where he stood. "We'll arrange a time next week."
"Whatever, I swear to Salazar, Granger if you're late or mess me about, this ends."
He walked to the door but stopped suddenly.
"And don't you dare tell a soul." With that, he left the room and Hermione quickly followed him, a grin plastered on her face.