When I am out there, in time, I am inverted, changed into a desperate version of myself. I become a thief, a vagrant, an animal who runs and hides. I startle old women and amaze children. I am a trick, an illusion of the highest order, so incredible that I am actually true.
Audrey Niffeneger,The Time Traveler's Wife
Light filtered through the half-open curtains, sending patterns in orange and red dancing across the desk, highlighting the specks of dust that flit through the air from the recent disturbance. The shape slumped over the desk – a pile of silks, scarves and a hideous amount of paisley – groaned miserably, the sound reminiscent of a dying man; one who realises that all they have done has been for nothing in the long run. It was a sound of utter failure, and it was heart-wrenching – not that there was anybody around to feel its effects.
One long-fingered, over-ringed hand reached out across the surface to clutch at a glass of water as though it were the only thing keeping the pile alive, and big, insect-like eyes shone out from behind thick, round glasses as the assortment of cloths that had just been revealed to be a female slurped eagerly at the liquid. Another distraught sound echoed from her throat as she slammed the glass down.
"Why?" She asked nobody in particular, her voice broken. "Why do this?" She glanced upwards as though expecting a response from the Gods themselves, and then rolled her eyes in exasperation when no response was forthcoming.
She pushed herself up to stand, bringing the glass with her and contemplating it in the shaft of sunlight. "All of this… for nothing."
She laughed bitterly, looking around the room she had holed herself up in. It was a nice room; or, it had been, in a past life. The walls were adorned with vibrant tapestries, the floor covered in fringed rugs that were a little worn down with age, but no less beautiful for it. All of the furniture in the room was covered in one way or another – chairs and the singular chaise draped with more silk, whether it be scarves or cloaks or throws. The surfaces were cluttered by knick-knacks of various kinds – crystal balls, abandoned tea cups, tins of tea leaves and sugar, various shiny items of indeterminate origin and one beautiful quill and parchment set. All of these things were covered in a fine layer of dust; the occupant not having come to this room since her last prophecy in 1994. She was back here now, though, along with a nice, new, shiny glass ball filled with an unidentifiable white mist.
The woman took a moment to glare at said sphere, her face a mask of disgust and rage. "After everything we've lost," she hissed as though it could hear her, "you dare to come to me? No. No. This is not going to occur."
She turned back to the window, peering out over the Scottish hills as she seemed to come to a decision. "If it is not heard…" she murmured to herself, a flash of determination coming into her eyes. It was a difficult decision, to be sure – she was a Ravenclaw through and through, merciless in her pursuit of knowledge. Her abilities as a Seer were all the more valuable for this, and she'd never considered holding back before… but this was different. If she registered this with the Ministry, then they'd know, and she was not about to condemn innocent girls to this fate. Not after the last time.
With only a moment's hesitation, the woman span and grabbed the prophecy, her usual ethereal movements abandoned in her desperation. With a flick of her free hand, the window was open and in another second she let out a wild cry of rage. The ball she threw span in the air, glinting in the sun as it sailed. It collided with the rocks beneath the window at full speed, shattering and releasing its contents into the air. The tightness in the Seer's chest dissipated slightly as her own voice floated up to her, and she let out a sigh of relief. Safe.
Loud, was Hermione's opinion of this pub. The last one had been stifling, the one before that unclean. She was creating quite the list of establishments she'd rather not frequent on this trip, and it didn't look like it was going to end any time soon as it was barely ten in the evening and Lavender was barely even tipsy. To be honest, she was surprised she had even been invited on Lavender's hen night, because Merlin knew they weren't exactly close, but Ginny had insisted that it was an olive branch – the only one she would be extending, at that, and that she should take it and be bloody grateful.
Hermione wasn't certain that she should be grateful. Sure, Lavender had gone to a lot of effort to be pleasant to her this evening, and she hadn't been left out of any of the jokes or games – as evidenced by the small fortune in shot-glasses she had accumulated – but Hermione could not shake the feeling that something was wrong; that something about this whole evening was off. At present, she was crowded around a booth with what she supposed were her closest female friends; though she wasn't all that close to any of them except Ginny, and her female friendships definitely paled in comparison to her relationships with the men in her life. What she would give to be at Grimmauld Place with the boys right now; sitting in the study sucking back firewhiskey and laughing about Percy's various exploits at the Ministry, while Harry and Ron make a right mess out of a drunken game of Wizard's Chess. But, she was here, and she was trying, for Merlin's sake, which is more than she'd ever done in her six years of rooming with Lavender and Parvati at Hogwarts, so surely that must count as some weird girl-political victory.
The niggling feeling at the back of her mind wouldn't go away however hard she tried, though, and it was making her anxious. Absentmindedly she lifted a hand to her neck and fiddled with the pendant that had lay there for almost a year now, nestled between her collarbones.
"What's that?" Parvati asked suddenly, drawing the group's attention to Hermione. "You keep touching it."
Ginny turned big, brown eyes on her and let out a barking laugh. "Oh, don't bother, love. She won't tell you." She looked between the table's occupants and leaned forward as though to tell them a secret. "She's an Unspeakable." The last word was drawn out and spoken in hushed tones, and when it was spoken the other girls' eyes widened in understanding.
"Oh!" Lavender cried. "How exciting! Do you love it, Herms?"
Hermione fought back an automatic shudder at the vile nickname Lavender had taken it upon herself to give her at the start of the evening and pasted a sort-of-genuine smile on her face. "I do, Lav," she divulged. "But as Ginny said, I can't tell you. It's kind of in the name, though you shouldn't know that either…"
Ginny looked suitably chagrined at the glare she received, and muttered an apology under her breath. Hermione rolled her eyes but let it go, knowing it wasn't worth it. Ginny was too shrewd for her own good, sometimes. As calculating as any Slytherin, she had spied and schemed until she'd uncovered the truth, and Hermione didn't have it in herself to Obliviate a harmless friend.
A shiver forced it's way down her spine at this thought, but she shoved the accompanying emotions behind her shields immediately. She wouldn't be very good at her job, otherwise.
Luna turned her large, lamp-like eyes on Hermione then, her gaze unnerving. "It's very pretty," she observed, though she wasn't watching the necklace. Instead, her eyes bore into Hermione's as though trying to pass on a message. These few moments of lucidity from the usually loopy girl were something Hermione usually viewed as a gift, but right now, not so much. "A pretty trinket." She continued, gaining intensity. "Quite useless, though. What will be, will be, you know that." A small smile played on her lips and she leaned forward, tracing a finger down the chain to the shirt's collar. Hermione stayed still, frozen under her attentions. "Quite useless," she murmured again, and then leaned back, returning to her previous game of animating the ash in the tray on the table to play in the candlelight. She had been working on wandless magic, she'd informed Hermione quite matter-of-factly earlier that evening, stood outside the bar as they waited for Parvati to arrive. She'd dressed up in typical Luna style for the evening, with a bright yellow summer dress over an orange jumper, and an eerily familiar clutch at her side. 'What is that?' Hermione had asked, pointing it out. 'Is that my bag?'
Luna had frowned. 'Is anything anyones?' She'd responded. 'What does it mean, to belong?'
Hermione had given up after that.
The girls had moved on from the earlier conversation easily, returning to their game. Simple, it consisted of the girls listing 'facts' about Lavender's intended – one Ronald Weasley – and Lavender calling out whether they were true or false. Every time she was right, the person giving the fact took a shot; every time she was wrong, Lavender did. It had been discovered quite early on in the game that if they were to play then Lavender would stay disappointingly sober, as the pair were sickeningly lovestruck, so she'd started taking what she dubbed 'sympathy shots'.
"Ron has a scar on his wrist from a failed Unbreakable Vow," Ginny told them, swilling her shot with a challenging quirk of the eyebrow to Lavender. The blonde sighed exaggeratedly, and picked up her own glass.
"Ronald is perfect in every way," she announced to the table, "but I'm afraid that is true."
Hermione rolled her eyes as the girls linked arms and threw back their shots. Ridiculous game.
Parvati saved them from another round by scraping her chair back and standing. "I'd better go. I promised I'd be back by midnight and it's getting late." She took two steps and wobbled, her arms flailing out from her sides. Ginny and Hermione jumped up to catch her and deposit her back into her chair with a laugh.
"Alright, Cinderella, we'll walk you to the apparition point," Ginny smirked, a hand on Parvati's shoulder. "Come on, all. Next bar!"
A cheer rose up and soon all of the women were out in the cool night air once more.
Things went a bit downhill from there.
The werewolf attack, to be fair, was unanticipated. The full moon that hung in the sky should have been a sign, but having lived through hundreds of them, none of the girls expected anything different this time – except that this one was the first that Lavender Brown had been in public, intoxicated and leaving her scent everywhere she wandered. They were unsuspecting and unprepared, except for Luna. Luna's eyes, upon hearing the creature's growl, lit up in a way that was vastly inappropriate for the situation, as was the corresponding grin. You almost expected that she'd kneel on the floor in her delight, and start saying "here, puppy, puppy".
As the mass of muscle and fur leapt from the trees onto Lavender, the girls all drew their wands – all except for Luna, who danced over to Hermione's side. Hermione, distracted as she was by the furious need to protect the girl, didn't notice the blonde's machinations until after the job was done. The werewolf growled, ripped into the soft flesh of Lavender's neck, and howled victoriously through a blood-spattered muzzle as he stood in the midst of the multi-coloured curses the women were shooting at him. And then he was gone, and all four girls fell upon Lavender, crying out in fright.
"Shit, shit, shit, Lav, keep breathing, keep breathing!" Ginny commanded the blonde, ripping cloth from her shirt to staunch the bleeding. Parvati screamed hysterically from Hermione's left at the mutilation of her best friend, and Hermione herself grabbed onto Lavender's arms.
"Everyone, grab onto me!" She commanded. As Parvati lunged for her, though, Luna threw her away from them with impressive strength. Hermione, already in the midst of Apparition, barely noticed the movement until Luna's fist impacted with her sternum and the glass of her necklace shattered, and the world began to spin.
"So sorry, Hermione," Luna breathed in her airy way, as the world spun out into a kaleidoscope of colour... and then it was gone.