Prelude

"You are a mad woman, Hermione," came a disapproving voice. Lucius Malfoy—in all his blond and wealthy glory—slowly ascended the plateau that nestled deep within the belly of the Ministry of Magic; his emblazoned cane tapped on the stone with every step until his hands came together to rest atop the silver snake head, watching the young woman with caution. His eyes rolled around the mess of large and worn tombs open at her feet, his mouth slightly parting in realization. "They are Ancient Runes for a reason!"

Hermione, clad in her pencil skirt and cream top—fresh off of work—continued her ministrations with her back to him. Her bell-like laughter tinkled off the stone walls as she paused for a moment, turning and offering him a rare smile.

"Ah, so it takes a mad woman for you to finally speak my name," she said simply, before returning to her work. Lucius glared at the back of her head as he drew closer to her, eyes roving over the lost markings she carved into the stone, mouthing words here and there of what he understood. She glanced up at him, her head tilted. "You can read these?"

"Not…all…of…them," he replied quietly, still reading, before catching her eye. He was incredibly close; so close, he could smell the coconut product waft from her hair and skin. At any other time, this may have excited him—but Lucius Malfoy was no stranger to death, and that was what was creeping upon this hopeful girl in this moment. Her soft brown eyes locked on his gaze for a moment, her chin up in confidence, before tearing away and carving more ruins into a difficult spot with a grunt. When the man could decipher the half written glyph, panic rose in him, and he uncharacteristically yanked her wrist and caused the blade to fall with a clatter.

"Malfoy," sighed the girl. She made to pick up her lost tool only to be held tightly in place by the aristocrat.

"This is a death wish, Hermione. I cannot simply stand by and let you do this," he said, pulling her along with strength she did not know he possessed. She stumbled slightly, her heels caught in the uneven stone floor, before she slipped out from them and found her center. Lucius jerked from her defiance and quickly whipped around on her. His eyes gleamed with a mixture of anger, pain…concern? Hermione wasn't sure, but she yanked her arm free.

"I'm sorry Lucius, but you don't have a say—"

"I don't have a say?! You are going to get yourself killed, girl!" he snapped, towering over her. Hermione was sure she had never seen him so emotional, save for last spring…

Running an absent hand over her forehead and hair, Hermione released another sigh of exasperation. She opened her mouth to speak but was cut off.

"Do you not hear it, Hermione? It beckons us. The temptation to simply…walk into it, is unlike anything I have ever felt. It is seductive…it—"

"I won't be walking through it."

"Stop being intentionally obtuse!" Lucius closed the space between them once more, calming himself before placing strong hands on her shoulders and lowering his head to see her eye to eye. Hermione felt stunned for a moment by the emotion that boiled behind those steel orbs—but she could not let him deter her. "Hermione, as your friend, please…I beg of you, please don't do this. If you miraculously were to survive, the legal repercussions will end you."

Friend?

That was all Hermione could hear from his desperate plea, and she could not stop the smile that graced her, which only widened by the look of confusion on Lucius'. He raised an elegant brow.

"Hermione."

"You could see her again, Lucius," she said softly, placing a small hand atop his and squeezing. "We could have them back—all of them. Draco—"

"Do not bring my son into this, Hermione," Lucius warned, his face becoming even more frustrated. "Draco is an adult—"

"And he needs his mother. And you need your wife," Hermione replied, leaving no room for argument. She stepped back from him a full foot, her hands outstretch before her—Lucius paid no mind, he knew the girl spoke with her hands when flared up. "I'm sorry."

Without warning, his feet were swept from under him, and he hit the plateau rather ungracefully, before a hidden force swiftly pulled him off the stone mound. He swore loudly at the sharp pain before rising to his feet but found himself stone frozen in place as he watched the sight unravel before him.

Lucius watched as the young woman walked barefoot to the ancient arch that loomed the Department of Mysteries; the crude knife danced in her fingers as blood trickled down her arms and elbow, staining her blouse and spotting her feet. She quickly rose her fingers to the runes she carved around the offending veil, which seemed to spring to life with each blood offering—the faint whispers of the afterlife intensified and mixed into mania that echoed through the bare chamber, deafening them both. Lucius finally broke free from whatever enthralled him, sprinting towards her, only to be knocked back by a formidable barrier that shimmered the plateau.

"You will not live!" shouted Lucius, pounding his fist against the invisible shield of magic, causing it to spark with each hit.

Hermione paused for a moment, her thumb hovering over the last carving. She turned to him, giving him a small smile; there was no fear in her eyes—she knew exactly what she was doing. She accepted every and all possibilities that could arise by the mayhem she was causing.

"Take care of each other, Lucius. I'll see you again."

Hermione forcefully ran her bleeding fingers across the final rune and a powerful gust of wind spun through the chamber, sucking the air out along with it. She gasped audibly, unable to breathe, until she heard familiar voices speak from beyond the veil.

Granger.

Hermione.

Miss Granger.

Who is that?

I dunno

Dear girl

Hermione smiled through the pain, blinded by the beaming light that shot from beyond the veil. She could no longer hear Lucius' frantic pleas and curses—her mind was at peace knowing she could finally do this for him. For them all. She fought through the impeding blackness that crept at the corners of her eyes, just enough to stretch her arm through the veil of life and death.

Hermione expected icy nothingness and was surprised to feel a radiating warmth touch her skin with the last but of coherence she could muster. Nothing touched her except for that warmth.

How?

…She is ready to die for us.

We can't let her, she's too young.

Harry needs her.

Draco, too…

She's the girl who kept Harry alive?

I'm staying

She worked so hard though…

I'm staying

I'm staying

I'm staying

You go

No.

"Someone…anyone…come through," Hermione gasped as she collapsed to her knees. She mustered enough strength to force her other bloodied hand through the veil, though her entire body shook. "Everyone. Come. Stop…arguing…"

She can hear us?

Stupid girl.

She really is the brightest…

I'll miss you

I'll miss you

Goodbye

Stay alive, Hermione

The last words echoed through Hermione Granger's mind as she pulled herself from the veil and released a horrifying gasp—as if all life withdrew from her—and collapsed upon her disarray of books.

It's okay, she thought, I'm not afraid.

A/N: Hello there again! I promise I will come back to Ghosts of the Past. I will finish it. I've been living in America again for only 10 months now—so much has happened. Divorce, possible homelessness. What a better distraction than writing? None? Right? Anyway, this came into my head randomly at work a few days ago and I couldn't let the premise go. I have no other chapters written—yet. So let's see where this goes!