Just because everything is different doesn't mean anything has changed. – anonymous
Chapter Two: Beginning of a Beginning
This is the second time she's woken up somewhere strange and is grateful that at least in their habit of moving her around while she's unconscious they have the decency to give her a bed this time. Her hand still hurts though is less excruciating, and the warmth in the cabin is pleasant. Far more pleasant than waking in chains, confused and uncomfortable. Whatever she's accomplished must be good, otherwise Magnolia expects her conditions wouldn't be nearly as cozy.
From the back window she can see the sky. It's calmer now, she thinks. Just like her hand.
Magnolia stretches, wiggles her toes in the fur throws, and looks around. Surprised but overjoyed to find she's alone this time around. Without the guards to watch her or Cassandra and Leliana breathing down her neck she has time to think, to collect her thoughts and sort through recent memory.
But what does that entail exactly?
Think. There must be something. There's always something.
Not all is forgotten. She has her name, and age, the street name where she grew up and the names of her friends. She remembers the letters from Ron and Hermione resting on her fireplace, reminding her of the fast approaching holiday and asking if she'd make it this year, because she hadn't come last year or the year before that.
But what does she remember about that morning specifically?
Dying embers in the mantle place. Dust molts through sunlight. Clouds are moving in, it's going to rain. Have to get up. Have to move today.
She woke up, showered, and sat down for breakfast as she always does. And then the Howler came, from Draco – the git, something about research and a threat to be on time, as if she's ever anything but. She finishes her meal, and leaves for work.
What else? What else is there?
There's nothing. A smear of ink where words should be and her frustration mounts tenfold. How can there be nothing? To travel far enough to end up somewhere in the mountains, somewhere out of the Wizarding World, is no small feat. Is she even in Britain anymore? There are mountains, surly, but not of this caliber. To be somewhere so foreign can only mean someone else had a hand in her being here.
That thought alone is enough to make her heart race and her temperature rise, furious.
Her first thought is someone has casted a spell; wiped her memories, placed her in that rubble of left her to be framed. But through that tear had come what sounded very much like her. The others had thought so as well if their skeptical looks had anything to do with it. That deep, unsettling voice asked for her head. That woman – The Divine – told her to run. And even without that fact the question still remains: who would go through the trouble?
She positive there are leftover Death Eaters out there somewhere, but any Death Eater to capture her and live to tell about it would kill her. Or at the very least torture her into insanity; nothing says kill me slowly like 'I destroyed your master'.
Suddenly her bed doesn't feel so comfortable and she forces herself up and out of the furs even as her body screams in protest. She could use the rest, really. Her body aches in a way it hasn't in quite some time. But her wands are missing – taken, and without them she has no proper source of channeling magic.
There's a fresh change of clothing at the bottom of her bed: a thick red tunic and a pair of trousers. Magnolia doesn't change, too anxious to worry about it.
She fastens her clashing green coat and swings the door open.
As soon she steps out her cottage she wishes she hadn't. There are people everywhere; gathered in front of her door, down the walkways and up the steps. They whisper not venomously as they had when she first awoke, but with reverence. Eyes wide, they call her savior.
Herald of Andraste!
All she hears is 'The Girl Who Lived'. It's a thought that settles about as well as acid.
One of the guards steps up (Cullen's man she believes), a barrier between her and the townspeople, and ushers her toward the Chantry, tells her that she's wanted in the 'War Room'. Magnolia's more than happy to oblige and hurries through the crowd off to the building in the distance that the soldier points to. In her escape she sees Varric, hunched over by a fire the campsite. He notices her and waves, a small knowing smile on his face. She won't talk to him now, not with all these people speaking in their collective mass of roaring whispers. Magnolia will come back later maybe, if the dread settles.
It's a relief once she's finally in the Chantry. To shut those great wooden doors to the cold and people behind them is the most contented she's been since waking the first time. Even with the explosive argument that's very clearly about her she can't seem to be bothered. Rather they fight than praise.
She sits outside the door at the end of the hall, cross-legged on the floor until the screaming collapses into heated loud whispers, stands, brushes her backside off and knocks. There's silence on the other end before the door swings open. It's Cassandra.
"Hey," Magnolia says. "Having fun?"
Cassandra scoffs, moving aside so she can pass unimpeded. She's barely in the door before Church Bloke – Roderick is at it again; red-faced and demanding her head.
"Disregard that," orders Cassandra to the pair of guards on duty. "And leave us."
They bow and shuffle out the door.
Magnolia is somewhat relieved that at least years of having her life threatened has made her mostly immune to threats of execution of else she'd be sweating. This man is weak – in both disposition and power – and she's certainly faced worse; has looked people in the face that could carve Churchy up the middle, peel off his skin and wear him an unimpressive looking human suit.
This is nothing.
This is daft.
"You'd really have me arrested, after everything that I did?" She asks.
"I would. Someone must be held responsible. Our Divine is dead, the Breach in the sky still lives, and for all we know you've intended it that way considering you're the only one left alive!"
"Seems a fair trade, I say. Considering I'm also I only one who doesn't know what the bloody hell you're talking about." Magnolia turns her caustic glare from him across the room to Cassandra.
Cassandra doesn't look very fazed.
"Tell me," she says, "Does the Ministry know you have witches and wizards casting spells around Muggles? I saw Solas fighting. Whatever manner of elf he is, their magic is powerful and was cast in the presence of those clearly lacking their own. Yet you'd have me believe no one's the wiser?"
"Their magic?" Cullen casts a glance at her, to Cassandra, and finally to Leliana – who stands nearby, head tilted and watching, like she's trying to figure out a piece to a difficult puzzle.
"What is this Ministry you speak of?" Cassandra asks.
There's a moment of hesitation, a moment where she thinks she might be wrong. The look in Cassandra's face is genuine – she doesn't know what she speaks of. Had she been wrong? Solas had done something, yes, but maybe…
"You—all of Britain's magic is governed by a Ministry."
Something enters Leliana's face that sets her survival instincts on edge. It reminds her of being a child again – watching that great, colorful turban unravel from around her teacher's skull and knowing she's no place to go. Small and helpless in the presence of something that's certainly unavoidable. Whatever door she's opened is surly unpleasant.
Cullen, whose been watching Leliana carefully, takes the initiative. "Chancellor Roderick, we will continue this another time."
"What?! You cannot just –"
Cassandra thrusts a finger toward the door. "Out. Now."
For all Roderick's holier-than-thou attitude he still seems to understand a losing battle when he looks one in the face, for Cassandra is much like a dragon in nature: fierce and willing to bite your head off.
He gathers himself up and backs toward the door while keeping his eyes on her, sneering.
"Do not think we are done here, Herald."
And then he's gone, leaving them in temporary silence. Leliana speaks first as she seems to do when interrogation is needed.
"You speak of Solas – if I remember correctly you mentioned that you yourself are a Mage."
"I'm a witch, yes. One without her wands, mind you." Magnolia answers tartly.
Leliana hums, thoughtful, turns to walk the desk sitting behind her, and pulls a simple wooden box from one of the drawers. She takes her place back at the table, turns the box in her hands to face Magnolia. From here she can see them: two wands.
Magnolia bristles, pulse rising.
"I asked for them yesterday. You left me defenseless!"
"We also did not know whether you were guilty or not. Giving you what you claim to be weapons – ones we have no knowledge on – would have been foolish." Says Cassandra.
"We retrieved these from one of the bags found on your person after the explosion. We had them examined and found nothing peculiar…"
There's a pause.
"Answer my questions and I will give your 'wands' back."
It's a hollow choice and they both know it. Even if they are Muggles she has little chance of fighting all three of them off.
Cassandra pulled her off her feet like a rag doll.
Cullen is over a head taller than her with multiple stones of weight and armor to outclass her, and Magnolia will never leave her wands. Not hers and especially not the Elder.
She sighs. "Fine, then."
Leliana slides the wands to the middle of the table, a silent incentive.
"What is your name?"
Leliana gives her a look but otherwise doesn't comment.
"What were you doing at the Conclave?"
"I told you I don't remember –"
"No. You were there for a reason, before the explosion. What was it?"
Magnolia growls. She's had enough; she's done as she was told. The 'Breach' is calm, the mark is calm. She done her part and it's still not enough?
"I told you I don't know what you're talking about! I have no idea what Conclave you speak of. Not of a Divine, or a Temple of Ashes, or the mage/templar war. I don't know what the fade is. I've never seen a demon until just yesterday. Yet you treat me as if I'm hiding something from you?"
Beside her Cullen shifts, his hand falling to the hilt of his sword.
Leliana is thinking – her face pensive while she mulls over something. It's a very tense few moments until she speaks again.
"You are literate, yes?"
"I—of course I am."
She reaches off to the corner of the table where a thick red and black book is sat, and thumbs open it a random page. Leliana slides it forward a little – toward the middle of the table so it sits a little above Magnolia's wands.
"Could you read this for me? Any of it will do."
The text is rather small even if she were at a normal distance. She can see it clearly though, crisp against tinted parchment. Swirling and curving in a way she's never seen before. Magnolia tilts her head – left and right. It's not…
"This isn't even in English. I've never seen this language before." She scowls, never a fan of being made a fool of. "Just what are you playing at?"
"I've never heard of this Britain you speak of. I've never heard of 'English' or a 'Ministry'. You have no understanding of that which is common knowledge. You claim you are literate but cannot read a single line from that book. They say you stepped out of the Fade, perhaps that is not our biggest mystery here."
Across the table, Magnolia pales.
Leliana points to her wands.
Magnolia reaches, right hand forward, moving toward the box when she pauses, recoils so hard that she nearly knocks herself off balance. Body shaking, and stomach bubbling she turns her hands in front of her.
Once, twice, palms up and then down again; she twists the fingers to feel the joints strain and pop against skin.
Whose… hands are these?
When she had woken up she had been so confused; so anxious and in pain that she hadn't even noticed. How had she not noticed? The change in size, in pigment. Her nail varnish is gone. Whose hands are these?
She makes a sound – choking and gasping with the lack of oxygen that makes it to her lungs and reaches blindly backward, grasping for the door and hurries out, all but sprinting and doesn't stop even when the three in the room call after her – voices raised and questioning in her sudden panic – doesn't stop even after the Chantry doors swing shut behind her.
Varric calls to her in greeting at first and then worried as she passes. Outside, down the steps, out past her cabin, past the camp grounds, past the training area. She has no mirror, but she saw the lake from her cabin window clear and sharp even from a distance.
Reflective and still.
On the bank she stops – out of breath and panicked to lean over the water. Not her face. It's not her face.
Not her eyes, or her mouth, or her skin. Not her ears. She curves her hand around them – traces her thumb and pointer fingers from base, up and up to a pointed tip. Elf. These are –
She empties her stomach into the water.
AN: So, I really hope there's no spelling mistakes because boy oh boy, is this a monster of a chapter. 2000 plus words, but it's worth it. There was a lot to work in here: some basic canon stuff and a...not so basic (but ultimately important) plot point. Things are confusing right now, but that's the point right? Everything in due time. Next time in the shitty life of Magnolia Potter: culture shock.
Thanks to everyone who has given me feedback. You guys are lifesavers, truly.
Until next time,