The Picnic

By Starkiller

Beta: Rian219 and Sky
Disclaimer: Mine they are not, dream a girl can, no money, don't sue.
Summary: This is based upon the Australian legend of the picnic at Hanging Rock, which was made into a movie in the 1970's.

She dreamed.

The sky was blue and clear, and the sound of girlish laughter filled her ears. The rocks were tall and reared high above them as they lounged upon the soft green grass, enjoying their picnic. Five Slytherin girls and no one around to tell them what to do. Perfect.

In her sleep, Pansy sighed, rolled over and buried her face in her pillow.

They'd drunk wine with their lavish picnic lunch and when Millicent had suggested they climb the rocks, well, it seemed like a perfectly good idea. Hogwarts was a toy castle in the distance as they climbed, and Daphne had laughingly suggested that they might find a cave in these rocky outcrops and perhaps find some missing piece of Salazar Slytherin's heritage.

The dream was heading towards darker territory now, and Pansy whimpered quietly in her sleep, clutching her pillow with her hands, knuckles made white by the force of her grip.

The rocks were, to be precise, monoliths that stretched out for several hundred meters -- some joined together, some not. They were like a small mountain range, but not nearly so high nor so cold. Indeed, they could not even be described as hills, for the height of even the tallest one could not compare to the hills of Scotland, green and imposing. The girls, in their school uniforms, moved over the rocks like ants, industrious and determined, curious and without any cares at all.

There were fissures in the rocks. Some that were small, others that were like caves, and one particularly large rock -- a rock that could quite easily be described as a hill, was alone in its majesty and surrounded and bordered by smaller rocks. The largest rock seemed to be drawing them in. The girls gathered in a loose knot around the dark entrance to the fissure - cave -- and in low voices, wondered what to do.

"Don't go in," Pansy murmured, tossing her head back and forth in her sleep. "Don't!"

In the end, Millicent had suggested they draw their wands, cast a Lumos and go in and investigate. After all, they were witches, and they were Slytherin. Their common room and dormitories were cavernous, so what could they possibly have to fear from a cave in a rock? It was just a dark room of nature's creation. Nothing to fear at all.

They'd discussed it for a while, noting absently that there was absolutely no sound in the air other than their voices. The sound of their girlish chatter was not so loud as to drown out all other sounds; indeed, the song of birds and the rustle of leaves in the breeze would be easily heard. But there was nothing, nothing save silence and the sense of interminable waiting.

"No..." Pansy murmured, her voice growing louder. She wanted to wake up now, please, wake up and not see any more, not hear any more, no more, please, please! But the dream continued, as it always did.

Together, Millicent and Daphne, wands aloft, casting the golden glow of the Lumos, stepped into the cave. They had gone only a few steps in when the others could see nothing but the faint glow of their wand light. A sense of foreboding passed over Pansy, and sent a shiver down her spine, the sense of a preternatural fear that she had no name for. She was not a Seer, she did not have visions, so why was she feeling more and more as if she should run, grab her remaining companions, and flee as if their lives depended on it? She bit on her lower lip, wracked with indecision. Before she could say anything, Tracey Davis had stepped into the cave, her own wand alight, with a determined, "I have to see what they're seeing."

Pansy had backed away from the entrance, fear growing within her. Surely the cave could not be so deep that her friends were lost. Surely it could be nothing more than a simple cave with nothing dangerous within, but if such were the case, why were her friends no longer visible, and why could she not hear them? She called out their names, and her own voice echoed back to her. A frightened look was shared with her last remaining companion and Pansy decided that enough was enough. "We should go back."

In her sleep, Pansy's forehead was beaded with sweat. Her face was screwed up in an expression of fear and her fingernails were cutting the threads of her pillow. No, please Merlin, no, she didn't want to see this, not again, please!

She ran down the sliding slope of the rock, the rock with the cave that had seemingly swallowed her friends, and it was as if she were being pursued by some unseen horror. In her haste, Pansy lost sight of her last Slytherin companion - what had been the girl's name again? She'd forgotten. With a startled cry, unable to slow her descent, Pansy slipped and fell, sliding to the grass at the base of the rock with an undignified yelp. She rubbed her back, wincing as she felt a surge of pain. Looking up at the sun, high overhead, made her blink and she looked down, sunspots distorting her vision.

The feeling of having to run, however, had not decreased. If anything, it had increased, and with a frightened look at the rock, Pansy got shakily to her feet and started to run back towards Hogwarts.

Panting, she had relayed the story to Professor Slughorn, the head of Slytherin House. His eyebrows had shot up and he had sent for Professor McGonagall. Repeating the story again, Pansy could not explain why the feeling of urgency was growing within her. All she knew was that time was slipping away and something very unpleasant was happening. As she concluded her story for the second time, both professors exchanged a long look.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, we didn't mean to, we didn't mean it, oh gods, I'm sorry..." in her sleep, Pansy's whimpers of terror and her quiet pleas for forgiveness grew louder. She tossed and turned in her sleep, shaking her head, biting her lower lip, as the dream continued.

The professors had organised a search party to the rocks and found no trace of any of the four Slytherin girls. Aurors had been summoned to examine the location for any trace of Dark Magic and none had been found. The cave, upon close examination, yielded nothing, save for a broken wand and a discarded school shoe. A wand that had belonged to Daphne and a shoe that had been Millicent's. It had appeared as if the four girls had vanished into the darkness of the rock.

There was nothing to explain what had happened, no trace of magic, no sign. There was no sense of life around the rocks or in the cave, and when Pansy had been told of the discoveries and the disappearance of her friends, she had burst into tears. The tears had become sobs and she had dissolved into guilt and eventually been sedated with a potion from Slughorn and taken to the infirmary.

Pansy jerked awake. She sat bolt upright, pushing hair back from her face with a shaking hand. The dream, it was so real, so vivid. She had had this dream every night since the picnic at the rocks. It had been over a week since that event, and her friends had not returned. Blinking a little, to clear tears from her eyes, Pansy looked around, swallowing.

She was in the quiet, whitewashed room at St. Mungos, just as she had been for the last five days. The night nurse entered her room at that point, and Pansy, shaking, drew her knees up under her chin. The woman smiled kindly at her.

"Bad dreams again, dear?"

Pansy nodded and quietly thanked the nurse as she was handed a glass of water.

"Take these, too," the nurse instructed, handing Pansy two small pills, and the girl did as she was told. "There now. You'll sleep without any problems."

"Thank you," she whispered, pulling a face at the sound of her own voice, the pain stretched, thin, reedy whisper of one who has spent far too long crying and screaming. "I wish the dreams would go away," she added as she lay back down again.

"They will, eventually," the nurse soothed. "You rest now."

Pansy closed her eyes again, and fell asleep as the nurse quietly left her room and closed the door, continuing down the hallway of the psychiatric psychosis wing of the hospital.