Hermione stared into the orange flames, allowing Harry’s words to sink in. A cold feeling crept into her chest as it hit her. Suddenly, it all made sense. These dreams were too structured, too organized to be real dreams. They had been constructed by someone else, someone who had managed to break past the barriers of her mind to put them there.
She felt as if she was going to pass out from the shock of the realization. Harry saw her begin to sway and he caught her in his arms, holding her tightly.
“It’s okay, Hermione. I’m here. We’ll figure this out together.”
She wanted to tell Harry that she was scared. She wanted to tell him that he had enough to worry about. She wanted to tell him thank you. But all she could do was lay against him, watch the fire, and attempt to come to terms with the fact that her mind was no longer just her own.
* * * *
“Merlin, Harry. You really think someone got into her head?”
Hermione’s eyes fluttered open at the sound of Ron’s voice. She sat up in confusion. She was on the couch of the Common Room, and Harry and Ron were sitting on the ground in front of it, looking at her in concern.
“How are you feeling?” Harry asked quickly, realizing it was a little bit awkward that he and Ron had been talking about her less than a foot away from where she slept.
“I think you can take a guess,” she murmured, leaning forward and running her fingers through her mussed hair.
Harry and Ron looked at the floor, unsure of what to say or do. After a few moments of heavy silence, Hermione couldn’t hold it together anymore. Before she could stop them, tears were running down her face and a strangled sob was spilling from her mouth.
Ron climbed up onto the couch next to her and pulled her into his arms, placing his chin on her head and rocking her back and forth. Hermione buried her face into his chest, not even pausing to be surprised at such a rare display of affection.
Harry got up and began pacing the room.
“There has to be some way we can figure out who’s doing this to her,” he muttered. Ron’s eyes followed his agitated pacing as he gently stroked Hermione’s hair. She had quieted now, but she didn’t move from him.
Harry probably thought that she wasn’t moving because she wanted Ron to continue holding her. And though she had been waiting a very long time for Ron Weasley to finally do something even remotely affectionate to her, she realized that wasn’t the reason she was relishing this moment.
To be completely honest, she was reminded of her dream. She thought of holding Draco Malfoy, the unlikely hero, in her arms. She thought of how he had told her that he was good because of her.
And even though she realized it was highly possible that someone had constructed that dream for her to see, there was still a part of her that wanted to believe in its potential to be truth.
Then it hit her. What if Draco was putting these visions into her head? What if he wanted her sympathy? What if he wanted to trick her into thinking he was good when he was really still working for the dark side? What if this was all some intricate plan to get closer to Harry, and he had been fooling her this entire time?
Hermione bolted up from the couch, which startled Ron and caused him to nearly fall onto the floor.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” Harry stopped pacing and joined Ron in looking at her with equal parts confusion and concern.
“I… I need to take a walk,” Hermione sputtered. She saw Harry and Ron both open their mouths to offer to go with, so she was forced to add “Alone.”
They still looked worried, but they didn’t stop her as she hastily stepped through the portrait hole and into the dim hallway.
She couldn’t handle this anymore. She couldn’t handle the doubt. She had to know the truth.
And she knew how she was going to get it.
The entrance to the Slytherin Common Room looked just as intimidating as she expected it to look at this time of night. Finding an alcove in the wall, she slipped comfortably inside it and slowly pulled out the Invisibility Cloak from under her jacket. Harry had let her borrow it about a week ago when she wanted to go to the library late at night, and she had been avoiding returning it. Lately, it had come especially in handy.
Hermione draped it over herself and settled back against the stone. She would wait as long as she had to.
A few stray Slytherins walked by, but other than that, the hallway remained empty. After about an hour had passed, she began losing hope. She was about to get up and go back to the Common Room when she heard footsteps.
Draco Malfoy turned the corridor and began walking down the hallway towards her. He was alone.
She was going to slip off the cloak and reveal herself, but something stopped her. To be more accurate, he stopped her.
He was doing the usual Draco Malfoy swagger with his hands in his pockets, but there was no cocky grin. No self-assured expression. In their stead were hollow eyes and an expression that Hermione supposed matched the lifelessness he felt inside.
Her heart ached as she watched him. She couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to be so alone. A mother in denial, a father that expected too much, and a Dark Lord waiting in the dark to strike... It was just too awful to even think about.
Until this point, she had always wondered these things about Harry. How it must feel to have no parents, what it must be like to have such a heavy weight on his shoulders. But she was beginning to realize that Draco and Harry had a lot more in common than she thought. The difference was that Draco had no one to help him through it. Harry had friends. Harry had Dumbledore. Harry had people supporting him. But Draco… Draco was all alone.
She watched as his walking slowed and he stopped in the middle of the hallway, bending his head down. He didn’t want to go inside. Hermione understood. All that waited inside were a bunch of egotistical, privileged elitists that knew nothing of real life. That knew nothing of who he was or the gravity of what he was dealing with.
Hermione stood up slowly, and before she knew what she was doing, she was reaching out and grabbing his hand. He jumped at her touch and turned around to see the cloak slip off of her.
His eyes were glassy. He had been crying.
“G-Granger?” he looked down at her hand holding his. “What are you doing here?”
Neither of them let go. It was if both of them had forgotten how. Draco raised his gaze from their hands to look at her.
Hermione fumbled for words to explain herself.
“I… I just… I needed to talk to you.”
“So you didn’t come all this way just to hold my hand?” he asked.
Hermione grabbed her hand back.
“N-No!” she sputtered, her cheeks glowing bright red. Draco grinned.
“Calm down, Granger, I’m only kidding.”
She huffed in annoyance and began pacing, running her fingers through her hair. He watched her with an amused expression.
“Hermione?” he asked, trying to catch her gaze.
She stopped pacing and looked at him.
“I want proof,” Hermione blurted.
“Proof of what?” he asked, his eyebrows slanting in confusion.
“Proof that I’m not some pawn in one of your twisted games!” she screamed, throwing him up against the wall and putting her wand up to his chin menacingly.
“Granger, have you gone mad?!” Draco asked, twisting his face away from her threatening wand.
“Are you putting things into my head?” she asked, her voice shaking with hysteria.
“ARE YOU PUTTING THINGS INTO MY HEAD?” She was now beyond hysterics and Draco had had enough. He pushed her wand aside and slapped a hand over her mouth.
“Granger, people can hear us,” he hissed through gritted teeth, taking her roughly by the wrist and pulling her around the corner.
Once they were a safe distance from the Common Room entrance, he stopped and turned to her.
“Let go of me,” she snarled, wrenching her wrist from him.
“Tell me what that was about,” he demanded.
She looked up at the ceiling, wondering why she had even bothered to come. Her plan was to interrogate him. But when it came down to it, there was no way she could be sure that she trusted him. She either did, or she didn’t.
She turned to him, deciding that she might as well tell him. What did she have to lose?
“Do you remember how I told you that I had dreams about you dying?”
“Yeah, I do. What about them?”
“Draco, I’ve been having them every night since you were hit with Sectumsempra. Without fail. And now, they’ve gone beyond you dying. Last night, I had a dream that you… You helped Harry defeat Voldemort.”
He was silent, so she decided to continue.
“I thought that you might have been somehow… putting them into my head. Harry told me that he thinks someone has gotten into my mind. He thinks someone is sending them to me.”
Draco still didn’t say anything. Hermione looked at him nervously, trying to see if she could pick up any hints that he was feeling guilty.
After an uncomfortable moment of silence, he finally spoke.
“Hermione… I’m definitely not the one who’s sending these dreams to you.”
“Can you prove it to me?” she asked, looking at him carefully.
He got up and after a few moments of collecting his thoughts, he turned to her. Her eyebrows went up in surprise at the panicked expression on his face.
“Draco, what is it?” she asked, standing up slowly in caution.
He raised his eyes to look at her.
“Hermione… I’ve been having strange dreams every night, too.”
Her heart was beating faster and faster as the pieces began to fall together in her mind.
"What are they about?" she asked breathlessly, already knowing the answer.
He shook his head in disbelief.
"They've all been about... you."
* * * *
A/N Author's Note:
I was hoping to have this chapter posted earlier today, but it turned out to be a bit hard to write. However, I figured it out, and the plot is moving along again just fine!
I'm trying to get as much of this story done as possible while I have free time, so please keep checking back.
And remember, reviews keep me going! If I don't get enough, I may just have to stop writing! ;)
Also, if you ever want to talk to me more directly, you can check out my page on the forums! I check it regularly, so if you ever want to ask me how the next chapter is going or just want to tell me your thoughts, please feel free to drop me a line! I love talking to all of you!
Hope you're all having a wonderful new year,
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