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Vertigo by subtle_plan

Format: Novel
Chapters: 20
Word Count: 42,587
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Mild Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Mystery, Romance, AU
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Ginny, OC
Pairings: Draco/Hermione, Ron/Hermione, Ron/OC

First Published: 01/16/2008
Last Chapter: 01/03/2013
Last Updated: 01/03/2013

Summary:


What if everyone you knew were only in your head?

Hermione awakens from a coma to be informed that all her memories of the past eight years have been but a vivid dream. In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Hermione clings on to the notion that magic is real and the hope that Ron might be out there somewhere. A chance encounter with a former enemy justifies her faith, but sometimes ignorance is kinder than knowing the truth...


Chapter 8: Strange and Stranger



The last three years hadn't been particularly kind on Draco Malfoy.

He hadn't changed much on the outside; he was as handsome as ever with his sharp, silvery eyes and flawless, pale skin, but nevertheless his insides were a right mess.

Never before had his mind been as troubled, his heart as worn down or his soul this shaky. Naturally, being a supernatural when it came to hiding his feelings, he figured no one had to know.

Still, Draco had invested everything in the Dark Lord, given up everything to follow the path into darkness, and it was only natural to feel a certain letdown when he foundn he wasn't ready when the moment came for him to finally prove himself worthy of the mark etched into his skin.

The year that had followed his failure to kill Albus Dumbledore had been the worst in Draco's life. The summer immediately following the said failure had been particularly bad, because during this time Draco had found himself in a dark place, entirely in Lord Voldemort's grasp, obliged to follow the evil wizard's every bidding. Draco had spent the summer, not in Malfoy Manor, but in a large, old house overlooking the village of Little Hangleton.

The house had many rooms, and Voldemort had used it as his headquarter for several years prior to Draco's moving-in. When Voldemort was busy killing and torturing Muggles and Mudbloods alike, Draco walked restlessly around the manor, looking at all the Dark objects gathering dust alongside him.

The things he found most interesting was not, however, the obviously evil artifacts such as shriveled and cursed bodyparts, but a small collection of books that Lord Voldemort kept in the room he used as his own. Voldemort did not need to sleep, he was too inhuman, so where the bed would have been in the master bedroom stood instead a large, antique desk next to a bookshelf as tall and slim as the Dark Lord himself. It was in this room, in this bookshelf, that Draco found the solace that kept him sane during the darkest months of his life.

These books described an evil that had been until then unknown even to the son of one of the most renowned Death Eaters, and Draco believed that if he could only read them all he could become as wicked and powerful as Lord Voldemort himself.

Because the books were magical; why else would Voldemort keep them so close?

Summer died and Draco returned to Hogwarts. He never saw the books again, and he had left one of them unread.

A battered old book bound in black leather, bearing the title the Grimoire.

He had saved that book for last, because to him it seemed the darkest, and therefore the most interesting and important.

Then, one year later, the Dark Lord fell, and Draco had only one thought in mind when he watched his own parents being shipped off to Azkaban: Get a hold of that book. It had become his obsession, his only ambition, and he had spent months awake in his bed in the Slytherin dungeons wondering what secrets could possibly be hidden inside the Grimoire's yellowing pages. But when Draco returned to Little Hangleton, a few months after Voldemort's death, it was to find the house completely deprived of furniture and books, and ready for its new owners to move into.

Draco spent the next two years looking for the book, multi-tasking by looking out for other dark objects and sorting them after worth as he went. The most interesting things he found he kept in his collection; the least he humbly handed over to the Ministry, making sure to put on an act of disgust as he gave them up.

Still, in the back of his mind there played a picture, all along, of a book bearing letters in faded gold.

He thought he had finally given up the search the year of the neverending winter.

He was on his way home, after handing the Ministry a deck of cursed playing cards with the instructions of destroying them, when a sudden blizzard had caught him off guard. Draco cursed, because he would rather get home as soon as possible, but, seeing as blizzards were known to affect Apparition, sending the wizard Apparating miles off course with a greatly increased risk of splinching, Draco instead slipped into a random, Muggle bookstore to seek shelter for the harsh weather.

Little did he know at the time that the untimely blizzard would change his life for good.

He took in the store at a glance, his eyes resting a second longer on the shopkeeper than on anything the shop had to offer. She was a young girl, perhaps his age, perhaps a little younger. She was balancing on a stool, her dark eyes quickly skimming the pages of a book whilst her chestnut curls fell softly around her, framing her heart-shaped face. She looked oddly familiar, but Malfoy pushed away the thought. He did not socialize with Muggles, and he did not want to, either.

He moved further into the store, as the air outside was filled with snowflakes. He found the occult section pretty quickly, and, having been secretly curious all his life about how much Muggles actually knew about magic, he started picking out books at random and flipping through them to look at pictures of witches with long, warty noses and pointed hats riding atop brooms that looked utterly old-fashioned when compared to the new Nimbus 3000. Exasperated, he put these books back and his eyes searched the shelves for something more interesting.

And then, his heart stopped.

There was a small, leatherbound book, squeezed between the taller, more eye-catching ones. 'Could it be...' he thought, but of course it couldn't.

Because it couldn't, could it?

One of Voldemort's prized books couldn't just suddenly have landed here, of all places, in a Muggle bookshop miles away from where Draco had last seen it?

But there was no denying, once he pulled it out of the shelf and examined it with a racing heart, that it was the very same book he had thirsted after in Voldemort's room.

The Grimoire.

He walked over to the shopkeeper, trying not to let his face show anything of what was going on inside of him. The truth was that his blood was rushing, his cheeks bore uncharacteristic roses that had nothing to do with the toastiness inside of the store and he was impatient to Apparate home, into his living room, where he could once again delve into the Dark Arts with the book he had been missing for so long.

He stood before the counter, looking down at the shopkeeper, and once again the feeling of having seen her before struck him. She looked pensive, she had put aside her book now, but she was staring into nothingness and appeared not to notice the handsome blond before the counter. For a second she gave him connotations of Loony Lovegood, Hogwart's oddity, who had been surrounded by the very same aura of dreaminess.

Draco put the Grimoire down, a little harder than he intended to, making the petite shopkeeper jump. The surprise and shock in her eyes definitely sparked something in his memory.

And then, he realized what it was.

A cold Autumn day, a dead-ended London street and a stranger speaking his name, causing him, in a moment of uncontrolled panic, to stun the girl and leave her laying alone in the street.

"Your total is sixteen pounds," the girl who knew him said, and Draco was too distracted to pay close enough attention to the handful of Muggle-money he handed her. He made a mistake, and he didn't realize it until the Muggle-girl held up a galleon before the light and examined it with open-mouthed wonder.

Then she turned to Draco, and for a second time he spoke his name. Malfoy felt the familiar flurry of panic and shock, yet before he could act upon it, before he could draw his wand and disappear, blizzard or no blizzard, the girl had clasped his wrists so hard that it hurt.

"God," Draco said, looking into her eyes, because what he saw there was much more than a Muggle. He saw desperation, a plead for recognition, a prayer that he would say her name as she had said his. It was as though he should know her, but instead he was looking at a stranger. The desperation reminded him of something else, a letter he had received by mistake, and remembering the cursive signature his worst suspicion escaped him before it could be stopped: "You're Hermione Granger, aren't you?"

Hermione Granger beamed and nodded eagerly, confirming his fear. "You know me!" she said, jumping up and down, grinning from ear to ear. "You remember me!"

"Of course I remember you. You followed me straight across London. And you know my name." Draco said, not overly satisfied that she had almost pulled him into her jig with her unconfined expression of joy.

"Of course I know your name.", the girl, Hermione Granger, said, shaking her head, still clutching Draco's wrists as though he was threatening to disappear before her eyes, which, admittedly, he had done once before. "You know mine."

"I don't know your name." Draco protested, before realizing that he contradicted himself with what he was saying. "Or, I do now, but I only guessed, I mean, I put the pieces together, and-"

"What pieces?" the Muggle cut him off, and it was clear that she was an extraordinarily sharp woman who was not at all happy with his stumbling explanation. Her expression was quickly changing.

Draco hesitated, and he wondered how this brunette, who was obviously quite insane and moody, could make him feel like a guilty little boy. "I got your letter."

"What letter?"

"I don't know! Just... a letter, okay?" Draco said, pushing aside the question of why he was talking to this Muggle in the first place. He did not talk to Muggles, heck, he did not as much as look at them. And suddenly he found himself standing there, in front of a Muggle stranger, explaining himself.

"I've never written you a letter.", Hermione Granger said slowly.

"It wasn't addressed to me.", Draco admitted, faintly annoyed.

The shopkeeper raised an eyebrow. The jumping-up-and-down, grinning-from-ear-to-ear behavior was completely gone now, replaced by one of silent skepticism, doubt and controlled anger. "So you intercepted it?"

"You gave it to my owl." Draco said, stubbornly. He did not appreciate being reprimanded, and especially not by a crazy Muggle-girl. "I did not want it, I just got it."

"And you didn't send it on?" Hermione Granger said, suddenly sounding breathless. A spark of hope had been re-ignited in her brown eyes. "You saw who it was addressed to. Right?"

Draco rolled his eyes. "Ronald Weasley." he said. "Blood-traitor extraordinaire. Self-proclaimed hero and unsuccessful employee of the most useless department in the Ministry."

Hermione Granger seemed not to hear anything but the two first words, and her face split into a new smile, this one different from the one she had put on when Draco had said her name. Rather than seeming manic she looked peaceful, dreamy and silently euphoric, and if Draco had paid more attention to girls during his Hogwarts years he would have recognized that smile.

It was the secretive smile of the kind that a girl can't help but break into when the name of the boy she's in love with is mentioned.

"Ron." she said softly, tasting the name as though it was an exquisite desert. "He... I mean, how-" she stuttered, shaking her head, still smiling dazedly. "What I mean to say is, do you know how he's doing? Ron?"

Draco snorted. "Why should I know?" He said gruffly. "All I know is that he married that Mudblood and that they're living somewhere near York. It was in the Prophet."

Before he knew it Draco's face was a lot closer to Hermione Granger's; so close, in fact, that he could feel her breath prickling his skin. The grip around his wrists tightened painfully, and Granger's eyes were shooting sparks aimed at him and hitting the target.

"What Mudblood?" she hissed, in a voice barely over a whisper. "Tell me you're lying."

"Get off me, you filthy Muggle!" Draco said, forcefully freeing himself from the supposed Muggle's grip and stepping away from the counter.

He turned away from her and strode towards the door, his hand just closing around the cold steel of the doorknob as a voice spoke behind him.

"Wait."

The plead was not desperate or loud; it was soft, and simply pleading, and Draco turned to find Hermione Granger in the exact spot where he had left her, with silent tears staining her cheeks. "What's her name?" she whispered after a second of silence.

Draco had found Hermione Granger's weakness, and the knowledge made an evil smirk spread across his face and taint his features.

"Her name is Beckett. Meredith Beckett." he spoke loudly and clearly, over the sound of the howling blizzard outside. "Or, no, wait." His smile widened maliciously, "Meredith Weasley."


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