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Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. (But God knows I wish I did!)
I do own Troy Malfoy and Alexandre Lumerus. So far, that's about it.

Note: the first section thingy is the continuation of Hermione's dream thingy from chapter seven.

Now, enjoy!

The October Hollow
By Darkwing731

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((--Chapter Nine--))
The Dark Side of Her Dreams


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Friday, October 23
Day 6


"Crucio!"


Something hit her square in the back, causing pain to erupt all over her body, like hot knifes piercing her skin. She screamed so loud her throat was hoarse, her body was arched and taut and the tears never came from the amount of pain. She withered, feeling like she had fallen into burning fire and coals. It all stopped after a moment, and she dropped to the ground, exhausted, when her captors released her. She sobbed, cupping her hands to her face and cradling the wounds that she could reach, that she could touch.

She was shaking tremendously, as if she was wandering around the artic without any source of heat. Tears poured down her cheeks from the pain, but the previous encounter had finally settled, and she realized that she had been hurt, and she was in danger of it happening again.

In a second she was on her feet and running as fast as she had never gone before, flying past them, ducking and darting under their legs and fleeing into the darkening forest. Her body’s screams did not delay her in the least, for her hammering heart urged her much louder than the pain ever could. She heard their yells of anger and surprise, but somehow she knew: no matter how fast they were running, no matter how many times they attempted to catch her, they would not. She would escape, and she knew it.

She sprinted through the thick path, soaring over bushes without hesitation as she ran furiously down the path. I don't know where to go, she thought anxiously as she reached the end of the brush. She kept speeding along, taking the necessary left at a subtle fork in the trees; if she had gone right, it would've taken her home. But she couldn't go home; they knew where her home was. She was in more danger if she went somewhere that they knew about, somewhere they could trap her.

She came to another fork and she took a left again; it took her down to the end of the brook that meandered around the forest. She sprinted down the path as it started downhill, and as she heard the loud gurgle of the stream she ran to it, jumped in the water that went up to her waist and waded across as fast as she could, ignoring the stitch in her side.

She struggled onto the bank, and from her terrorizing panic she sprinted away without even thinking of brushing away her tracks in the sand. She ran up the path, dirt sticking to her feet and picking up debris in the damp mud on her soles. She didn't stop to breathe, and she didn't stop to turn around and see if they were following her; she didn't (wouldn't) stop for anything.

Now, as she rounded a corner, she could see the second meadow that was nearly half a kilometer from her house. She had never run that far or that fast before, and she was briefly amazed with herself at her endurance. But she didn't slow down, she kept running, taking random turns and scrambling through brush that kept appearing.

When she reached the meadow, she stopped temporarily and looked at her surroundings; she had never played in this meadow before, and she didn't know anything about it. She spotted a clump of thick, dense trees and brush underneath them on the other side of the open valley, and it beckoned her. She had been running so far, so long, that if she could disappear for just a minute or so, she could rest properly, and get farther away from the danger.

She ran as fast as she could across the warm grass- and flower-covered meadow, and when she got close enough she dived for the bushes, scrambling through the scraggly foliage and prickling branches.

When she had caught her breath and rid herself of the screaming in her side, she looked around at her hiding spot. The bush rose high enough so it imitated a dome, and the bush itself was very thick that nothing could see in, but she could see out if she prodded the right leaves. There was dead, soft grass and leaves on the ground, and an indentation in the middle of the debris. Twisting around, she could also see recent animal prints.

This is a nest of some kind, she thought excitedly.

She sat still for quite a long time, catching her breath and relaxing her legs a bit, for they were quite sore from all her running. She sat still and examined her dress, which was now stained in her own blood. The massive cut had stopped bleeding miraculously fast, but from her shoulders down to her stomach her dress was completely stained. She touched the fabric; it was dry, the blood had crusted over made the material stiff. A putrid scent invaded her nostrils when she sniffed, and she grimaced.

As it started to get dark, the sun sank down into the meadow, casting brilliant colors over the grass. Hermione climbed out of the bush and walked cautiously out into the field, stepping slowly through the shadows. Everything was shadowed in gold, the landscape and the sky, with hints of scarlet and soft violet blended in streaks. There were no clouds; she gazed up, seeing the few stars that had already appeared. She walked quietly across the field, trying to remember how to get home. She hadn't really thought about how she had gotten there, and she felt scared without help. How would she manage to return without getting lost in the darkness?

She traveled quickly, stopping and turning around every few feet. Already she was in the heart of the massive forest, and she had absolutely no idea where in the world she was. The darkness was swallowing and deep, without the help of the full moon, there would be no sense of direction, no reason for continuing.

Right now, all she could focus on was how to get home; she wasn't thinking about escaping from the two men, who had left her mind ages ago. She wanted to be safe, somewhere warm, near her mummy and dad. She just wanted to see something familiar, anything, but at this time of night, with the spiraling darkness surrounding her, she would never find her way home.

She started to cry out in fear. "Mummy!"

She hugged herself and ran desperately around in circles, trying to look for something she could familiarize with, even though she didn't even know what it was, what it could be. She just wanted something she could hold onto, something that meant a good deal to her... something that would make her safe. She cried louder, frustrated and scared, and she sat down and leaned against a tree trunk, pulling her knees to her chest. She wailed out her for her mother and she burst into fresh, new sobs that echoed in the empty woods.

...Hermione...

Her head bolted up, and she was immediately silent, excluding the sudden hiccup that escaped her throat. She heard her name. She was positive someone had said her name. Her heart started beating wildly with hope; someone was here, to save her!

But a dark thought occurred to her, and her breath became jagged. What if it was them? The ones who had hurt her? The ones who were intent on hurting her again? The men she had escaped?

There was no telling which was truth and which was fantasy.

"H-Hello?" she stammered, her eyes wide with fear, the instinct that someone could hurt her much greater than the possibility of help.

...Hermione...

There it was again!
She trembled, trying to pull her wits together. An owl hooted in the distance, and she heard the rustling of leaves. Her blood turned to ice, and there was a painful scared feeling in her chest as she listened to the rustling growing louder. Her eyes darted quickly in all directions, and she squeezed her legs to her chest, trying to drain the fear out of her body. Her heart pounded in her throat, and she realized that even if she wanted to scream, she wouldn't be able to.

…Hermione... come to me now...

And there it was a third time!
She was getting more frightened by the second. She found no relief in holding herself anymore, for nothing she could do would stop her horrifying thoughts and severe trembling. She released herself with hesitation, and wiped her cheeks.

That voice, it both frightened and intrigued her at the same time. She found herself pushing her back against the hard bark and standing up, keeping a hand on the trunk for reassurance of some kind, as if the aged bark could protect her. There was a faint whispering in the woods, echoing back and forth and it kept getting louder. But she could hear it inside her head, louder than her ears could ever endure.

She felt all of the fear leave her as she curiously started down the dirt path in the darkness, her eyes dilated and grasping for anything that she could see. The voice, it assured her, nothing was wrong. She believed it without question, following its instructions to walk, to move steadily, to follow it.

Walking blindly, she stumbled down the path, then to the right fork, then down another. She had no idea where she was going, but only followed the voice that was calling. She knew it so well, she had heard it before. She needed to find them, and get the help that she deserved.

Soon the gurgling sound of the brook entered her ears, and she looked to the rose garden across the field outside of her house. Across the blackened field, there were no lights in her house. It was not a frequent character of her parents, meaning something might've happened to them… but she didn't stop to think about the possibilities. She sat down on a rock and tucked her legs underneath her. It was cold out; she shivered and rubbed her arms, creating friction and some warmth.

"Hello, there."

Hermione jumped at the sound of the sudden voice, and it was so familiar. She turned and looked up, and could only make out the looming figure of a person against the darkness. But she knew who it was, somehow. It was him, the one who had been talking to her, the one who had been guiding her, leading her.

"Who are you?" she blurted out. She had only followed his voice like a dog to a whistle, but never had she encountered his persuasive presence.

"But don't you know me? I've come to see you quite often," he replied quietly. She could feel the amusement in his voice inside of her head.

His charming aura kept her mouth shut, but still, her mind struggled to think. Some distant thought crossed her mind, and despite that she had never met this stranger, he seemed oddly familiar… as if he had always been in the back of her mind, always residing in her nightmares.

"Tom?" she asked suddenly. There was a soft laugh that made the hair on her neck stand on end, and it echoed louder in her mind.

"So you do remember me, I'm glad for it. Give me your hand, Hermione," he told her. She hesitated, trying to separate her thoughts from his voice in her head, and allowed herself a moment to think about the danger.

"Why?"

"Just give me your hand," he repeated, much firmer. She clasped her hands in her lap, ignoring the serpentine hiss of fury in her mind.

"Tell me why or I shan't," she said indignantly.

Then, without warning, there were a strong pair of arms grabbing her from behind, lifting her into the air. Fear blossomed in her chest in a rapid cloud, and her muscles were screaming faster! Faster! as she fought the restraint on her limbs.

"Let go!" she shrieked, her arms kicking furiously, her body trying to squirm out of its hold.

There was soft laughter in her mind, powerful and knowing. With a terrified gasp she realized they were the strange men she had been running from. He had called her back, and she foolishly walked into his grasp.

A light lit up her face, and she could see him quite clearly. She recognized him now as the dark-haired man with the black, bottomless eyes that swallowed her. The wand he had earlier, he had it now, and it was producing the light. He was watching her with a sly, malevolent look in his eyes as he withdrew something from his pocket. She started screaming again with a sudden boat of energy, the panic blinding her from all rational thought.

In the midst of her loud fighting, Tom withdrew a long, silver dagger from his pocket that was giving off an odd, liquid-like gleam. Her eyes widened with fear, and she tried desperately to pull back her hands, but the man behind her had the strongest grip on her wrists and refused to let go. Tom lifted the knife over his head slowly and she knew what was going to happen a split second before it did.

She closed her eyes and turned her head, but despite that she did not witness the act, she still felt it. She let out a piercing, painful scream that echoed through the valley and the woods alike. A searing, burning pain spread through her hand, then her wrists and arms, and she wailed. He brought the knife high in the air again… it moved swiftly through her second palm. Her hands were burning with such intensity she was surprised they had not turned to ashes; her fingertips were on fire, her hands bleeding and wounded. The bleeding gashes in the middle of her hands burned and stung so hard it made her whimper.

The man behind her let go of her, and she dropped to the ground, cradling her throbbing wounds.

"Run along home, Hermione, or your mother will be worried," Tom whispered in a cruelly satisfied voice. The two men roared with malicious laughter, and suddenly, as fast as they had appeared, they were gone.

Hermione sat on the ground, tears pouring from her cheeks, and she cradled her hands uselessly; she tried to disregard the pain, tried to pretend it never happened.

But in her mind, she knew it could never be ignored.

-x-x-x-


Her muscles contracted in fear, and she sat straight up, her body tangled in the sheets. That was the second dream she had encountered, or rather, the continuation of the first. She was breathing heavily, jaggedly, and her body was shaking from the cold sweat.

She withdrew her palms from underneath the blanket, and just like her first wound that occurred in her dreams, they were bleeding. A deep gash in the middle of her hands went through to the backside of them, both bleeding and hurting like nothing she had ever experienced. Her arms and hands felt like they were on fire, and she didn't dare try to move her fingers in fear of making the wound worse.

She gasped for breath, feeling like she had been running a mile in her sleep. Her face had broken out in perspiration, and she hastily shook the hair off of her cheeks and face that were damp from sweat. There was blood on her face, and she refused to let her mind think of an explanation for it.

She noticed that her hands didn't stop bleeding like the first wound had, and they didn't gleam a certain color. The first had been that horrible dream before, and the pain had coiled around her like a snake, marking her, making her bleed.

But this one? No, it was like they were normal, vicious wounds. She bent her fingers and she brought her hands to her face to examine them closer, hiccupping and gasping all the while, and she cried out in pain as the tendons moved around visibly in the gash.

Tears ran down her face as she tried to gain control of the excruciating feeling in her hands, but she could not. She started to sob, and she lowered her hands back down to her lap as she cried. She doubted she could even rip some blanket or something to make a bandage because it would hurt her hands so badly. But the blood was seeping rapidly from her wounds, and she didn't want to think of the possibilities that could happen if the crimson liquid didn't stop flowing.

Carefully she took the opposite end of the blanket by her feet and biting the edge of the material, she ripped two large strips off. She wrapped the material around the gashes and used her teeth to tie them. She frowned as she looked at the cloth, as if upset that the crude dressings hadn't stopped the pain.

For a while, all she could do was sit and try to control the feverish fire that consumed her hands. Each little movement brought a bolt of pain, a sharp gasp and tremble of her lip, before she twisted her face up in pain and pushed aside the hurting. Soon, they began to ache with a dull throb, slowly turning numb. In an amount of time so short she thought it impossible, she could no longer feel the wounds at all.

She had no idea what time it was, but it was in the daytime, sunlight pouring into the room and across the floor. She cast aside the blankets and went to the table to see if she was able to keep writing notes... but both journals were gone. She stood frozen, and suddenly she knew what had happened.

Draco and Troy, she remembered, had come in the middle of the night, and while she just thought they were looking at the books, they took them! She dropped into the chair and tried not to think what would happen. Would Voldemort get them? And if he did, what would happen then?

She realized with a gasp that if Voldemort didn't know any of the clues for anything about the ceremony, she had just handed them to him by writing down the clues in the blank journal!

God, I'm an idiot!

Now it would be her fault when whatever happened to her did. She was stupid enough to be lured into that trap that she could've so easily foreseen. She knew that Draco had the right elements though, so at the time she never would have thought that it was a trap.

She was stuck in that room, with nothing but a few items and she so curiously read the first few pages of something new that she hadn't seen before. And what did she find? Things about a Lumerous witch, things that she had questions about. There was the element of surprise, of temptation, curiosity, and so many things her head was now swimming.

Draco was a tricky bloke that couldn't be dealt with when you had only a second to think. You needed more time to think about what he could possibly be doing in the long run.

Either he had done it himself, or someone else had done it for him. Either way, he knew Hermione better than anybody, and he had set the bait and the trap and she played right into it.

He'll pay for that, Hermione said darkly to herself. Oh, how he'll pay.

-x-x-x-


"Any news yet, Professor?" Ron asked Dumbledore that morning immediately as they entered the Great Hall.

Hermione had been gone for nearly a week, and on the next day, Saturday, it would be officially that long. Dumbledore looked down on the two sad, hopeful faces of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter, and shook his head reluctantly.

"I'm sorry, boys, but not yet. We've found several clues, but we've come to no conclusion," he told them.

It had been an agreement between the Order of the Phoenix, the Weasley family, the Granger family, (who had been devastated and frantic after they were notified) and Harry, of course, to share any information that had been found out. From past years, Dumbledore had found out that keeping things from certain people led to dire and severe consequences.

"Thanks anyway then," Ron said sadly, and he and Harry trudged over to the Gryffindor Table.

Nearly the whole Gryffindor House had been grieving for her, wherever she was, and all of them wanted her back. It wasn't the same with the snappy, know-it-all Hermione that everyone loved in some way. It wasn't the same without her hand shooting into the air every three seconds, or scolding the boys for not doing their homework when they had the time. It wasn't the same with her beaming face every time she laughed or smiled at someone. Hell, it wasn't even the same when the Slytherins didn't hiss at them for being Muggle-born lovers. Nothing was the same without her.

It was amazing to both Harry and Ron that time still passed that week. Neither of them had been aware of anything except that Hermione wasn't there. They wanted her back. Everybody did.

However, with an honor to her, they did their homework when they had the time, they studied and paid attention, and they answered questions. They did it for her, even though she wasn't there.

Many people had their suspicions about who had kidnapped her, but their number one suspect in both Gryffindor and Ravenclaw was Draco Malfoy. Most of the Hufflepuffs couldn't point directly at one person. Most of them thought that the group who had been absent at the dance were all responsible for the kidnapping of Hermione Granger.

But whoever it was, the Slytherin's were hated more than ever. Even the teachers seemed to be colder towards the Slytherin's. McGonagall absolutely refused to call on any Slytherin in her class, and she gave them instant detentions for making any sort of disruption no matter how small or quiet it was.

Ron was moping and extremely sad about Hermione's disappearance, and it wasn’t a surprise when Ginny had whispered that he had most likely fallen into a depression. Harry, though scared and worried for Hermione Granger, had a few other things on his mind.

Lately he had been having weird dreams, and he kept seeing this girl in a meadow. It was strange: he could see the people talking, and he could see all of the people's faces, but he couldn't hear them. Yet he kept feeling a strange rush of emotions that he knew had nothing to do with him.

Several times the dreams had ended with the girl, whom he only saw at a distance, usually sitting somewhere in the field, watching the moon and the clouds pass over it. Sometime, she was the only person in his dreams. And however much he tried to run to her, he couldn't. Only twice had there been more people in the reoccurring dreams; he had seen a woman who looked oddly familiar, and then two other men whom he could instantly name.

Lucius Malfoy and Tom Riddle.

From the horrifying memory in the Chamber of Secrets in his second year, and from the numerous encounters with Lucius Malfoy, he knew the two bastards by face anytime.

And the strange thing was that Harry felt like he knew the girl that he kept seeing. He had never seen her face once, but he knew her. He felt like he had some kind of connection with that girl, whoever she was. He had felt the pain when he watched Malfoy and Riddle torture her; he had felt the fear flow through her body as she sat alone in the woods. The scariest thing was that he could hear her thoughts, and anything inside her head.

It had been that Thursday night that he had figured out that the girl was Hermione. The whispering inside her head was so familiar to him, he had heard that before too, mutters and murmurs floating through his own nightmares.

It was odd that Harry didn't tell anyone about these dreams he was having. Ron didn't know, and neither did Dumbledore. He didn't know why, but he felt as if they wouldn’t understand him if he shared his thoughts. They weren’t very personal, but even so, Harry seemed to think that he could comprehend the meaning in them much better than anybody else ever could.

But something was wrong: they weren't current or imaginary dreams like the ones he had of Sirius in fifth year, these had already taken place.

But then, why haven't I seen the scars on her?

The last two dreams he had had Hermione had been tortured and brutally cut with some type of spell, and he had seen the painful bloody wounds. So why had he never seen them? Two of them were on her hands, as he had seen in his last dream, and he had looked plenty of times at Hermione's hands for some reason or another. He was frustrated, and he couldn't figure anything out. He needed more clues, something to base a theory on and something to research.

So far, he had only a few things to ponder about. Why would Hermione sit at night in a field and watch the moon? And then, why would Malfoy and Voldemort hurt her? And why didn't she have the scars to show that what happened was real?

He sighed; he had time to think later. Right now, his day was dedicated to classes. After all, he felt like he had to keep the inward promise with Hermione to keep up with his studies, even if she wasn't there.

But he made a pact that he would do a bit of research later on after dinner and after his homework was done. He needed to find out what happened, what her invisible scars meant, and what Voldemort could possibly want with their beloved Hermione.

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-x-x-x-
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Author's Notes:
Ooh, we're getting to the good part! In some future chapters, you will be attempting to bash Harry's head in for his stupidity. Also, you may hear my evil laughter. MWAHA!

Thank you to A Roses Innocence for beta-ing this for me! I owe you a hell of a lot because this writing is atrocious… heh.

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