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Author's Notes: Thanks to Andrew who proof-read this chapter with patience, listening to all my doubts and questions. Well, I hope you'll like this chapter, even if there's a very nasty cliff-hanger.





Harry stood there with his vision blurred and his head lost in a million thoughts. What does this mean? What the hell does this mean? That all my emotions have been an utter lie? Do I really not love Hermione? It was suspicious that my love for her started all of a sudden, that I almost completely forgot Ginny and what I used to feel for her; but my feelings for Hermione are so deep and powerful, that I think I might die if someone proves to me that it’s all a lie. 
He tried to focus on Hermione’s face. She was standing there, right in front of him. Her arms around her waist, she was shaking and her lips were blue. Harry noticed only at that moment that once again the sun had disappeared behind the clouds, and that the wind was now even mightier than before, which had caused the temperature to lower again.

Harry stretched an arm out towards Hermione and asked tentatively, “Can I?” before trying to place it on her shoulder.

Hermione looked at his hand without understanding, the tears that were still running down from her eyes prevented her from seeing clearly and, above all, to think lucidly. She was still too shocked by all the things that she had witnessed, still too confused about the past few days that she had spent at Godric’s Hollow, the present emotions that she felt for Harry and the foggy future that was offered her by Godric Gryffindor’s curse. She wiped away her tears, and managed to understand that Harry was offering to put his arm around her shoulders and warm her up a little.

She wondered if she wanted him to be so close to her. How can I say if I really want Harry to be standing right next to me? I no longer have the power to understand what my feelings for him are, or better, I can’t understand my feelings at all. If I can’t tell what is magic from what is real, how can I know what I feel? 

Hermione nodded softly at Harry, deciding to see if he could make her heart jump just by standing at her side. She shook her head softly, hoping that Harry hadn’t seen her and mistaken it for a change of heart. She wasn’t changing her mind, she was just wondering how could her friend make her heart jump? Not even Ron made her feel like that, and she was sure that she loved Ron. Don’t I? She held her breath while Harry placed his hand on her shoulder and let his arm slide behind her back, tightening his grip and rubbing her upper arm with his hand, in order to warm her up.

“Is it better?” he asked her in a slightly worried tone, as if he was waiting for her to push him away.

Hermione tilted her head and half-closed her eyes. She nodded softly another time, and her reddish hair fell all over her face, covering half of her features from his view. She liked Harry’s hand on her arm, she liked the way he talked to her, she liked the fact that he was worried for some reason, she couldn’t find anything that she didn’t like about him at that moment; and she didn’t like it. Has it always been like this? Have I ever found Harry as perfect as I do right now? 

She took a deep breath, as if to regain her courage, then she turned towards Harry and made her arms slide up his back, until her fingers sensed his shoulder blades through his clothes. She leaned her head on his chest and hugged him tightly.

Harry looked at her with his mouth half open, his right arm, which had been encircling her shoulders until a moment before, was now dangling at his side, where it had slid back when she moved. He was unsure about what he should do. Hug her back? Caress her hair? Did she want to be hugged or was she just trying to warm herself up even more?

“Harry?” Hermione called out to him in such a soft whisper that at the beginning Harry thought he had just imagined it.

Harry closed his mouth and swallowed some saliva. “Yes, Hermione?” he murmured back quietly.

She opened her mouth to speak, but no words escaped her lips, instead she tightened her arms on Harry’s back and hid her face in his chest, while soundless and hot tears fell down her cheeks again.

Harry noticed that she was crying only when she sniffled. He placed his left arm on her back and with his right hand he started to stroke her hair. “Why are you crying?” he asked her in a whisper. “Hermione, if you’re crying for Gryffindor, let your tears flow; but if you’re crying for yourself, please stop.”

What? Hermione sniffled louder, her eyes narrowed in concentration as she tried to understand what Harry was talking about. She didn’t know why she was crying, how could she decide if she should stop or not?

Harry leaned his head on her shoulder, burying his nose in her hair, he breathed her scent and got drunk with her perfume. He could have stayed like that forever, he would never let Hermione go. And all this is just fake? he wondered. It couldn’t have been all in his mind. He wanted Hermione. He wanted to slowly undress her and touch every inch of her bare skin; he wanted to hear the music of her voice for the rest of his life; he wanted her to be the first thing that he saw in the morning and the last one when he fell asleep. How can this be unreal? How can I not love you, Hermione?

“How can I stop crying if every single thought that passes into my brain is pain, pain and more pain?” she asked, sniffling another time and snapping Harry out of his thoughts. Harry’s body, pressed against her own, was giving her the best sensation ever. He was warming her up in the first place, and that was not bad at all, and then every inch of her skin that was pressed against his body was on fire; it was a pleasant, tickling sensation that sent small shivers through all her body. She felt her head go light, and her legs go wobbly.

“What do you mean?” he asked back, whispering every word in her ear and enlacing his fingers in her copper locks. He felt her arms squeezing his back, and had to close his eyes and gulp to calm down, otherwise he knew that he would not be able to control himself.

“I mean that I’m not able to think about anything except you,” she murmured back, her voice hoarse, almost unrecognizable even to herself. She felt as if her vision was blurring again and her brain was slowly wrapped in a thick fog, causing all of her thoughts to melt. When she went on talking, she didn’t know what she was saying. “When I’m not with you, I want to be with you; and when I’m with you, I want to be a thousand miles away.”

“I always want to be with you,” breathed Harry on her neck. He didn’t open his eyes. He didn’t have to see her to know that he was giving her goose bumps. “And never let you go.” He kissed his way up to her face, pressing his lips on her neck. Harry felt as if he was falling, as if the ground was disappearing from under his feet again; but this time it was all in his head.

James, no…” Hermione pleaded, sobbing and at the same time tilting her head to give more space to his lips. James? What’s happening? I can’t… I must stop him… 

“Lily,” muttered Harry between the kisses. “I’ve waited for so long.”

“James, no,” answered Hermione while hot tears fell down her cheeks and reached Harry’s lips which were now on her jaw. Hermione… I’m Hermione. “James, we can’t do this. It’s not our place, here.”

Harry sighed against her skin. “Lily…” he murmured with despair. He raised his face and backed his head a little, looking at Hermione. Her green eyes were shiny brightly because of the tears, she widened them and gulped loudly, trying to keep a grip on what she was feeling, on what she was.

Hermione, I’m Hermione… I don’t love Harry in that way, I can’t… 

Hermione, please… 


Her heart skipped a beat. She closed her eyes. What?

Please, Hermione. Give up your will to me…

No, no, no, no… I beg you, let me go… I can’t, I’m not strong enough…


Hermione opened her eyes and tried to concentre on James. Harry, on Harry, she repeated in her mind. She could see his brown eyes behind his circular glasses, his messy hair that was fluttering around his face, and his lips, parted and cracked for the cold, that were coming closer to her.

She didn’t know why she didn’t move away, she didn’t know why her arms slid up his shoulders and entangled in his rebel locks, she didn’t know why she crashed her body against his. And above all she didn’t know why, when his lips brushed hers, she kissed him back.

Harry’s hands cupped her cheeks, his fingers enlaced in her hair, his eyes closed. What was happening to him? Was he really kissing Hermione? Apparently it was exactly like that, and Hermione was kissing him back. He could savour her lips, they were soft and smooth, and tasted of strawberry. He opened his mouth slowly, and tentatively pushed his tongue against her lips.

Hermione lifted her eyelids, she took a sharp breath and parted her lips just that much to let Harry’s tongue enter her mouth. She felt her head go even lighter than before, and for a moment she felt so blithe and blissful that it almost hurt her.

What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing? I shouldn’t be here. I shouldn’t do this. I’m so sorry… 

Hermione took a sharp breath, as if she was trying to inhale some air, but couldn’t. She opened her eyes wide. She hadn’t said anything, she hadn’t thought anything. Who was speaking? Who was talking in her head? She let her eyes wander in front of her, she could see Harry’s cheek and the landscape behind. The hill that led out of the cemetery and towards the village, and far away, the tall shape of the church. She caught the figure of a boy running up the hill and disappearing on the other side. A crow flew over their heads and cawed sinisterly.

Wake up, Hermione. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…

Hermione gasped and pushed Harry backwards with all her force, sending him crashing against the oak trunk. She looked at him with her eyes wide, and brought both her hands to her mouth. She made her fingers slide on her lips, and her fingertips covered with a hot moisture of saliva. Their saliva.

Harry glanced at her and stared. Her hair was darkening and curling slightly and her eyes were becoming a chocolaty shade of brown. Hermione was coming back, pushing his mother deep in her insides, trying to get a grip on her emotions and on her body.

Hermione closed her eyes, and some more tears fell down her cheeks. She sobbed again and again, until her eyes started to sting and her nose turned red. When she shed all the tears that she had she opened her eyes again. Harry was still leaning against the trunk, and he looked like someone who has just woken up from a dream.

“Harry,” murmured Hermione, taking away her hands from her mouth.

“What?” asked Harry, rubbing his left green eye under his glasses. What was he doing there? What had just happened? Why had Hermione pushed him away?

“Your parents—they…”

“What?” he asked again, this time to pressure her into speaking.

She lowered her eyes in a humble gesture. “Your mother talked to me, I heard her voice…”

“What are you talking about?” asked Harry rudely. He joined his eyebrows and his expression darkened. She did what? His father didn’t talk to him, was she just making fun of him?

Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Didn’t you feel them?” she whispered.

“Feel what?”

Hermione embraced herself, she felt the urge to scream, she felt the urge to cry, she felt the urge to run away; and for a spare second she also felt the urge to be hugged by Ron or even Draco. But she couldn’t find her voice, she didn’t have any more tears to shed, she felt too lost and weak to even walk away, and both Ron or Draco weren’t there.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked harshly. “Are you trying to see how long I can resist?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” he asked back, stepping towards her.

“Oh, sure,” she hissed. “What do you want, Harry? I’m not stupid, you know.”

“I know that,” he answered darkly. “But I think I’m becoming stupid, because I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.”

“Liar!” she yelled. “Don’t tell me that you haven’t heard your father talking to you, I’m sure you’ve heard him as much as I heard your mother.”

“Don’t be cheeky,” Harry replied sourly. “Joking about these things.”

She looked at him taken aback. “Joking?” she hissed. “Joking?”

“Yes, joking, should I spell that word out for you?” he asked mockingly. “Oh no, sure, you said that you’re the intelligent one. You don’t need me to spell it for you, but surely you don’t have to repeat it.”

She brought her hand to her mouth and widened her eyes outraged. What was happening? A moment earlier they were kissing and now they were fighting, in the movies wasn’t it usually the contrary?

“You think I don’t know what game you’re playing at?” she hissed. “I know that you’re inventing all this story to make me believe that it wasn’t your parents the ones that were kissing. I’m not stupid, though. Your mother was kissing your father, I was not kissing you.”

Harry narrowed his eyes, while her sharp words sunk into his brain. He seemed ready to jump on her and slap her face, but he didn’t move, and Hermione felt a wave of rage and guiltiness. She would have felt better with him slapping her hard, rather than standing there in silence and looking at her from behind his glasses.

After all what was the matter with her? She didn’t even know if she wasn’t really kissing him back and at the same time she didn’t know if she was. “I didn’t mean to say that,” muttered Hermione after a moment of silence. “I don’t know what--”

“No, sure,” hissed Harry, cutting her off. “Don’t even try to justify yourself, Hermione, because you can’t even imagine what you did by saying that.” He took another step towards her and seized her upper-arms forcefully. “Because I was kissing you.”

Hermione struggled and freed herself from Harry. She looked at him for a moment, and when she saw that there was no falsity in his eyes, she was scared. She turned on her heels and started to run towards the village, her coat fluttering around her ankles and her face slapped by the cold wind. She heard Harry calling her name, she heard him yelling for her to stop, she heard him screaming with desolation; but she didn’t turn, she didn’t stop. She had to go home, she had to be a thousand miles away from him.

***

Draco didn’t know why he felt so depressed. It wasn’t exactly like he could find anything to be cheerful about in his condition, but he had never been so disheartened in the last few days. That morning, however his eyes were wandering around the bedroom that he had been given, without being able to understand what he was looking for. Or who I’m looking for, he thought bitterly. That girl. That cunning little girl, she tortures me more than she can even imagine. 

He took a deep and stiff breath, then listened. The house was silent, for the umpteenth time they had left him alone. And he didn’t like it, but after all, what did he expect them to do? He was Draco Malfoy and they were Harry Potter and his faithful sidekicks, they shouldn’t be helping him in the first place.

No, she shouldn’t, he thought angrily. And I shouldn’t be here. I should have run away when I had the chance. There’s no place safe for me now, and especially not this house. If Potter and his sidekicks only knew what I’m doing… What am I talking about? They’ll know soon or later. They’ll know, and I’m not sure that they’ll like what they find out. 

An owl hooted outside the window, Draco turned his head slowly to look at it. It was flying right in front of the glass and – Draco could have almost sworn it in his delirious state – it was looking at him. The owl hooted another time before flying away.

Draco raised his pale eyebrows and narrowed his eyes. He felt observed. Observed by an owl. That’s not a common owl, he thought.

The door downstairs burst open and someone ran up the stairs. He heard the door of the bathroom next to his bedroom bang, and then silence. He wondered who could have been. Harry and Hermione had been out since early that morning, gone to the cemetery they said. Draco smirked. A cemetery, what a wonderful place for a date… While Ron; he had been out until that very morning, then he came back and slept, and when he woke up he rushed into Draco’s room and asked where Harry and Hermione had gone.

Draco hadn’t liked the sinister sparkle in his eyes, especially when Ron had asked for Hermione, but, really, why did he care so much about them? I don’t care about them. And so, Ron didn’t even have to threaten him to get all the information he needed, Draco told him what he himself had been told; they went to the cemetery at Godric’s Hollow and no, he didn’t know where that place was. Ron had stormed out of the bedroom, and then out of the house, banging every door behind him.

Now that someone that had just gone into the bathroom and banged the door shut, that could have been him. He could have been angry. Very angry. Or maybe upset. Draco smirked, anything that made Ron Weasley angry was surely something that he would like. Then he remembered where he sent him, and for a moment his smirk faded. What could he have witnessed that troubled him so much? It wasn’t a secret that Ron fancied Hermione, and it seemed that it wasn’t a secret that Harry and Hermione fancied each other as well, at least for the ones that lived in that house. At least for him.

What were Potter and Granger doing in that place all alone? wondered Draco with bitterness, and for a moment he thought that he wouldn’t have liked what Ron had witnessed any more than he had.

***

Harry couldn’t move. He wouldn’t ever have believed that Hermione had such cheek to tell him a big fat lie like that. Did she seriously think that she was funny? She was not.
He raised his eyes towards the clouded sun and the cold wind slapped his face. He was there alone, Hermione had left. Running away from him, and very probably crying as she did so. Harry should have felt outraged by her behaviour, instead he felt almost guilty. Why? She was the one that was playing with my feelings, playing with such an important thing as my parents. 

Harry fell on his knees and banged his fists on the ground. And why did she run away? Didn’t she know that he wanted her to be there with him? He needed her, especially in that moment. He was ready to forgive her.

She’s the one who should forgive you…

Harry’s eyes widened. He raised his head and looked around. “What?”

You didn’t believe her…

Harry shook his head and rubbed his eyes. What was he doing? What was happening to him? He heard voices in his own head; and Hermione had always told him that even in the Wizarding world hearing voices was not a good sign. He jumped to his feet and started to walk briskly towards the village.

I’ve been brought a thousand years in the past and back to the present again, I’ve witnessed the end of Godric Gryffindor and I’ve been told about a curse that nobody is aware of; I have every right to be a bit upset, but I’m not crazy, Harry thought forcefully. What is this voice?

He walked past the church and glanced at the coloured windows that decorated the sides of the building, they were narrow and extremely high, with scenes from the Bible drawn on them. The sunrays hit the glass and caused them to act like a mirror of the external landscape. Harry stopped in his tracks when he spotted his own figure reflected in front of him.

His mouth opened slightly and his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as his reflection looked back at him. Confused. He was still the same boy and at the same time he seemed a totally different person, as if he seemed older and wiser. Fine wrinkles of preoccupation marked his forehead, and in his eyes were reflected the clouds of the sky, so that his irises seemed darker, almost brown.

He touched his pale cheek with his left hand and spotted a fine shining ring on his ring finger, something that he had never seen before. He lowered his eyes to his hand, turning it up and down. There was nothing there.

Harry raised his eyes again and raised his hand as well, taking it closer to his face. He narrowed his eyes to give himself a better view of the ring he was wearing. It was a pure gold wedding ring, very much like the one that his uncle or Mr. Weasley used to wear.

“Okay,” he spoke out loud. “Okay, what did Hermione say back in our third year? That terrible things had happened to wizards that interfered with time? I think that this time travel has affected me more than the one with the Time Turner.”

He looked at his reflection and saw that it was smiling back at him, a sad almost desperate smile. He touched his lips with his fingers and sensed that his mouth was still open in surprise, but he was not smiling.

I’m sorry, Harry…

“What?” asked Harry out loud, just as he did before.

I’m sorry, son. Your mother told me that it wasn’t a good idea, but I couldn’t restrain myself… 

Harry gulped, his hands dropped at his sides as he looked hopelessly at his reflection. What was happening to him? This couldn’t be real.

Why do you think that it’s not real? That I’m not real. You listened to Godric Gryffindor, and still you didn’t believe Hermione, why didn’t you, Harry? You know that we are inside the both of you, and that we are strong, but you didn’t listen to her, why?

Harry brought both his hands to his temples. He shut his eyes and for a moment he brushed against the idea of screaming and trying to close his mind, but he didn’t. He just took a deep breath and tried to understand what was happening to him. Wasn’t Gryffindor’ s explanation of any use at all to him? An idea, rather than a word formed in his mind. He tried to give voice to it, but his mouth was dry, so the only place in which he could have screamed it was his mind. Dad? he thought intensely.

Harry… Was the answer.

Is this real?

Harry, everything is real…

It looks like a dream to me.

Dreams can be more authentic than reality sometimes. Harry, why didn’t you believe Hermione? 


Harry opened his eyes wide. Why? Why? Why? Why? I don’t know…

You’ve just been warned about how the curse works, why didn’t you believe her?

I don’t know, dad… I don’t know, he thought angrily.

It’s because you didn’t hear me, James’ voice answered into his head. It’s because you didn’t hear my voice, while Hermione heard Lily’s… 


Harry gulped. And why didn’t I hear your voice while Hermione did? he asked, though he wasn’t so sure that he wanted to know. It looked almost like Hermione had a better connection with his mother than him with his father.

It’s because Hermione was trying to hinder her, she didn’t want her to take possession of her mind and of her body, she successfully pushed Lily away. While you, Harry, you wanted me to live inside of you with all your strength and that caused our souls to melt together. You didn’t fight me, Harry, you didn’t even notice that I was here… 

Harry bit his bottom lip. How stupid could he have been? His father was there, he just had to listen to him. You mean that we were like one thing? he whispered softly in his head.

Two souls, one body, one thing. Yes, one thing… And Harry, I’m sorry for what had happened in the living room two nights ago, with Lily, and I’m sorry for the dreams you are having. It’s all my fault… 

Harry fell on his knees. His breath was stiff as if the conversation with his father was taking his strength away. He still couldn’t believe it: there he was, listening to his father’s voice, talking to him, after years and years of weeping over an old moving picture of his parents, he now had the opportunity to talk to them, and all he could think of was Hermione. For a moment he cursed her, because she was always in his thoughts. Then something hit him. Dad? he called tentatively.

Harry?

You loved mum, and you still love her.

Indeed…

Do you think that you’ve passed your love for her to me?

Are you asking me if you love your mum, Harry?

No,
he answered, shaking his head a little. I’m asking you if the fact that Hermione and I became… closer, is just a reflection of yours and mum’s love, or if what I feel for her is really—you know, real… 

For a long moment no voice echoed in his head, and Harry wondered if the link with his father had disappeared all of a sudden, just like it had started out of nowhere some minutes earlier. But then his father’s voice spoke again, I don’t know, he murmured softly. I don’t know, I think that all you can do is wait for the curse to come to an end and see… 

See what?

See if you still love her…

I—love her?
asked Harry surprised, he felt his cheeks on fire.

I feel it, Harry, as much as you feel that I love your mother, I can feel that there’s love coming from you to Hermione, but if it’s real love, just a crush or just friendship, that will be up to you to find out… 

Harry nodded, and he wondered if his father could understand when he nodded and shook his head like that instead of answering out loud. He smiled softly, how could he have such silly thoughts at a moment like this? Dad?

What, Harry?

I’ve waited for so long to have a chance to see you and mum again, and now that I can speak to you, I don’t even know what to say… 

Harry felt as if someone was smiling inside his brain, it was a strange sensation, pleasant and at the same time it sent chills down his spine. Sometimes words are unnecessary… 

***

Hermione looked at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, warm tears were streaming down her cheeks, she wondered how she could still have tears to shed, she thought she had already cried all the tears she had. Her nails were digging so deeply into her hands that she could sense the blood dripping from them, mirroring her tears.

Hermione, I…

Go away!
roared Hermione in her head. Just go away and leave me alone!

I can’t go away…

Then be quiet, I don’t want your voice to drive me crazy, I can’t take it…


A pleasant silence welcomed her request. She took a deep breath and shook her head forcefully, red locks falling in front of her eyes, as if she was trying to clarify her ideas. She knew that Lily hadn’t gone away, she knew that her soul was fluctuating somewhere in her body, or in her mind; and above all Hermione knew that it wasn’t Lily’s fault that they were now sharing the same body, but she couldn’t stand hearing her voice in the back of her mind, like she had always imagined insane people might do.

She looked in the bathroom mirror. Her face was framed by a cascade of soft crimson curls, her eyes were wide open above her nose, like two emerald gemstones. She looked like a ghost, or something worse than a ghost; Helga Hufflepuff had seemed healthier than her. Helga Hufflepuff wasn’t a ghost.

Hermione glanced at her outfit, her tights were torn in several places, but she didn’t care too much, she would have thrown them away at the end of that horrible day anyway. Her skirt was dirty and her pullover was slightly unpicked over her shoulder, but still they weren’t her first concern.

She turned towards the door of the bathroom and opened it. She knew that she had to check up on Draco, and she was happy about that. She was happy and she couldn’t help feeling a wave of disgust as she walked towards the bedroom, she hated the fact that she was excited and relieved to go talk to Draco. She pushed the handle of his bedroom door down and opened it. The soft and stiff noise of Draco’s breathing was the only sound audible inside.

Hermione walked towards the bed. Draco lay there, he seemed asleep, but Hermione decided that he had already tricked her quite a lot of times with his false naps, and she wasn’t too keen to have her hands slapped by him again.

She stepped towards him and bent over his face. He was pale, even paler than her, his blond hair fell on his face untidily, and his lips were parted in the effort of breathing. He wasn’t wearing the upper part of his pyjamas, but his torso was well covered by the sheets. She placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him gently.

“Malfoy?” she called, her voice soft.

Draco shrugged her hand away, or at least he tried, but he wasn’t strong enough. “What?” he asked sleepily, and Hermione wondered if he knew where he was.

“How are you?” she questioned, taking her hand away and collapsing on the bed, next to him.

Draco’s eyes opened stiffly, and, from the sheet, he pulled one pale arm to rub them. When he fixed them on Hermione a surprised expression appeared on his face, but it was almost immediately replaced by a sneer. “Why?” he asked back.

Hermione raised her eyebrows without understanding. “Why—what?”

“Why did you wake me up?” he asked, his grey eyes a couple of slits.

Hermione rolled her eyes, now she wasn’t glad anymore to have come to talk with him, she felt annoyed. She should have known she would feel that way in record time with Draco. “Because I wanted to ask you how you were feeling,” she explained, stressing every single word and trying unsuccessfully to keep her voice calm.

Draco snorted. “Sure,” he murmured. “Then, why all the other times you just bent over me, watched me sleeping and tried to steal my necklace?”

Hermione’s mouth opened slightly. “I was—what?” she asked in disbelief. “I just wanted to be--”

“You want to talk,” Draco cut her off, a background of enjoyment in his voice.

Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but she couldn’t find anything to say, because he was right. She wanted to talk. She needed to talk. Her eyes wandered for the bedroom, she felt her cheeks on fire. How was it possible that she wanted to talk to Draco? How was it possible that she was blushing because of him?

Hermione was snapped out of her thoughts when Draco’s fingers closed around her wrist. She lowered her eyes and saw that he was looking back at her with concentration. She could feel the coldness of his hands through the fabric of her clothes, and she shivered involuntarily.

“What happened?” asked Draco.

Hermione jerked her wrist away from him. “Why should anything have happened?” she questioned, coldly.

Draco nodded towards her. “Your tights are broken, your clothes are covered in soil and your hands are bleeding. You’ve fallen, maybe you’ve fought, maybe someone has attacked you.”

Hermione shook her head and glanced at her hands, those were her fault, she rubbed them on the tights, cleaning the small amount of blood from them. “I fell, that’s all.”

“You fell down a hill?” he asked.

Hermione looked at him surprised. “I tripped,” she murmured.

“I’m wounded, not stupid,” hissed Draco. “What happened?”

“Why do you care so much?” she snapped. “What do you want me to say?”

“The truth,” hissed Draco.

“You wouldn’t believe me,” she murmured.

“Try me.”

Hermione glanced at him. Why did she have the vague sensation that he wasn’t asking her to tell him what happened just to show her what a good listener he could be? Why did she think that there was something else?

“Okay,” snapped Hermione. “Let’s see—Harry and I met Godric Gryffindor in the village cemetery, he brought us back in time more than a hundred years and showed us his murder at the hands of Salazar Slytherin, then he told us that there’s a curse on this place and now the souls of Harry’s parents are stuck inside mine and Harry’s bodies.” She grimaced at Draco, sure that he would glance back at her in disbelief.

But Draco didn’t. He joined his blond eyebrows over his eyes, and looked at Hermione as if she was giving him too much information at once. The words were still trying to sink into his brain when Hermione laughed, a shrill and melodic laugh that filled the silence around them.

“You think it’s funny,” hissed Draco, and it wasn’t a question.

Hermione shook her head and took a deep breath, as if she was trying to regain her composure. “No, I swear I don’t,” she said, trying to suppress another fit of laughter.

“You’re laughing, you think it’s funny?” repeated Draco.

Hermione shrugged, what was she supposed to say? She’d already answered him when he hadn’t asked her. “Anyway, I was right, what have I won?”

Draco raised his eyebrows without understanding. “What?”

“I told you that you won’t believe me,” she explained. “And you don’t believe me, so I won.”

“Who says I don’t believe you?” asked Draco calmly.

Hermione snorted, then she looked at him and her amusement faded away when she saw how serious he was. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Did you tell me the truth?” he questioned her.

Hermione’s lips parted in surprise, then she nodded. She raised her arm and rubbed her neck, looking everywhere but at Draco. She seized a lock of red hair and started twitching it in her fingers.

“Then why shouldn’t I believe you?” asked Draco. “You are not the kind of girl to lie.”

Hermione raised her eyebrows and she felt her heart starting to beat faster in her chest, without knowing why. “Y-you don’t even know what kind of girl I am,” she stammered, surprised.

Draco cocked an eyebrow amused. “Are you saying that you usually lie?”

“I-I don’t,” she replied. “I’m not a liar.”

“So, you don’t lie. Do you--”

“You’re clever, I’ll give you that,” she cut him off, regaining some of her self-control which seemed to constantly fail her when she was with him. “But there’s a little problem with what you just said.”

“Really, Miss Know-It-All?” murmured Draco.

“You said that I don’t lie because I’m the kind of girl that wouldn’t lie, and you said that you believe me, but since you’re the kind of boy that lies, how do I know that you aren’t lying right now?” she replied.

Draco looked at her, impressed. He knew that she was intelligent, and he was waiting exactly for some reasoning like that. “Granger, give me an example of when I’ve lied, and I’ll tell you you’re right,” he answered calmly.

Hermione lowered her eyes, trying to recollect every single moment in which she’d had the chance to listen to what Draco had said. She could remember being horrified by all his wickedness and his selfishness, but she couldn’t remember him being a liar. Not even when Harry and Ron had disguised themselves as Crabbe and Goyle and entered into the Slytherin Common Room in search of information about the heir of Slytherin, he lied. He told them that he didn’t know anything. And it was true.

“So?” he asked mockingly, snapping Hermione out of her thoughts.

She glared at him, her eyes, greener than usual, were shining with a dangerous light. “Okay, I don’t have any proof that you usually lie,” she admitted bitterly. “But I’m sure that you’re not exactly a saint, Malfoy.”

“Nobody is a saint, Granger,” he replied.

“Since when are you so wise, Malfoy?” she asked suspiciously.

“I’ve always been wise, Granger,” answered Draco with a smirk.

Hermione couldn’t hide a little smile, but it faded away almost immediately when Draco grabbed her arm again, his fingers were as hard as wood, but he didn’t have enough force to hurt her, or maybe he wasn’t even trying. This time Hermione didn’t shake his hand off of her.

“What?” asked Hermione softly.

“You have to pay attention,” murmured Draco, looking at her gravely with his grey eyes shining from the fever.

Hermione raised her eyebrows. “Attention? To what?” she asked puzzled.

“To who,” Draco corrected her.

She rolled her eyes. “To who, then?”

Draco let her go. “You said that I don’t lie, believe me for once, Granger,” he murmured.

“I didn’t say that you don’t--”

“Details,” Draco cut her off. “Just pay attention to him.”

“You mean Voldemort?” she asked, causing Draco to gasp softly with the remaining breath that he had in his body.

“The Dark Lord, yes, kind of,” he answered cryptically, he turned on the bed and grimaced in pain.

Hermione looked at him with her mouth slightly open. What was he talking about? She was friends with Harry Potter, didn’t he know that she had had to pay attention to Voldemort since her very first year at Hogwarts? And what kind of answer was that ‘kind of’? He just had to answer yes or no. Damn Draco, she thought. If he’s trying to scare me, he should think of something more effective. She lowered her eyes and decided that she wouldn’t keep arguing, or even talking, with him, it was useless and it only served to annoy her. “How are you feeling?” she asked, hoping that he would finally answer her.

Draco closed his eyes. “Like someone who has been sliced from part to--”

“—part and that doesn’t receive the right treatment from his Healer,” Hermione finished for him, snorting as she did so.

“I still don’t get why you dropped Divination, Granger, you’re a seer,” mocked Draco, sneering.

“You should change your repertoire, Malfoy, you’re a little bit too predictable,” she retorted.

“And you should take better care of me,” he replied haughtily.

Hermione rolled her eyes and stood up from the bed. “Okay, whatever,” she snapped. “When you have something serious to tell me, just let me know.”

Hermione knew that Draco half-opened his eyes and looked at her as she walked out of the bedroom and slammed the door closed behind her back, and she hoped that he was feeling a stupid brat because he had let her walk away. She hoped that he was mentally slapping himself because he hadn’t been able to restrain her from going away, and she hoped that he would have at least tried to stop in her in someway. I didn’t want him to stop me, she reminded herself hastily, No, I didn’t.

She shook her head forcefully and closed her fists at her sides. She hated Draco Malfoy. He was evil and deceitful, and he had almost succeeded in killing Dumbledore. She had to remember that.

She walked briskly towards the stairs and climbed down them. She wondered what was the time, because she really had no idea. She wasn’t hungry, after all the things that had happened to her that day, the last thing she could think about at that moment was food, but it must have surely been around noon.

She mentally slapped herself. I could have asked Draco if he was hungry at all, she thought, feeling suddenly self-centred. For a moment she considered the idea of turning on her heels and going back upstairs to ask Draco if he wanted something to eat. She wondered how he could still be alive with the tiny amount of food that he swallowed every day. The potions I’m giving him must be really powerful, that or they are very well done, she thought and a small grin of satisfaction curled her lips.

“What are you smiling about?”

That sentence had come out of nowhere and Hermione’s heart had jumped in her chest. She raised her eyes and focused them on the boy that was standing in front of her. Ron. He smiled a cold and vaguely malicious smile, and his dark eyes narrowed as he locked them on her features.

“I asked you what are you smiling about?” he repeated slowly, and Hermione felt as if that sentenced could have ended with a ‘soon you won’t find anything to smile about’.

She opened her mouth to reply, but she actually couldn’t find anything to tell him. In that split second she had forgotten why she was smiling. “Nothing,” she answered. Her eyes travelled over his face, he was pale, and there were rings around his eyes, as if he hadn’t slept enough the past few days. His clothes were all worn out, and covered with dirt, and they were the same that he’d been wearing all week. She felt like hadn’t seen him in ages. Then she remembered that he had come back only that very morning, and that she hadn’t had the chance to ask him where he had been. She thought that maybe this was the right moment.

“Ron,” she started tentatively. “Where have you been?”

Ron tilted his head and blinked, as if he didn’t understand her question, or better, he didn’t understand why she was asking him this at that very moment. “When?” he asked, sounding naïve.

Hermione frowned. “Yesterday night,” she replied, then she stopped. He wasn’t home even when she had come back an hour before. “And now.”

“I’m here now, Hermione,” he answered, acting as if he was amused by all her preoccupation.

“I meant before now,” responded Hermione. “You weren’t home when I came back.”

“I went looking for you,” Ron answered as if it was the most normal thing in the world. He took a step towards her, slowly and tentatively, as if he wanted to see if she would stay there or if she would back away.

And she backed away. Hermione didn’t know why, but she took a step back. “You didn’t know where we were,” she pointed out, apprehension in her voice. She hoped that Ron hadn’t found them. She hoped that Ron hadn’t witnessed the kiss that Harry had stolen from her.

“I knew,” he answered with a sly grin. “Malfoy told me.”

Hermione let out a despaired sigh. “You came to the cemetery,” she murmured, and it wasn’t a question.

Ron’s lips straightened, closing in a thin line, and his eyes became even smaller and darker. “Well spotted, Miss Granger,” he answered mockingly, and she knew that he hadn’t used those words at random. She really had spotted him in the cemetery, the boy running up the hill that she saw in the distance.

“Ron, I--”

“Did you enjoy it?” Ron asked her dryly. He took another step towards her.

Hermione backed again. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t exactly feel like standing too close to Ron at that moment. Hell I don’t know why, she thought, I don’t want my skin to get covered in blisters again.
Ron stopped and his muscles tensed up around his shoulders. “Why are you backing away?”

Hermione opened her mouth, but she was sure that whatever she was going to tell him it wouldn’t make him very happy at all, she decided that it was better for her to keep him calm. Am I afraid of Ron? “Why do you keep on stepping forward?” she asked him back.

Ron sneered with mirth, but he didn’t answer. He could sense a vague feeling of fear coming from Hermione, and he liked it. He loved to be feared, especially by her. He wasn’t sure when these creepy thoughts had surfaced in him, but now he couldn’t help feeling good as she opened her eyes wide and looked at him with alarm.

“I’m sure you didn’t question Harry when he got closer to you,” he hissed, and he took another step towards her.

Hermione stepped back, her back crashed against the railing of the stairs. Now she knew that there wasn’t much that she could do if Ron got even closer than he already was. She raised her eyes to him, and he smirked. Naturally he’d known that the railing was there and he had just been waiting for her to go crashing against it.

Hermione gulped. What was she supposed to say to him? That it was just a spell? That she didn’t kiss Harry, and Harry didn’t kiss her? That they were Lily and James? All that story sounded weird even to her, who had been given explanations about the curse from none other than Gryffindor himself, what would Ron think if she started to tell him all that stuff?

“Ron, it’s not what it looks like,” she started. “Harry and I—we never--”

Ron took another step towards her, he was so close that now Hermione could have counted the freckles on his nose, if only she was interested in that. She pushed herself against the railing, and the iron fit between her shoulder blades.

“You never?” he asked coldly.

She had stopped because she didn’t know what to say, and also because Ron had advanced again. She could feel his hot breath on her forehead, his dark eyes piercing her through and through, as if he was able to perform Occlumency on her.

“You never, Hermione?” he asked again more heatedly. His left arm grabbed the railing, right next to her ear, she could sense the warmth coming from his skin and she hoped that he couldn’t feel her hotness. She hoped she wasn’t blushing, and if she was, she hoped he couldn’t see her.

“We never—we never--” She tried to look for the words that she knew she couldn’t say, because it wasn’t true that they never…

Ron bent his head forward. “Can you lie to me, Hermione?” he whispered into her ear.

She tilted her head. “We just--”

“—kissed,” he finished for her, making that word fall in her ear as if it was a drop of poison.

Hermione locked her eyes on his and this time she couldn’t be fooled by the light or anything, his irises were red. He sneered and lowered his head towards her, his eyes half-closed and his face inclined. Was he going to kiss her?

She raised a hand and placed it on his chest, pushing him backwards. “Ron, what are you doing?” she asked, and she hoped that her voice wasn’t shaking so much.

Ron didn’t answer. He let the railing go and put his arm on Hermione’s shoulder, causing her to get closer to him. He felt the pressure of her hand increasing on his chest and knew that Hermione was trying to push him away.

“Ron, no! Wait,” she pleaded, her voice trembling. She thrust against Ron’s chest with all her force, her right hand pushing at his torso while her left one on his shoulder. She grabbed spasmodically for his tee-shirt, near his neck.

“You didn’t ask Harry to stop, though,” he hissed. “And I’m sure you wouldn’t refuse a kiss even to Malfoy.”

Hermione stopped pushing at him as he caught her right upper arm and her left wrist in his hands, his fingers like iron on her limbs, the coldness of his digits was almost painful on her skin. She bent her knees and struggled to free herself. With Harry in the cemetery it had worked, but she was sure that Harry would have let her go anyway.

“Ron, wait,” she half screamed. “What do you want to do?”

“Isn’t it clear, Mudblood?” he asked her, tightening the grip on her arms. And at the beginning he thought that his mighty grip had caused her strength to decrease, making her stop struggling; but from the way she looked up at him, she had stopped because of the way he had addressed her.

“Ron—what--” she murmured crestfallen.

Ron seemed to stag a little as the evidence of what he was going to do hit him, his eyes changed into blue, and his expression softened. But it lasted less than a minute, and then his irises turned red again and they glanced coldly at Hermione.

Then, without notice, he turned and threw Hermione on the floor of the living room, she landed with a shriek due to the surprise rather than the pain. He stared down at her for what seemed like ages, then he started to walk towards where she was like a wild beast would do with its prey.

And Hermione knew only one thing, if she was the prey she would make it bloody difficult for him to get her.

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