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Author's Note: Here is Chapter 7. I know the wait has been almost a month, but this is already pretty good for me! Besides, the turnaround in this chapter should make up for it. =]

          After a sleepless night, Hermione wandered through the rest of the next day, the stupor of the previous day not wearing off no matter how hard she tried to pay attention in class. This was especially hard in Double Transfiguration, which she had with the Slytherins. Between staring dazedly at her textbook, not taking in a single word of what she was reading, and sneaking covert glances at Draco Malfoy the Slytherin arsehole, Hermione felt a vague urge to start crying.

         And it didn’t help that Professor McGonagall kept on shooting concerned looks at her, either.

          Hermione let out a shaky breath as she yanked her eyes away from Draco once more. She had thought life was strange and complicated before, what with Hogwarts and magic and Voldemort and the Order…but at least friends had stayed friends and enemies had stayed enemies. At least good and evil had been as clearly defined as day and night.

          “Now I can’t even go to sleep without seeing that git,” Hermione muttered to herself.

          “What?” Ron asked hurriedly from beside her, looking supremely concerned, as he had all day. He was still under the impression that Hermione had been hiding in her dormitory for all of yesterday and the day before. And because of what had transpired at supper last night, he was beginning to suspect that Malfoy had something to do with it.

          Ron sat waiting, hoping for an answer that would confirm that yes, indeed Hermione was still alive and well.

          Hermione glanced over at him. “Did you…say something, Ron?” she asked slowly.

          Ron sighed and patted her on the shoulder with as reassuring an expression as he could muster. “Don’t worry about it.”

          While everyone else in her dormitory was fast asleep the previous night, Hermione had sat wide awake, staring out of the window at the Hogwarts grounds. She was definitely back at Hogwarts, with no disturbance. Could it be possible she imagined the whole thing?

          But Draco had known what she was talking about, despite what he had said to his fellow Slytherins. He had told her that it was only a dream.

          “Too bad humans can’t interact with each other in their dreams,” she grumbled under her breath. “Blows your theory wide open, doesn’t it?”

          Hermione glowered at the cluster of green-robed Slytherins sitting across the room, as if staring would make Draco turn around. This time, Ron didn’t even bother asking. He just shook his head and continued taking notes.

          “If only you would get up off your high horse and help me figure this damn thing out!” Hermione said in exasperation, slamming her hand down on the table.

          McGonagall raised an eyebrow. “Miss Granger? Is something wrong?”

          Titters rose from the Slytherin bunch, and Hermione’s cheeks went red. She noticed that the only platinum blond head in the room carefully avoided looking back at her. “No, nothing,” she murmured, ducking her head.

          “Good,” said McGonagall, frowning.

          “Did I really say that out loud?” Hermione whispered to Ron a moment later.

          “Yeah,” Ron admitted. “You’re a little out of it, aren’t you? What do you need help figuring out?”

          Hermione was silent for a while, wondering what to tell him. Finally she said slowly, “It was only a…a dream I had, that’s all. Nothing more.”

          And she wanted to believe that was true, oh, she really did. But her damned logical mind just wouldn’t accept something so illogical, even just this once. Even in magical terms it didn’t make sense.

          “Well, Mr. Malfoy?”

          Draco’s head shot up from its position propped up on his hand. “Er—sorry Professor, I didn’t catch that. What?”

          “Mr. Malfoy, I would appreciate it if you paid attention while I was speaking,” McGonagall said sternly. “I asked you if you knew the proper wand-work for the Class 3 Animal Transfiguration…”

          Hermione stopped listening again.

          “No, I do not,” Draco replied lazily, with a tone that implied, and neither do I care.

          As soon as McGonagall turned to someone else, Draco’s thoughts began to wander again. Honestly, he had been doing nothing but trying to figure out that cursed dream since it happened. The one with the island, and Granger, and the bananas…

          How could Granger—Hermione—have had the same dream with him in it? Was that even possible?

          Draco yawned. He had not slept a wink the night before, half because of all the things running through his head, and half because he was afraid that if he did fall asleep, he would be trapped back on the island again. He had strange thoughts like that sometimes, feelings his intuition gave him that other people would call superstition and paranoia. But weird feelings or not, he still had to sleep again sometime in his life, and he was beginning to feel tired again. Thank Merlin supper was after Transfiguration.

          Draco felt someone poke him in the back. He turned around, forgetting about his strict rule of not placing himself in Hermione’s line-of-sight, which he had imposed on himself since last night. It was Blaise.

          “Yeah?” Draco muttered. “What?”

          His best mate was looking very perturbed. “Listen to what Pansy just told me. Ever since last night at supper she and the girls have been watching Granger.” He paused to waggle his eyebrows at a very unimpressed Draco.

          In fact, he was more than unimpressed. He was absolutely terrified that his friends had found out about his dream, and his stomach was already squirming at the very mention of Hermione.

          But Blaise continued on. “She says Granger’s been looking at you this whole class, when she thinks nobody’s watching. And muttering under her breath.”

          Draco frowned. “So?” he demanded.

          “So!” Blaise whispered. “Either she’s gone stark raving mad, mate, or she fancies you!” The grin that had been fighting to ruin his serious expression finally won over, and Blaise began to snicker.

          “I don’t see what’s so funny about that,” Draco said coldly, and immediately Blaise was quiet. Draco began to turn back around in his seat, but paused to add, “And besides, you should know that it’s not true. Pansy’s just making stuff up again for shits and giggles.”

          Blaise hunched over his textbook as McGonagall looked their way and said no more. The Slytherin king was back.

          “Yeah,” Draco sighed quietly to himself. It was a disaster averted. A crisis stopped right in its tracks. A catastrophe uprooted and stomped on before it could take hold.

          He scanned the room to see if anyone had heard him and Blaise talking, but nobody seemed to care. His gaze wandered aimlessly around until it locked with Hermione’s, sitting all the way in the corner next to the Weasel. Her normally bright brown eyes were dull with bewilderment, and with a twinge of guilt Draco knew that he had caused some of that confusion. But it was no coincidence that they were looking at each other now. She had been watching him, too.

          After a few awkward moments, they wrenched their gazes free of the other’s and looked back down at their books.

          After supper, as the other students swarmed outside to enjoy the evening, to the library to do homework, or to their respective common rooms, Draco decided to head straight to bed. He was exhausted, after all.

          But thinking about going to bed and actually convincing himself to do it were two completely different things. He was terrified that if he allowed himself to fall asleep, not only would he have to return to the island for an indefinite amount of time (for he still did not know how he had been awakened), but he would also probably have to face…Hermione.

          And after the way he acted to her in the Great Hall, it was the last thing he wanted. He was ashamed.

          Draco shook his head, irritated at himself. What the bloody hell has gotten into you? he asked himself. Afraid of sleeping, afraid of Granger, afraid of a damn dream…you’re a Malfoy for Merlin’s sake!

          “Malfoys don’t get ashamed,” he grumbled aloud as he flung himself on his bed. “They don’t get afraid, either. If I wanna sleep, that’s what I’m bloody well gonna do.”

          Just then Theo Nott came walking into the dormitory. He looked around, but saw nobody but Draco.

          “Erm…who’re you talking to, mate?” he asked cautiously.

          “Huh?” Draco sat up quickly. “I didn’t say anything. What are you imagining now, Nott?” he smirked.

          Nott frowned. “Never mind,” he said, and began to shovel through his hopelessly messy trunk in an attempt to find something. “Why are you going to bed so early anyway?”

          “’Cause I’m tired,” Draco said shortly. He didn’t bother elaborating. But as he sat there, watching Nott fumble his way through his possessions ungracefully, he was struck with an ingenious idea to ease his worries. “Hey, Nott, can you do me a favor?”

          “Uh, yeah. What do you need?”

          Draco drew the curtains around his bed and slumped back down onto his pillow. “If I don’t wake up the same time as the rest of you tomorrow, wake me up, okay?”

          “Okay,” came the reply, before the door to the dormitory clicked shut and Draco was alone again.

          He took a deep breath and let it out. “Here we go again,” he muttered to himself as he closed his eyes. Before long, he was fast asleep.

          Meanwhile, in the Gryffindor common room, Hermione was fighting back huge yawns. Ginny Weasley looked at her friend in concern. “Didn’t sleep well last night, ‘Mione?” she asked, frowning. Hermione’s strange behavior of late had not escaped her notice.

          Hermione shook her head morosely. “No…I think I’m just gonna give up on this”—she pushed her Potions book away—“and go to bed.”

          Ginny shrugged. “Whatever suits you,” she said. She gave Hermione a shove towards the staircase. “Hope you feel better tomorrow.”

          Hermione sighed. “Yeah, me too.”

          After hauling herself up the stairs and changing laboriously into her pajamas, she flopped into bed, feeling utterly exhausted. She didn’t even remember losing consciousness and dropping off into sleep, but after a while she registered the feeling of something tickling the bottom of her foot, and her senses leaped to full alertness in an instant.

          Hermione didn’t even need to open her eyes. Just by the strength of the heat of the sun upon her skin and the smell of the light breeze, she could tell.

          “Here we go again,” she grumbled as she braced herself for the inevitable and opened her eyes.

          “I can’t believe it,” Hermione declared vehemently. “This is absolutely ridiculous, that out of all the two-faced, inconsiderate, hypocritical prats in the world, I have to be stuck with you,” she spat in disgust. Once again, she had run into Draco Malfoy on the island.

          The real difference was that this time, they had both been creeping about the forest in hopes of not meeting each other again. No such luck.

          “I already told you again and again,” Draco protested in frustration, “that I’m sorry! I didn’t think about what I was saying while I was saying it, and afterwards I wanted to take it back.”

          Neither of them had been surprised upon arriving on the island once more. Draco, at least, was assured that in case he could not wake up in the morning he had Nott there to do it for him. But he decided not to tell that to Hermione, in case it made her nervous. Once he awoke tomorrow morning, he could go to the Gryffindor tower and wake her up himself.

          Draco held up his hands helplessly, and Hermione turned away. “It’s all the same with you men,” she grumbled. “You never think at the time, and afterwards you take it back.”

          Draco wanted to argue, but it was impossible. She was right, and he knew it. “Hermione,” he sighed, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder.

          She spun around, her shoulder feeling warm where he touched her. “I don’t know what you want from me, Malfoy,” she said quietly. She wouldn’t admit to him that he had made such an impact on her emotions. She felt like he had just broken her heart, though he had done nothing of the sort. “We could stand here and argue forever—Merlin knows we’ve wasted enough time already—but what’s the point? The chance to be friends is gone now. Just leave me alone.”

          Draco’s hand slid off of her, and as quickly as it had been there it was gone. He yawned. “I—I just want to sleep with you,” he said resignedly.

          Hermione’s eyes widened, and she glared at him. “What?”

          “Wait!” he cried, a blush coloring his cheeks bright red. “That’s not—what—not at all what I meant to say!” he stuttered in humiliation. “It just sort of…came out wrong…”

          Hermione frowned. “Then what is it you meant to say?”

          “I was yawning, and tired,” Draco said, struggling to get his thoughts out coherently. He had never been so embarrassed in his life, and now he was even having trouble putting sentences together. “And I meant I was tired—I wanted to go to sleep, but I thought it was…it was better if you—we slept together, you know, like, in the same place, because we don’t know this island and it could be dangerous…”

          He trailed off, pressing cold hands to his burning face. Perhaps it was better if he stopped talking altogether, he thought. Then, to his surprise, Hermione giggled.

          “Oh, Draco,” she gasped, holding her side and trying to suppress her laughter with no success. “Did you—did you just…?”

          “It’s not funny,” he grumbled gruffly, beginning to feel defensive. “Stop laughing at me.”

          At this, Hermione made an effort to sober up. “I’m sorry,” she said, and actually meant it. “I didn’t mean to poke fun. It’s just…saying something like that, making a mistake and then being embarrassed by it…” she trailed off, trying to make sense of her thoughts. “It makes you seem more real, more human.”

          Draco pulled a stern face. “And what did I seem like to you before, a hippogriff?”

          Hermione smiled. “No. I don’t know what, but not a hippogriff.”

          She looked up at Draco’s face, the same pale complexion that it always was now that his blush had faded. He glanced down to meet her gaze and his stormy grey eyes locked on hers for the second time that day. Hermione suddenly felt all of her muscles freeze, and Draco wasn’t moving, either.

          A moment later, she shook the strange feeling away, instead closing the distance between them in a hug. “I forgive you,” she mumbled into his shirt.

          Draco locked his arms around her, squeezing hard. “I’m so sorry,” he said again. He didn’t feel like releasing her, but after a few seconds she seemed to realize that they were still in each other’s arms, and began to move away.

          In that awkward moment after the hug was over and before they had quite detangled themselves, Draco decided that there was definitely something in the tropical air that was making them both delirious. Perhaps it was the humidity, or maybe the blazing sun. It could even be that salty tang of the ocean that he could smell in the wind. But this was not normal behavior for Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger.

          “Maybe we should just go to bed,” Hermione muttered, taking several large steps away from Draco.

          “I’m not tired anymore,” he said quietly. “I don’t mind just sitting here.” She looked at him in surprise, and it took all of his willpower not to literally clamp a hand over his own mouth. It was as if somebody else had taken possession of his mouth and was saying things that he himself did not mean to say.

          So they sat in comfortable silence for a while, listening to the birds in the forest and the rustle of leaves. Hermione trailed a finger through the dirt.

          “What would your friends say if they saw you now?” she asked dryly after a while. “The Slytherin king is hanging out with the Mudblood.”

          Draco cringed at her use of the word. “Don’t say that,” he said forcefully. “It just reminds me of how harsh it sounds when you’re not the one using it.”

          Silence descended again, and Hermione contemplated this small insight into how conflicted Draco really was. There were two entirely different people fighting inside of him, and it seemed that this island brought forth the alienated side, the side he rarely showed in life.

          Swallowing a lump in her throat, Hermione got up and walked over to where Draco was sitting, staring at the horizon, which was now lit with early dusk. She patted his knee in a small, hesitant gesture.

          “It’s okay,” she said. “I understand.”

          He shook his head morosely. "All of your friends have accepted you, every part of you,” Draco whispered. “And if you changed into something else now, we’d all hate it.”

          Hermione began to say something, then paused. “We?

          “Yeah,” Draco said, “you didn’t think I was included?”

          “I don’t know.” Hermione had thought she’d known everything about Hogwarts life, but now it seemed to her that she was uncertain about everything. It felt awful, but wonderful at the same time…

          A strange tingle in her stomach brought her attention back to the sunset and the scene before her. Draco had slipped his hand over hers as it lay there in the sand, and as much as she wanted to move it, she found that she absolutely could not. But before long, the urge to run away had faded and she could feel her fingers welding into his.

          “You make me want to be someone different,” he commented casually, as if the intimate contact that was making Hermione melt did nothing to him.

          “Really,” she said. She was not so amazed.

          At this point, Draco was not even questioning his judgment or the words coming out of his mouth. Instead of feeling like somebody else was controlling his body, as he had before, there was now a distinct sensation within him that felt like he was shedding a skin, dropping a burden. This island was a different world than the one where Old Draco thrived.

          “It won’t be easy,” Hermione warned him, as if reading his thoughts.

          He squeezed her hand. “Will you be there to remind me?” he asked.

          Hermione smiled at him. The sun was sinking into the ocean in a blaze of glorious red and pink that made the water flash with bright orange reflections. They sat there and watched, hands entwined in the sand, and as night descended Hermione yawned heavily and leaned against Draco’s shoulder. But before she could even close her eyes, he released her hand and lay down on the beach with his sweater for a pillow, and her head dropped onto his chest and stayed there. His arm had curled around her waist protectively against danger.

Author's Note: Only a few chapters left! I hope you take a little time to let me know what you thought of this chapter, and this story in general. I really appreciate anything you have to say! =]

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