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Hate, Prejudice and Secret Intentions by Rebekka
Chapter 17 : Nightmare Game, Part One
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 11

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A/N: It's possible that I'm always going to be late in life. Anyway, here is the first part of the last chapter of Hate, Prejudice and Secret Intentions - my little baby. I've decided to post this now, even though the second part isn't finished yet. I'm going to keep pressuring myself to write it though. It will be up very soon.

Also, Hermione really is an adult in this story. She's eighteen. I'm warning you. There's a bit of violence and torture here. I'm not getting too graphic, because it's not allowed on this site, but it can be disturbing at times. Voldemort is evil. Period.

The chapter picture is the handiwork of lovely melihobbit.



Nightmare Game, Part One

Two people walked past the Great Hall of Hogwarts, purposefully heading for the main entrance. Only one of them could actually move; the other could only hope that one day, he would get his body back. Now, he was a prisoner inside his own mind, locked in a safe room, unable to do anything but curse their lack of knowledge.

Amadeus had been so sure that Voldemort could do only minor things with Draco's body. So frigging sure. It was completely useless to cry now that he was striding towards the Forbidden Forest where Hermione and Ron were gathering potions ingredients with Hagrid - completely oblivious of everything they had been planning for the past two weeks. Professor Snape had wiped their minds, giving them false memories to replace the ones that could jeopardize their plan. All he could do was hope that Hagrid could hold Voldemort off long enough for Harry to give the antidote to Amadeus. They needed his magical aura back.

The plan had gone haywire the moment Voldemort had shown no interest towards Snape's actions, and had stormed out of the door, making it clear that he had a plan of his own. The only thing that could stop Voldemort was Amadeus, alive and well.

Ten minutes. They could survive ten minutes, couldn't they?

Hermione will think it's me. The thought hit him like a troll's hammer. She didn't know. It was his face, his voice, his hands... Painful images of torture, blood and tears filled his mind, shaking him to the core. Fucking bastard. The insane black magician was going to rip her to shreds - and he could do nothing to stop it.

He looked around his prison, hating the two armchairs and the small tea table that looked too friendly and warm. He wanted to destroy the fire place that was his link to the mad man, his way of controlling the thoughts that reach his enemy, the leach. It had felt so safe when he created it, when Hermione had created it not so long ago in the Blue Room. It had been their safe haven from the Guardians. Now it was just a hole. It was nothing but a shrine of desperation. He was trapped. And the insanity of Voldemort was pouring all over him, suffocating any and all rational thoughts. Draco tried to block most of Voldemort's thoughts, but wasn't very successful at it. The other wizard was too strong, too heavy, too happy.

Voldemort chuckled as he followed the form of his Patronus - a dog that could trace all smells. He had been planning this all along. The only reason he had decided to invade Draco's body was to kill Hermione Granger. Ronald Weasley was a rather nice bonus, but the main target was Ms. Know-It-All. Voldemort had finally learned that Harry Potter loved his friends. Killing one or two of them would hurt the boy magnificently. He was very pleased with himself; he had trusted the right man. Snape had done his part and now Dumbledore and Amadeus were dead. He could wreck havoc in Scotland, and nobody would be there to stop him. Hogwarts was going to be his pet project. First, he would make living statues out of all the professors...

Draco shook his head, driving away the images of his stone-faced teachers. How could he keep his sanity while listening to the crazy wizard? Only thing that kept him from completely panicking was the fact that he needed his wits when they finally reached Hermione and Ron. He had to be able to think.

Only three minutes had passed since Voldemort had occupied his mind. They would still have to endure seven. Draco hoped that Hermione and the others had gone further into the woods, making it harder for the ugly mut to find them. He hoped and wished, fingers crossed.

Voldemort would kill her. He wouldn't wait. He wouldn't play. He would just kill her. Avada Kedavra and it would all be over. She was going to die, her beautiful hair all bloody and her warm brown eyes dead as the rock beneath her. She would die.

Draco ran his fingers through his hair, trying to direct his thoughts to something other than her dead eyes, trying to see that they still had a chance. Someone could do something. Hagrid was there. The stupid giant could do something to save her. He could be brave. Draco shivered inside out, falling on the floor, boneless, helpless. She would die.

"Are you there, little boy? Do I have to force you to show me yourself?"


He didn't know what to say. He had never liked talking to the monster, but now he had no choice. He wrote on a parchment, "Why are you here?" and then burned it in the fire, sending the thought to Voldemort just as Amadeus had instructed him.

"Bold, are we? I'm here to greet your unwisely chosen girlfriend. I must tell you, your father is most disappointed in you. He asked me to... destroy you before I leave your healthy young body."

"She's not my girlfriend!" He wrote again, sending a bit of anger with the message as well.

"But still, you know who I'm talking about. I can feel your poor anxious heart even though you are hiding. How did you manage to create that little room?"

Amadeus had been wrong about everything. Voldemort wasn't supposed to notice that he was hiding. He wasn't supposed to be aware of any of the magic inside him. "I didn't forget the initiation, the Soul Ripper," he lied. "I knew you would come some day. I'm not going to let you invade my personal mind."

Draco could feel Voldemort claw around the boundaries of the room. "You!" That one word held so much hatred that it pushed Draco on his knees. He couldn't even lift his head. He was bowing. The bastard could make him do such a thing even when he was in his shelter. How long would the walls hold his thoughts?

Then the pressure was gone, and Voldemort turned his focus back on the dog that was leading them into the forest. Draco sighed in relief. It was unbelievable how powerful the dark wizard was. His mind was like iron, unyielding and merciless.

"What are you going to do?" Draco asked with another parchment, knowing that he would not get an answer. Voldemort was furious with him. He had escaped twice already; first the Soul Ripper and now this. It seemed to make the Dark Lord feel incompetent. He could kill his incompetent underlings, but killing himself was... well, it fought against all his beliefs. Incompetence was just something he had to learn to accept in himself.

Voldermort slowed his pace suddenly, walking among the trees, carefully avoiding open space. Then he cast a silencing spell around himself, and Draco realized that he could hear Hagrid's thundering voice already. They were so close.

He scribbled quickly, messily, "What is your plan?" and burned the text. Merlin, let her survive.

"Close your mouth, boy. I'm going to show you glory."

"There's no glory in killing people!" Draco was starting to lose his grip on the last strings of his rational mind. Even Hermione's voice could be heard now, her telling Ron what that precise ingredient would do to the Solidification Potion.

"That is a matter of perspective."

Why had he ever thought that he would like to see Hermione die? Why had he ever said that aloud? His own words haunted him now: "I hope I'm there to gloat when they kill you... slowly and painfully." He had really said that to her - and really meant it at the time. God damn it. He hit the fireplace with tight fists, cursing aloud... he... would... lose... her...

"See how young she is? See how oblivious she is? Isn't that just glorious?"

"No," he screamed, writing the word over and over and over again. Please.

They sneaked closer, Voldemort vanquishing his Patronus to make sure that they would go unseen.

Hermione was grouching nearby, digging some twigs from under the thin snow cover. Further away, Ron was talking with Hagrid, their faces bright and relaxed as the December breeze tugged their cloaks. The scene was so peaceful, no cracks in that beautiful frame.

Draco screamed as loudly as he could, willing for Hermione to hear him. He didn't care about the words, he just screamed, hopelessness enveloping him. Voldemort laughed, the kind of laugh that made it clear that your fate was not in your hands anymore.

All of a sudden, Hermione stood, looking around and walking backwards, seemingly worried. Her brown eyes were sharp and watchful.

"What is it?" Ron hollered, noticing Hermione's odd behaviour. He had a basket in one hand, but the other was already reaching for his wand. "D'you see something? The bloody spiders for sure..."

"It's nothing... I think. I just thought I heard something." She continued to stare at the place where Voldemort stood, just behind a tree, just behind a veil of disguise. "I suppose we should head back soon. This basket is almost full, too," she added, taking her wand out of her sleeve. Just in case.

Hagrid smiled, waving at her, "Yeh come back now, Hermione. It's gettin' dark as well."

After one more glance at the source of her worries, she turned her back on their worst enemy and quickly walked to Hagrid and Ron's side. "Let's go, boys," she said cheerfully.

All his life, Draco Malfoy had thought that he was more important than anyone else. His mother had indulged him. His father had taught him Things even when he was just a child. At school, people had worshipped him (only Potter and his groupies had made life difficult for him). In other words, Draco Malfoy deserved more than most people.

At that moment, he realized how very wrong he had been.

Voldemort moved from behind the tree, walking slowly towards the group of three. He moved like a wild predator, hunting, ready to leap. His eyes were focused, his mouth a straight line of concentration. Draco Malfoy's features revealed absolutely nothing about the inner insanity of his existence.

Draco wanted to close his eyes, shut the world out, make it all go away. Instead, he sat on the wooden floor, hugging himself, staring. The world seemed to be full of details. He could even spot a tiny snowflake on Hermione's shoulder. How pretty.


She turned, her brown curls framing her sweet face. Her rosy cheeks made her look energetic as she smiled, taking a step closer. "Oh, it's you. I'm... It's... You're here?" She sounded puzzled.

Ron moved to stand next to Hermione, crossing his arms as though he was her guard. "Why, would be the question?"

Voldemort grinned with Draco's mouth, moving closer to Hermione, whispering to her ear, "I have a present for you." He touched her neck with two fingers, tracing her collarbone under the cloak. She sighed, not encouraging but not turning away either.

"Get off her!" Ron pushed Draco as hard as he could, hoping that the blond boy would fall down. He didn't. Instead, he seemed to move faster than the eye could see, grabbing Ron's left hand behind his back and pushing the boy down on his knees. Ron howled in pain.

"Boys... That ain't the way ter play." Hagrid said, landing his huge hand on Voldemort's shoulder. "Yeh just relax, Mr. Malfoy." That was a mistake.

To Draco's horror, Voldemort revealed his wand, pointing it at the giant's chest. "You relax!" he snapped, transfiguring Hagrid into a cockroach. Draco realised that Voldemort had been stalling the situation, trying to figure out how to get rid of the giant. Avada Kedavra wasn't enough and neither were many of the other conventional curses. Transfiguration was one of the few subcategories of spell making that didn't rely on the size or the race of the target. Not that much anyway.

Hermione grabbed Voldemort's hand next, her eyes worried, questioning. "Draco, what's wrong? Please, let them go. This is not what you want." That distracted the dark wizard long enough for Hagrid the cockroach to flee before he was squashed. Otherwise their predicament was getting worse with each step. Five minutes was enough for Voldemort to kill both Ron and Hermione and then focus all his energy on destroying Draco, just as he had promised.

Draco tried to get into the Colour of Magick so he could warn Hermione, but he needed the control of his whole mind to do that. Not even Hermione's hand on his helped him. The girl was out of his reach. He felt like his mind was turning into crystal. Nothing seemed to work anymore. Everything happened in slow motion and he could only follow, not think.

"Please, let go of him," Hermione said with a tone of someone who cares deeply of everyone in her small world. "Please."

"She's a sweetie, don't you think? Can you hear the blood bounding in her ears? She's afraid of you. Your girl fears you. That's the way to go, boy. Teach them their place, begging for mercy at your feet."

"Get away from her!" Draco screamed, burning parchment after parchment in the fire. "Let her go!"

"Why? Is she that important to you? Are you not a Malfoy, a Pureblood whose ancestors would turn in their graves if they saw you now? Weeping because of a Mudblood. You deserve no mercy. You deserve it even less than her. You discrace. You bloodtraitor... I never wanted you."

The last part scared Draco more than anything else. This was a revenge? That's why Hermione was the main target. Voldemort didn't just want her dead, he wanted her to suffer.

"Now, watch!"

Voldemort stepped back, releasing Ron, giving him room to stand up and turn to face him. Hermione started to smile, but then shocked disbelief crawled its way on her face, making her look like she was about to throw up. The person she loved had just magically ripped open her best friend. Ron was lying face down on the snowy ground, blood pooling around him.

In Draco's opinion the white-red display looked like macabre art, and he just couldn't stop staring. He couldn't look at Hermione. Not like this, not behind the eyes that had just decided which part of the human body would bleed the most.

"Expelliarmus!" Hermione screamed, teary-eyed but angry - more angry than Draco had ever seen her. She seemed almost cold, deadly. Hardly a sweet girl who loved everyone. Her face was distorted with hatred. She didn't wait for Voldemort to take in the turn of events but rammed herself against him, pushing him to the ground. She sat on top of him, and pointed her wand against his neck. "Move, and I'll kill you," she said with an edge in her voice that spoke volumes. She was dead serious.

"Now, now, aren't we feisty," Voldemort chuckled, admiration in his voice. The girl was almost like young Bella. Maybe she could be turned as well. Too bad she was tainted by Muggle blood

Hermione pushed her wand harder against Draco's throat. "Shut up! I'm this close... I'll kill you."

Voldemort tried knocking her off of him, not being too serious about it. "No you won't. You would have done it already." At ease, he lay underneath her, smiling. "You lead now."

"Who are you?" Hermione cried. "What happened to you? Why? I thought..."

"You thought what?" he interrupted. "That I cared? That I loved you? Please. A Mudblood like you could never make me feel a thing. You are a key, dear. Key to the heart of one Harry Potter. Key to win the favour of Lord Voldemort. Nothing else. You are the key to my glory." He laughed a mirthless laugh, mindless if you asked any sane person.

"Watch her face. She believes it. Look at her eyes, those big brown eyes. She's in sweet pain."

"Please stop. I'll do anything. I'll come with you. I'll do anything you want. I'll be anything you need me to be. Just let her go." Draco begged, crawled at his Master's feet, asking for mercy.

"Too late."

With one quick motion he pushed himself and the girl up, crushing her against a tree, summoning his wand. "Now, we stop playing. You die."

Draco could see that Hermione's fighting spirit had died already. Her wand slipped from her grasp and her eyes turned inward. She looked like a fragile doll. With all his power, with all the power of the Colour of Magick, he reached for her, reached for the link that still pulsated between them. Don't give up! Hermione, please. Don't give up!

She didn't stir, didn't move, didn't make a sound. She had lost too much.

Binding her to the tree, Voldemort took a moment to admire his handiwork. Hagrid was out of the game, Ronald Weasley was dead, and Hermione Granger, the intriguing Mudblood, was next on his menu. She was a strange one, coloured with emotions and responsibilities. Her heart seemed strong, almost as though she was an ancient warrior. It was a pity that she was so worthless otherwise.

"I want you to be awake." Voldemort pointed his wand at Hermione's right temple, healing her strained mind. "Be awake." He touched her lips with his thumb, entering her mouth.

"You know, this is the first time in years that I have a fully functional body."

Hearing those words made Draco's stomach flip over. Parts of his mind shattered, leaving him lying on the floor in a fetal position. He could not... endure... this...

Voldemort leaned against Hermione, kissing her cheek softly, running his hands up her sides. "She could be tasty."

The girl was awake again, quickly reacting to the situation, biting Voldemort's cheek, growling in anger. Her eyes were blazing. "Let go of me, you spineless worm!" She spat out blood, his blood.

Slowly and with difficulty, Draco pushed himself up on hands and knees, watching her, seeing the girl he had learned to admire. He had forgotten how determined she could be. How fragile, how emotional, how strong.

Voldemort held his injured cheek, shocked. "This is your woman?"

"You are going to regret that, dear," he said aloud, distancing himself from her.

He was known for his experimental magic. Today, he would use some of that on her. He still had time, a few more minutes to play. Snape had said twenty. That was plenty.

He walked past her three times, making her sweat. She knew it would hurt.

"Serpensortia Intestinus!"

Immediately after the last syllable, Hermione started to cough, trying to breathe, trying to get her hands free from the binding spell. She was suffocating. Her eyes watered as she clawed the tree, gagging as though she was about to vomit. The suffocation continued far too long, making her skin grey and her eyes bloodshot. Finally the cause of her suffering came out: first the head and then the body of a viper slithered out of her mouth, its back slick with saliva. It slid down Hermione's front, happily encircling itself around Voldemort's extended arm.

"You see, I don't appreciate cheeky girls like you. Your Muggle parents have taught you no manners."

It looked as though Hermione was about to pass out again. Her head was hanging loosely and her breathing was ragged, hard. Her mouth was bleeding, small red droplets falling on the white ground, marking the spot where she was losing everything.

"Stupefy," she croaked, surprising all but herself. Even without her wand, she managed to hit the blond boy hard enough for him to fall on the ground. He hit his head on a rock, cursing wildly. It was enough to free Hermione.

She didn't waste any time but started to run, not caring where just how far. She didn't see very well and blood was drumming in her ears, but she continued to run as fast as she could. Everything had died there. Everything she had believed in. All her dreams. All her love. She had died there. Only thing that was left was Harry. She had to warn him. She had to survive.

"She's a fierce one, isn't see? Do you think she can outrun me? Do you? I believe it's time for illusion. It's time to make her see her worst fears over and over again until she falls. It's time for Eternal Pain."

Draco hugged his knees, rocking himself back and forth, back and forth, his mind completely cold.

... Draco... you can save her... love can destroy Voldemort... haven't you been listening?

The voice was familiar, childish, boyish. He lifted his gaze, scanning the room for any unexpected guests. The boy startled him, revealing himself behind one of the armchairs. I don't want her to die... she's always been so kind....

Draco tried to stand up, but his legs wouldn't hold him. He was too exhausted. He crawled on all fours to the boy's side, staring at him with wild eyes. "How can you be here?" was the only thing he managed to say or think. He didn't even know if he had said it aloud.

I'm you... you just never liked me much...

"What... did you say earlier?" he asked, pronouncing every word carefully as though afraid that he would not be understood otherwise. "How can I save her? She's dying... worse, she's losing herself. I want to stop it. Help me! If you know anything, help me. Help me."

I can take your memories and stay here. You can keep the ones that have her in danger and you loving her. Just save her.

Frustrated, Draco grabbed the boy forcefully. "How the hell am I going to do that? It's Voldemort. He eats bigger rats than me for lunch. I'm nothing next to him. I can't beat him."

The boy pushed Draco's hands away, anger flashing in his eyes. You are a whiner! You've been sitting here, waiting for him to kill the girl you love! You LOVE her. You can save her, idiot. Dumbledore preaches about love all the time. It's the only way to kill the monster. Fill him with love and he can't kill her! Go!

Draco finally understood what the boy meant. He knew love. He stormed out of the room, creating a door that disappeared at his wake.

... and when you come back... please don't leave me alone anymore...

Voldemort enjoyed the chase more than he had anticipated. The girl was far more interesting than he had understood from the reports Snape had sent him. She was supposed to be a bookworm, a scholar... the mousy type. Instead she was a capable adversary. Smirking, he sent the web of Eternal Pain over her. She would be seeing her best friend die at the hands of her lover all eternity. That should crack her. That should crack anyone. He could hear her insides rip apart already. What sweet music it was to his highly enhanced senses.

The Dark Lord was completely infatuated by Hermione Granger, the Muggle-born witch, whose mind was in his hands, his to play with, his to tamper with. He didn't pay attention to the warm feeling inside him. The strong waves of pleasure were misguiding his thoughts, making him believe that all his feelings were his own. Nobody else was at loose; nobody that could possible have the key to stop him.

Draco had found a quiet place in Voldemort's mind, had sat down on the ground and started to feel, repeating all kinds of powerful words in his mind. Let her be safe. I adore her. She's the most beautiful person in the world. But after awhile, his magic, his thoughts, his emotions turned into one word: precious. He could feel everything begin to burn around him, the warmth radiating from him, destroying Voldemort from the inside, eating away all the carnal pleasures that he so desired.

It was only then that the Dark Lord noticed something was wrong. Hermione lay on the ground, barely breathing, beaten and bloody. He should be overjoyed. He should be celebrating. All he could feel was remorse. He couldn't even point his wand at her, couldn't utter the words that would end her life. He loved her. He fell to his knees, screaming. He grabbed his right wrist with his left hand, trying to destroy the being he hadn't pitied a moment ago. Now, it seemed as though his heart would die if he hurt her. He had never felt anything like that. It brought all kinds of miserable thoughts to his mind.

"What are you doing to me?" he cried, doubling over, burying his face into his hands, tasting snow... and her blood. "Stop." His voice was strangled, a mere whisper.


With the word came the burning sensation of guilt. The boy, Malfoy heir, was showing his true colours. Voldemort dived into his subconscious, following the voice, pure rage clearing his clouded mind. The boy would cease to exist. The boy would not have time to beg for mercy. The boy would be gone...

All of a sudden, Draco felt Voldemort leave his skin, ripping through him violently. He watched the shadow of the dark wizard haunt the forest for a few seconds as though unsure of where he belonged or why he was there. Then he was gone, leaving them breathing the cold winter air, listening to the calming sounds of Mother Nature.

Draco crawled to Hermione's side, trying to see if the girl could be saved. Was she too hurt? Had Voldemort destroyed her mind? Would she ever smile to him again? Would she ever hold a quill in her fingers, a brilliant joy lighting her eyes?

Hermione lay on her back, her arms and legs in odd angles. Her face was so full of agony that Draco wished he hadn't looked at her. Parts of him wished that they hadn't survived. Life would be so difficult after this. The absurdness of that thought made him laugh out loud. Like his life had been swell before. Like anything had ever been easy.

"Move away from her!"

Draco turned towards the voice, staring with hazy eyes, just barely recognising the person who was threatening him with a wand. "Professor Snape?" he croaked, turning his gaze back to Hermione, laying his head on her stomach. "Save her," he muttered before passing out.


"... never should have let them stay..."

"... didn't know... don't do that to yourself..."

"... no choice..."

A conversation was been held beside his bed. His ears couldn't focus, his mind even less, but he understood that something was wrong. The voices were so soft, hurt, oddly distant. Something was wrong.

He bolted upright, immediately feeling dizzy. "Hermione? Is she okay?"

"Lie down." He felt strong hands pushing him back against the pillows. "You have a high fever."

"I don't..." his voice gave in, but still he pushed out the last words, "... give a damn." He tried to lift himself up again, but the hands were pressing his shoulders, holding him down.

Blood trickled to his mouth, telling him that his nose was bleeding. That scared him, and he lay still, trying to figure out who those people were whose presence he could sense in the room with him. He tried to focus his eyes on the person who was touching him.

"Sir?" he said, unsure of what he saw. The person looked like his father, but that couldn't be... His father was a Death Eater and an escaped convict. Then his vision cleared and he recognised Amadeus. He wasn't so transparent anymore, and his hair was completely white. Draco felt like crying all of a sudden. It had all been too much, and for a second, he had thought that his father could be there, caring... He was gone. He turned his face away, trying to hide the need he felt.

What he saw scared him even more than the blood in his mouth. Hermione lay on the next bed in that exact same position Draco had seen her in the forest. Her body was rigid and her hands and legs were stiff as though death had already touched her. She looked like she was screaming in her dreams.

Draco grabbed Amadeus's wrist. "Eternal Pain, do you know it? He used that on her. Take it away, please. Please?"

Amadeus looked at him with disbelief. "Illusion spell? It's rare for illusion spells to work this way. Are you sure?"

"Positive." He felt as though everyone in the room were idiots. Didn't they see that she was in pain? She was suffering and they were just standing there, looking at him, talking.

Amadeus pulled his wrist free and walked to Hermione's side. He sat on her bed, placing his right palm on her forehead and his left over her heart. He muttered something incomprehensible, causing Hermione's whole body to relax. A long breath escaped her lips and then she was completely calm. Too calm.

"She's alive," Amadeus assured them, "but she's unwilling to wake up." He turned to look at them, a worrying look on his face. "I'm not actually sure if there is anyone here who can wake up. I don't know what Voldemort did to her, but it made her aura disappear. There's nothing coming out of her. She's absolutely still.

Draco closed his eyes, willing for the reality to disappear. In his dream world, he took Hermione flying. They were laughing. He teased her, and she smiled. What a shitty world it was! Why did everything have to be so god damn difficult? Why? What had he done to deserve all this? You were born. Her words teased him. Past, present and future. She had to be there.

"Can I go look?" he asked, looking at Amadeus. Please.

"No!" The word was breathlessly uttered, full of despair and fright. "No." Professor McGonagall looked like she had just met a herd of Bogarts that had gripled her beyond repair. "No. Absolutely not. You've had enough excitement for one evening, young man. You go to sleep and leave the rest for us adults." She said the last word with a strict voice, looking at the other three professors pointedly.

"Minerva..." Dumbledore tried, but she wouldn't let him talk her out of it.

"No, you won't. Look at them. Look at her. This is our fault. My fault. They are children. We should have never..." she broke off, hiding her face behind her long sleeves, shoulders shaking.

Draco had had enough. "Shut up!" he screamed, not caring that they were his superiors, not caring that she was just shocked. This would not help Hermione. He could help her. He tried to calm himself a bit before saying, "I can help her. Let me help her."

Dumbledore went to talk with Madam Pomfrey, taking her hand to his, guiding her a bit further away from the hospital beds. Still, Draco could hear him. "Poppy, can we allow it? Is he strong enough?"

Draco didn't care what the school nurse had to say. He would do it anyway. While the others talked, he rose from the bed, softly stepping close to Amadeus, who let Draco lie down next to Hermione without saying a word. He just nodded, accepting Draco's choice.

It didn't take long for him to notice that there was nothing inside her. She was just shattered glass. He had to pull out immediately, because the atmosphere was too hollow and cold for him to endure it. She was broken.

"Is she...?" Amadeus didn't have to finish the sentence. He could read enough from Draco's eyes. The boy was pale in the begin with, but now he was almost as white as the hospital walls. His lips were turning blue as well. "Lie down, Draco," he whispered to the boy's ear, helping him to his bed. Seeing that kind of despair on someone's face... nobody that young should feel like that. He knew too well what it meant to lose something you cherished. He had lost everything when his father died.

The ceiling was Draco's friend from that moment on. He could not look anywhere else or everything would cease to exist. The ceiling and its small cracks soothed his mind, making breathing almost understandable, acceptable. He followed the lines of those cracks, trying to create pictures, something to occupy his mind. He blocked the whole world out, just staring at the ceiling, not thinking, only breathing very quietly.

On a very uncomfortable hospital chair sat Harry Potter, feeling exactly the same. He had pulled his legs close to his body, hugging himself tightly. His chin was resting against his knees, and he kept opening and closing his mouth, causing his chin to snap every time. It even made a small sound.

"She's a fighter, mate. She can... she will..." Ron pushed his fists hard against his eyes, trying to stop the tears. Snape's timely arrival had saved his life, but only barely. He was still weak, but at least he had his wits about him. It was more than could be said about Hermione. She was a fighter, but even she couldn't fight with an empty mind.

Harry nodded, but didn't say a word, didn't want to, couldn't. He had almost lost Ron. Voldemort was supposed to be after him, not his friends. He was losing Hermione. She was slipping away, had slipped away already, had disappeared into a scary world of nothingness. Only her body kept breathing steadily. He grabbed Ron's hand, squeezing too hard. He needed something solid, something to keep him there with all the people he knew.

Ron squeezed back, just as hard. "She's going to be all right." Harry could hear the unsaid words as well: otherwise we're never going to be the same again.

To Be Continued Very Soon...

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