Chapter 1 : Dreams, Delusions, and Memories
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He moved down the hallway, smashing everything in sight. A vase toppled on it’s side; the sound was deafening. It would’ve been… if he’d had ears to hear it. He didn’t. His feet skidded across the harsh stones of the floor. He didn’t wear shoes.
Stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop it…
“NO!!” His voice rang out through the hollow house. His hands reached up to the top of his head as he wrenched his fists into his hair. He nearly collapsed onto his knees. He needed to be strong; to fight this; to fight them all. Everything. His heart threatened to strangle off his own breath. With half a sob, he tore the tie from his throat, as though that would help the hideous, choking sensation go away. It didn’t.
Somehow, he made it outside to a balcony. How did I get here? He wondered. His feet seemed to take him away, to places outside of his mental grasp. Everything is outside my mental grasp, he thought bitterly. The top of his head could’ve weighed a thousand pounds. Right in a circle. Right where a crown would be.
Oh, yes. Golden boy that he was, he certainly could’ve been wearing a crown; perhaps one of lead, or iron… maybe molten lava. His life stretched before him, before his eyes. School, magic, marriage, children, laughter, family-
“No,” he murmured, hearing the saddening sarcastic humor in his own voice. None of that for him, aside from the magic and the school… and who really knew how long any of that would last, anyway? He was in charge. He was charged. He was out of control of being in control.
It was gone.
Had it ever been there?
Who was there with him? Somewhere… in the distance… there had to be someone…? Wasn’t there always? He’d thought that he wanted to be alone. He was so wrong. Now, alone was all that he could ever hope for. Company meant danger- death. For himself, and them. It didn’t even matter who it would be. He had no time. No time for strangers, let alone family. No time especially for a stranger that he’d one day hoped would become family.
He had to protect her. He had to ignore her. He had no weaknesses, or so they thought. He was the perfect specimen… the one that they could condition in any way or direction they’d ever desire. He was their malleable tool of conceited destruction. He knew no kindness of reality. I never even had a damn chance.
A sound filtered down from somewhere above, drawing his attention to the skies. Thunder rolled in, bringing with it dark clouds and an ominous charge in the air. Briefly he wondered if he’d been the one to call down the storm. It was certainly a mirror of his insides. Come on, come on, he thought, willing the rain to fall hard and sudden. He wanted to get drenched, even though it wasn’t very warm outside. Wet, cold, what did physical comfort matter? With a small chuckle he considered the possibility that he was beyond feeling of all kinds.
“Would you get the hell out of my head?!” he screamed at the sky. The tree line reared up in front of him, a dark jagged expanse of nonexistence. If that line of trees could be the serrated edge of a knife, he could use it to cut the image of her face from his mind. Her face… her face…
She didn’t even bloody know! How could she? Did it even matter? No… he knew. It doesn’t matter, because she never will know, and that’s how she’ll stay alive. Even if it kills me.
His chest heaved, right in time with another crack of thunder. Lightning hit the sky like the white-hot fork of a giant, bent on stabbing down into his dinner plate of the world. The pressures of the “crown” hit him in a series of spasms. Turmoil, grief, decision, trust, death, time. No time. He had no time. He had no decisions. They’d all been made for him already.
“Who says I can’t rebel, eh?” he asked the righteous thunderheads. They dropped a fat splash of water onto his cheek in response and he laughed. “Right,” he smirked, “because I’ll be killed. Along with everyone even assumed to have been involved. Would that be so bad, though? I’m going to die, anyway.” Sunbeams abruptly burst through a patch in the clouds, lighting up a grey-green swath of grass just beyond the balcony on which he stood. Mist hung in the air, seeming to take on the shape of a person. His eyes nearly began to water as he stared ahead, his heart willing involuntarily for it to be real, even though he knew it was impossible. With all his heart he wanted that mist to come to life, to become her.
He could’ve jumped. His hands gripped the edges of the stone balcony, holding him in place like iron beams. He could’ve been a statue. The lightening and thunder overhead felt like a thousand-pound piano, threatening to drop from a fraying thread. He was directly beneath.
Suddenly - sun.
Pure and brilliant, forming like wisps of fire in a remarkable shape. It broke through the mist and cut it into a million, disintegrating pieces. His eyes popped. The mist disappeared, and she was there.
How did she find me? Why would she want to? It can’t be real… it’s not… I’ve finally broken…
“I can see you, you know,” she called up to him from out in the grass.
His heart thundered in his ribcage. She can probably hear that, you idiot, he told himself. Straightening his spine, he forced out a scoff, “what the hell are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same thing,” she countered without hesitation. “What am I doing here? It’s not where I’d intended to go.”
“Silly Granger; getting yourself all turned around?” he threw a sneer across his features. You’re more likely to end up dead, he added silently.
“Can it, Malfoy,” she told him brashly. His eyes goggled involuntarily. It was rare for him to be spoken to that way, unless one counted threats against his life from Voldemort. “I don’t need to hear your grating voice when I’m trying to figure out what’s going on here,” she continued.
Draco spluttered at her gall, unable to think of a response. Abruptly, clouds heavily swung across the sky. They effectively blotted out the sun, throwing the landscape into instant shadow. “Are you trying to awaken everyone in my house?” he called out, knowing there was no one around to awaken. His words whipped back into his face as they rode a vicious wind. No reply came. Squinting, he leaned into the balcony to try to see across the distance to where she stood.
She was gone.
That’s not possible, he told himself. She couldn’t have left so fast, not like that, not if she didn’t even know how she’d gotten here. They weren’t yet sixteen; lessons on disapparition hadn’t taken place, and wouldn’t until the next year. How…? He just didn’t know. She was there… right? I just spoke to her, she actually yelled at me. Am I… Draco couldn’t even finish the mental sentence, didn’t even want to think it.
He couldn’t be crazy. Could he? He certainly had every reason to be.
People have experienced stranger things under much less stress, he tried to convince himself. Other than my life being in constant danger, I’m the spitting image of health! A pointedly sick-sounding laugh barked out of his throat, as though determined to prove him wrong.
“Oh, don’t make that face.”
“Where the hell are you?” Draco yelled fiercely. Where had her voice come from? The trees? The wind?
“I’m trying to get out of here, for your nosy information.”
“Stop it, then! Get out of here already and leave me the bloody hell alone!”
“I can’t exactly do that. You know that, right?”
What’s the matter with this woman? Draco thought frantically as he dashed across the stone floor of the balcony. Everywhere he looked, he saw nothing but the beautifully manicured grounds of Malfoy manor. How much this beauty conceals, he felt his stomach churn in disgust at the truth of his thoughts.
“No, I didn’t know that,” he announced to the empty space before him, “and I don’t know why, either. Explain yourself or leave!”
Her musical laugh wove it’s way around him, like she was standing right at his side. “Why Malfoy, I thought you were smarter than this,” she whispered.
Draco whipped his head around. The clouds overhead broke and rain began to fall. The mist had finally gotten fed up and decided to pull together to form real drops of water. It landed on his skin, hot and cold at the same time. He couldn’t imagine why that was.
“Smarter than you?” he challenged.
“I don’t know; it’s your mind.”
His heart could’ve stopped. Maybe it did. Maybe he wanted it to. Yes, he knew. She’s in my head. Balling his hands into fists, Draco screamed, “damn you!!”
A mental vision rocked him suddenly, bringing him to his knees. Somewhere in his brain, he acknowledged that the stones hitting his human bones hurt. The capacity to retain this information seemed to be lost, however. The rain was no longer cold, nor hot. It simply was no longer. He wasn’t even outside.
Draco was in a room. The floors and walls were scratched out of a roughly hewn array of wooden planks. They didn’t match, but at the same time, they did. High windows brought forth sunlight. They were the kind of beams that were happy and yellow; the kind that he rarely saw in real life. He sat crunched up in the corner, his knees pulled up to his chest. The sunbeams arced over his head, and in his line of vision were many a dust mote. They twirled nonsensically around, unaware that they weren’t even alive, but looking like they were.
Rows of bookshelves surrounded him; he seemed to be at an odd, hidden point among them all. Scurrying sounds could be heard, but Draco knew instinctively that they weren’t from the feet of mice. Quills, his memory told him. Someone somewhere was dragging a pointed feather tip across an unknown length of parchment. His heart stirred. He felt an instant kinship with the complete stranger. Where am I? He wondered. It wasn’t the Hogwarts library, that was the only thing he was certain of.
Somewhere, a book fell. The sound of it hitting the ground was oddly harsh. Whispers followed, more books fell, and heavy footsteps came into play. What in Merlin’s name is going on…?
She burst from between the shelves and stood before him. The sunlight hit her directly, causing her to momentarily squint. Her hair waved in a curly disarray and her shirt was a bit wrinkled. She looked out of sorts…
She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
“Wha-” he stammered, unable to form even a full word.
“Come with me,” she murmured, reaching down to grab his hand and pulling him up from the ground. Her skin was soft, and as she turned to take him away, he caught a faint smell of cherry blossoms.
Weaving down a pathway known only to her, Hermione dragged Draco quickly through the labyrinth of dusty tomes and scrolls. “Stay quiet,” she whispered, her voice barely audible, even in the silence of the room. He simply nodded before realizing that, because she was in front of him, she wouldn’t be able to see him do so.
A door appeared in front of them and she opened it, pulling him through and shutting it fast behind them both. Something massive hit the other side of it immediately, causing them both to jump in surprise. “Just in time,” she murmured, clutching at her heart and trying to control her breathing. Whatever was in the room of books continued to beat against the door and Draco backed away uncertainly.
“What the hell is that?” he asked, his voice rushing out on a mere breath.
Hermione turned to him, her face awash with a combination of strength and sadness. “Your suicide,” she murmured.
Silence filled him. “I… huh? My what?” Draco could hardly put a thought together.
“You can’t do it, Malfoy. It doesn’t matter how much we dislike each other. You’ve got to-”
“What the hell do you know?” he exploded. Her words terrified him more than anything he’d ever known. “Brilliant witch that you are, how can you tell me such a thing is possible?”
“I’m not blind, you know,” she stated. She looked, to his horror, on the verge of tears. “Someone has to believe in you; for reasons beyond my knowledge, it’s me.”
“You believe in me? You. You?” It was almost too much for him to take.
“Yes,” she replied. Simply. Defiantly. He hated feeling so much respect for her.
“What is that supposed to mean?” he was angry and so, so confused. He couldn’t stand feeling so out of control; that seemed to be the only way he felt, lately.
“It means, Malfoy, that I know you. I can see it in you; something… bad… trying to take over. You’re stronger than that, as much as it irks me to admit it,” Hermione actually chuckled.
“You know me?” he repeated. “I’m just supposed to believe that? That you believe in me? Me?!” Draco could feel his blood beginning to spike in his veins as his emotions skyrocketed. “You know nothing but spells and potions and how to get in everyone’s bloody good graces! You don’t know a damn thing about me or my life!”
“I know you’re fighting a losing battle with your control-”
“And who cares? You? Don’t make me laugh! You’ve been through so much, but in the midst of it all you’ve always had someone to turn to, someone who had your back! Someone you could trust! You don’t know anything about what life to me is like!”
Hermione’s heart bled. She refused to let it show on her face, however, knowing that it would make him react a million times worse. Outside, the Beast pounded viciously against the door. It shuddered under the impact. “Malfoy, please,” she began.
“No!” he cut her off. His head pounded fiercely and he envisioned it exploding like a rotten pumpkin. He’d had such visions many times. “You want to know something about me? Then don’t say, ‘please.’ Draco Malfoy is never asked anything; he is told. Draco Malfoy is the son of a rich family who uses him for their own gain. Draco Malfoy is in control of his situations, all of which were thrust upon him by others. Draco Malfoy is a tool that was created to serve only the Dark Lord-”
The Beast gave a low and terrifying chuckle, raising the hairs on Hermione’s arms.
“Draco Malfoy will do what he is told. Draco Malfoy is worth only what the Dark Lord decides. Draco Malfoy can handle the pressures of the deaths of his family, because that is all that is in his future should he fail-”
“NO!!” Hermione screamed. She was powerless to stop the tears from streaming down her face as she clenched her stomach to keep from falling on the ground. His voice, she thought, shuddering. He sounds like a robot, like a… an animated corpse. That’s it, she knew, the light of her revelation flaring like a solar burst; in his mind, he’s already dead. He sees no reason to care about life, his own, in particular. “No…” she repeated, slowly walking over to him as he stared blankly at the door that shook under his Beast’s pounding abuse.
“No?” he questioned her, sounding slightly amused. “No…? I’m sorry, was there something you could actually do for me?” When she merely stared, he laughed bitterly. “I thought not,” he muttered. “Welcome to my world, Hermione, the real world.”
“… Hermione?” she frowned in surprise. Malfoy turned his head to the side, abruptly breaking their eye contact. “Why did you say that? Why did you call my by my first name?”
“It… it’s your name, isn’t it?” he asked sullenly.
“Yes,” she agreed, “my first name. I don’t believe you’ve ever said it before.”
“There you go, analyzing things again,” he scoffed.
“You’re not hard to analyze,” she replied enigmatically, “at least, I’d always thought not; now I’m not so sure…”
He brought his gaze back to hers. His desperation simmered just under the surface of a killer anger. He was furious. She could feel it pouring off of his skin like steam. She’d never stood so close to him before. It was beginning to rattle her, but she was determined not to let him know that.
“Why do you care?” Draco asked suddenly. His eyes continued to sear hers and she felt a tingle thrum through her spine.
“Why… why do I care?” she almost didn’t understand the question.
“About what happens to me. About… whatever that is… on the other side of the door.”
Hermione gulped. “I care, well… because that’s what I do, what I feel.”
He rolled his eyes, “oh, terrific answer.”
“What? What’s wrong with that?”
“I’m only your worst enemy,” Draco spat. “You really expect me to believe you care about me because it’s just what you do? That’s life-altering,” his sarcasm could’ve been felt by a person in a coma.
“As a matter of fact, I had a dream about you!” Hermione shouted with her hands on her hips.
That succeeded in shutting them both up.
Draco’s mouth moved a bit as he tried his hand at speaking around the blockage that’d somehow appeared in his throat. She dreamed about me? How? When… why?
“I… I mean-”
“You dreamed about me?”
All of his sarcasm and sharpness had gone, evaporated. He stood before her, looking like the fortress of his mind had just suffered a severe blow. He waited silently for her answer.
“Yes,” she whispered, unable to meet his gaze. There was too much there, too much she didn’t understand.
“What was it? What did you dream?”
“I found you,” Hermione swallowed thickly as she tried to relay her thoughts. Why did I open my big mouth? She wailed internally.
“Where?” he prompted.
“Here… in that room. I knew you’d be there. I saw you… and your thoughts. They were… black. A black shadow hovered over you; it had a… a face…”
Her voice was getting quieter and quieter as she struggled to speak. Draco found his senses narrowing down into a tiny spiral the size of a needlepoint. All that he could see was Hermione as she shivered anxiously before him. Unconsciously, he rubbed his hands along her arms, as though trying to warm her. He wasn’t sure who was more surprised by the gesture, Hermione, or himself.
“What happened next?” he asked in a murmur.
“It kept leaning over you,” she said, her voice nearly tripping over a sob. “There was something in it’s hands. It was circular, and jagged. It almost looked like knives, big knives… made of something like iron. It wanted to… it tried to…”
“What did it try to do, Hermione?”
“It spoke to you. It called your name. Every time it spoke, your face grew paler and thinner… you… you looked like death,” her voice was so hushed that Draco had to lean in close to continue to hear her frightening words. “It wanted to place the heavy circlet on your head, but it had to be so incredibly heavy!” Hermione’s voice rose in pitch and she brought her eyes up to meet his. Tears swam at the corners of her vision and she was powerless against them. “It called you, ‘the King of Sacrifice,’ and said that, one way or another, your life would be spent for the Dark Lord.”
How can she know this? The thought screamed through his brain, picking up speed as it went. “How do you know this?” Draco repeated aloud. He broke away from her and turned his back, trying to get his shaking soul under some semblance of control. “Tell me!” he yelled, turning quickly back to her in his furious disbelief, “Tell me how you know this!”
“I… I just did!”
“A dream? You can’t have dreamed that! It’s impossible!”
“Why…? Why, Malfoy? What are you talking about?” prickles of premonition sparked along Hermione’s neck and she felt more chilled than ever. “Malfoy… did this already… happen?”
“No, it didn’t bloody happen,” he muttered, feeling the same chill in the air. “Not unless you’d count my father as that significant, devious shadow-man, that is.”
Hermione’s gasp was the only sound in the room for long minutes. Draco crammed his hands into his pockets, scuffing his foot awkwardly across the floor. Admitting anything like that was something only a pathetic fool would do. “So tell me,” he repeated, bringing his blazing grey eyes up to hers again, “how do you know this?”
“Your… your father called you the King of Sacrifice?”
“Don’t keep bleeding saying it,” he growled, looking fierce. “Whatever happened that caused you gain this knowledge, it doesn’t even matter, I suppose. There’s only way that I can keep from being their instrument.”
“I need to take myself out of the picture.”
“Yes,” he was impervious to her pleas, “you have no idea what they’re all capable of.”
“Of course I do!” she fought him. “What do you think we’ve been trying to defeat all this time?”
“You don’t know it like I do! In my home, in my life… everyday! I’m saturated by it! It’s in my blasted DNA!”
“It doesn’t have to be that way, Malfoy.”
“What’s that you just called me? My name? Malfoy. Mal-foy. Do you know what that means? ‘Bad faith,’ as in, believing in bad things over those that are good.”
“So?! That’s just attached to you! It’s not who you are,” Hermione reached forward and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. “It’s not you… Draco. You’re stronger than that, you’re better.”
That damned stranglehold attached itself to his throat again as he looked into her deep, brown eyes. She believed. He could see it all in her; see straight to her soul. She really believes in you…
“I think that you’ve already been the King of Sacrifice,” she mumbled, turning her head to the side. He caught sight of a faint blush creeping across her cheek before her face was hidden in the shadows of the dim room. “Your whole life… you’ve already sacrificed more than enough to them.”
“Hermione…” he breathed, “I don’t… I have nothing to give. I have nothing worth saving. Why would you risk anything for me?”
“Because, I see more in you than even you know. That’s how I know that you’re strong; look at how much you’ve already gone through. You could help us, you know. You could really take control, and help us defeat them all. I know you could.”
Looking at her lovely face right then, he almost believed her. Oh, how he wanted to…
A particularly fierce drop of rain landed squarely on Draco’s forehead, bringing him out of the amazing vision. His head was ringing and his feet were numb from where he’d landed on them upon falling to his knees. The back of his shirt was soaked. His teeth randomly chattered.
Not again, he put his face into his hands as he felt the delusions swell up, more strongly than ever. Since that day… the day when she’d come for him. Why couldn’t he just be saved? Why can’t I be worth saving?
“Draco! Oh, Draco,” something touched his shoulders, gripped them. Lifting his head in confusion, the blonde man narrowed his eyes against the rain that’d developed into a veritable downpour. Another figure kneeled in front of him. Her… it was-
“Hermione,” he whispered in awe. “What…? What are you doing here?”
“You’re worth it, Draco,” she replied staunchly. “You’re worth everything. You’re worth believing in; you’re worth saving, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m here to save you. Do you want me to?”
Their eyes were locked together. Thunder boomed through the sky as lightning hit a tree in the distance. He could feel the electricity crackle between them. For the second time, he wondered if he was the source of the freakish storm.
“Do you remember that day? On the other side of the door?” he asked her, knowing she’d know what he meant.
“Yes,” she replied with a nod.
“You tried to save me then; I know that now. I knew that then, too… but it was just too much… I-”
“Draco, it’s all right.”
Her confidence in everything, especially him, overwhelmed his senses, “Hermione…”
“I asked you a question; do you not want me to know your answer?” she tilted her head, trying to read him in the dark blur of the rain.
“Sacrifice…” he murmured. Her face began to fall, when he captured her lips suddenly in a kiss. She melted into him, their bodies meeting together on the rain-soaked balcony. Without breaking their physical contact, Draco pulled her up with him as he rose to his feet. “Yes, Hermione,” he whispered against her soft mouth, “I’ll sacrifice everything I’ve know up to this point, my life, my home, my very identity… if it means that I can be saved by the only person who’s ever believed in me. Hermione, I want you to save me.”
A small sob escaped her throat and she wrapped her arms tightly around him. “Yes,” she murmured into his shoulder, “I know… I’ve seen it. Very soon, Draco, you’re going to save me, too.” She lifted herself onto her toes to kiss him fiercely once more. The rain ran down their faces, mingling between their lips and fusing them closer than they’d ever imagined possible.
Four knives of lightning hit the darkening sky, all at the same time. The loudest boom of thunder yet permeated the very air particles, and Draco and Hermione pulled apart to marvel at it all. She reached for his hand silently, and he squeezed hers in return. Their eyes met through the flashes of light, and together they shared a unified, knowing smile. As the lightning stilled and darkness filled the sky just after sunset, Draco and Hermione ran for the outer stairs from the balcony. Without a sound, they ran off into the night, and into their lives of freedom.
A/N: This is in response to the first challenge I've ever signed up for, "Stream of Consciousness," which basically means that it was to be written in one giant burst with NO EDITING!! As I'm a compulsive editor and re-doer, I knew it'd be hard for me! It wasn't too bad, though, and I like how it turned out. Dreamy-type stories like this can be confusing sometimes, so if you missed it... The first time Draco "hears" Hermione, it's all in his head. That's why they're fighting, because that's how he believes she should speak to him! The "library" scene is a memory, brought on by his earlier delusion, and when Hermione appears at the end, it really is happening! I like leaving things just a little open, especially in one-shots. I hope you liked it! Please review and let me know!