Disclaimer: I'm not Rowling. 'kay.
Summary: Hermione invokes centuries old magic to try to save everything she holds dear.
Author's notes: Special thanks to the_portkey for her speedy beta and encouragement. All remaining mistakes belong to me.
Journey Into Sunlight
There was something about being there that felt like home. Something about the rows of books that seemed to stretch for miles; the smell of must and old magic that filled the air and her lungs with every breath. She ran her fingers along the spine of "Innovations and Incantations of the Third Century," relishing the feel of its worn cover beneath her fingertips.
This particular shelf was always very dusty indicating that even three years after the completion of her own schooling, the students still didn't understand the knowledge held in the yellowed pages of this section; that they still failed to recognize the value of magic at its beginnings. Most likely they continued to rely on modern texts, not appreciating the older works that detailed the origins of spells or the basis of the charms they used daily. A shame, really – to miss out on magic at its most base level… at its birth… at its heart.
She found her way to the window she always thought of as her private space -- the one that faced the Quidditch pitch -- and with her books clutched tightly to her chest, she watched the sunlight stream through the glass panes and cast rainbows on the floor at her feet. There was so much to think about, and so much to consider. The key to the world lay somewhere in the rows of books around her, in yellowed musty pages and dust, and if anyone would find it, it would be Hermione Granger.
She wasn't sure how many hours had passed when a warm hand found her shoulder and tore her attention away from her research.
"I think it's time for a break, Hermione. You've been at this for nearly five hours."
"Has it really been that long?" she rasped, her voice coarse from disuse.
"It has," replied Remus Lupin with a gentle smile. "You need to eat something and we need to discuss the practical applications of your research."
"I'm not done reading the materials."
"I think you've done enough research for us to have this conversation, Hermione. It's important for you to realize exactly what it is you are thinking of doing before you continue. I know how you feel about your books but this sort of magic hasn't been attempted in centuries, and I'm not sure these books can give you all the answers you need."
Hermione looked affronted at the notion that she couldn't find what she needed in books. It was something she understood the reality of, but no one ever really voiced it aloud. She closed her books and followed Remus Lupin away from her window. It was only then that she realized the sunlight and rainbows were long gone.
She played with her food as Remus discussed the current state of affairs. As the months grew into years, Voldemort grew stronger in body and in minions. Death Eaters spent years planning, and the methodical attacks were ending. Actual war was looming on the horizon.
As the Order waited for all out combat, they found a systematic and calculated campaign for dividing the Magical community -- and it was working. Half the population still thought they could ignore the signs and that nothing would happen. Others were so paranoid they trusted no one -- on either side. Meanwhile, high-ranking officials and military strategists were being hunted and Muggles began disappearing more frequently. It was a simple matter of time. If something didn't happen soon it might be too late; he would be too powerful and they would be too ill prepared.
Despite all she saw first hand, Hermione wasn't really prepared for it; for battles, for war. Images of bloodshed plagued her days. Images of her loved ones dead haunted her nights. It was during one of her ever increasing bouts of insomnia that she thought of it, while lamenting her inability to sleep, hating the rest of the world for finding peace during the long hours she listened to the crickets singing outside her window.
Somewhere, in some book she read sometime ago, was mention of dream traveling, of entering the minds of others when they were at their most vulnerable. One could actually become part of the dream altering it, guiding it. Controlling it.
It had long since been considered a myth; it was Dark Magic and the ritual was stopped somewhere in the fourth Century as those who practiced it went irreversibly mad. At the time Hermione wondered if it was possible that Voldemort used some modern variation on this to connect himself to Harry.
Now she wondered what if someone used it on him.
What if someone was able to invade his sleep? What if they trained an army to do it and invaded the dreams of every known Death Eater, altering their perception of reality? It would be a powerful tool.
It would be the tool.
There were risks involved, so no one was to know about it until she was certain it was feasible. She didn't want to get people's hopes up if she couldn't manage it. Dumbledore agreed to help her but only if she had someone supervise her training. She chose Remus Lupin.
"You need to pick a test subject," Remus stated while they sat having tea.
"Someone to try your dreamscaping on. The subject can't know you're doing this, it has to be completely unaided."
"He can't open his mind to you. He has to be following his normal sleeping routine. I would suggest someone close to you, someone with whom you already feel connected to make things a bit easier in these early stages. Someone whose dreams you would be able to interpret and participate in without it seeming too unusual for you to be there in the first place. Probably Ron or Harry, maybe Ginny."
Harry was out of the question. Too many people were invading his dreams as it was. She hated the idea of intruding on the few hours of sleep he did get. Ginny might never forgive her if she ever found out. Being possessed by Tom Riddle affected her terribly and she wouldn't take kindly to someone she considered a friend doing the same thing to her, whatever the rationale.
She had reservations on using Ron as well, but for completely different reasons – most of which had little to do with Ron and more to do with something else entirely. But he was the best candidate and he would understand should he ever discover what she was doing. He was too dedicated to Harry and to stopping Voldemort to begrudge her efforts.
"Ron. It should be Ron," she said unconvincingly.
"All right," he responded softly. "When do you think you would ready to begin?"
"Right away." Hermione's excitement was laced with fear -- and now guilt -- over what she considered her duty. She thought of Ron as she sipped her tea, of his courage and trust and all that he meant to her. It was with remorse that she whispered, "I'm sorry," to ears who could not hear it.
Drawing the runes took days. Almost a week of carefully replicating a dozen pages of symbols in precise configurations of constellations. They could only be written while bathed in moonlight; the ink, a mixture of unicorn blood, Phoenix tears, and one drop of water from the Black Sea. The old ways required patience, devotion, and a certain amount of reverence. If one weren't meticulous in every aspect of the ritual, the entire thing would fail. It was the reason the old ways died out.
The first attempt would have to wait until the night after the full moon and could only be attempted again until the night before the next full moon. When that time interval had passed, the runes would disappear and the entire procedure must be repeated from the very beginning. Many of the ancient ways were structured around the phases of the moon, the ebbing of tides, the movement of stars. There was an immense power held in astral cycles, and elemental magic was swathed in it.
The evening after the full moon Hermione found herself on the cold stone of the tower no one ever used, laying amidst a thousand runes. The only clothing she could wear was a ceremonial shroud draped over her body; one that hadn't seen moonlight in a few centuries. The material was coarse and chafed against Hermione's bare skin, weighing heavily on her shoulders. On her hands, etched in the same solution used to scrawl the runes, was the name of the chosen dreamer – Ronald Weasley.
Remus Lupin entered and took a seat across from her. He looked surprisingly alert considering it was the first day after his transformation. Without a word he sat, well aware his purpose was to observe and intervene only if Hermione seemed to be having difficulties.
When the first rays of moonlight shone through the large open window, Hermione began the lengthy incantation she had memorized. With each word spoken, a rune would glow in vibrant color. Within a few minutes the room was alight with red and blue and green. She concentrated on a mental image of Ron and when the last word was spoken and the final rune burst into color, Hermione found herself plunged in blackness and falling.
When she regained consciousness it was morning. The night had passed though it felt like only a few minutes. She was exhausted and barely able to move. Remus Lupin raised his wand and quietly uttered the charm that would gently levitate Hermione from the ground. He guided her prone body to a cot set upon the corner of the room and placed her down softly. "Sleep now."
"I can't. I have to-"
"You have to sleep."
She hadn't the strength to argue and closed her eyes. She found blackness there as well.
The next two nights yielded the same results. Hermione was beginning to lose faith, fearing she had overlooked some component of the ritual. Remus assured her she did no such thing, the fact that she found blackness at all was a good sign, as many didn't even make it that far.
It was on the fourth night that they had a breakthrough. Hermione saw a flash of color. A bright and vivid shock of red.
More colors began to show over the next few nights. Some nights there were just a few, but they were vibrant. Other nights Hermione found herself surrounded by the spectrum.
A week and a half after they started, Hermione heard a word. "Harry."
She found herself humming in the library, high off the excitement of the second breakthrough -- a fully formed word. As her body was becoming accustomed to the ritual, she found she needed less recovery time and was taking advantage of her alertness by doing some research on dreams. She was heavily immersed in a Muggle article discussing current theories of dream analysis when she sensed someone watching her. She turned and nearly fainted at the sight of her best friend.
"Ron! What are you doing here?" she asked nervously.
"Looking for you." He sounded angry. "You've been gone for weeks and didn't tell anyone where you were going."
"I said I was working on something and would be gone for a while."
Ron shook his head and nearly yelled, "You can't just owl a message like that and then vanish. You know what's going on out there right now, Hermione. You could be… you could have… someone could have…" He stopped to calm himself, seeming angrier with himself for his outburst. "Something could have happened and we wouldn't have known," he said quietly. You need to tell us where you're going and what you're doing."
Her stomach tightened at the darkness under his eyes and the lines of worry engraved in his brow. Guilt assaulted her again. "I'm sorry I worried you."
The sweet boyhood blush found its way to his ears. "You worried everyone," he replied softly.
Always everyone, Ron, she thought sadly. Always someone else.
"How did you find me?" she asked.
With a crooked smile he said, "I used my Hermione-sense. Where else would you disappear to for weeks on end but a library? It took a bit of time to find the right one, is all. I didn't think you'd come all the way back to Hogwarts." He scanned the books on her desk. "What are you working on?"
"I …I can't tell you." She closed the book she was reading and began to gather her things, looking up in time to see a very hurt expression in his eyes. "Ron, please you have to trust me. I am working on something important but I can't let anyone know what."
"Even me," he said sullenly.
"Yes. Even you."
He nodded in acceptance. "Can I at least take you out to lunch?"
"Don't say no. A quick trip to Hogsmeade-"
"Ron, I'd lose the whole day-"
"How about I ask the house elves make to us a picnic. Winky's still around and she's always been sweet on me. We can sit on the pitch. Surely, you can spare a few hours for me."
It was the smile that made her cave in; the lopsided half smile - half smirk that made him look like a little boy with a face smeared with chocolate asking for a cookie before dinner. On a fully grown man – with a lightly stubbled cheek and tousled hair -- it had an exceptionally powerful effect.
Within an hour they were sitting on the Quidditch pitch, surrounded by what the house elves considered a light lunch – all seven courses of it.
"Winky does remember you," Hermione said with a smile.
"I told you she was sweet on me." Ron's cheeky grin was interrupted by his yawn.
"I'm glad to see the effect my company has on you. Am I that exciting?"
"No. I mean yes. Ugh, don't interrupt a man mid-yawn. It throws him off completely." He yawned again. "It has nothing to do with you. I've been having a hard time sleeping lately."
"Really. Something wrong?" she asked innocently.
"I don't know. It's like I can't fall asleep deep enough to dream properly. All I get is distorted images. Last night was the first night in weeks I had a dream I could even remember and I still woke up exhausted."
"What did you dream about?" she asked while running her finger across the top of a butterbeer bottle.
"The usual stuff. War. Death. Harry."
"That's the usual stuff."
He shrugged. "Sometimes I get away with other dreams; nicer ones, depending on the day I'm having. Tonight for example I should have better dreams."
"Why is that?"
His shoulders fell as he looked into her solemn eyes. "Because I know you're not dead."
The sun was beginning to set when he said goodbye. It was with a heavy heart that she watched him leave, watched his form disappear in the horizon. Their lunch together was another twirl in their dizzying dance, another paragraph to their unwritten story. They agreed long ago that some things were better left unsaid, as the future was so uncertain. She had always felt that one day they would have their talk. That one day, they would finally stop dancing around each other and finish that story.
One day. But not today.
She hurried to her tower room and all too soon she found herself amid the runes on the cold stone; Remus Lupin looking a bit more concerned as he sat in his usual chair. She wrapped the shroud tightly around her body, not from cold but from feeling terribly exposed. Ron's face was clearly burned into her mind. His vibrant hair, his long nose dappled with freckles, his eyes the color of the sky before a storm. She concentrated on his face, on the inflection in his deep smooth voice, and began the incantation.
There was color again – rich and dazzling. And sound. More sound… and words, there were words. Slowly the colors blended, and the words grew louder. It took a while before she realized she was seeing people. She woke up in a sweat.
She did it. She saw his dream.
It took nearly an hour for her to be able to speak, her mind trying to reconcile what just happened. Soon after, Hermione was sipping tea in her quarters telling Remus everything she saw. "It was Ron and Ginny…and one of the twins, I'm not sure which…and I think Bill was there. They looked really young, like they were all still children."
"Do you remember any details?"
"It looked like the Burrow, but never as I've seen it. I just knew it was the place. It was home. He was happy… comfortable. It was a good dream. Maybe even a memory."
"Did they say anything?"
"They were teasing Ron about something and Ron was telling them to stuff it. That's all I got."
She looked for a reaction from Remus. Her heart told her this was huge, that it was a monumental step, but she needed confirmation. She needed to hear that this was as big as she thought it was and not just her wishful thinking. He remained silent, his face expressionless as he looked through her.
"Say something," she pleaded.
"I…I don't know what to say, Hermione. No one has made it this far, this fast, in the recorded history of the ritual. Frankly, I'm a bit frightened of you." He smiled and she beamed
Things progressed quickly after that.
"What did you see?"
"There was an owl and Ron kept chasing it. He kept calling out but it ignored him and just flew farther and farther away. Ron refused to stop chasing it. He was on his broom and he kept slipping but he kept pressing forward, begging the bird to stop. I…I think the owl was supposed to be Percy."
"How do you know?"
"I just know."
"What did you see?"
"Ron was defending the hoop at a Quidditch finals game. He kept missing goals. There was no noise at all, the stands where empty. I couldn't see his opponent. The whole time he was being pricked in the heart by his prefect's badge."
"Sounds like he's afraid of failure?"
"No…he thinks he's already failed."
"What did you see?"
"He's on a train that's going out of control. Only he and Harry are on it. Harry is trying to stop it but it just keeps going…it never slows down and it never reaches it destination."
"Where is it going?"
"It's not the trip but the train itself that's important. The train is Sirius."
Hermione had been at it for over three weeks and though her body had adjusted to her routine her mind was exhausted. The euphoria she felt at succeeding battled with the heartache she felt at what she saw in Ron's dreams.
Ron dreamed of the dead. He dreamed of the lost. He dreamed of darkness.
The world saw an Auror commanding force, a brilliant strategist, a staunch soldier. He promised his mother he would protect his sister. He promised Harry he would never leave his side. Despite the veneer he showed the world, he could not hide from himself. He still had all the insecurities that plagued him as a child, but now coupled with an adult prospective of a deteriorating world.
His dreams were mired in images that seemed one thing on the surface but meant something different to him, and Hermione felt each emotion as strongly as if they were her own. It was easy to see why people went mad. You begin to forget which feelings are your own and which belong to someone else. You begin to forget to feel your own emotions at all.
There were only a few days left until the full moon and she still hadn't attempted to join the dream. It was the purpose of her training – not to observe but to participate. To manipulate. She hated doing this to Ron. Ron, who trusted her, who encouraged her. She hated doing this… but had no choice. It was too late to turn back now.
She entered the dream as she had for so many nights, but knew straight away that something was different. It was dark, but not threatening. Emotions were thick in the air but they were not of loss or grief or fear, they were of peace, of devotion… of desire. Wherever Ron was he felt safe… he felt loved.
It was silent, which was a frequent occurrence in Ron's dreams, but the stillness was slowly giving way to something else. There was something…a buzzing or humming that kept whirling around her ears. She couldn't make out any images or distinct words. Ron was fighting her entry; he didn't want to share this dream.
She concentrated harder on the buzzing and soon she realized that Ron was calling her name. When she finally broke through she looked up into her own face.
Hermione flushed when she realized what she was looking at. In this dream Ron was laying on his back and Hermione was straddled across his hips, her body slowly rising up and down in a gentle, steady rhythm. They were surrounded by blackness, seeming to be floating in air, and a glowing light – a yellowish moonlight – shone down upon them like a message from God.
What surprised her most was how much like herself the dream image looked. To her knowledge Ron had never seen her naked, but he knew her body as if he'd seen it everyday for years. The places she curved and didn't, the scar on her abdomen from when she had her appendix removed, every flaw replicated in a precise facsimile. The only difference was that she was beautiful, so much more so than she ever felt in the real world.
This was how Ron saw her, beautiful perfection in imperfect lines.
She remained rooted just outside the dream watching it as if it were a movie. The hero with a look of adoration and joy on his boyish face as he called out the heroine's name. The heroine, her head thrown back, her lips parted. They never finished, they seemed joined in eternity. Hermione couldn't tear her eyes away.
It was when she saw a silver trail of glistening tears cascade down her dream image's face that she left.
Hermione woke to the darkness of the tower room. Remus Lupin jumped from his chair across the room. "What's wrong?" he asked nervously.
Her eyes were unable to focus on anything in the room. All that she could feel was a bitter chill prickling her skin.
"Hermione, are you all right?"
She heard a voice coming from somewhere. But it sounded so far away.
"Hermione, can you hear me?"
She remembered. She remembered where she was, what she was doing there and what she had seen. It was the first time she had ever pulled herself out of a dream sequence. The first time she couldn't bear to watch. She shivered in the icy air.
"Hermione, what happened?" His voice was frantic and she felt she should answer. It seemed the right thing to do.
"Nothing," she replied softly.
He pulled back and stood silent, watching her movements. When she offered nothing else he asked, "What did you see?"
"Nothing….nothing at all." She pulled the shroud around her, trying to chase away the biting cold. It was when she grasped the material in her trembling fingers that she realized it was drenched in her tears.
Remus was reluctant to allow her to continue after that. He seemed mollified when she told him it was a very private dream, and since it added nothing to their research, she felt Ron had the right to have it remain private. He didn't question when she asked to skip a night -- the first night in 26 days -- only saying that she should take all the time she needed.
She understood little of where she was, allowing something else to carry her throughout the day. Out of bed, to the shower, to breakfast. She allowed an invisible hand to guide her, a hidden puppet master to pull the strings. It was little surprise that she ended up at her window in the library, the window overlooking the Quidditch Pitch.
It was her favorite place in all of Hogwarts. She could sit in the safety of her books and still watch him. She watched him when he was merely supporting Harry as an anxious first year playing a game he had never heard of. She watched him when he trained vigorously for his own stint as Keeper, so eager to be successful. She watched him as he led the team to victory in the final year. And some part of her could see him there still, with his nervous smile and vibrant blush.
They loved each other.
Neither doubted that, but both were frightened to explore what that could mean. In a world where their extermination was an every day prediction in The Daily Prophet, it seemed ridiculous to attempt a relationship. Their minds and bodies needed to be clear and alert -- saving the world required dedication. One cannot fight destiny. Harry needed them focused. The world needed them focused. And they would be.
Until yesterday, she was all right with that.
Then she saw something she wasn't prepared to see. She saw a glimpse of the life she wanted, the one that she dreamed of. Ron was dreaming her dreams. She felt his emotion, she felt his love for her, and it nearly killed her.
The sun was beginning to set and the sky filled with bright orange and red. She smiled as she realized those are the colors of Ron. Ron was her sunlight. It wasn't time to watch him set. Not yet.
It was with a steady step that she made her way to the unused tower room.
This would be the first time she would attempt this alone, the first time she would not have the reassuring figure of Remus Lupin by her side. But this was between her and Ron and no one else deserved to be there. She settled into her spot, wrapped the shroud tightly around her, and started the familiar chant.
She found him in his Quidditch uniform about leave for a game. He stood in dimness, inspecting his broom and preparing to mount it. Her heart beating wildly in her chest, she ran over to him, wanting to stop him before his took off. "Ron," she called out.
He turned to face her and smiled, before a very puzzled look came over his face. "What are you doing here?" he asked, almost amused.
"I need to talk to you."
He shook his head. "I have a game, I'll be late. The team needs me."
"There is no game, Ron," she said planting her feet firmly into the non-existent ground. "This is dream."
"A dream," she said with a small swallow. "You are asleep right now and this is all a dream."
"I don't think so, Hermione," he said laughingly.
"You see, in my dreams Hermione, you're usually not dressed." He smirked.
She blushed. "And in real life … in real life you would have never said that to me."
His brow creased as she spoke and he carefully began looking at his surroundings, at himself…at her. "I…I don't understand…"
"Ron I've been watching your dreams," she said in a rush, needing to get the words out before she lost all her courage.
With slumped shoulders she pressed on. "The project I've been working on is dream traveling. I've been visiting your dreams for weeks now."
Whether it was the pained look on her face, or his own sense of truth, Ron seemed to believe her. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I couldn't." Her voice grew smaller. "I needed to see if it would work and the only true way to test it is to have a subject who had no idea what was happening."
"I guess it worked," he said, his voice like stone.
Her heart tightened at his tone. She needed to make him understand. "I was supposed to join your dream to see if I could change it. To see if I could control it. Don't you see, Ron, if we could do this we could end the war. We could stop it all."
"Is that why you're talking to me now…to try to control me."
"No Ron. I 'm here to tell you that I love you."
The anger on his face gave way to a familiar sober look, one Hermione had seen far too often. "Hermione –"
"Don't say it Ron." She put her hands to her ears to keep from hearing the words she was sure were coming. "Don't say that we shouldn't talk about it, that we've got too much at stake. I know that. I know that more than anyone. But that's the outside world. That's someplace else. That's not here."
She lowered her hands and stood up straight. Her eyes pleaded with his but her voice was strong. "This is the last time I'll be visiting you, Ron. This is the last time I'll be invading your dreams. Once I leave here, things will have to move quickly and they'll be no time for…for us. But before all that starts, before we deal with the rest of the world, I want this. I want a moment in time when no one else exists. That we can forget who we are and just be Ron and Hermione. I want one memory to sustain me, to motivate me. I need this more than anything else in the world. I need you."
His features softened as if all at once he understood everything, as if it didn't matter anymore where they were because they were there together. Without a verbal reply to anything she had said, he walked to her, dropping his broom along the way. He stood in front of her looking down into her face, her eyes large and wet. When he took her face into his hands she closed her eyes and the tears that had been threatening to fall, ran silently down her still cheeks. He wiped them away with his thumbs.
"Are you sure you want to…like this… here?"
"Yes," she said without hesitation.
He gave her a small smile and stepped back to look at the empty space around them. "Then we should do this right." He closed his eyes concentrating as hard as he could, and opened one tentatively to see if he succeeded.
The empty space was now a bedroom. A large canopied bed stood in the center; a sheer white fabric hanging down created a private alcove inside.
"How's that?" he asked.
"Nearly perfect," she said with a smile. "It just needs one thing." Suddenly the room was awash in sunlight. Bright, glorious sunlight shone around them like a new morning.
"Yes," he said, a bit awed. "Now it's perfect." He was looking directly at Hermione.
It was at that moment that time ceased to be.
It didn't matter where he touched her, where his hands or lips traveled, because she felt it in every part of her body; to the ends of her fingers, to the tips of her toes, and through every strand of hair. She found herself surrounded by him; his strong hands, his soft lips, his arms, his legs, his love, his fear, his hopes, his reason.
She felt everything he felt.
And he felt her as well.
Remus Lupin rushed around Hogwarts, frantically looking for Hermione. No one had seen her since breakfast the previous morning and she hadn't been in her room all night. He raced up the steps to the tower room they had been using for weeks, wondering if he would be more angry or relieved to find her there.
He pushed the door open to find Hermione huddled in her spot amid the runes, wrapped in her shroud, and staring at the sunlight pouring through the window.
"Hermione?" he asked softly, his anger forgotten once her saw her impassive face.
"Remus," she said, not taking her eyes away from the window. "We need to assemble a team of volunteers to begin training immediately. I have a tentative list of several Gryffindors and Ravenclaws I think would be ideal candidates. We need to procure a location to train. I think we should works with several private rooms instead of one large one, which means we'll also need several volunteers to act as guardians – "
"Hermione," he interrupted, worried about her expression …or lack of one. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Remus."
Though she appeared to be, outwardly anyway, something has obviously happened. She was more focused than he had ever seen her. She was self-possessed and determined; every bit the powerful witch he always knew she was. Something had happened to Hermione Granger, and Remus wondered if it was a good thing. "Are you sure you want to move so quickly?"
With the shroud falling slightly off her shoulders she stood and was immediately immersed in glittering sunlight. Hermione turned to face him, her eyes steeled and her shoulders squared. "It's time to win this war," she stated. "I've got a life waiting for me."
He could only nod. He knew an order when he heard one.