Disclaimer: The wonderful, fabulous, amazing, talented J. K. Rowling owns these characters and situations!!!! I own nothing, but am happy just to worship her. Thank you so much for finishing Order of the Phoenix!!Chapter Fifteen
They waited helplessly. The light crawled closer and closer to their raggedy forms on the wall. Slowly, inevitably, it edged to the bottom of Hermione's feet.
Hermione cried out as the sunlight was hot on at her feet through her shoes. Pain shot up her legs. The once mellow light was now searing-hot fire rising slowly up her ankle. Hermione was screaming inside her head, screaming that Draco could hear.
It was hot. Like boiling oil. Her reflexes told her to pull her legs away, but she couldn't. She couldn't escape from it, couldn't stop it. How long would it be until it killed them?
It was like the Cruciatus curse, ravishing up her nerves from inside.
Every minute was a year, her skin sizzling in that wretched boiled oil. She couldn't think, couldn't think, in that sea of excruciated pain…
Can't it just finish and be over? Just let me die!
Hermione watched the hot glare of the burning malicious sun slide up his body. His expression was pure agony.
Then, suddenly, the skewers holding them to the wall disappeared.
They fell hard onto the stone floor.
"Ouch!" Hermione cried out. Then the light hit her face and neck and burned there at her skin.
"Oh god, god, god…"
Draco was crouched on the floor, covering his face with his arms, so that his platinum hair shone like a mirror in the unbearably bright sunlight.
Hermione… he cried to her.
Hermione her eyes tightly, and she crawled over to hug Draco protectively.
But it wasn't going to be okay. It wasn't going to be okay. It wasn't going to be okay.
He was struggling, trying to get up, but he couldn't. Hermione felt the numbness in his body, and she held him close to her, but his body was slipping from her grasp.
"No…" he moaned.
His body seemed to leave Hermione's grasp; elude her touch. He wasn't pulling away from her – he was leaving. No, no, don't let it be. A thousand screams sounded in her head. She was barely able to keep her eyes open, as Draco's form – though not Draco anymore – blurred before her. Disappearing into the bright light. Burning into ashes. Hermione screamed his name over and over in her head, and groped around blind, trying to find him. She was scorching in the cruel, hot light, she was going to die, but she couldn't stop frantically looking for Draco. Where was he and why couldn't she find him?
Sunlight will kill, a voice said in her head. He's gone, get away while you can!
Hermione felt the blisters form on her lips and they cracked; the sores forming on her tongue as she opened her mouth. Her eyelids were going to be burnt through and all her bare skin peeled raw. If she didn't get away while she still could, she would be dead.
Hermione took all her willpower, and crawled, pulling herself with her elbows, away from the sunlight's reach in the dungeon. She struggled herself up the stairs, forgetting all but the desperation to be somewhere cool and safe.
It was the most unbearable day of her life. Hermione had probably crawled everywhere all over the manor, creeping like a blind, drunk, half-dead leper through the shadows, never quite aware enough to really get up and find a properly dark place. The horrific burning light seemed to find her anywhere she went. Finally she dropped into a dark storage closet for an uneasy rest.
Hours and hours passed.
Then it was safe; the sun was down. Hermione stood up, crippled, exhausted and pained.
She couldn't think properly. A queasy, sickness held her insides. Her muscles seemed to have been tugged loose from the bone and her skin was raw with blisters and sores.
Astonished, she turned to hear the male voice calling her name. Draco?
No, it was the tall, dark-haired vampire, Ankar.
"You –" Hermione began.
He approached her, immediately taking her arms and holding her up. "What happened?"
"Draco –" she muttered confusedly.
"Your face – it's all scarred." He said, his lips pursed in concern. "The sun."
Hermione coughed and choked.
"But you're alive," he said, looking triumphant. "It's the talisman."
Hermione gazed at him in amazement as he pulled out the silver chain that held the white charm.
"What?" she whispered. "That's why I'm alive?"
Realization hit her.
"No! No, no!" Hermione yelled. "No, it can't be like that!"
"Why can't it?"
She stumbled towards the dungeons, the tall vampire following behind.
"Draco!" she yelled.
"Did Draco get away?" asked Ankar.
Hermione was dizzy. There were the bodies of her three friends, but not Draco. Only the black robes that he wore lay on the ground.
"Ashes…" whispered the tall vampire.
"How could it come to this?" Hermione sobbed. She fell to her knees, crying. "I didn't know how it came to this…"
Memories of the past months ran through her head. From the times of being an Auror to leaving to meeting Draco to becoming a vampire herself.
How could it have come to this?
How could it come to have Draco be dead, gone? And Harry, Ron and Dumbledore…Draco was too special to lose, too amazing to be just gone, gone because of a stupid mistake.
How could it have come to this, after being so innocent and good-willed, to twisting into this dark corner of the universe? What was right or wrong anymore? What was life, what was death anymore?
How could they all end up dead?
What the hell was her life worth now?
And how. How, how, how could it happen?
HOW COULD IT HAPPEN?
"How?" she sobbed to the tall vampire.
"Don't worry yourself." He told her softly. "It is only a cycle. It was a mistake, you will move on and put this behind you." He held out his hand to her.
Hermione shook her head. Then, faster and faster and faster she shook it, letting her hair spin wildly around her.
"No!" she cried. "This could not be meant to happen!" Panic struck her. "It is not meant to happen!"
It couldn't happen. Itcouldn'thappenitcouldn'thappen.
IT COULDN'T HAPPEN.
It didn't seem right. It wasn't right. Something in the course of events didn't seem to make sense – or something! But it just couldn't happen that way! Like something wrong had happened that shouldn't have. A mistake, yes, a mistake. Something that just did not mean to happen.
"There has to be a way," she sobbed. "It was never meant to be..."
"There isn't," said the vampire. He put his hand on her shoulder. "It's alright, come with me."
"NO!" she yelled. "There is a way!"
Hermione ripped herself off the floor and ran up the stairs, ran, ran, ran to the door that led to the Malfoy library and up to the portrait that Draco had showed her.
She opened it, and grabbed the tiny hourglass on the chain. She put it around her neck.
The hands on the snake-encircled clock on the Malfoy's wall read 9 and 17 minutes.
She turned it. Once, twice, three times…
And the world around her dissolved in a swirl of time.
Hermione turned the glass over and over until she was sure that it was at least a night before. She was still in the library, standing exactly where she was, with the time-turner around her neck.
She was trembling as she put it down.
My god, she thought. She wasn't a vampire anymore.
Her hands were back to normal. Her skin was no longer pale and glassy. They were normal, living hands. She could feel her insides, feel her ordinary body functions. So it meant she didn't have the invincibility she had before, but at least it had worked.
Voices. Down the hall.
It must've been herself and Draco.
Having lots of experience dodging people with the Time-Turner, Hermione crept out the door and hid. Next to her a mirror on the wall showed her reflection. It was normal. Her skin was pink, not porcelain like Draco's. It was not scarred and burned like Ankar had told her. It was no longer burning, either. She could no long be harmed by the sun…although she could by stabbing, disease, suffocation, poison gas, etc. But hell, that's the way it should have been. She wasn't meant to become a vampire, even if Draco was. She was sorry a bit.
Anyway, there was work to be done.
She had to reverse it somehow, make it so that Draco never turned the real-time her into a vampire. If they hadn't gone down to the dungeons, hadn't go down to where Voldemort was, if she hadn't been poisoned…then Draco wouldn't have turned her into a vampire, he would have the talisman and he would live.
And what if, she could stop Voldemort herself somehow?
Yes, yes, that had to be the way.
Hermione crept into the dungeons.
If she didn't do it right, then this would be the place that she Draco would be burning in the sunlight.
She waited silently in the shadows. Anytime now Voldemort would appear.
Then, a shadowy form came in from a barred window. It materialized. Yes, it was him. This was a night before, before Voldemort was to shed his snakeskin and returned to become Tom Riddle.
He conjured a table and cauldron for his work.
Hermione bit her tongue. So it was up to her.
Plain, mortal, Hermione.
"Stupefy," she spoke.
The average, unaided spell hit Voldemort in the back and knocked him stumbling forwards.
Stunned, he whirled around and glared at her. "Who are you!" he hissed at her.
Hermione came forward, summoning her courage. Don't hesitate. What was there to lose?
She sent a curse, the same one that Bardot had used. Two knives were sent straight at the dark wizard's shoulders and pinned them there. She had Voldemort stuck against the wall.
"Expelliarmus," and she removed his wand, as well.
Draco and her past self were coming. Hermione put on an Invisibility Charm and crept quickly away. She ran past the two (it was so weird to see herself) and to the library.
Hermione was shaking madly as she stood there, trying to calm herself. Okay. She had just successfully subdued Voldemort. Amazing. And she still had more than twenty-three hours before she had to come back. In that twenty-three hour time frame, she knew that she (the other self) would still meet Draco's two vampire acquaintances – that should still happen – and would go to Harry. And if they had Voldemort caught in the dungeons of Malfoy Manor, then Harry would certainly be there to deal with them.
Hell, the war could be over by the time she got back.
Alright, she thought. Where do I go now?
"Harry!" someone yelled.
"Hermione, where have you been?" Harry asked. Harry turned to see Hermione running towards him through St. Mungo's. "You just ran off like that –"
"This is very important. Voldemort is going to turn himself into a vampire."
"What – what?" Harry blinked. "But, that's impossible. I have the book."
"There's another one. A vampire gave it him, whose name is Bardot. And if you don't stop him from helping Voldemort, this war will be over." Hermione gave him a large-eyed look to show that she was telling the truth. "And – I know where he is. He, um, he's in the Malfoy Manor. And he's been caught and Stunned."
Harry was a little overwhelmed by the strange information. Voldemort? Caught? He paused. "How on earth do you know this?" he asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Just do something about it!" Hermione screeched at him, looking aggravated. She pulled his arm.
Harry sighed. "What do I do?"
"Just come with me."
"Okay, let me tell Dumbledore."
Harry began to walk the other way. And Ron came down the hall to bump into Hermione.
"Hermione? Where have you been?" Harry heard Ron ask.
"Nowhere – I mean, somewhere." Hermione said quickly. She gave Ron an innocent look.
Harry slowed his pace to listen.
"Do you have any idea how worried you make us when you go running off alone for days like that?" Ron said hotly.
"I'm sure, Ron, I'm sure." Hermione said, sounding sarcastic.
"Hermione! You can't do that! You're not a little kid and – "
"Yeah! And you fucking sound just like your mother!" Hermione snapped at him. "It's my business."
Oh god, Harry thought, cringing.
"Why couldn't you just tell me what the hell you're doing then!" he yelled.
Harry saw Hermione storm off, leaving Ron fuming in the hall.
"Ron – come on, let's go to Dumbledore," Harry said, pulling his friend by the shoulder.
Ron clenched his fists, his face flushing deep maroon. "How dare she…what did she come back for, if she isn't even going to us anything?"
"She…told me. It's about Voldemort. I'll tell you, just come," Harry said pleadingly.
"But why didn't she tell me?" Ron asked, looking kind of hurt now. They started walking down to Dumbledore's room.
"Ron, maybe you should let her know that you care about her," Harry said, trying not to sound too cliché. So it wasn't the best thing to talk about when Voldemort could be caught soon…but still, it was a perfect opportunity to pep talk Ron about he and Hermione's relationship, so…
Ron looked agitated and stuffed his hands into his pockets. As a broad-shouldered young man at least six feet tall, it was surprising how much he resembled his second-year self.
"So you do care about her, don't you?" Harry put in carefully.
"Well…uh-huh." Ron said reluctantly. "But I thought she cared about me, too."
"She does, Ron," Harry coaxed.
"She doesn't act like it," Ron whined. "Why else would she keep running off like that? Every time she sees me, she just runs off again like she hates me. She just gives me this look, like…the way Fleur Delacour looked at me when I asked her to the ball in fourth year! It was never like this at Hogwarts."
"Well, um, Ron," Harry said. "Maybe at that last meeting, you were being a little uh, negative about her opinions and being a bit, uh, attentive to Parvati…"
Ron looked confused. "But that's just Parvati. I mean, Parvati's going through a lot, and I just wanted to make her feel better." Then he put on a suffering look. "She's totally different from Hermione. I could never replace Hermione's just…it's her, you know? Parvati can't compare to Hermione. I'm just being nice to Parvati…"
"Maybe," Harry urged. "You could tell her that…"
Ron looked as if Harry was requesting him to dress up as a naked Cupid and dance in front of the Ministry of Magic.
"Tell her?" he sputtered. "What would she think?"
"Well…" Harry trailed. "Hermione's going through a lot, too. All you have to do is talk to her, you know. Spend some time together? Ask her if there's anything bothering her…and listen. Girls like that, you know." He paused. "And it's kind of obvious that that's what she wants in your case, you know."
Ron purpled, but Harry knew he was going to consider it.
"Now come on." Harry said. "There's somewhere important we have to go."
Hermione paced around the Madeleine, the paintings and sculptures watching attentively over her.
All day she had to wait, and get back before 9:17 the next night.
"Elizabeth," she asked. "What time is it?"
"Two hours till midnight." Elizabeth told her.
"Okay," Hermione breathed. "Okay…"
Hermione sat down. The unfinished potion they had started was in front of her. So was the Pensieve that Draco gave her.
What was meant to happen between them? She cared about him; he cared about her. They had made it so far with their differences. Thought, was there a real future with him?
Though if the war was over, then it might be easier. Draco wasn't a Death Eater anymore, after all.
She'd like that.
They could be together like a normal couple, without any war to interfere.
Hermione sighed in relief. He was alive, he wouldn't die this time. And neither would Harry or Ron or Dumbledore. It was going to be okay. She lay down on the futon and hugged a pillow. She was going to get out of this mad situation, and get out of it with everyone unhurt. She was lucky at least…she had a second chance at undoing the mistakes. Nothing felt better than second chances, that was for sure.
Hermione reached for the Pensieve, touching its beautiful runes with her fingers.
She didn't want to forget this memory. So she took her wand, touched her temple with it, and poured out all her thoughts, every single tiny detail, of everything that had happened.
Harry couldn't believe it. Was it over? Was it really, really over?
He sank down against the wall.
All of a sudden, Hermione had burst into the hospital, and told him about Voldemort being trapped. And – then…they went there.
He, and Dumbledore, and Ron. Three binding spells at one time, and they had subdued Voldemort, and securely – absolutely securely – captured him.
It happened so unbelievably fast that Harry was still dizzy.
Whatever it was that Hermione had done, it beat the other Auror's slow planning by a long, long, shot.
Harry looked up to see her again. Hermione, his best friend.
He hugged her.
"Hermione, I don't know how you did it, or found out, but it's amazing," Harry told her. "Really – tell me, how did you know?"
"Someone told me," Hermione said quietly. "And I need to go and thank that person now."
"Wait – don't go. It's…" Harry started. Still dangerous, he thought, but stopped.
"I can take of myself by now, you know." Hermione said, arching an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I guess." Harry sighed. "Do you want me to tell Ron or anything?"
"No, no need," Hermione said casually, turning around on her heel.
As if on cue, Ron came down the hall.
"Hermione!" he called to her, grabbing her arm.
"Yeah, Ron?" she answered.
"Hermione…" he said desperately. "If there's anything bothering you…you can tell me! I'll listen."
Hermione stared at him for a moment. Then she gave an odd laugh. "Um, it's okay, Ron."
"He's not here yet, but don't worry. You can find him later."
Hermione grabbed the other girl's shoulders.
"Hermione, listen. Don't panic. Do you remember when this happened in third-year? When I had to talk to you to fix the time loop? It's me. I just had to use the Time-Turner."
The other girl looked doubtful at first but then she nodded. "I think I understand."
"Good. I knew you would."
"Why did you have to use Draco's Time-Turner?" asked the other girl dubiously.
"I have the memories. They're stored inside the Pensieve. Here," Hermione urged the other girl to look into the basin.
When she lifted her head from the Pensieve, she had all memories that she needed to know.
"Do you understand what you have to do? First you have to go back to Malfoy Manor and spin the Time-Turner back twenty-four hours." Hermione said to her other self.
"Okay." Nodded the girl. "I get it."
The other Hermione was gone.
The time loop was complete.
It was lucky she was so handy with the Time Turner.
Draco's okay. She knew that much.
Hermione ran out of the Library into the night.
She waited outside for a few minutes.
Hermione cried out in relief. He was back, yes, good! He was back again. He was perfect; his hair was a perfect combination of slicked back and loose-flying, his lips were unsmiling, and his expression was temperate and intense. Draco.
Hermione fell into his arms in happiness, and he let her hug him.
"They've got him," he said quietly.
"I know." Hermione pulled away, holding Draco's hands.
"So…are you going back?" Draco asked tentatively.
He didn't know, did he? About the lost time.
Hermione cupped Draco's face in her hands and pulled him closer, so that his temple was adjacent to hers. She touched it, with her wand and poured all her thoughts into him.
The lights, sounds and pictures flew out of the side of Hermione's mind like a beautiful song. Everything that had happened in that past borrowed twenty-four hours, from the time she turned that time turner, played out. All the things that had happened, but then, hadn't really happened. The memory of those few glorious hours being with Draco being a vampire – being immortal. And then the sudden turn in the sequence of events that made the huge skid on it all. For the third time, now, Hermione replayed the memory, projected her thoughts for re-analysis. The first time it was for herself, the second time for the Pensieve, but this time, she was going to get some answers.
When she was finished, Draco pulled away for a second, slightly panting.
"All that happened?" he asked.
Draco stood there, thinking.
"I want to be with you. I really do." Hermione said honestly.
"Even now? Now that you've undone all that, and you can go back to your side?" Draco gave her a half-smile, just short of a smirk.
"Well," Hermione said. "The fighting's done. There aren't any sides anymore. We're all free now."
Draco continued his cynical look.
"We can use the Time-Turner again," Hermione suggested.
"No, I like being a vampire." Draco said without hesitating. "I suit this life."
Hermione felt a slight hint of disappointment.
"You can take the Immortality Potion," Draco then suggested.
Hermione hesitated, thinking of Harry and Ron. But Draco didn't seem surprised.
"But I won't ask you to do that," he said, pulling her close again. "It was easier when we were just pureblood and Mudblood…but I've realized that it's impossible for either of us to bridge this gap now."
"No," Hermione pleaded. "No, I just made my decision, don't make me change it again."
"You don't know what things could happen because of us." He said. "You don't want to repeat what just happened again, do you?"
Hermione leaned on his shoulder. "Sorry," she whispered.
"But I don't regret it." Draco said grudgingly. "I don't think I'd be able to help it; I'd still have to be there for you."
The words spread a tingling warmth throughout Hermione's body. Had it been from anyone else, it would've been cheesy, but Draco wasn't that type.
"I know you would." Hermione smiled, thinking of all the times he had.
Maybe Hermione wasn't as independent as she thought she was, if she was leaning on Draco's shoulder so dependently as that. Maybe the real world and the illusion would always have to exist together, if she was going to stay as a mortal witch on the Light side yet still be with Draco. Maybe friends would always be obscure, but Harry and Ron were back with her again, too. Good and evil would never find a permanent agreement; if there even was an absolute of either extreme. Life would always be obscure. And then again, life? What was life anyways? And death? Even death wasn't permanent; even death was reversible.
Nothing was stable, because everything Hermione had taken for granted had turned itself on her at least once.
Yet fate had it in the end for Hermione and Draco. In the end, they were the ones together.
She held onto him fiercely, and he wrapped his arms around her.
It was the one thing that had endured, and she wasn't about to let it go.
A Last Author's Note:
June 13, 2003 (8 days before the release of Order of the Phoenix – I CAN'T WAIT!!!!)
….My gawds. I can't believe I'm finished. Thank you sooooo much for reviewing! Especially the ones who've followed this from the beginning, people like Blanche Dubois and Landry Anne. And for the people who send me all this encouraging stuff and seem to genuinely like this fic, for a first fic, I totally needed you *gets teary*. I think I'm a completely different writer from the one who sat down almost a year ago write this. My writing's matured and changed immensely since then. And honestly, if I could rename Dreaming in Crimson, I'd call it One Long Crazy Draco/Hermione Affair Whose Theme/Plot Spun Gravely Out of the Author's Control at Many Occasions And She Had to Scramble to Hold Onto It.
So please, if you could feed me back on any advice, suggestions, criticism, ideas for improvement, it would be most appreciated. How did this story turn out as opposed you what you would've liked/expected?
In the near future, I think I may be writing a short ficlet or two, but Order of the Phoenix is nearing rapidly, and we'll all be too busy absorbed in that.
I love you all!!!!