Chapter 28: The Voices in my Head
For a moment, she was back in the past and looking at a cocky Abraxas Malfoy as he taunted her. She blinked and Abraxas was gone and Draco remained. His left shoulder was propped against the entryway and he wore a white button down shirt that was half tucked into black slacks. In the darkness of the room his blonde hair was like a beckon of white light.
“Who- what?” she said.
“So articulate,” he grinned.
It was far too early in the morning to be dealing with this, Hermione decided.
“So Granger is out,” he was speaking again. “What am I to call you now? Hermione is far too informal, wouldn’t you say? She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is too many syllables. Riddle is just ridiculous. Lady V could work, what do you say?”
She blinked owlishly. “W-What?”
He sighed as he moved into the room and took the chair to her right. In a graceful heap of limbs he collapsed onto the cushion and sighed once more for dramatic effect. “Not a morning person, eh? I wasn’t much of one either, but did you know that the muggles have this drink called coffee? It’d wake up Potter’s parents, I swear!”
Hermione gapped. The whole moment was so surreal she was sure this was nothing but a dream. She must have fallen asleep on the couch.
“Cat got your tongue?” Draco was grinning in the most peculiar way.
“What are you doing here?” she finally spoke, the words sounding like a harsh accusation even in her own ears.
“Didn’t he tell you?”
Her head was starting to ache and her wrist still throbbed dully. She was not in the mood for his stupid games. “Obviously not, Malfoy, so if you don’t want a ferret relapse, I suggest you tell me what the bloody hell you’re doing here.”
“My, my, not very friendly. I left my mother at our safe house. It was a bit boring there with nothing to do but lounge on the beach. Gets right old, it does. So I flooed father, told him I wanted to come back, came back even though he forbade it, and viola! Here I am.”
Shaking her head, Hermione could feel her headache growing. “Does anyone else know you’re here yet?”
His smile widened. “Nope. I’m sure father suspects I’m on my way- I’m surprised, by the way, he didn’t warn you. I only just arrived to find you talking to yourself. Few knuts short of a sickle, huh?”
“What do you even care? You hate me, remember? I don’t want to deal with you right now. There’s an empty room up the stairs and to the right. It’s across from your father’s. Go away and leave me alone.”
Draco shook his head. “Don’t hate you,” he surprised her by saying. “Don’t particularly like you, but I don’t hate you. I hate Potter and Weasley, though. Right gits they are. You’re not too bad when you keep your mouth shut. And I don’t feel like going to bed, thank you. Not tired.”
“You’re annoying,” she said.
“I know,” he smiled.
“I don’t want you here,” she said.
Draco shrugged. “I don’t care.”
“Fine. Stay. I’ll leave,” she rose with a huff and spun sharply on her heel.
She did not go back to bed, knowing that sleep would elude her and that should she even fall asleep she may dream once more. Instead, she made her way to the kitchen. It was later than she thought it had been, or earlier depending on how one looked at it. Sunrise wasn’t that far off and she knew Remus would be awakening soon, followed shortly by Lucius and Severus. Harry and Ron always awoke last, sometimes sleeping in until noon.
Breakfast sounded good. Going into the kitchen, Hermione went from cupboard to cupboard, taking out a pot here and a skillet there. She moved quickly, trying to distract her mind from her nightmare, from Tom’s voice that still echoed around her, and from Draco Malfoy who had followed her into the kitchen.
“What are you making?”
She sighed and slammed a pot onto the stove. “Breakfast,” she said.
“I’m famished. I like my eggs over easy.”
She glared into a mixing bowl. “Then that’s how you should make them,” she said in false sweetness.
Draco sat at the table. “Don’t be ridiculous. Malfoys don’t cook.”
Hermione huffed. “Then Malfoys will starve.”
Despite her words, though, she cooked the eggs over easy. She moved from one counter to another and soon, Draco Malfoy and his annoying comments ceased to reach her ears. The kitchen of Grimmauld place seemed to disappear and she found herself in her old kitchen in the apartment she’d shared with Tom.
By the time she started making the sausage she was humming lightly.
“What are you singing?”
The spell snapped and Hermione slammed back into the present. She wasn’t at home, this wasn’t her kitchen. This was Harry’s kitchen. There was no reason to sing anymore.
“Nothing,” she whispered. She didn’t notice the sausage was burning.
“You were singing something, don’t be shy now, Lady V. What were you singing?”
“You insensitive git, go back to Australia before I have to explain to your father why he no longer has an heir!”
“You wouldn’t have to explain why, Hermione, when I’m sure even Narcissa can hear you all the way in Australia.”
Draco smirked and turned to look at the new occupant. “Father,” he greeted.
Lucius narrowed his eyes. “Draco,” his voice was clipped and full of disappointment. “I thought I told you not to come.”
Hermione watched in satisfaction as Draco looked down at his shoes. “I was bored,” he said.
“Really Draco,” Severus tutted. Hermione hadn’t seen him behind Lucius.
Draco shrugged and Hermione grew annoyed.
Really Hermione, you would choose them over me? Tom’s voice asked her.
“Yes,” she said stubbornly.
“What did you say?” Severus’s eyes were boring into hers.
“Nothing. I’ve cooked breakfast, eat up and then hide the ferret. If our shouting woke you up, the others are bound to follow.”
“Too late,” Remus voiced as he appeared into the kitchen. “Your cooking could wake a dead man, Hermione. Ron will smell it in his sleep and be here any minute.”
And of course, now that Remus said it, she could hear Ron and Harry coming down the stairs.
“I can smell breakfast, Harry. Hurry up before it’s all gone!”
“They know to make extra, Ron. Be quiet before you wake Mione, she needs her rest.”
“I didn’t mean to snap at her, Harry,” Ron said, his voice growing closer. “Think she’ll forgive me?”
She could hear Harry sigh. “She always does, Ron, but you need to be more careful. It isn’t the same any more. She needs our help now.”
“I know, I know, but- but what in the bloody hell is he doing here!” Ron had walked into the kitchen first, his face turning red when he spotted Draco.
“Yes,” Harry was considerably more calm, but just as angry. “What is the ferret doing here?”
Hermione could feel the tension mounting and decided it was time to forget about her own problems and focus on the most pressing ones.
“Harry, Ron,” she said briskly, dusting her hands on her night robe. “I’ve made breakfast. Come and eat before it gets cold.”
She spoke in a tone she hadn’t used in quite some time and she could only imagine that it worked for that very reason. Harry and Ron sat at the table obediently, most likely out of habit. She placed plates in front of them and Ron immediately dug in. Harry was a little more hesitant. He ate slowly, his eyes darting around from person to person and lingering on Hermione as he studied her thoughtfully.
“What are you doing up so early? I know you went to bed late, you should be resting,” he said.
She paused as every set of eyes focused on her, each person silently agreeing with him. Deciding not to worry them, Hermione said, “I’ve rested plenty, Harry. I’ve only just awoken.”
“That’s right, I accidentally stumbled in her room when I arrived. She nearly took my head off for it,” Draco said casually, and Hermione was grateful. He was tucking into his eggs with nary a pause and said, “Thanks for the eggs, Lady V.”
Harry gasped, Ron choked, and Lucius glared reproachfully at his son.
“Don’t call her that,” Ron spluttered as he went for his wand.
“How dare you!” Harry concurred.
“Really, Lucius, you should control your son,” Severus spoke in a low hiss.
Everyone started arguing again and Hermione observed them casually. Lucius and Severus were lecturing Draco sternly who merely continued to eat his eggs. Remus was holding Harry and Ron back and was having a devil of a time restraining them from hexing the young Slytherin. Their voices were all mingling and Hermione could only make out bits and pieces of what was being said.
“-I’ve told you many times, Draco-”
“-He’s got no right!”
“This requires delicacy-”
“Did you hear what he called her?”
“She is our salvation. Only she can release us from the vow.”
“You’d do well to remember your place.”
This is your Order, Hermione? This is who you side with?
She laughed. Tom was right, of course, he always was. She laughed even as the tears fell from her eyes. She was still laughing even as the arguments stopped and they all looked at her as if she’d fallen off her rocker.
“Listen to you all,” she said with a bitter chuckle. “We don’t stand a chance. He will tear us apart quicker than you can say ‘Quidditch.’ We can’t even eat breakfast together.”
Silence engulfed them and Hermione was glad to see shame in their eyes.
“Yes,” she hissed, oddly pleased by their guilt. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. You lot are pathetic- arguing about something so minor. So young Draco Malfoy has decided to come and fight. I say good. That’s one more wand on our side. We can’t afford to turn anyone away and you all know that. I’m amazed you’ve lasted this long against him if this is how the Order operates.”
They flinched and stared at her in shock as a slight sneer curled her lips. She unconsciously tilted up her nose as if offended by their presence, and she was only half aware of the words spilling out of her mouth.
“Pathetic,” she repeated, and her wrist throbbed and she felt a sort of satisfaction in that, like it was agreeing with her.
Tell them, Hermione. They are beneath you now. Tell them, Tom whispered.
“Beneath me,” she echoed.
Harry hissed and slapped a hand to his scar.
“What’s going on?” Ron sounded scared.
“Something’s happening,” Harry gasped in pain. “He’s happy right now. Something’s happening.”
“Hermione?” Lucius’s tone was calculating as he stared at her carefully, sizing her up.
She frowned. Her headache was back and her wrist hurt more than it had before. She felt it throbbing painfully and the room was starting to tilt dangerously. What had she been saying?
“He’s doing something to her,” Harry’s voiced sound muffled.
“Shut up,” she spat, and they stopped talking again, staring at her carefully. “Always arguing and nothing gets done.”
That’s right. Doesn’t that make you angry?
“Shut up,” she said.
Doesn’t that make you want to hurt them?
Don’t be so sure of yourself, my pet.
The window above the sink shattered and Hermione jumped at the sound.
“Hermione,” Severus spoke softly, but she jumped as though he had raised his hand to strike her. “You weren’t speaking to us, were you?”
She looked around the room. Her eyes were no longer hard and her face no longer sneering. Instead she was confused and tired, and her wrist was still hurting.
“I don’t feel so well,” she slurred.
Harry was staring at her, his eyes wide and knowing. “It was him, wasn’t it?”
“That’s why my scar was hurting,” Harry continued. “He was here, wasn’t he? I could feel him- in you.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Harry,” she said.
“Potter’s right,” Severus was saying, his eyes never leaving hers. “He’s been connecting with you.”
Lucius nodded. “It makes sense.”
“I don’t understand,” Ron said.
Draco snorted. “No one’s surprised about that, Weasel.”
Hermione winced as her head gave a twinge. “I’m fine. Everything’s fine,” she assured.
No one believed her of course.
Shaking her head, Hermione lifted her hand up to smooth her bushy locks out of her face, and the sleeve of her robe hung down at her elbow.
“Merlin, Hermione, what happened to your wrist?”
Ron’s comment drew everyone’s attention and when Hermione pulled her hand out of her hair her gaze fell to the wrist in question. In the early morning darkness, she hadn’t really had a chance to have a good look at it, but the sun was up now and illuminated the five, vivid black half-moons on the inside of her wrist, four on one side, and one on the other. Tiny black lines darted out from each mark, making them look angry and infected.
“I- I had a dream,” she said dazedly.
“You don’t get marks like that from a dream,” Draco pointed out.
She didn’t like how everyone was watching her.
“It’s nothing,” she said stubbornly, angry at them again. She pulled her sleeve back down and glared at them accusingly.
“Come on, Hermione,” Harry encouraged her gently. “You’d want me to tell the truth too.”
She bit her lip. “I had a dream, I told you. Tom was there. He grabbed my wrist. I must have done it to myself subconsciously in effect.”
Harry shook his head. “You know that’s not true.”
Her wrist was still burning, her head was still aching, and now she felt like there was a dead weight sitting on her chest. Reaching up, Hermione’s hand went to her neck to play with the gold chain of her locket before she remembered it was no longer there. Her fingers grazed smooth skin and she felt her nervousness double. Tom had held on to her locket as he had tried to hold on to her. The chain had snapped and she was pulled away as it stayed behind.
A faint memory tickled her mind. They’d been cleaning the house during their fifth year and they’d stumbled across an old locket with a giant ‘S’ engraved on the front. She felt a spark of recognition as her fingers caressed it, but she’d been unable to open it. No one had been able to open it.
“My locket,” she whispered faintly.
They looked at her like she was going crazy, and perhaps she was. Perhaps her grief finally pushed her into the deep end. She heard Tom’s voice everywhere, she responded to the voice as if it belonged to a real person, and she was having strange dreams. And now she was talking to herself.
“It’s here,” she said softly. “It’s always been here.”
“What has?” Harry asked the question they were all thinking.
“The locket,” she stressed, uncaring that she sounded absolutely mental. “The locket, Harry.”
She saw realization flicker in his eyes.