A/N: All notes at the end. Enjoy!
Hermione didn't notice exactly when the rain went from pleasurable to annoying. It wasn't until the blonde-haired boy crawled into her lap that she noticed a change in the atmosphere. The light sprinkle was quickly becoming a violent thunderstorm.
She stood, pulling the boy with her in her arms. He fit perfectly, but there wasn't time to dwell on that now. Hermione turned around, searching for a shelter of some kind. She squirmed in her wet clothes as the child attempted to bury himself beneath her skin.
Are you a witch or not?
The voice came booming out of the clouds, exactly as Ron had said it to her all those years ago. She nearly laughed. Shuffling the boy in her grip, Hermione unwound one arm from around him and searched her jean pockets. When her fingers made contact with a slim piece of wood, she pulled out her wand and swirled it through the air. The grass, trees, and flowers she'd been admiring transformed into a grand hut. Even the magic here was more than in the real world.
Draco woke up suddenly on a warm bed. He shifted his arms around, crisp sheets crinkling underneath him, and made contact with something near him. In surprise, he opened his eyes to see the still sleeping form of Hermione Granger.
A relieved breath escaped his lips as he brought a hand to his face and rubbed his eyes, attempting to slow his heart rate after the nightmare. He was safe. She was safe. Slowly regaining his senses, Draco looked back at the girl. While she hadn't moved, her face was distorted in discomfort. "Granger?" he asked, pushing her shoulder gently. "Are you waking up?"
He waited for as long as his bladder would let him, but she didn't move. Her face remained pursed, but she was no more awake than she was when he first brought her here. After relieving himself, he sought out Snape. Her facial expression must mean something, and he had the sinking feeling that it wasn't anything good.
Snape performed a variety of diagnostic spells on the sleeping form. He spent a few moments observing her up close with a sneer. Finally, he turned to Draco and spared a glance for the house elf that stood beside him, invested also in Hermione's well being.
"There is nothing out of the ordinary with her," he said with an annoyed lilt to his tone. "Maybe she's having a nightmare."
A nightmare, for Salazar's sake! Snape, that's preposterous.
Hermione could hear the words — down to each exasperated syllable — but a fog blocked her brain from understanding them. The sound bounced around in her head, but it just made the meaning harder to grasp. She was sitting in the field again; the sun kissed her skin.
There's nothing medically to explain her change in demeanor, Mr. Malfoy. Would you rather I lie to you?
The clouds vibrated with the sound of the deep baritone voice, but Hermione only had ears for the little blonde boy, who was giggling as he played happily with the animals once more. She sighed wistfully, glad that the storm had passed.
It had been two days since Hermione's face had betrayed any sign of weakness. Snape hadn't let Draco command attention to the sleeping woman long before he demanded they make an appearance at the manor and make sure his absence had gone unnoticed the night before.
The next time Draco saw her, she looked peaceful. Radiant, almost. Hermione looked better and stronger than she had since first being brought to the manor.
"Something's changed," he said when Snape entered the room for another round of potions. "She looks great."
"Well that is a matter of opinion," Snape bit back, swooshing his cloak in the air as he sat at the girl's bedside. "Maybe the worst is over."
Draco stood on the other side of the bed with his hands crossed against his chest. "Do you think she will wake soon?"
There's no way to tell when or if she'll wake.
Hermione glanced to the sky as the fog in her head cleared. She heard Draco's voice; she knew she did. And Snape, saying something about not knowing when she'd wake. She was asleep. She looked around the field again, taking in the surroundings with the understanding that this was some sort of dream. It made sense.
She felt the magic shift in the air, and she knew there was someone else in this world now besides the boy and herself. Albus Dumbledore sat next to her as if he'd been there the whole time. He smiled brightly at her when Hermione registered his presence.
"Lemon drop?" he held a glass bowl filled with lemon candies out to her.
Confused, she took a few from the man and popped them in her mouth. They tasted as delightful as they looked. Hermione smiled back at her former headmaster. His eyes twinkled; his robes were glorious; and his beard was as long as ever. He looked out of this world.
"What are you doing here, Headmaster?"
"Well, my dear, I might ask you the very same thing, and, please, call me Albus," he responded with a chuckle. Dumbledore looked out at the field on the horizon, his face softening when he saw the blonde-haired boy playing in the distance. "He's a mighty fine child, Ms. Granger. He sees beauty and wonder in everything."
"Do you know who he is, Hea— Albus?" she pushed again, and the same chuckle came in response.
"Dear child, I could ask you the very same thing."
She was becoming frustrated at the vision of this man. Hermione once saw him as a beacon of hope and wisdom, but after his death, when his plans became clearer, she wondered if he'd truly cared about Harry at all. He treated her best friend like collateral damage and not something to protect at all costs — unless it was convenient for his overall goal. She frowned at her former headmaster.
"What kind of question can't you turn around on me, Albus?"
"Ah," he exclaimed, clapping his hands together gently. "You are so very clever, Hermione. I could probably tell you why you're here."
Hermione squirmed at the thought. She hadn't considered how or why she'd gotten here. She was just wondering how to get out. "Why am I here?" she asked, finally.
"You're in a limbo, of sorts. Someone has decided that it's not your time, and if you agree with them, you should be able to get back."
"But...are you saying I could survive the killing curse?"
The old man smiled, his eyes sparkling with delight. "Pure love is very powerful magic, Hermione."
A muffled voice drew their attention from each other. The pair looked toward the sky as the voice grew louder. "I think, if you listen closely, all will become clear," Dumbledore said. Hermione stood, straining to hear better.
Please wake up, Granger. Please. I need you to wake up.
Hermione's heart beat loudly in her chest as she felt an invisible force pull her forward. Dumbledore had corralled the child, and the two were watching her closely while she levitated into the air.
"Mummy!" the boy cried as she flew higher and higher. Her brain heard the call and promptly turned to mush. It felt like she was being pulled from underwater, so she started swimming.
A/N: Ah! Hope you're not too angry with me for leaving it there. We did get an answer or two in this chapter, and there's more to come! I'm posting this a little early because I know I won't get to it until late tomorrow, and I'd rather y'all have it a little early than a little late! Thanks to the ever so lovely JadePresley, whom without which I would never have been able to get through this crazy story. And thanks to you, lovely readers, for following this story. If the holidays are hard for you like they are for me, I hope The Killing Curse can bring some joy to your day. I know hearing from y'all would definitely bring some to mine :) Find me on tumblr at dragonsandotters-dh . tumblr . com.