A Stranger Life

The World Right Side Up?

As soon as Draco finished reading the spell, the earth below their feet began to shake, and as much as she didn't want to, Hermione had to rely on Draco to support her so she wouldn't fall over. But luckily, the earthquake didn't last long and she was soon able to let go.

"What do you think that was?" she asked as soon as the two of them had separated.

"I don't know. Probably just something to do with the weather," Draco shrugged and began to pace. "I hope the spell works quickly," he muttered. "I can't wait to get home."

"Oh, and you think I can?" Hermione asked, looking at him bitterly. He gave her a look and continued to walk back and forth. Finally, when nothing changed, Hermione picked the book up and looked it over.

"Are you certain you read the spell right?" she asked. "Nothing seems to be happening."

Draco stopped pacing and walked over to her looking impatient. "Of course I read it right! Why in bloody hell wouldn't I?"

"I don't know!" Hermione shot back. "But I'm going to read it too, just in case." And she did, but this time, something different happened. After the ground shook a bolt of lightning shot down and struck them, causing them to disappear, hopefully sending them back to their own time.

They landed quite abruptly on the cold stone floor of the Great Hall, right next to the Ravenclaw house table. They blinked as they slowly came into awareness, and as they stood up from the floor, they realized that they'd interrupted the sorting, and that everyone was looking at them.

Not knowing what to say, they just apologized to Professor McGonagall, who was looking profoundly stunned and hurried to their usual seats at their usual house tables.

After a few more minutes of silence, the sorting continued, but neither Ron nor Harry was paying any attention to the nervous-looking line of first years up front. Instead, both of their gazes were focused on Hermione.

"Where were you?" Harry asked. "And why in the world did you just suddenly fall from the ceiling like that?"

"Did I really fall from the ceiling?" Hermione asked, stunned.

"Yes," Harry nodded. "The sorting was going on, and then there was this gigantic thunder crash, the ceiling began to move and shift as if it really were the sky outside and not just a ceiling that looks like it, and then you and Malfoy just appeared out of nowhere and landed on the floor."

"Speaking of Malfoy," Ron interjected, "how was an entire summer of being married to him? What happened after Valerian showed up?"

"Well, Ariella and Valerian took us to this other house called Alstere, and then we sort of realized that we were capable of tolerating each other. Then we tried to stop Ariella from sacrificing herself to the vampires, but that didn't work out, but Harry, did you know that a relative of yours dated a relative of Mrs. Weasley's a long time ago, and that the two of them were Ariella's best friends? It was a really weird thing to see, but explaining how I found that out would take a really long time.

"Then when we meant to go back here, we accidentally killed my muggle-great-grandfather before he and Ariella could get married, and after that, the really weird stuff happened and we time-traveled into a weird and twisted universe where I was a pure-blood Slytherin, Draco and I were married, his parents loved me, I was going to have his baby, Voldemort took over the world, and you two were both dead. Then we got out of that, and here we are."

She paused and breathed deeply while Ron and Harry watched her with stunned looks on their faces.

"Did you just say that you spent a bit of this summer being Slytherin, happily married to Malfoy and pregnant with his baby?" Ron finally managed to choke out.

"Yes," Hermione nodded. "But as you can see, I'm clearly none of those things now. It's kind of a shame though. We met the baby we would have had, and she was actually a decent, loving person."

Ron and Harry said nothing, and Hermione decided not to tell them at that point that the aforementioned baby would still be on the way, even in this reality. They looked like she'd told them enough about her summer adventures for one day.

After the plates were cleared away, Professor Dumbledore told Hermione and Draco to come to his office because he wanted to have a talk with them.

"Did you two have a pleasant summer holiday after I left?" he asked them, a twinkle in his eye. Despite the fact that their mutual dislike for one another had returned, they now looked at each other uneasily.

"Pleasant wouldn't be the word I'd use, Professor," Hermione said finally. "I believe 'interesting' would be a more appropriate word to describe what things were like after you, Ron and Harry left."

Dumbledore looked at Draco for confirmation and he just nodded.

"I see," Dumbledore replied. "Miss Granger, I overheard you talking with Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley at dinner. The two of you did a lot of time-traveling, did you?"

Draco nodded. "We ended up in this place where she was a pureblood Slytherin and the two of us were married and expecting a baby." He looked pained, especially as he said the last part, as if someone were making him swallow something nasty.

"Did you really, now?" Dumbledore's eyes lit up. "And how was that experience?"

"It was all right I guess," Hermione conceded, "seeing as circumstances were different, and we weren't complete opposites."

Draco nodded again but said nothing.

"And we also met the baby we were going to have before we had her; she was actually very nice."

"You seem surprised by that," Dumbledore noted.

"Yes, well you know, with him for a father I didn't think-" Hermione motioned at Draco and then seemed to lose her train of thought. It was now Dumbledore's turn to lapse into silence.

Finally, he said to Hermione "Are you saying that you believe Draco would have a negative influence on the child?"

Hermione nodded.

Dumbledore looked up at the two of them and smiled. "Thank you, that will be all. Good evening to you both."

Draco and Hermione both stood up and left the office, Draco crowding Hermione out, and earning himself a look that could kill.

In the Gryfffindor common room, Harry and Ron sat Hermione by the fire and continued to question her about what she'd told them earlier, and continued to be amazed and repulsed by her answers.

"I don't know if I'll be able to sleep tonight," Ron commented when the three of them finally decided to go to bed. "I'll keep seeing images of you and Malfoy in bed together every time I close my eyes." Harry nodded in agreement.

"Well, you were the one who asked about it," Hermione reminded him. "So you can hardly blame me. Good night you two."

They bade her goodnight, and the three of them separated.

In her four-poster bed that evening, Hermione tried to adjust to sleeping alone for the first time in awhile. She hadn't realized how much she'd gotten used to having Draco sleeping next to her. She kept tossing and turning, trying to take up as much of the bed as she could so it wouldn't seem so empty, but all her efforts were unsuccessful, and she only managed to sleep fitfully, visions of her and Draco's green and gold room at their house dancing behind her eyes.

Draco wasn't faring much better.

"Stupid Mudblood," he muttered to himself, for it was thoughts of her in the other reality that were preventing him from sleeping. He got up on his knees in the bed, punched the pillow a few more times and then collapsed back down on it, shutting his eyes tightly. He saw nothing but darkness for a few happy minutes, but just as his body was beginning to relax, he saw the image of Granger wrapped up in the pink towel and standing by the bathroom door. She was smiling and looking so…

He quickly opened his eyes once more and sat up. That was it; he knew he had no chance of sleeping tonight. He threw the covers off of himself and left the dormitory for the common room, where he sat in one of the large chairs and stared into the empty fireplace until Blaise came to get him in the morning.

After Hermione and Draco had left his office, Dumbledore had shut the door behind him and smiled to himself. This was very convenient. He knew that the experiences of the past summer had affected them more then they'd like to admit, but he knew that it would take something pretty powerful to make them admit their feelings, even to themselves. He sat down at his desk and began to think of a way to make it happen.
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