It was stiflingly hot in the Gryffindor girls' dormitory. Hermione threw her covers off irritably and got up. All at once she was cold, and her bare legs prickled. She walked barefoot to the door and silently descended the stairs. The Common Room was deserted, not surprising for three in the morning, and Hermione curled up on a couch.

The not quite silence of the early morning had a dreadful weight. The ticking of the grandfather clock was like the sounding of a gong, and Hermione's steady breathing was like the booming of the surf. The crackling fire of the evening had yielded to ashes, and the vacuum generated by the lack of the customary sound was worse than all the deafening regularities. Hermione knew this atmosphere well. She lived most at this time of day, staring into this antimatter fire.

The dream had come again last night. A gentle touch. Tickling breath on her neck and a titillating secret murmured in her ear. No sex; all the joy of the dream was in the time it took. They could move slowly, chat idly, walk aimlessly, because they had all the time in the world. That, more than anything else, always told Hermione it was a dream, even as she leaned in close. Nothing real was so easy, not for her.

Hermione stared for a good half an hour and then rose as silently as she had seated herself. Stretching a little, catlike, she stalked on the balls of her feet to the staircase and ascended. She could sleep now, but the next night the dream would come again, pressing in around her as her eyes fluttered shut, fluttered shut with flashes of breath, of laughter, and of emerald green eyes.