Isolation

He can't leave the room. Her room. And it's all the Order's fault. Confined to a small space with only the Mudblood for company, something's going to give. Maybe his sanity. Maybe not. "There," she spat. "Now your Blood's filthy too!" DM/HG. PostHBP.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6291747/1/Isolation

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13. Alone

Hermione could never recall feeling so warm and content.

She released a lazy hum as the rhythmic falls of a masculine chest lulled her back to that wonderful purgatory between sleep and reality. A tasty smell of peppermint and sinful Slytherin tickled her nose, and she blinked away the remains of a blissful dream as she remembered where she was.

Judging by the heavy breaths toying with her hair, Draco was very much ignorant to the world, but his arms must have snaked round her during the night, and she couldn't help but push her body a little more into his. He felt so good wrapped around her like this, and she wanted to absorb as much as she could before the inevitable denial and arguments came. Frowning with that thought, she realised it was probably best she leave before he stirred, if only to save them both the embarrassment and hassle.

Unsure why, but unable to resist, she craned her neck to plant a lingering kiss against his jaw line, before carefully removing herself from his hold.

The absence of his touch left her feeling neglected and cold, and as an afterthought, she pulled down one of Draco's blankets to cover him. With a final sad look, she turned to leave, oblivious to the set of grey eyes slowly opening behind her.

Draco brought his fingertips to where her lips had been, and stared at her back as she left him alone. A random idea stole his brain, and he silently eased himself up, just managing to the catch the door before it closed behind her. He poked his head through the gap and strained his hearing ability to successfully catch her password.

Lutra, lutra?

He had no idea what it meant, nor did he care; he just felt satisfied that things could be a little fairer now. If she was so bloody eager to wander into his room whenever she liked, now he could do the same. He told himself it was purely for tactical purposes, but as he raised his fingers again to his Granger-grazed jaw, he couldn't help but wonder if there were darker motives to his prying actions.

.

.

After a light lunch and a trip to the library, Hermione had returned to her room to find Hedwig pecking at her window.

Hermione read the letter again, and her smile widened. The envelope had been addressed solely to her, so she hadn't tracked down Ginny this time. After weeks of nothing but disappointment and fuel to her ever-growing pessimism; finally there was a light in the darkness. The note was scrawled in Ron's familiar and clumsy handwriting, but the words were bold and clear across the parchment.

We found it. It's destroyed.

Searching for the others.

I miss you.

R&H

There was no question about what 'it' was. They had found the locket. Her curiosity about the details would have to wait; she knew it was far too risky for Harry and Ron to provide her with too much information. But for the moment, she didn't care, they were one step closer to defeating Voldemort and ending this War.

I miss you.

Her broad grin creased into a sad frown as a spell of guilt hit her hard. Visions of her recent…activities with Draco waltzed across her conscious, and she realised, with a cringe, that she hadn't once considered how her behaviour would affect her friendships with the boys, specifically Ron. The details of her relationship with him were complicated to say the least, and she guessed she should blame them both for never having a civilised conversation about the subject.

While she didn't regret losing her virginity to her best friend, it had been made perfectly clear to her that that was all she and Ron ever would be. Friends. There had never been any passion between them; just crushes and curiosity that had now been, for her, sated. She loved him dearly, but she wanted that lust that she'd heard so much about; that burning throb inside your soul that made you crave someone's touch.

And that someone just wasn't Ron.

But Draco…

Draco had this…intensity with everything that he did, and it made something behind her navel tingle. The sensation was new and foreign to her, and she had no idea if she could call it lust or simply intrigue, but it was different and exciting. It encouraged her to interact and watch him, and in the safe solitude of her showers or her room, sometimes she couldn't help but imagine…

She shook her head to chase away the risqué thoughts and reminded herself that she had just received some promising news.

Priorities, Hermione...

.

.

After two days of awkward glances and an obvious reluctance to address the night spent in forbidden arms, Hermione was beginning to realise she quite missed Draco's company. She was still struggling to really identify what she truly felt for her Slytherin housemate, but she had done her best to ignore her curiosity, and instead focus on her Horcrux research. But she couldn't deny her interest in him, nor could she really figure out why she desired to spend time with him when all they seemed to do was fight.

Perhaps it was because she could see him slowly dropping his defences, or possibly because the arguments reminded her that she had some fire still thundering in her bones. Hell, maybe she just enjoyed the spasmodic little flutters that crowded her gut whenever they were close…

It was Tuesday, meaning she would be leaving in two days to visit Tonks, and she needed to tell Draco. Smothering her anxiety and steeling her courage, she slipped out of her room, urged on by the winds slashing the night, and tapped lightly against his door.

"Why do you bother knocking?" Draco's voice called from inside. "You will come in whether I say you can, or not."

She found a little smile toying with her mouth as she used her wand to unlock his door, and she licked her dry lips before padding her bare feet over his threshold. He was sitting on his bed; shoulders hunched over and elbows resting against his crossed legs, while one of her books lay discarded near his feet.

"What do you want, Granger?" he asked, barely offering her a sideways glance.

"I wanted to talk to you about something-

"And you decided that three in the morning was the best time to bring it up?"

"I've been busy," she lied, carefully easing herself down to sit at the foot of his bed. "And we're both up, so I figured-

"Spit it out then," he said tiredly. "I actually planned on getting some sleep tonight."

"Okay," she sighed, hesitating as she tried to select her words. "On Thursday, I shall be staying in Hogsmeade for a couple of days-

"What?" he blurted. His head snapped up at her words, and a violent sense of dread seized his chest. The thought of her leaving him alone in this sanity-starving hole made him feel sick to his stomach, and an itchy shiver clawed its way up his spine. "What the hell do you mean you'll be leaving for a couple days?"

"Well, I'm visiting someone," she explained, nervously tucking a an unruly curl behind her ear. "I will leave you enough food and-

"Are you going with that Corner prick?" he hissed quietly, fixing her with a fierce glare. "Romantic fuck-fest for the Heads at The Three Broomsticks?"

Hermione flinched. "No, that's not-

"I suppose I should be grateful that you're not denting the headboard in your own room," he continued viciously. "And if you have to slag it around-

"Draco, stop it!" she barked with offence and the shadows of tears scratching at her eyes. "I'm meeting a female friend for Godric's sake! Why do you always have to do that?"

His mouth clapped shut as he willed his stormy thoughts to simmer, and he wondered why he'd found his rant necessary. He considered the possibility that she was bluffing to save face, but he doubted Granger was capable of lying; and in a world rife with deception, he found her honesty rather refreshing.

"I'm sorry."

The words were rushed and tumbled past his lips before he could stop them, but for a brief moment, he thought the charming softening of her features might be worth his error. The way she looked at him then, like he was worth something more than the pitiful mess he felt, made that incessant craving to touch her tickle his fingertips.

"I'm sorry that I won't be here for a couple of days," she said before he could retract his comment, and he found himself weaving his fingers to keep his hands busy. "I will arrange some way for you to contact me if there's anything you need-

"I am perfectly capable of surviving two days by myself," he scoffed quickly, but the idea of her not being around to chase away the boredom made his soul ache. "It's a bloody shame you don't fuck off more often."

"Maybe-

"You have been a lot more…cheerful recently," he commented suddenly, giving her suspicious stare. "It's annoying."

Hermione frowned and wondered if her reaction to Ron's letter had been a bit more obvious that she'd thought. "What makes you think I'm happier?"

"It's written all over your face," he said with a roll of his smoky eyes. "And if I'm guessing right, this friend that you are meeting is one of your Order lot. Would I be right in assuming that your side is doing well, and that is to blame for your good mood?"

"You know I can't discus that with you-

"Why not?" he countered. "I'm hardly going to walk out the front door and spill all your secrets to the manwho wants me dead."

Hermione exhaled wearily and swivelled her body to face him. "I just don't think we should talk about it-

"I'm sure everyone else is talking about it," he muttered thoughtfully. "Why should we be any different?"

"Because we are different, Draco," she told him, somewhat sadly. "We are-

"On different sides," he finished for her, bowing his head to hide his eyes.

Hermione tilted her head, confused about the trace of melancholy in his tone. He looked troubled tonight, as though a horde of questions were streaming across his brain and he had no idea which one to answer first. She could see the muscles of his face were strained in an attempt to keep whatever was brewing in his head hidden from her, perhaps even from himself. That rare bearing of vulnerability was there again; in the subtle twitch of his lips or the anxious flicks of fingers, and she wondered when she had learned to read him so well.

"Different sides," she repeated in a solemn tone. "You still consider yourself one of them, Draco?"

That was the question…

He swallowed away the clot of angst in his throat and bit down hard on his tongue. It was the question he'd been asking himself since he had been forced to run from Voldemort; for how could he truly be part of a side whose leader wanted him rotting in a shallow grave? The question had grown louder and dominant since Granger had started to invade his senses. Everything was monumentally fucked up, and she seemed to be the only steady and, dare he think it, good aspect of his pathetic pseudo-life as a prisoner. He may detest the way he reacted to her and yearned for her company, but there was no denying her presence soothed his fractured soul.

Salazar, forgive me for that.

But he couldn't help it. She was the first and only person to make him challenge the beliefs that had been engraved into his skull. How could he realistically follow the psychopathic ideals of that creature when he'd put a price on his head? How could he really believe that Muggle-borns were inferior when Granger was the brightest witch to stumble into Hogwarts for decades? How could he…How could he pretend that those prejudices still made sense, no matter how bad he wanted them to?

"Don't you?" he asked her absently, removing his bare arm from under the blanket to display his Mark. "Doesn't this make me one of them?"

Hermione frowned at the ugly and twisted blemish on his snowy skin and was surprised to find that it didn't bother her anymore; not on him anyway. Perhaps it was the slightly softer edge to his voice tonight, or the defeated slump of his shoulders, but she felt like pushing the boundaries with her struggling companion. She shuffled a little closer and carefully reached out to stroke her fingers across his still-healing flesh, and felt encouraged when he didn't immediately snatch his arm away from her.

"That Mark doesn't define you," she said gently, catching his confused eyes purposefully. "The same way my blood does not define me. You define who you are, Draco; your actions and your thoughts-

"And if I don't know who I am?" he questioned, his voice quivering slightly. "What if I am…lost?"

A scary bout of affection soared in her chest. "Then just do what feels right," she urged eagerly. "And the rest will follow."

Draco's brow creased and his distant stare fell to her calming fingers, still softly teasing the sensitive scar on his forearm. Just when Hermione thought he was beginning to absorb her words, he snorted and pulled away from her too-tempting caresses.

"You Gryffindors are so quick to seek the good in people; to assume people can change," he scorned with questionable mirth. "Some people are beyond change, Granger-

"Not you," she protested quickly. "Not you, Draco."

Doubt flickered in his ashy glare, but she could see he was determined to resist her tonight. "You should go," he told her, nodding his head towards the door.

She contemplated telling him that she wanted to stay; to surrender some of her pride and admit that she felt safe with him, and that she'd never slept better in her life than when she had been locked in his arms. But the prospect of him laughing in her face and rejecting her made the cold scratch across her skin, and she decided not to push her luck. Leaving his bed, she headed out of his room, but paused in the doorframe.

"They're just labels, you know," she mumbled, keeping her back to him so he wouldn't see the first tear roll down her cheek. "Slytherin, Gryffindor. Pureblood and Mudblood. They don't dictate how we should live our lives."

Behind her, Draco fought hard to ignore the quickening thuds against his ribcage. As she disappeared, he glanced down at his Mark again, and could still feel the lingering tingles from her touch. He felt so alone at that moment; almost aware that the flimsy remains of his stubborn prejudices were starting to shatter and crumble under the weight of her words. He knew that her absence, even if it was only for a couple of days, would do damaging things to his muddled brain.

As if to confirm that he had finally yielded to the somewhat blissful beginnings of madness, he waited an hour before he crept soundlessly out of his room, and found himself outside of her door. He toyed with the thought of murmuring her password and slipping inside, but he had no idea what he intended to do.

You pathetic twat…

.

.

"Michael and I agreed on the eleventh of December for the Christmas ball," Hermione explained. "I know it's a little earlier than usual, but you mentioned that you might have some problems with the transportation for some students this year."

"Yes, that's true," McGonagall nodded. "I've decided it's wise to send small groups of students home for the Christmas holidays over a week or so, just in case. I'm not sure using the Hogwarts Express is a good idea either, but there are alternatives. The eleventh works well."

Hermione sighed and rubbed her eyes. "Do we have to continue with this charade, Professor?" she asked wearily. "It seems silly to have a ball when we are at War-

"You know I want to keep spirits up," the headmistress said evenly. "Hogwarts is acting as a haven for now, and I would like the students to feel safe here-

"But they-

"The eleventh is fine," the older witch hushed her. "Classes will finish on the tenth, and that provides myself and the other professors with two weeks to ensure everyone gets home safely. Are you staying here, Miss Granger?"

"Yes," she replied a little sadly. "I've told my parents that I'm staying at the Burrow. They still don't really know much about what's going on, and I'd like to keep it that way."

McGonagall creased her brow. "Have you given any more thought to that memory charm you discussed with me?"

"It's a last resort," Hermione told her professor quickly. "I don't want to use it unless I absolutely have to."

"Well, let's just hope that things don't come to that," she sighed. "On a more positive note, I've heard from Nymphadora, and she is expecting you when you are ready."

Hermione's stressed features instantly brightened with that information. "I can't wait to see her," she confessed. "Do you need anything else from me? Or can I-

"You are more than welcome to go now," McGonagall offered with a warm expression. "Would you like me to get Professor Slughorn to escort you?"

"I'll be fine," she assured quickly, rising from her seat. "I need to head back to my dorm first anyway."

"Very well," the headmistress nodded. "I shall see you in Transfiguration tomorrow then. And I expect you to be at the Christmas ball, Hermione."

Great.

"Okay," she nodded reluctantly. "I'll see you tomorrow, Professor."

.

.

Hermione anxiously drummed her fingernails against the wall next to Draco's door. She had been lingering in the same spot for close to five minutes now, wondering why she was so concerned about her parting words to her blond guest. Since their reasonably intense conversation, she had kept her distance, deciding that she had once again probably surrendered too much of her hope to him. But he had been so human…practically bleeding a level of vulnerability that had left her with trusting heart-flutters and a whole new batch of emotions that she didn't understand.

What if I am…lost?

She could have cried for that comment. His customary arrogance had momentarily melted away to show her that perhaps all of her efforts hadn't been in vain. Maybe she had nourished that seed of doubt in his mind enough that it was finally starting to blossom…Or maybe she was getting ahead of herself. His flash of decency had diminished so quickly, she was beginning to wonder if it had happened at all.

"Is there a bloody reason you're loitering outside my room?" his voice disrupted her thoughts, muffled through the tick wooden door.

Taking a deep breath, she pushed it open and found him, once again, casually sitting on his bed with one of her books in his lap. "Sorry," she mumbled. "Am I interrupting you, or-

"Yes, because I have so much on my plate," he said snidely, rolling his eyes. "What do you want, Granger?"

"I'm leaving for Hogsmeade now," she told him. "I have prepared enough food for you to last the two days-

"Sod off then," Draco spat coldly. "What were you expecting, Granger? A fucking farewell party?"

"I wasn't expecting you to be so angry," she murmured, taking some steps towards him. "And I certainly don't know why you're angry."

Neither did he.

"I'm not angry," he defended quickly. "I just don't understand why you found it necessary to barge in here again and bore me with your shit again. You told me you were leaving the other day."

"Yes, but I-

"Are you done?" he snapped. "I might have sod all to do, but I'd rather do it without you here."

Hermione sighed and turned to rummage in her charmed bag, in which she had stored all of the belongings she would need for her stay with Tonks. After a couple of shakes, she removed a small snow-globe containing a miniature replica of Hogwarts Castle inside, surrounded by fake snow. Draco arched an eyebrow as she rested the little object in her lap and stroked the glass thoughtfully before she caught his eyes.

"I've charmed this," she said slowly. "If you shake it five times, it will set off an alarm on my clock. I've extended the wards too, so if you try to leave, that'll also set the alarm off."

He shouldn't have really been impressed with Granger's magical abilities, but once again he found himself with an unwelcome sense of admiration for her. He scowled away any semblance of respect that could have betrayed him, and released a haughty scoff.

"I don't need-

"It's just a precaution," she stopped him. "In case you fall and break you leg, or something-

"Wishful thinking there, Granger?" he said with an easy smirk. "You haven't lined the dorm with traps, have you?"

Hermione's lips twitched into an almost-smile, and she edged forward to place the snow-globe next to Draco on the bed. The flash of humour that had suited his features so well faded away as he eyed her dainty item with distaste and pushed it away from him, and Hermione wanted very much at that moment to touch him. The temptation had hit her so quickly and suddenly that she flinched, clenching her hands into tight fists in an effort to ignore the tightening of her stomach.

"You know, Draco," she mumbled uneasily, frowning when her voice hitched. "I could make other arrangements. If you don't want me to go, you only have to say."

Don't go…

"If you have no more pointless toys in your little bag of tricks," Draco growled. "Then I see no reason for you to still be here, Granger."

She was certain he could see the disappointment behind her lashes, but it quickly turned into irritation. "Fine," she said brusquely. "If you insist on being so bloody cold all the time-

"I wasn't expecting you to be so angry," he repeated her earlier words condescendingly. "Was there something else you wanted, Granger?"

"No," she huffed, swiftly rising from the bed. "I just don't understand why you have to be such a bastard all the time-

"Hey!" he shouted, standing up and grabbing her wrist. "What the hell were you expecting, Granger? Some gratitude for this poxy ornament when you're leaving me alone in this sodding prison-

"I am learning to expect nothing from you!" she fired back, bringing her face close to his. "Just when I think you might have a shred of decency in you, you go right back to being a selfish prick!"

"What the hell are you talking-

"The other day," Hermione reminded him in a quieter voice. "When we were talking about sides-

"You read too much into things," he growled defensively. "Did you ever think that maybe this place is just screwing with my head a little-

"Not as much you'd like to think," she retorted, swallowing when she realised how close they were. "Why do you have to put on an act when I am the only person who sees you?"

He parted his lips but hesitated to say anything. There was something familiar in her golden eyes that reminded him of the day she had kissed him in her allergy-stricken haze. It was there between her anxious blinks; a spark of courage amongst a storm of nerves, and he felt her lean into him. He clenched his eyes shut and debated allowing it to happen; tempted to just to drop all his defences, and let her do whatever she wanted. This was his only opportunity to get a final dose of her; that forbidden fix, before she left him alone with his demons. They had grazed lips before, so what difference would one more taste make?

But when her warm breath ghosted across his chin, it dragged Draco back to reality, and he hastily shoved her away before she could touch him. He sneered viciously at her as she stumbled, but the venom in his features was forced and practised; simply a mask to cover how disorientated he felt. Granger, on the other hand, had no time to hide her humiliation and surprise; her movements jerky and her eyes misted with hurt. Draco was a heartbeat away from screaming at her to leave, but she whirled around and fled before he could even draw in a breath.

The slam of the door ricocheted around his lonely room like the clap of the Wizengamot's hammer. Thus was his sentence; two days with only his shadow for company and wondering what he would do without her presence to chase away the damning solitude.

He should have let her kiss him…

.

.

The cold air made her tear-sodden eyes sting.

Hermione's walk to Hogsmeade was a rushed one; plagued with the realisation that she was beginning to feel things for Draco that were far from normal.

The first time she had kissed him, she had been woozy and dazed; acting on a commanding impulse that had been too much for logic to repress. But her attempt to catch another taste just moments ago had been different. She had wanted to lean in and test her luck. It had been a conscious decision, that had resulted in her feeling rejected and completely mortified. The thoughts in her brain were muddled and mangled into a catastrophic mess, and she had no idea where to even begin dealing with them.

As The Three Broomsticks came into view, she sleeved away the evidence of her cries and tried to gather her composure. At least the excitement of seeing Tonks would drown some of her questions about Draco, and she managed a half-hearted smile as she entered the familiar inn. A few of the usual punters were scattered around, but she barely noticed them as she caught Madam Rosmerta's wise eyes. The older witch offered Hermione a knowing nod and discreetly passed her a key across the bar, and she wasted no time in rushing to see her friend.

"There she is!" Tonks beamed as Hermione barged into the room. "I thought you might have lost your way."

"It's so good to see you," she gushed, rushing in for a hug, but faltering when she spotted the slight swell of Tonks' stomach. "Oh, Tonks! You're starting to show!"

"Meet the bump," she said with playful grin. "And I'm warning you now that I am going through the craving stage, so if you see me huddled in the corner clutching a marmite and jam sandwich, just ignore me."

Hermione smiled, but couldn't quite manage the laugh that would have normally come so naturally with Tonks' humour. An image of her encounter with Draco, when his lips had been barely a breath away, danced across her lids and left her mouth dry and her heart heavy.

"Are you okay, Hermione?" Tonks asked. "You look a bit troubled."

"I'm fine," she lied quickly. "I just miss Harry and Ron."

"Of course you do," she nodded sympathetically, giving the younger witch a warm smile. "But at least you have some friends here who you can talk to. How are things at Hogwarts?"

Hermione couldn't help but flinch.

Complicated…

.

.

Draco scowled into the darkness.

It was late, and the glow of the moon didn't reach the windowless living room where the silence was ringing in his ears; a loud reminder that she wasn't here. Her scent was starting to fade, the dorm felt eerily hollow, and all he had done for the last several hours was stare at the fucking snow-globe.

All he had to do was rattle the ugly little thing, and she would return, and he could steal a taste of her, as he should have done before she'd left.

He lunged at the magical ornament and hurled it at the wall with a loud roar ripping his windpipe. He watched it shatter before he turned on his heel and marched towards Granger's room with elevated breaths. Mumbling her password, he instantly calmed as he greedily inhaled the air in the room.

Definitively Granger.

He studied his surroundings critically, expecting to find a huge collection of personal belongings, but except for a few photographs, the predicable red bedding, and an impressive collection of books, it was similar to his own room.

Draco eyed the photographs sourly, lingering on particular one of Granger with those feckless pricks she considered good company. He slapped all the frames down so he wouldn't have to look them and settled himself on her bed, absently running his fingertips over her covers. His lids felt heavy and he leaned back; lulled by how strong her scent was amongst her pillows and blankets. If he slept here, surrounded by soothing whispers of her presence, who would know?

"Sod it."

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