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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34. Amity

Draco guessed it had been about four hours since Granger had woken up, and they had passed the time with little spells of conversation, broken up with long stretches of comfortable silences. He'd told her about his stay at Andromeda's, about the news of Ted's death, which had made her frown, and then about Teddy being born, which had made her smile. In turn, she had told him many things; from Potter's reaction to the news of their unconventional relationship, to the progress with the Horcruxes, and she had done so with such trust and ease, like any lingering doubts about his loyalties were completely gone.

Like he was one of them.

He'd noticed that she'd refrained from mentioning Weasley, which suited him just fine for the time being. Bringing up her ex-lover would only irritate him, and he was reluctant to break the relaxed and content mood when he'd only just had her back, and that was also why he'd resisted confronting her about the stunt she'd pulled back at Hogwarts. It might have felt like they'd been separated for a lifetime, but the cruel way she'd Petrified him and slapped a Portkey against his hand felt like yesterday, and all the resentment and questions that came with it were raw and unanswered.

But it could wait if it ensured this temporary moment of peace would be prolonged.

"Draco."

"Hm."

"You're not…Um, I'm not quite sure how to put this. What I mean is…you're not-

"Spit it out, Granger," he sighed. "Don't you think we're a little past being reserved with each other?"

"You're not uncomfortable with our relationship any more," said Hermione, her tone anxious. "You're not…fighting it."

"Seemed like a pointless exercise," he shrugged.

"But why have you stopped? What changed?"

He paused and released a long breath. "Nothing changed, and that was the problem," he said, deciding she deserved honesty despite the protests of his pride. "The distance didn't alter anything, Granger; you were still under my skin. To resist you now would be senseless and…self-destructive."

She hummed behind her lips, and he thought she might be smiling. "I missed you too, Draco."

.

.

Hermione fell asleep a little while after that, wrapped up in his arms and body heat, and breathing softly against his chest. Judging by the mood of the sky, Draco guessed it was mid-afternoon, and the hours rolled by quite quickly considering he didn't move. He'd tried to fall asleep with her, but his mind was too busy with the usual thoughts; his parents, the war, her, and his place amongst it all. The only conclusion he could reach was that he was in love with Granger, to the point that it blotted out the other factors and made them blurry and irrelevant.

Yes, he loved her, and realised he had done for longer than he cared to admit.

To feel so vulnerable and empowered at the same time, and when the mind is somewhere between serenity and insanity, it means love's to blame.

There was little point in deluding himself any further and denying it to himself. After all, he'd told her himself; muttered it to her last night as she'd slept, and the fact that she was unconscious at the time did little to dent the confession. He knew that words always seemed so brittle and gauche when he struggled to express himself, and he hoped his actions would be sufficient, and that was best thing about Granger; he knew she would never ask him to say it.

She must've been sleeping for around four hours when there was a knock at the door, and a growl rumbled in Draco's throat. He ignored it, knowing it was probably Potter or Weasley who had inevitably come to shatter their peace, and he would delay them as long as possible.

"Draco," Tonks' hushed voice came from the other side. "Draco, it's me. Come to the door."

"Fuck's sake," he hissed, shifting his body with care to ensure Granger would lie comfortably on the bed as he left her side. He opened the door a crack and fixed his cousin with a furious glare. "Is there no sodding break from you, woman?"

"You know, it's polite to answer the door-

"Do I strike you as a polite person?" he retorted. "Anyway, I thought you might be Potter or Weasley."

"Well, I think Luna may have slipped Ron and Harry a little too much Sleeping Draught," said Tonks. "They're both still out cold."

"As long as they're not in my face, I don't really care."

"How's Hermione doing?" she asked, ignoring his comment. "Did she wake up yet?"

"She woke up, and now she's asleep again."

"Well, I didn't hear any screaming, and you're still in one piece," she remarked with a small grin. "I assume she remembered you then?"

"Her memory seems fine."

"See, I was right. I told you she'd have no trouble with her memory-

"Congratulations," said Draco derisively. "I'll get to work on that medal for you."

"Oh, shut up. So, she's healing well? She's feeling okay?"

He lowered his eyes and frowned at the floor. "She's having difficulty with her legs. She said she couldn't feel them properly. She did use a word, but I can't really remember it. Neura…Neura-pracks, or something."

"Neurapraxia?"

"I think that's what she said."

"That's the Muggle term for it," she explained. "You probably know it better as Limb-block. It's quite a common side effect of the Cruciatus Curse."

"Yes, that sounds familiar," he nodded. "So it's no concern?"

"I have a potion for it, and she'll be able to walk just fine in a week or two, probably the latter considering her injuries, but she'll need help getting around until then-

"Wouldn't it be better for her to just stay in bed?"

"No, it's better to be active; helps the potion to circulate," she said. "Hermione wouldn't want to be confined to the bed anyway, it would drive her mental."

Draco made a small sound of agreement. "Where's the potion then?"

"It's in your room, in the cupboard. I'll need to check her and make sure she has Limb-block, and not something more serious-

"More serious?" he repeated. "What are you on about?"

"I'll need to ensure it's not a more severe condition, like paralysis," she told him. "I'm sure it won't be, but I need to check before I give her anything. Why don't you go and get some food? There's someone downstairs who wants to see you anyway-

"No, I want to-

"Draco?" called Hermione's voice from the bedroom. "Why are you outside? And did I hear Tonks?"

Huffing with aggravation and shooting a pointed look at his cousin, he grabbed the doorknob and went back inside with Tonks practically shoving her way past him to get to Hermione. He paused his steps half-way into the room, awkwardly watching the two witches hug and feeling a little out of place. This was a moment he'd been dreading; the moment when people would begin to filter back into her life, and it made him anxious.

These people were regulars in her world, and he was on the outskirts of their little clan, mainly by choice, but partially because he hadn't shared in their experiences, and trust was an obvious issue. He and Granger had never been around people since the beginning of their relationship, always lost in their own little web of secrets back in Hogwarts, and he wondered if she might be influenced by their return into her life.

Would she be swayed by their opinions of him? Would their negative perceptions and comments put strain on them? Would she realise that she was too…pure for him?

As if she could read his thoughts, she met his eyes over Tonks' shoulder to offer him an adoring smile, to which he responded with a stiff nod, and thought perhaps he owed her more credit than that. She hardly had a fickle character, did she? She was headstrong, stubborn, and evidently as much on his side as she could be. The doubts continued to niggle at him though.

"How are you feeling, Hermione?" asked Tonks.

"I'm fine."

"Honestly?"

"Honestly," she sighed. "I'm a bit sore, but it's bearable and I know it will pass-

"Granger, tell her," Draco cut in. "You can't walk."

She frowned, like she begrudged admitting it was a problem. "Yes…my legs are rather numb. I think I might have a bit of nerve damage or something."

"Limb-block, you think, yes? I'll need to check you over," she murmured, before she turned her head to address him. "Draco, why don't you go and get something eat-

"I'm fine here," he snapped, his tone harsher than he'd intended. "I don't see why I should leave-

"I need to concentrate, and it will be easier without you here," she reasoned. "Anyway, I told you there's someone downstairs-

"I don't give a fuck-

"Draco, it's okay," Hermione breathed softly, and her tone was instantly soothing. "I'm hungry, so I'll come down in a bit to get some food anyway. We won't be long."

Her mouth was a bit bent and puckered in a half-frown, her eyes reassuring, almost pleading for him to listen, and it was for that reason alone that he relented. His lips twitched with frustration, and he fired a sharp scowl at Tonks before he turned and left the room.

In truth, he didn't mind his cousin so much. She might irritate him at times, but he had a feeling that she was one of the few who wouldn't be vocally critical about his presence in Granger's life, and he reluctantly acknowledged that a few allies might benefit him in the circumstances. Merlin knew why, but she appeared to have warmed to him, and he intended to take advantage of that.

It was the way Tonks had insisted he leave the room that had irked him. He'd barely had a day reunited with Granger, and already he was being shoved to the side. Potter, Weasley, Lovegood, and every other insufferable idiot would want time with her, and he didn't relish the idea of having to compete for moments of her company. Clenching his jaw and deciding that he could consider it more later on, he headed for the kitchen and rolled his eyes when he caught sight of the familiar face at the table, sat at Blaise's side.

"For fuck's sake-

"There he is," Theo grinned. "How are you feeling, sunshine? You look like shit-

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Tonks came back to Andromeda's to get the baby, and she brought me back with her," he explained. "You know, you and Blaise are something else. I was barely gone ten minutes to do some washing, and apparently everything kicked off-

"It was hardly amusing, Theo," mumbled Blaise, his tone weary.

"Maybe not, but it was the most entertainment we've had in that bloody house for a while," he replied. "I'm scared to take a piss in case I miss something interesting-

"Merlin, you're such a tosser-

"So, I've been told."

Blaise shook his head and regarded Draco carefully. "Granger alright?"

"Do you really give a shit?"

"You obviously do," he countered. "I saw how injured she was, and I was simply asking."

Draco clenched his jaw and took a seat at the table, warily scrutinising his two companions before he spoke. "She can't walk properly," he said slowly, keeping his expression steady and stoic. "She reckons she might have Limb-block, so it might just be temporary, but Tonks is checking her now."

Blaise rubbed his chin. "It could have been worse, mate-

"It could've been fucking avoided," he barked fiercely. "I want to know why the hell Weasley was saying it was his fault."

"Ah, yes, the Weasel," Theo remarked. "The plot thickens. I've already booked my front-row seat for that inevitable confrontation."

"Good, you can hold him down for me."

"Sounds like fun," quipped Theo, and Draco couldn't help a brief smirk. "A little weasel-beating sounds therapeutic."

"Didn't Granger and Weasley have little thing going on?" asked Blaise.

"Did," Draco emphasised. "It's of no consequence any more."

"Perhaps not to you and Granger, but judging by Weasley's behaviour yesterday when he pulled you away from her, he might still believe-

"He can believe whatever he likes," he growled. "I know where I stand, and I will be more than happy to make it clear to Weasley where he stands."

Their heads shot up when the door opened, and Draco couldn't suppress the urge to roll his eyes as Luna ambled into the room with that usual oblivious expression of hers, hindered slightly by a healing gash on her lip and few bruises smeared across her face. She took the seat by Blaise and innocently pecked his cheek, seemingly ignorant to Draco and Theo until she leaned back in her chair and gave them blank looks.

"Where've you been?" asked Blaise.

"I went to see if Harry and Ron were awake, but they're both still asleep."

"Bloody hell, Lovegood," said Theo. "You must've given them enough Sleeping Draught to knock out a few Mountain Trolls."

"I may have misjudged the measurements slightly," she shrugged, shifting her eyes to Draco. "How is Hermione?"

"Awake," he replied. "She said she'd come down for some food in a bit."

"So, Granger's going to eat with us?" asked Theo, cocking an intrigued eyebrow. "That's going to be interesting."

A snarl thundered behind Draco's teeth. "If you say one thing out of line, Nott, I'll fucking-

"Easy, blondie," he interrupted with a corrupt smile. "I won't be a prick to your girlfriend. I'm just wondering how's she's going to react to being around us. Last time I remember seeing Granger, I was taking the piss out of her in Potions. With you, now I think about it."

"I don't think you're intimidating," said Luna. "I didn't feel uncomfortable when I first met you and the others at Andromeda's house."

"To be fair, Lovegood, we could shove you in a room with every breed of Dragon, a herd of Centaurs, and twenty pissed off Veelas, and you'd probably still try to befriend them all with cupcakes and pumpkin juice-

"Watch it, Theo," Blaise snapped, not that Luna seemed at all affected by the remark.

"Look, I'm just saying it's going to be weird," he mumbled. "And it'll be bloody worse when Potter and Weasley wake up. I can still be a bastard to the Death-trap Duo, right? Millicent's not shagging Potter on the sly or anything?"

"For Merlin's sake," Blaise groused. "Was that necessary?"

"I gave you a disturbing mental image, didn't I?"

"I don't give a fuck what you say to Potter and Weasley," Draco said, offering Theo a knowing smirk. "Knock yourself out. Just don't-

"Be a dick to Granger," he finished. "Yes, yes. Got that."

"You know, you could just try to be pleasant towards Harry and Ron," Luna suggested softly, and three sets of cynical eyes landed on her. "Or at least not provoke them."

"I'm sorry," Theo scoffed haughtily. "I have no idea what you just said. There were words, but they made no sense."

"I hate to agree with Theo, but you are being too hopeful with this, Luna," murmured Blaise. "There is way too much history there, and an altercation is unavoidable."

"And it's not like Potter and Weasley are going to be pleasant to us," Draco frowned. "Hell, I bet Weasley's already been scribbling down insults in case he forgets them."

"I just think it would be nice for everyone to get along," she breathed with a delicate voice, fixing Draco with a significant look. "I think Hermione would like everyone to get along too."

Theo snorted. "And I'd like a naughty weekend with the Patil twins, but that isn't going to happen either."

.

.

Hermione gagged on the sickly and lumpy potion as it crawled down her throat and landed in her stomach like a lump of wet cement.

"That's awful," she choked, handing the empty vial back to Tonks. "It tastes like mouldy porridge."

"That means it's the right one," Tonks shrugged, laughing lightly at Hermione's grimace. "We'll give it a minute to take effect, and we'll see if you can rest some weight on your legs, okay?"

"Okay," she agreed. "So I need to drink this everyday?"

"Until your legs are working fine again, yes. Each dose should bring a little more feeling back. In a couple of weeks, you should be fine."

"A couple of weeks? Is there no way to speed it up, or-

"Hermione, I know you want to be active, but you need some rest," said Tonks slowly. "It might only be a week if you're lucky, but your body went through hell-

"But I feel better already-

"Just because Wizard healing methods are faster than Muggle methods, does not mean you're completely well. Just take some time to recuperate."

Slumping her shoulders in defeat, Hermione sighed and reluctantly bobbed her head. "Fine, but do you know where my bag is? I could at least do some more research."

"Your bag and the clothes you were wearing are in the bottom drawer," she explained, gesturing to the dresser in the corner of the room. "Actually, I'll wash those clothes for you."

"Let me have look at them first. I'm sure I had some things in my pockets that I need to sort through."

"Alright."

"So," breathed Hermione, her lips swaying into a delighted smile. "Congratulations. What's it like being a mum?"

"Wonderful," Tonks replied without hesitation. "I mean, I haven't slept since he was born, but I don't care. He's perfect. We named him after dad; Teddy."

"Where is he now? Can I see him?"

"Remus has him. I think they're both having a nap, but you can see him when he wakes up. I want Harry to see him too. We decided that Harry should be his Godfather. He's sleeping, so I haven't had a chance to tell him yet."

"Oh, I bet Harry will be so touched. And there's no issue with the Werewolf blood?"

"No, he's inherited my Metamorphmagi ability. His hair started changing colour about an hour after he was born. Remus was so relieved."

"I'm so happy for you," Hermione said sincerely, beaming at her friend. "When Draco told me I was…it was just so nice to hear some good news."

Tonks rubbed her lips together with contemplation. "Why didn't you tell me about Draco?"

The abruptness of the question struck Hermione speechless for a moment. "Well…because you'd have called me insane and then tried to have me committed."

"Hermione-

"Alright, that may be a slight exaggeration, but you'd have certainly thought I'd gone a little mad."

Tonks chuckled. "I think most of us have gone a little mad. But okay, I see your point."

"You know, I did think about it. When I visited you in Hogsmeade I almost told you then, but there were other factors I needed to consider."

"Such as?"

"Well, I don't think I can tell you how Draco came to be at Hogwarts," said Hermione thoughtfully. "It might endanger somebody else."

"That's fine," Tonks nodded. "Mum said he was vague about it anyway, so we figured there was another party involved who wants to remain unknown. The specifics aren't really important."

"So…you don't think I'm mad? I mean, for my relationship with Draco?"

"Well, I didn't believe it to begin with, but my mum explained a few things about what he'd been like living with her, and I witnessed a few things for myself."

"What do you mean?"

"Like yesterday, when he saw you injured," she elaborated. "And when I told him you were at the Manor. His reactions were so telling, and I don't doubt for a minute that he loves you."

Hermione bowed her head and smiled shyly to herself, enjoying the sensation of a comforting warmth swelling in her chest. "Thank you," she mumbled. "For understanding."

"Don't get me wrong, I am still wary of him," said Tonks carefully. "But it takes some balls to do what he has done. He's gone against his family and You-Know-Who, and that is reason enough for me to give him a chance. It must be hard as hell to make that decision to defect; to leave behind everything you know and put your trust in people who were your enemy at one time."

"I'm hoping Harry and Ron will see it that way," she admitted. "Draco mentioned that Blaise Zabini is here?"

"And Theo Nott too, yes. They defected with some other Slytherins, and they were staying with my mum. We call them 'The Enlightened,' but only a few of the Order know about them. The Lovegoods, Remus, myself, McGonagall, and that's it really. It was safer to keep them as secret as possible."

"And how did Harry and Ron respond to them being here?"

"Luna gave them some Sleeping Draught and they haven't woken up yet," she explained. "But when they do, they will have to learn to be civil to each other, and I've told Theo and Blaise that. I won't put up with any stupid fights in my house."

"That's understandable," Hermione agreed, humming with thought. "You know, I find it quite…comforting in a way. That some of the Slytherins defected."

"They're still a bit rough around the edges," Tonks grinned. "Theo in particular, but they're not bad people. Just a little misunderstood and born into the wrong environment. You can see for yourself when you meet them."

Hermione felt an odd twinge in her stomach; a stab of nerves and apprehension as she considered meeting Blaise and Theo. It had not been that long ago that she and the two aforementioned Slytherins would've passed each other in a Hogwarts corridor with a sour glance and a mumbled slur, but things were different now, weren't they?

"Okay," she said, pushing the blankets off her. "Let's see if my legs are working any better."

.

.

Draco drummed his fingertips against the table and shifted in his seat; half-agitated and half-anxious as his eyes returned to the door for the thirteenth time in twenty minutes. Huffing out an impatient breath that stirred his fringe, he decided he would give it another five minutes before he went to see what was taking Granger and Tonks so bloody long and carry her down here if he had to.

"Draco," called Luna.

"What?" he snapped irately, not that she seemed phased.

"Would you like some tea?"

"No."

"Are you sure?" she asked, rising from her seat. "Perhaps some herbal tea might make you less…"

"Bitchy," supplied Theo. "Is it that time of the month, mate?"

Whatever retort Draco had intended to spit back withered on his tongue when the door opened, and Granger limped into the room, her steps unstable and her arm slung across Tonks' shoulders for balance. She was evidently struggling, her breathing slightly laboured and her cheeks a little flushed with the effort, but predictably refusing to appear defeated. He shot up to stand just as Hermione spotted Lovegood, and she tore herself away from Tonks to practically pounce on the blonde witch with a frantically uncoordinated hug that almost knocked Lovegood off her feet.

"Luna," Hermione exhaled. "Oh God, it's so good to see you."

"Hello, Hermione," she replied breezily. "It's nice to see you too."

"I heard you were at the Manor, are you okay?"

"I'm very well, thank you, but I'm not sure I can hold you up for much longer."

Draco beat Tonks to Granger's side, grabbing her elbow and belting his arm around her waist, pulling her into his frame until her weight was resting on him alone. He manoeuvred them back towards the table, tightening his grip on her when she stumbled and allowing her to lace her fingers with his despite being very aware that the others in the room were watching them intently.

"You alright?" he asked, his tone low so nobody else would hear.

"I'm fine," she answered stubbornly.

He eased her down into a free chair and sat beside her, studying her closely with hooded eyes and trying to determine her mindset as she cautiously glanced at Blaise and Theo. He could see she was uneasy, but she had that defiant pucker to her lips that told him she would deal with the situation, but he gave her knee a secret and subtle squeeze under the table anyway.

Hermione broke the accidental eye contact she'd made with Blaise, dropping her attention to her lap and stretching her arms out on the table to nervously clasp her hands together. She both felt and heard the tense silence in the room thicken, and when she lifted her chin to establish why, every pair of eyes seemed to be fixated on something, and she followed their stares to the ugly scar of scrawled letters etched into her forearm.

Mudblood.

She self-consciously tugged down the sleeve of her jumper to hide the mark, but the word lingered in the air above them, and even Luna's expression appeared to turn solemn under the weight of it. Despite the nerve damage in her legs, she could feel the clench of Draco's fingernails denting the skin of her thigh through her jeans, and it was oddly comforting.

"Sorry," she mumbled, feeling the need to crack the unbearable silence.

"You have nothing to be sorry for, Hermione," said Tonks sternly. "Certainly not for that."

"Bloody hell, Tonks," Theo commented. "You must've done a crap job with your Healing Charms-

"Healing Charms won't work on that," Blaise interjected, looking directly at Hermione. "I recognise that Curse, and it will only fade once the person who cast it is dead."

"Oh," she muttered, for lack of anything appropriate to say. "Well, um…thank you. I wasn't familiar with it, so…yes, thank you. At least I can research it now."

He responded with a slight nod of his head, and everyone was unsettlingly quiet again for a short while until Theo cleared his throat.

"So…," he drawled slowly. "The weather's been nice recently…"

Blaise scoffed. "'The weather's been nice recently?'" he echoed derisively. "What the hell-

"Well at least I fucking said something."

"And you thought the weather would be a sufficient topic?"

"Hey, I'm doing better than when we met Lovegood at 'Dromeda's," he defended.

"That's true," agreed Luna. "I would have happily discussed the weather with you, Theo."

"See, Lovegood agrees with me. What would you have preferred? 'Hi, Granger. Remember me? I hated you in Hogwarts, but let's start over because you're shagging my mate.'"

Draco sneered. "I fucking warned you, Nott-

"It's okay, Draco," Hermione cut him off. "They shouldn't have to tread on eggshells around me. I'd rather they were honest."

"Granger-

"No, Draco," she insisted, giving him a stern look. "I'm aware that things have been…difficult in the past, and it would be easier if it was all just out in the open-

"So you're encouraging them to behave like twats?" he frowned at her. "Yes, that's a brilliant idea-

"I'm not encouraging them to do anything, I'd just rather we didn't tip-toe around the matter and pretend to be interested in the bloody weather-

"I never said we should discuss the sodding weather!" he seethed, oblivious to the others in the room now and the awkward glances being exchanged.

"Well, then let them just say what they want, and I will deal with it!" she huffed. "For Godric's sake, Draco, I'm a big girl-

"Well, forgive me for trying to save you from getting offended-

"They're hardly likely to say something I haven't heard before! And you probably called me more names in Hogwarts than Theo and Blaise combined!"

"That's irrelevant-

"It's completely relevant!"

"Bullshit-

"And we didn't overcome it by discussing the weather-

"Would you stop mentioning the bloody weather!"

"We overcame it by being candid and forthright-

"The circumstances are entirely different!" he shouted. "Salazar's soul, even when you're ill you're an argumentative pain in the arse-

"And you're an incorrigible prat!"

Their dispute might've continued had Luna not dragged a chair away from the table, and the sharp, scraping sound of it against the floorboards snapped Hermione out of the heated moment, and again, she found there were too many sets of eyes on her. A warm blush crept into her cheeks and she tucked a stray curl behind her ear, watching Draco under her lashes as he rolled his shoulders and licked his teeth with agitation. But there was a barely-visible amused twitch to his lips, and she suppressed the urge to smile. She'd missed this the most; their harmless quarrels that always left her feeling somewhere between exhilarated and frustrated, but ultimately satisfied.

"Okay," blurted Theo, shattering yet another silence. "Is anybody else struggling to decide if they felt uncomfortable or turned on by that, or is it just me?"

"For Merlin's sake, Theo!" Tonks scolded. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you have no concept of decency?"

"What? Granger said she wanted us to be honest!"

Draco was a heartbeat away from lunging across the table and clipping his friend's jaw, but a small noise to his side stopped him, and when he looked at Granger, her mouth was curved into a smile, her body vibrating slightly, and her nose was creased up with charming wrinkles as she began to laugh. He cocked a puzzled eyebrow in her direction, but he was smirking before he could catch himself, and the atmosphere felt a little lighter.

"I'm sorry," said Hermione as her giggles subsided. "I don't know why, but I found that funny."

"I'm not surprised," Theo shrugged smugly. "I am hilarious."

Blaise grunted and shook his head. "Your humour is an acquired taste."

"No, your face is an acquired taste."

Hermione's giggles returned, and she absently wondered when she had last laughed like this; when she had permitted herself a stolen sliver of time to simply be a teenage girl without the weight of a war balancing on her shoulders. She felt Draco's hand return to her knee, and she reached down to tangle their fingers, briefly meeting his eyes to indicate that she felt relaxed enough in the situation.

The rest of the evening passed with more strained silences than conversations, but she didn't mind so much. To expect an immediate sense of amity with Blaise and Theo would have been far too optimistic, but there'd been no malice or intentional efforts to cause her discomfort, and she considered that a good start to the end of the day.

.

.

"Draco?"

"Hm."

"Are you asleep?"

"Evidently not."

She twisted her body around to face him in the bed. "Did you ever read The Twisted Time Theory by Virginia Fairhart?"

"Are you still going to talk about it if I say yes?"

"Yes."

He sighed and opened his eyes. "No, but I remember seeing it in the library. What about it?"

"Well, she theorised that because time can be altered and cheated with a time-turner that there are possible endless universes beyond the realms of the dimension we exist in, with varying conditions that were limitless in their differences. The Muggles have a similar theory too called the Multiverse Theory-

"Granger, it's past midnight," he interrupted. "Do you have a point to this little lecture?"

Hermione hesitated. "Well…do you think it's possible that there's a universe somewhere where there is no war, and we still ended up together without all this…chaos happening?"

His brow lowered with bewilderment as he looked down at her, their foreheads grazing with the movement. "But that wouldn't be us," he said. "They would just be mirror images-

"But who's to say we aren't the mirror images?" she argued. "What if we aren't the real ones?"

Draco ran his fingers down her arm, along her waist, and then lingered at her hip to trace slow circles there. "Feels rather real though, doesn't it?"

She didn't reply; simply tilted her head to borrow his lips in a quick kiss before tucking herself a little tighter into his arms. "I wonder if there's a universe where you, Ron, and Harry get along well."

"Definitely not," he muttered. "I am confident that all possible versions of me would think that Potter and Weasley are wankers."

She tutted and murmured something incoherent against his chest, but he let it be. He could hear the exhaustion in her breathing, and her sighs grew heavy against his collarbone within minutes.

.

.

He woke with a start; a cold sweat thinly spread across his brow and a gnawing chill at the base of his spine. His heart was riotous in his ribcage, and in a bizarre moment of paranoia, he checked that Granger was at his side. She was, of course. Her back was to him with her wayward curls sprawled across the pillow, sleeping soundly and groaning softly as he altered his position in the bed.

He couldn't be sure, but he had a hunch he'd dreamt about his mother, and he felt edgy as he sat up and dragged the damp tips of his hair away from his face. He tried to recall something tangible from his dream, feeling for some reason that it might be important, but it was a futile exercise. Dreams seldom linger when reality is so eager to resume.

He choked on the crispy dryness in his throat, trying to smother the noise against the back of his hand so as not to wake Granger, but she didn't stir. Deciding a glass of juice would clear it, he left the bed with the same mindful awareness of his sleeping witch, and unravelled his body from hers and all the bedding trapped between them.

Grabbing his wand, he headed downstairs, casting a faint Lumos to guide his way and play with the shadows. He guessed it was around three or four in the morning, and the house was so still, with only the dull thuds of his own footsteps to echo in his ears.

So when he pushed open the kitchen door and the glow of his wand caught the outline of a figure and a flash of red hair, he jerked back with shock but forced himself to recover quickly when he realised who was sat at the table. He poured a little more magic into the Lumos so he could see the other wizard in the room properly, and he saw nothing but contempt in those blue eyes, and Draco matched it with a sneer and a cocky tilt of his chin.

"Oh, good, it's you," said Draco coldly. "You know, Weasley, people with faces like yours shouldn't hide in the shadows. It's a fucking health hazard."

Ron clenched his teeth and slowly rose from his seat, and Draco arched an eyebrow with amusement. Apparently, the night just took an interesting turn.

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