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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28. Angel

Contrary to popular belief, the infamous monument that stands tall in Piccadilly Circus is not a statue of the Greek God, Eros.

When Hermione had stumbled across an old Victorian text in The London Library referring to it with another name, she had naturally been intrigued and given herself a little research project to pass the time during her summer holidays before fourth year. It had originally been a statue of Eros' brother, Anteros, but had been renamed 'The Angel of Christian Charity' for some time, before being changed back to Anteros. Despite this, almost every tourism guide, signpost and local Londoner - be them cockney or otherwise - still call it 'The Statue of Eros.'

When she'd returned to Hogwarts, she had told Harry and Ron about her findings and they had predictably been indifferent, but she had scolded them every time they'd called the monument its incorrect name, and they had eventually grown tired of her lectures on the importance of appreciating its true title. Ron, for some reason, had had a little difficulty with the name Anteros, and he'd kept mispronouncing it, 'Antross,' which had only irritated her more.

Somehow, they had compromised, and they had started calling it 'The Angel of Christian Charity' - for at least that had been its name at one point - and then that had simply been shortened to 'The Angel.'

The Angel in the Circus.

She had been born at exactly half four in the morning, a detail she was surprised Harry and Ron had remembered, but perhaps they really had been listening between the eye-rolls and blank expressions.

She had to give the boys credit. The destination was cryptic with their inside joke, and Piccadilly Circus would be busy enough with London's constant bustle for them to go unnoticed at that time, but not too busy to get disorientated.

After throwing all her belongings into her charmed bag, including all the books she had yet to read and all the notes she had scribbled in the last week, she had whispered a goodbye to Crookshanks and told him to behave while she was away. It had barely passed midnight, so she sat in the kitchen for a few hours, fidgety with anticipation and drumming her nails against the dining table, always checking the time.

A watched clock ticks slower.

When it was almost four, she jotted a quick note to Tonks and Lupin, apologising for her absence when they woke up and promising to be careful. As a precaution, she charmed her hair a light blonde, a few shades darker than Draco's, and fixed her woolly scarf to veil the lower part her face, just below her nose.

With a final glance at that bloody clock, which read ten past four, she took a deep breath to ease the odd bundle of nerves in her stomach, and walked out the door. She padded across the dew-licked grass until she felt a shift in the air which indicated she had gone beyond the Wards, and then she Apparated.

.

.

Sleep was an evasive bastard.

There had been too many revelations in the last week. It was almost as if his body and brain were still trying to accept his separation from Hermione, and were too dented by the impact to really absorb this new environment and the people in it. Maybe he was simply rejecting this Granger-less reality.

He didn't know. It didn't matter.

Nevertheless, he had passively observed the routines and conduct of his old classmates and his Aunt, if only because there was hardly anything else to do. He had learned that this wasn't Andromeda's main residence but a safe house, and she was constantly returning to her home, usually with Bulstrode, who seemed to have quite a good relationship with his Aunt.

Davis and Bletchley were always in each other's shadow, lost in their own world. In the rare moments they emerged from their rooms for mealtimes and the like, they were rather affectionate, Tracey more so, but not to the point that it made Draco gag. Bletchley never rejected her, but he always had a protective rigidity to his posture that made the intensity of his feelings for the witch obvious.

Theo, was a different story. If Draco had been concerned that he was the only one having trouble with this bizarre situation, Theo was not in the same place as his companions. While the others seemed to have adapted rather well to the circumstances, Blaise had remarked how Theo had his good days, and his bad days. On no less than four occasions, Draco had heard him mumble something derogatory about Muggles and Muggle-borns, and Draco hadn't been able to decide if he'd felt uneasy or relieved.

He might not be able to utter the word 'Mudblood' anymore, but hearing the slur was eerily familiar, and there was the faintest trace of a response to it. He was still questioning. He was still undecided.

It was only when Ted Tonks had paid a visit two days ago that Draco had witnessed one of Theo's good days. Draco had purposely kept his distance, but he'd noticed that his Aunt's husband had a laid-back and affable presence that was difficult to dislike, and Theo had lost all the revulsion in his expression. They'd played Wizard's Chess like it was the most normal thing in the world.

The others had refrained from asking him any questions, and he had a feeling Blaise had something to do with that. Draco could see he had a silent control over the small group, absently studying everyone and everything with seemingly dull eyes, except when Lovegood was around. Draco was still trying to really grasp their bizarre relationship, but he could hardly comment considering his own attachment to Granger.

Blaise and Luna had that hushed sort of love that you only noticed if you were watching; entirely expressed with lingering touches and secretive smiles. They would quietly disappear in the evenings without a word or whisper, and on the days when Lovegood was elsewhere, Blaise would wear that distant look of a man who didn't know if his soul mate was coming home.

Draco only recognised it because a similar expression had haunted his mirror every morning.

Between Blaise and Luna and Andromeda and Ted, he was surrounded by taunting reminders of his own unconventional attachment to Hermione, and it all seemed so natural to them. Like breathing.

Judging from the inky hue of the sky, it was somewhere between four and five, and he was outside, perched on the stone steps at the front of the house. He was wearing the coat Granger had bought him, inhaling the faint remains of her scent, and flicking his wand every now and then to renew the Warming Charm that shielded him from the frosty chill.

There was little to do but think here, and his thoughts were always as turbulent as a storm-licked sea. Tonight was no different. He didn't hear the door opening.

"Good morning, precious," Theo's droll voice broke the peace, and Draco shot him a cold look as he settled on the step next to him. "And why aren't you tucked up in bed?"

"Probably the same reason as you," he said.

"Morning wood?"

In spite of himself, Draco exhaled a low chuckle. "Not quite. Just…too many thoughts to sleep."

"Oh, that," Theo nodded. "Yes, this is hardly the best place to catch up on your beauty sleep, Malfoy. I would say that it gets easier, but if that was true, I wouldn't be here talking to you at four in the morning."

"Brilliant."

Theo drummed his fingers against his shin. "So, you really defected then?"

"Would I be here if I hadn't?"

"Fair point," he conceded. "And how exactly do you explain your sudden tolerance for Muggle-borns? I saw that look you gave me when I said 'Mudblood' the other day."

Draco sighed and closed his eyes. "A lot has changed since we last spoke."

"Care to elaborate?"

"Not right now," he shook his head. "How can I tell you my reasons when I don't completely understand them myself?"

Theo snorted and rolled his eyes. "That's just a poetic way of telling me to mind my own business."

"Then mind your own business," Draco shrugged. "Why are you being such a prick, Theo? We were mates once-

"Yes, but you said yourself, a lot has changed since we last spoke," said Theo, somewhat coldly. "Everyone has these little fucking secrets, and Blaise, Miles and Tracey are suddenly fine with Muggles. Fuck, even you-

"I'm not fine," he interrupted. "I am…confused, like you."

"And how would you know how I feel about all this?"

"I saw you with Ted, Theo. You don't hate him, and he's a Muggle-born."

Theo rubbed his hands together and dropped his gaze to his feet. "Ted's a good bloke," he started, his tone now and reluctant. "In my first week here, I downed some dark potion I'd nicked from my father. I was pissed off, and I just…wanted out."

Drcao snapped his eyes over to his companion. "You tried to top yourself?"

"I don't know," he said quietly, closing his eyes. "I knew the potion was dangerous but I was just so fucking angry. It basically started eating at my organs, and it bloody hurt. Ted found me, pumped my stomach, and stayed with me for six hours trying to heal the damage. I asked him not to tell anyone, and he didn't." He paused and cocked his head to the side. "I'd called him a Mudblood the day before."

The silence between them was that static kind that warned you not breathe first; thick with angst because no words would ever be appropriate to follow what Theo had confessed. Draco's brow wrinkled with his pensive frown, and he hesitantly lifted his hand and gave his old friend's back a firm pat of reassurance.

Theo cocked a cynical eyebrow. "If you're trying to hug me, I'll fucking backhand you."

"I wasn't going to hug you, wanker-

"Too right you weren't," he scowled. "Are we done with this unnecessary and pathetic discussion?"

"Apparently so," said Draco, frowning as Theo got to his feet and made to go inside. Huffing out an agitated breath, he tilted his head to call over his shoulder. "For what it's worth, Theo, I still consider you a mate."

"Should I do a little happy dance?"

"I'm just…If you need to vent, then you can, alright?" he offered flippantly. "I know how fucked up this all is. Believe me."

Theo hesitated, and Draco heard him clear his throat. "Noted," he mumbled, fumbling with the doorknob. "Likewise."

.

.

Hermione Apparated to St. James' Park.

She knew the area well, and was careful to ensure she wouldn't be noticed, choosing a small collection of trees near the corner of Horse Guards Road and The Mall. Piccadilly Circus was barely a ten minute walk from here, and she immediately broke into a swift power-walk, reciting her pre-planned route in her head for reassurance. The guttural vibrations of traffic and city sounds made her ears itch, and she bowed her head to avoid the eyes of the handful of people that she passed.

On any other day, she would have lingered to admire the elaborate architecture on Carlton House Terrace, but she barely spared the regal buildings a glance as she moved up Pall Mall. The stream of pedestrians was thicker as she moved deeper into London's heart, and she gripped her wand in her pocket, remembering Moody's advice.

Constant vigilance.

Moving up Waterloo Place and Regent Street, she squinted her eyes as the brash advertisements of Piccadilly Circus stained the pavements with reds, blues and greens, and then she saw the statue. She allowed herself a small sigh as she approached it with quickening strides, her eyes darting in every direction, searching for a flash of red hair or a glare of light bouncing off some spectacles.

As expected, there were people speckled around the area, meandering around each other or settled on the steps at the statue's base; European tourists with over-worked cameras, tipsy students who had lost their sleeping patterns, and a few busy professionals who were clearly struggling with deadlines. But no Harry or Ron.

She stopped walking and folded her arms to fight to the chill, studying the statue, and anxiously wondering if she had misinterpreted the letter. What if the boys had gotten her time of birth wrong? What if Hedwig had delivered the message on the wrong day? What if the letter had been intercepted, or had been a decoy, and she had just strolled straight into a trap like a bloody idiot?

She checked her watch. Twenty-five to five.

Punctuality had never been their strong point; hell, five minutes late was early for Harry and Ron, but risks breed doubts, and then paranoia sneaks up on your before you notice. She had almost made up her mind to abandon the whole plan, but something that felt like intuition crawled up her spine, and her eyes snapped to the side and locked on two figures marching in her direction.

The familiar, rusty tint of Weasley hair was absent; replaced with a deep brown shade. There were no glasses, black hair and been turned fair, and both faces had been altered slightly with different skin tones and missing freckles.

But she would have known them anywhere.

She was frozen for a second, but then she burst into a sprint, relieved tears prickling her eyes as she rushed towards them. They were running too, whipping around the late-night Londoners, and she lunged at them when they were close enough, wrapping her arms around two necks and relaxing into two pairs of awkwardly positioned arms. The trio stayed that way for a few peaceful moments, and then Hermione was ripping herself out of the familiar embrace and slapping her palms against their chests.

"OW!" Ron grumbled. "'Mione, what the-

"Don't you two ever leave like that again!" she snapped, batting away their hands. "I could bloody kill the pair of you-

"I told you she'd be angry," Harry mumbled with a slight grin.

"Too right I'm angry!" she scolded. "I haven't seen you in months-

"We missed you too," said Ron in warm tone, but Hermione avoided his attempt to drape an arm across her shoulders. He gave her a wounded look, and a pang of guilt hit her chest. "What's wrong, Hermione?"

"Nothing," she sighed, avoiding his eyes. "I just…it will be light soon. We should get going. Where have you been staying?"

Her two friends shared an uncertain look. "Well," Harry mumbled. "It's a long story, but we've kind of been moving around a lot. We thought areas away from the cities would be best, but we don't really know many. What was that forest you visited with your family?"

"The Forest of Dean," she supplied. "Yes, that's actually not a bad idea-

"But we need to get more supplies," Harry explained, gesturing to the rucksack hanging off his shoulder; the bag she had given him before he'd left, complete with an Undetectable Extension Charm. "The tent we had is falling apart and-

"I have a tent," she interrupted, patting her own charmed bag. "I have been collecting things I thought we might need since you two left-

"What about food?" Ron piped up with his rather predictable request. "We're running low-

"I have everything we need," she told them, frowning when she realised the morning was already beginning to lighten the sky. "Come on, we should go. Let's find somewhere to Apparate from."

"You're right, we should move," Harry nodded, and the three of them started to move down Shaftsbury Avenue. "Honestly, Hermione, we have so much to tell you. You wouldn't believe what's happened since we left you."

Hermione clenched her eyes shut for a moment and thought of Draco. "Yes," she murmured absently. "I have some rather unbelievable things to tell you myself."

.

.

Chapter 28, Part 2: Adapt.

.

A week later…

.

Draco rested his weight against the wall, his eyes fixed on his Aunt, who was clearly fighting back the tears.

Andromeda had told them yesterday that Ted was going on the run. They'd received an anonymous warning, possibly from the Order, that the Ministry had been informed of Ted's whereabouts, and it was only a matter of time before they came looking for him. Theo had been quick to react, and he had dented the wall with his fist, demanding to know why Ted couldn't remain with them in the safe-house. Ted had had to calm him down, explaining that if Voldemort's followers knew he was being concealed, they would probably conduct a thorough search, and there was a risk that their hideout would be discovered. If they knew he was on the run, they would hunt him, and any attention would be diverted.

To put it bluntly; Ted was putting his life on the line to help a group of teens he hardly knew. Theo had been right; Ted was a decent bloke.

That notion had stirred a sobering amount of respect within Draco for his affinal uncle, and suddenly, there was a second Muggle-born in the world who he didn't despise. And just like Hermione, this Muggle-born was being forced to disappear from his life too soon.

It was almost like fate was taking time out of her busy schedule, just to screw with his head. She would plant these people in his path that would make him forget all his birth-taught prejudices, and then she would just rip them away like flimsy poppy petals, and he was left sore with confusion.

Draco shifted his attention to his uncle, who was ruffling Davis's hair, and mumbling some parting words to Bletchley and Bulstrode. Beside Draco, Theo was rigid with tension; fists clenched and quaking slightly, and his teeth grinding behind his pursed lips. His eyes fell to Blaise and Lovegood, noting that their fingers were intertwined - almost hidden, except from Draco's angle - and Blaise was stroking absent-minded circles against the back of her hand. Their fingers disentangled as Ted approached them, and Lovegood fell into his warm hug with that familiar distracted smile of hers.

"Remember to stay away from unripe blueberries and mistletoe," she said as she pulled away. "You don't want to upset some nargles."

Draco arched an eyebrow, but resisted the urge to scoff at her comment.

"I'll do that," Ted replied with a fond smile, leaning forward to shake Blaise's hand. "Help Andromeda keep these lot in line while I'm gone."

"Of course," Blaise frowned. "Good luck, mate."

Draco straightened his spine when Ted turned to him next, nearing him with a serious expression that made Draco feel a little apprehensive and awkward.

"You look after my wife," Ted said in a hushed tone, so only they would hear. "Look after your Aunt, okay?"

Uncertain what to say, Draco slowly inhaled and simply nodded his head, and the small gesture seemed to be enough to appease his uncle. Shifting his weight with discomfort, he averted his eyes as Ted finally moved over to Theo, and Draco cocked his head so he could discreetly catch the hushed words of their conversation.

"…your temper, count to ten," Ted advised. "And just try to think before you speak-

"Yes, yes," Theo grumbled dismissively, and Draco didn't have to see him to know he was rolling his eyes. "Hug a Hufflepuff and all that bollocks-

"You are a good lad, Theo," Ted cut him off. "I can see that, 'Dromeda can see that, and all them here can see that. You need to have more faith in yourself."

"Whatever," Theo mumbled after a sigh and Draco glanced at them to find them shaking hands. "Just come back alive, alright?"

"Sure," Ted agreed casually. Too casually. And he gave Theo firm pat on the shoulder before he headed back towards Andromeda, pausing midway and scrutinising the silent inhabitants of the room with critical eyes. "Well, you lot look bloody miserable. You know, I'll be back before you even notice I've gone."

Nobody said a word for some slow and stretched seconds, and for some reason, Draco found himself staring at Blaise and Lovegood's rejoined hands. Just when the silence began to ring in their ears, Andromeda reached forward to tug on her husband's arm, and all the persistent optimism on his face drained away.

"Come on, love," she bade, her voice trembling slightly. "You have to go, and I would like to say my goodbyes."

"It's alright," Blaise spoke up. "We'll leave you-

"No, it's fine," Ted stopped him, taking Andromeda's elbow. "We'll go outside." He hesitated, and flashed the sullen Slytherin a final cheerful smile. "I'll see you all soon."

The moment the couple had left the room, there was a collective whisper of released breaths, and the prior silence was shattered as everything started to move again. Tracy was sniffing a little and doing a shoddy job at hiding it, and Miles led her out of the room, closely followed by Millicent. A moment later, Draco flinched when Theo abruptly pounded his fist into the wall and stormed out the door, spitting out a list of profanities as he went.

"Theo!" Blaise called after him, but all that responded was a few thuds of inanimate objects being hurled to the floor, and Blaise growled as he turned to Luna. "I'm going to make sure he doesn't do something stupid."

And then it was just Draco and Lovegood.

He focussed on his shoes and chewed his tongue, waiting for her to leave her seat and go after them, but she barely moved.

"You didn't shake his hand," Luna remarked in her usual dreamy tone.

"I barely knew the man."

"But you would have liked to," she said, and her blunt comment threw him for a moment.

He shot her a cold look. "What are you getting at, Lovegood?"

"Nothing. It was just an observation," she shrugged, and the distant snap of Apparition punctuated her words. "That will be Ted leaving."

"No shit-

"Maybe you should go and see if Andromeda needs anything-

"And what the fuck could I possibly offer her?" he spat defensively.

"Sometimes, another presence is all someone needs," Luna mumbled as she walked past him. "Even if it is a reluctant one."

Finally alone, Draco found himself waiting for, his aunt to return from outside, tapping his foot impatiently against the floorboards and contemplating whether he should bother at all. After five minutes of staring at the door, his curiosity, and perhaps something else, got the better of him, and he huffed out an agitated breath as he decided to see exactly what was keeping Andromeda.

He found her sitting on the stone steps at the front of the house; the steps he had routinely rested upon when everyone had retired to bed, and he had masochistically lost his mind to thoughts and memories of Granger. He could tell from the slight trembling of her shoulders and her bowed head that she was crying, and something that almost felt like empathy caught him completely off guard.

"What do you want, Draco?" she asked suddenly.

He licked his teeth and wondered what he had actually planned to accomplish from this, but his shoulders slumped in defeat, and the truth found him before he could reject it.

"I wanted to tell you that…perhaps you were right," he muttered, almost half-hoping she wouldn't hear him. "Perhaps you and I are not so different."

.

.

Hermione was reading the copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard that Dumbledore had left her in his will.

The story of the three brothers and their deal with death had become a favourite of hers, and melancholic legends and the white glow of her Lumos were good company at midnight while Harry and Ron slept. It was her turn to keep watch tonight, which suited her just fine. She had almost become paranoid that she would mumble Draco's name in her sleep when the nightmares ensnared her subconscious. She was also doing her best to avoid spending too much time alone with Ron, always making sure Harry was nearby or making excuses when he tried to initiate something that could lead to something beyond the realms of friendship.

Adapting to this new set of changes had been more difficult than she'd anticipated, despite the familiar company of Harry and Ron. Conversation had been a little awkward on her part, as she would over think everything she said, careful not to mention something that could somehow contain any hints of her time with Draco. For the most part, she had simply listened to the boys as they'd explained what had happened in her absence.

They had told her about their short stay at Grimmauld Place, and how they had established that R.A.B. had been Regulus Black's initials. They had described how a short interrogation with Kreacher had led them to Mundungus Fletcher, an original member of the Order who had turned to petty theft. A quick trip to Diagon Alley, and they had recovered the Horcrux, but they had struggled to find a method to destroy it, and the negative energy had caused some severe friction between her two best friends, although they had seemed hesitant to tell her what they had argued about.

They had decided to leave Grimmauld Place and had flitted between various locations when it became clear that Voldemort would eventually overthrow the Ministry. They had camped in woodland areas on the outskirts of the cities, occasionally returning to Grimmauld Place to search for any clues about a method to destroy the Locket. They'd been camping in Epping Forest when they'd discovered The Sword of Gryffindor, and her brow furrowed when she realised they'd never explained-

A twig snapped behind her, and she dropped the book and whipped around, her wand trained on her harmless target.

"Whoa," Harry whispered, holding up his hands. "It's just me, Hermione-

"Bloody hell, Harry, you made me jump," she breathed, lowering her wand as he came to sit beside her on the grass. "Everything okay?"

"It's fine. I just couldn't sleep. Thought I'd keep you company."

"Yes, of course," she nodded. "Actually, I was just thinking about something. You never said how you came across Gryffindor's Sword. How did you-

"My mother," Harry blurted, and Hermione watched an odd expression steal his face. "I know it sounds crazy, but just hear me out on this; a Patronus led me to it. And the Patronus was a doe. My mother's Patronus."

Hermione felt her heart sink as she recalled the night she had left Hogwarts; remembering the moment when she and McGonagall had been warned about the Ministry's fall by Snape's Patronus. A doe Patronus. A part of her contemplated if she should tell Harry about the secrets of their old Professor. After all, McGonagall had made it very clear that the information was not to be repeated, but it seemed too cruel to allow her best friend to clutch to some deluded belief that his mother was contacting him from the other side.

"Harry," she started with a grimace. "That wasn't your mother's Patronus-

"Look, I know how it sounds-

"No, Harry, just-

"But who else would have a doe Patronus who would lead me to-

"It was Snape," she rushed out, and Harry's eyes widened behind his glasses. "I know it sounds bizarre, but when I was in Hogwarts, McGonagall told me that he's a spy for the Order-

"But he killed-

"I know," she sighed. "But it wasn't that simple. Dumbledore asked Snape to carry out the task so that…" she caught the emotion building in her voice as she prepared to say his name. "So that Draco's soul would be saved. I think there's more to it, but I know that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him. Snape's been on our side all along."

Harry's expression flickered between shock and disbelief. "No," he mumbled, shaking his head. "That's impossible-

"Harry, I saw his Patronus," she carried on. "He sent it to warn us that the Death Eater's were coming to Hogwarts, and it was a doe-

"But that doesn't make any sense!" Harry exclaimed, scrambling to his feet. "Why the hell would Snape have the same Patronus as my mother?"

"I don't know," Hermione confessed wearily. "Perhaps it's just a coincidence-

"I need to get my head around this," he muttered to himself, turning away from her. "I need to think-

"Harry, I'm sorry-

"I just need some time alone," he said, taking a few steps in the opposite direction. "Just give me a moment, and then I need you tell me everything."

Hermione felt the guilt swallow her chest.

Not everything. Not about Draco. Not yet.

"Okay," she agreed. "Just don't go beyond the Wards, Harry."

The darkness sucked him in like hungry tar, and she was alone again, wondering what chaotic thoughts were stampeding through her friend's head right now. Merlin knew she had hardly taken the revelation about Snape's covert activities well all those months ago, and she began thinking of what she should say when he came to her for more details.

She dropped her troubled gaze and it landed on The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the wind flicking its pages like ghostly wind died down, and she concentrated on the small symbol scrawled on the displayed page; the triangle, the circle and the line. She'd noticed the odd mark a few times and never paid it much heed, but something had just…clicked. With a gasp leaving her lungs, she delved into her bag and rummaged for a book she'd read at Hogwarts.

And the words 'Deathly' and 'Hallows' were on the tip of her tongue.

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