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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39. Drown

Draco had exactly ten seconds to frown at the empty space beside him before there was a roar of footfalls hammering down the corridor, towards his room, and then the door was flung open so hard the handle cracked the wall. In stormed Remus and Tonks, his cousin looking flustered as she shot him a brief glance before she eyed the other side of the bed, dented with Hermione's absence, and she let go of a harsh, frustrated breath.

"Shit, she's gone too."

"I need to go and contact Arthur and the others," said Remus. "See if they've heard from them."

"Alright," she nodded, waiting until her husband had left the room before she turned back to Draco, her expression hard. "You, downstairs, five minutes."

And with that, she left, slamming the door behind her before he could even muster a comeback. Clenching his eyes tight shut and rubbing his face with his clammy palms, he let his sullen eyes linger on Hermione's impression, shaped into the mattress and pillow, and he swallowed down the clot of angst in his throat, almost choked on it.

"Déjà vu," he mumbled to himself, leaving the warmth of the bed, the subtle scent of Granger clinging to the blanket.

It was cold today, and he absently listened to the staccato beat of raindrops hitting the window as he pulled on some trousers and a jumper, his movements sluggish and inattentive. Beyond the bedroom door, he could hear more footsteps, raised voices, chairs scraping, and all the peace that had seemed so surreal just yesterday was ripped apart, replaced my a racket. Combing a hand through his hair, he headed downstairs, made his way to the kitchen, and barely lifted his head to acknowledge Blaise and Theo, sat at the table, and Tonks leaning against the countertop, her arms folded, and her face creased up with irritation.

"Why the fuck have I been woken up at eight o'clock in the sodding morning?" demanded Theo. "I haven't got a girlfriend who's gone AWOL, and I'm hardly friends with-

"Shut it," said Tonks, levelling her glare at Blaise. "Well?"

As Draco sank into a free chair, he glanced at Blaise, wondering if the troubled shadow in his friend's eyes was mirrored in his own. He looked like he'd been up all night, haunted by stress and anxiety, grimacing for hours and trying to claw himself out of a bad dream.

"Well what?" muttered Blaise. "I've told you. I don't know where she's gone, and I don't know where Thomas is, or Granger, or Weasley, or bloody Potter-

"Luna must've told you something, or hinted-

"Tonks, I swear on my questionable soul, I don't know! My best bet would be Hogwarts, but I don't have a fucking clue. She never said anything to me."

She sighed, rubbing her forehead with shaky fingers as she flicked her eyes over to Draco. "And you?"

"What about me?"

"Well, you didn't exactly look shocked this morning when I walked in the room, and Hermione wasn't there."

He shared a quick look with Blaise and shrugged. "It's hardly the first time Granger has made an abrupt exit."

"Where is she, Draco?" she asked, her tone sharp. "Where have they gone?"

"I don't know." He knew it wasn't a convincing lie. He didn't particularly try to make it convincing.

"You do know, I can tell-

"Nope," he said shortly.

"Draco, you do realise we just want to help them-

"You're wasting your time-

"Dammit, Draco!" shouted Tonks, stalking towards the table and pounding one fist against it. Theo and Blaise jumped at the sound. "You tell me right now!"

"NO!" he snapped, rising to his feet so they were level. "I will not betray the trust of the only person I make promises to!"

That comment appeared to knock his cousin off her course; a flicker of shock stole her features and her mouth forgot to work for moment, all the severity and urgency dissipating as quickly as it had come. She sighed and shook her head, massaging her forehead again. "I'm going to ask you one last time-

"You have my answer," he cut her off. "It won't change."

"Count yourself lucky we don't have any Veritaserum in the house," she said, turning away and heading out the room. "Fine, we'll find them ourselves."

Draco didn't retake his seat until she'd shut the door behind her, and he could feel the blood pumping in his face when he settled back down, still aggravated, and he didn't know if it was from his argument with Tonks, or from Hermione's disappearance.

"Bloody hell, I thought she was going to beat the truth out of you, or hurl some curses your way," remarked Theo. "Not going to lie, I was kind of looking forward to the show."

"Sod off, Theo."

"You know where they are?" asked Blaise, addressing Draco with a look that might've been mistaken for hopefulness.

"Only Granger, Potter, and Weasley," he said. "I don't know where Thomas and Lovegood are." He paused, then added, "Sorry, mate."

"It's fine, I expected as much."

"So where are they?" asked Theo.

"I think I made it clear I had no intention of telling anyone-

"Yeah, but-

"You wouldn't believe me anyway," mumbled Draco, clasping his hands in front of him. "It's fucking insane."

"Well, considering Potter's suicidal tendencies," Theo mused. "I reckon they're probably knocking on You-Know-Who's front door."

"So my front door then? Seeing as the psychopath is currently living in my house. The fucked up thing is you're not far off." He exhaled heavily and scrunched up his hands into tight fists. "What the hell was I thinking? I should've never let her go. This is all your fucking fault, Zabini! That bullshit you fed me yesterday screwed with my head!"

He flinched when Blaise's hand landed on his shoulder, with what he assumed was meant to be a pat of reassurance. Keeping his eyes downcast, he fought very hard to keep his composure, staring at his hands as they trembled with the exertion to keep his temper subdued. He wasn't sure if he was more angry at Hermione for leaving, Blaise for his ridiculous pep-talk yesterday, or at himself for allowing Hermione to disappear, or even if he was angry at all. Perhaps it was simply nerves and concern, or dread and helplessness, or regret and the ache of her absence. Perhaps it was all those things, but the anger bubbled to the surface because he knew it too well, knew the familiar warmth of it.

"It will be alright," said Blaise unconvincingly.

"Don't try optimism," said Theo. "It doesn't suit you."

"It's all getting a bit real now, isn't it?" Draco whispered, never intending to say it aloud. It was only when he noticed his friends' confused looks that he realised he'd said it at all.

"It's always been real," Blaise sighed. "It's just closer now. Very close. People believe in something more when they can touch it."

Theo leaned back in his chair, his expression uncharacteristically pensive and grim. "Wherever the hell they are, I hope your girlfriend and her two thick pets know what they're doing, Draco."

Draco felt a shiver shoot across the line of his spine, like a cold finger scratching its way down his back. "Yeah, well. Me too."

.

.

"Okay, I think the dress looks like something she would wear now. How do I look?"

"Still bloody hideous."

Hermione frowned at Ron's response but realised it was simply his way of assuring her that it had been a successful transition, and judging by his unnerved stare, he meant it.

With the bitter tang of Polyjuice still rolling around her gums, she looked down at her hands, or rather Bellatrix's hands; long, chipped fingernails that were more like claws, and pale hands, flecked with scars, like she'd been wringing glass. Black, matted curls poured down her chest, and she ran her tongue over her sharp, uneven teeth, absently thinking of her parents as she did.

"You look rather awful yourself," she told Ron, eyeing his long, wavy hair and altered features with a nod of satisfaction. "I did a good job on you."

"I'll take your word for it," he said, raising his hand to scratch his false beard. "Bloody hell, this thing itches. Remind me never to grow one."

She laughed but didn't respond, too nervous to really conjure a humorous or inventive remark, but she could tell he was nervous too, so that was fine. At least she hoped it was. Perhaps Ron was expecting her to say something reassuring or positive, but words were having a hard time forming in her mouth, and she was just so nervous. She looked away, her eyes landing on Harry as he toyed with the Invisibility Cloak with his shaking fingers.

"Ron, keep an eye out."

"I always do."

Patting his shoulder as she walked past, she made her way over to Harry, ignoring the low, pessimistic grumbles of Griphook a few feet away in the abandoned side-street they were hiding in, just a short walk from the Leaky Cauldron. Harry was waiting between some bins, crouched down in what must've been an uncomfortable position, evidently distracted, shifting his weight and fidgeting like a toddler at the dentist.

"How are you doing?" she asked.

He glanced up, grimaced, and averted his eyes. "Sorry, I can't get used to you looking like that."

"It's alright, I find it quite disconcerting myself. Nervous?"

"Terrified."

"It will be okay-

"Perhaps this wasn't such a great idea," he blurted, nodding his head towards Griphook and lowering his voice. "He's shifty as anything. He's going to stab us in the back."

"Then we'll ensure our backs are never bared to him," she said. "Harry, we have planned this meticulously. It will work."

He shrugged. "I guess it has to, doesn't it?"

She sighed and watched his hands, wanting to reach out and stop them trembling, but she caught a glimpse of something familiar poking out of his pocket. Before she could stop herself, she removed it, twirling it between her fingers and inspecting it carefully, just to double-check, and when she looked back at Harry, he had an almost embarrassed look on his face.

"This is Draco's wand."

"Yes. I may have...borrowed it."

She eyed him quizzically. "Why?"

"I disarmed him after you separated us that night," he explained, sighing. "I still had it when I went to bed and I...I practiced a few spells, just out of curiosity really, and it works well for me. Better than Wormtail's." He paused and gave her a fixed look. "I even managed to cast my Patronus with it."

"You did?" she gasped. "Wow."

"I was going to return it to Malfoy but...but I just get this feeling that I should keep using it. But if you want, after this, you can use it. I mean, it is your boyfriend's."

Hermione hesitated, rolling the wand's tip between her thumb and forefinger, wondering if she was imagining the sudden blast of Draco's scent that seemed to be swarming in her nostrils. A part of her wanted to smile, deciding it was nice to hear her best friend, or anyone for that matter, finally refer to Draco as her boyfriend, but the setting hardly seemed appropriate for a selfish and wistful moment. The setting hardly seemed appropriate for any sort of smile.

"No," she said after a moment, replacing the wand back in Harry's pocket. "If it's that compliant with you, you should keep it. I'm used to Bellatrix's wand anyway."

"Thank you."

"Although, I should warn you that Draco will probably hex you when he finds out you're the one who borrowed his wand."

Harry smiled. Apparently she'd been wrong; his smile seemed to fit the situation just fine. But, like everything else at the moment, the spark of happiness was all too brief.

"If you intend to go through with this, we need to do it now," sneered Griphook. "Diagon Alley will start to get busy soon. The less people, the better."

Hermione felt Harry's long and troubled breath stir Bellatrix's curls, and she released an apprehensive sigh of her own as they straightened their backs and nodded their heads. They were ready, or as ready as they'd ever be.

"Okay, let's do this," said Hermione, looking over to Ron. "Are you ready, Ro— I mean, Dragomir?"

"Yes, Madam Lestrange."

Waiting until Griphook had climbed onto Harry's back and they were safely concealed beneath the Invisibility Cloak, they left the shelter of the shadowy side-street, Hermione a few steps ahead of Ron, her posture defiant and bold. They slipped into the Leaky Cauldron, barely glancing at Tom, the landlord, as they made their way into the backyard, and Hermione's heart was pounding in her chest as she rapped Bellatrix's wand against the brick wall.

As predicted, the cobbled street was quiet, with barely enough people to form two Quidditch teams, but they were all retreating away from her anyway, pulling up their hoods and ducking away like she might stab them with her jagged nails. And she played on it, shooting them hostile glares, just as she imagined Bellatrix would.

"Madam Lestrange!"

Hermione whirled around, half-prepared to bark down whoever had addressed her in true Bellatrix fashion, but she heard Harry whisper, "Travers, he's a Death Eater," into her ear, and she steadied herself as the man approached them.

"I'm surprised to see you here, Madam Lestrange," said Travers.

"Why would you be?"

"It was my understanding that you and the other inhabitants of Malfoy Manor were confined to the house after the...well, you know. The Escape."

Hermione didn't waver. They'd expected this. "As I have proven my loyalty to the Dark Lord on countless occasions, I was an exception," she told him crisply. "It would do you well to remember that before you question me, Travers."

The Death Eater's cool expression faltered. "My apologies," he murmured, turning his attention to Ron. "Who is your companion."

"This is Dragomir Despard. He's an ally from Transylvania. He speaks little English, but he'll be staying for a while, assisting our efforts."

The two men exchanged nods of acknowledgement, and then Travers' eyes were back to her. "Why are you here today, Madam Lestrange?"

"I have some business at Gringotts."

"I am also headed that way," he said. "I'll escort you."

Hermione managed to contain her trepidation. Having a tagalong hardly seemed ideal when Undesirable No. 1 was at her side, even if he was adequately hidden, but perhaps this would work to their advantage. Having a genuine Death Eater in their presence might work in their favour, so she walked beside him, hoping to hell and back Travers didn't hear her booming heartbeat, or see the sweat gathering in her balled fists. Shutting her eyes for a few seconds longer than a blink, she did everything she could to avoid thinking of Draco, fearing that a sentimental smile might steal her features, and look far too out of place on Bellatrix's face to go unnoticed.

.

.

"Draco," said Theo slowly, his teeth clenched. "Stop drumming your sodding fingers. You're giving me a headache."

Draco scowled but flattened his palm against the table, eyeing his fingernails, half-tempted to scrape them across the wood, just to cause some friction, or create a piercing noise to cut through the chaos in his head. Instead, he leaned back in his chair, eyeing the radio expectantly as he let go of a long and laden sigh.

"Twelve," said Theo.

Draco slanted his eyes over to his friend. "What?"

"That's the twelfth time you've sighed. You make it thirteen, and I'll remind you why it's an unlucky number."

"Piss off, Theo."

"He has a point," Blaise chimed in. "Your self-pity and brooding is too loud."

"Well, what the hell would you have me do?" asked Draco, throwing his hands in the air with frustration. "Chat merrily with you two?"

"You? Chat merrily?" Theo scoffed. "Anyway, why are you so miserable? You should've expected this from Granger. When you decided to have feelings for her, you knew what you were getting yourself into."

"Decided to have feelings?" echoed Draco, furrowing his brow. "It was hardly fucking intentional."

Blaise shook his head, his lips curved into a wry and detached smile. "Love's never intentional, you idiot. It's the most inconvenient thing in the world. That's why it knocks you sideways. Especially cynical bastards like us."

"Cynical? Me?" grinned Theo. "I'll have you know that I make daisy-chains and frolic with unicorns on the weekends."

Draco rolled his eyes, too preoccupied by Granger's whereabouts to appreciate his friend's humour. "You're not funny."

"I think we all know I'm hilarious, you're just being a moody git. But that's fine, I know you love me really," said Theo, smirking when Draco fired an irate glare his way. "Don't give me that look, you know it's true. Fifty Galleons says you'll even name one of your kids after me, or at least make me godfather-

"What?" Draco snorted, but the corners of his mouth lifted for a moment. "You think I would name one of my kids after you? Why would I call my child Useless Twat Malfoy?"

"I know you're joking but that actually has quite a ring to it."

The chuckle that ripped its way out of Draco's throat was dry, cracked, and brief, more like a low cackle, but at least it was there. At least it was something raw and instinctive. At least it wasn't sigh number thirteen. A part of him was tempted to punch Theo for forcing a distraction, as pathetic and fleeting as it was, but Draco reluctantly realised he felt slightly more at ease, and judging by the softer expression on Blaise's face, he did too. The moment passed so quickly though, and Draco was back to picturing Granger, disguised as Bellatrix, trapping herself in Gringotts with Merlin knew how many Death Eaters, and he began to absently tap his fingers against the table again.

.

.

Hermione pulled back the drenched hair in her eyes and sputtered out the excess water in her mouth.

"You okay, Hermione?" asked Ron, somewhere next to her, and his hand came into her view.

"Fine," she nodded as he helped her to her feet, and she shot a quick glance over to Harry to ensure he was well. "You okay, Ron?"

"Yeah, thanks to your quick thinking. Cushioning Charm?"

"Yes, it was the first thing that popped into my head."

"Lucky for us."

She was about to smile, but then she saw him, and he was Ron again; red hair, friendly, freckled features, blue eyes, and a gasp burst past her lips. "You're you again! All the charms-

"Shit, you're you too."

She looked down, analysing her young hands and the tips of her brown waves with complete bewilderment. "But I drank enough Polyjuice to last at least an hour. And the spells I used on you...I don't understand."

"It's the Thief's Downfall!" shouted Griphook. "It counteracts all magical concealment and enchantments! They must suspect us! We need to hurry!"

Hermione chewed her lip. Aside from a slight issue with Bellatrix's wand when they'd first entered Gringotts, she'd actually thought their plan had been going well. In hindsight, perhaps too well, although she gathered that Harry had helped a little along the way, mumbling a few Confundus Charms to delay the guards at the doors, and she knew he'd used the Imperius Curse to gain Bogrod's assistance, much to her discomfort about him using an Unforgivable. But she reasoned it was necessary at the moment, and as she turned her head, it seemed Bogrod was beginning to kick up a fuss, evidently no longer under the spell's possession, but Harry had already lifted his wand, reciting "Imperio", just as he had before.

"We need to move!" insisted Griphook. "They will be coming!"

"Protego!" called Hermione, lifting Bellatrix's wand until the Shield Charm cut into the cascade of the Thief's Downfall. "That should buy us a bit more time."

The three of them followed Griphook deeper into the cavernous structure of Gringotts, and Hermione wondered if she would even remember the way out when it came to it, but she lost her train of thought when an echoing roar blasted towards them from somewhere ahead, and the breeze of it tickled her wet cheeks.

"What the bloody hell was that?" asked Ron.

"That's why we need the Clankers," Griphook explained, holding up the odd device for emphasis.

As they turned a corner, Hermione's breath caught in her throat as she took in the beast: a tethered dragon with faded, grey scales and pinkish eyes, scars carved into its body from obvious mistreatment, and chains around its hind legs to keep it incarcerated.

"It's partially blind," said Griphook. "But that just makes it more savage. It's been taught to associate the Clankers with pain."

"That's barbaric," snapped Hermione.

"If you want to go up against it, be my guest," the Goblin sneered. "Otherwise, shut up, girly."

On any other day, she knew she'd have pestered Griphook with a long-winded rant about the abuse of creatures until his ears had bled, but time was hardly on their side. Hell, nothing was on their side, so she let it go, frowning as Griphook rattled the Clankers, and the tormented dragon recoiled, allowing them access to the vaults beyond its reach. The trio and two Goblins approached the Lestrange vault, and Griphook directed Harry to compel Bogrod to place his hand against the door until the wood peeled back, like burning paper, and the five of them stepped inside.

"Okay, search quickly!" said Harry, and as he said it, there was a loud bang as the vault's door reappeared.

"Bogrod can release us," said Griphook. "Find what you're looking for!"

Casting Lumos Charms, the trio began to search, but when Hermione picked up a golden goblet, she yelped in pain, heat scorching her fingertips. "Ow! It burned me!" she yelled, but it was quickly forgotten as the trinket duplicated itself, and a shower of goblets rained down to her feet. "What the-

"They must've added Germino and Flagrante Curses!" said Griphook. "Everything you touch will scald and multiply! We could be crushed if you-

"Shit!" gasped Ron, cradling his hand as several plates clattered to the floor by his feet. "Sorry, that was an accident."

"Be careful!" shouted Harry, narrowly avoiding nudging an ornament himself. "We need to find it!"

Watching her step, Hermione carefully meandered her way around all the objects cluttering the vault, her eyes desperately scanning the space when Draco's voice popped into her head. "You know," she said. "Draco said his mother's vault might be similar to this, and if it was, the most valuable items would be kept at the back on a high-

"Shelf," finished Harry.

It was the finality in her best friend's voice that caught her, and when Hermione looked up at him, he was staring hard at the vault's corner, his wand tilted upwards, and she followed his line of sight to a small cup on the back shelf. Helga Huffleuff's Cup; engraved badger and all. Harry had mentioned a while ago, not long before he and Ron had disappeared to hunt for the Horcuxes, that Dumbledore had alluded to the possibility of the ancient artifact being a Horcrux, and there it was, and she could tell by the intense expression on Harry's face that he could feel it was a Horcrux.

"It's there!" exclaimed Harry, but as he propelled his body towards it, he knocked into a set of ornaments, then a suit of armour.

Within seconds, the floor was a sea of gold and silver, erupting like beautiful, shimmering lava as the carpet of trinkets began to rise above their knees. And beyond the vault door, the dragon roared, accompanied by the murmur of approaching voices, and Hermione met Harry's panicked eyes.

"I need to get up there," he said desperately. "Hermione, I need-

"Levicorpus!" she shouted, gritting her teeth as the vault's contents singed and scorched her skin, trying to keep her focus.

The river of metal rose higher and higher, and the voices outside grew louder and louder.

.

.

The sound of a glass hitting the floor snapped Draco out of his trance, but he turned his head in time to catch the spray of shards skid across the floorboards, and it reminded him of ice skating. It took him a moment or two to realise it was his glass, and that he must've been the one to send it tumbling, and he studied the shallow puddle of crushed crystal by his feet with dead eyes.

"You clumsy dick," grumbled Theo, flicking his wand to clear the mess. "Why the hell did you do that?"

"It was an accident," he mumbled. "I had a...shiver or something."

Blaise tilted his head and exhaled. "We've been here for hours, talking about nothing."

"We should know something by now," said Draco, his tone suddenly impatient. "Where the fuck has Tonks gone? And Andromeda? And what-

"If you're that concerned, perhaps you should consider telling Tonks where they are-

"I've told you-

"Do you think you could kill your father?" Theo asked, the words crisp and clear, eerily comfortable on Theo's tongue.

After exchanging a puzzled look with Blaise, Draco eyed his other friend warily, noting the completely calm expression on Theo's features as he casually flicked one fingernail, like he'd asked them how they take their tea.

"What did you say?"

"I asked if you think you could kill your father," he repeated in the same nonchalant manner. "I mean, we're probably going to have to help the Order, and we'll be fighting against our parents. If it was necessary, could you? Blaise?"

Blaise shifted in his seat, his eyebrows low and his lips pursed in thought. "I don't have a father."

"Your mother then."

"She's hardly a mother," he sighed, tapping his chin hesitantly. "I don't know. I...guess it would depend on the circumstances-

"She's about to kill you, maybe even Lovegood," Theo supplied quickly. "Could you do it then?"

"You've certainly given this a lot of thought," remarked Draco.

"There's hardly a busy schedule in this place. Answer the question, Blaise. Could you kill your mother, or not?"

"I don't know," he said again. "If it was Luna, possibly, but I have no idea. There's something...unnatural about shedding blood that's effectively your own. I guess it would all come down to instinct, or even impulse."

Theo seemed to take his time absorbing Blaise's response, his head cocked thoughtfully to the side until he nodded, apparently satisfied. "And you, Draco?"

"I haven't seen my father in over a year," he replied. "I don't...even know what he's like now-

"He's still a bastard."

Draco tried very hard to be angry at Theo's comment, and he fired a glare at his friend, but it was half-hearted, forced, and lazy, because he knew the comment was true. It wasn't as if he'd ever been oblivious to his father's cruel conduct, on the contrary, he'd admired it, relished it even, emulated and thrived off it, proud to be compared to him. But Draco felt so much older now; more grounded and aware of the balance that relied on his feet and his mind, not his father's, and it was an oddly comforting epiphany.

"I don't know," he mumbled. "Blaise is right, blood is blood-

"And bile is bile, and shit is shit, and spit is spit, and sweat is sweat," Theo listed, annunciating each syllable. "It's all just biology."

"It's not that simple-

"What if he went for Granger?" he pushed. "And you know he wouldn't hesitate given the opportunity. What then?"

Draco closed his eyes and tried to calm his temper, feeling the heat of it rise from his chest into his throat, and it was wedged there, like a stone, choking him, stopping his breath. He wondered if this would be what it felt like, to raise his wand and aim it at his father's chest, if it would make him choke, if he would be able to breathe. Granger would probably talk him back to sanity anyway, even if his father did threaten her. That was just how she was, forever seeking the good buried within the darkest hosts, just as she had with him, and the image of her on the backs of lids helped him breathe again.

"I...I don't know what I'd do," he confessed, clearing his throat to rid the itch. "I'd do what was necessary."

Theo did as he'd done with Blaise, nodding absently, weighing up the response in his head before deeming it good enough. Then he coolly shrugged his shoulders, plucking away a speck of fluff from his sleeve.

"I think I could kill my father," he stated evenly. "Yeah, I think I could. I think he deserves it. I think I'd be doing the world a favour." He paused to nod with confidence. "I don't think I'd feel a shred of guilt either."

Draco couldn't decide if he should envy Theo for his conviction, or pity him for being so damaged, or even if he should feel completely indifferent because, in reality, Theo had simply voiced the question they'd all been asking themselves for weeks, and it had been like a needle, incessantly stabbing into their minds.

"Well," said Theo, his voice upbeat now, and a strained grin on his lips. "That was a very morbid and gloomy conversation, wasn't it?"

"You started it," Draco frowned.

"Someone had to. And it least it stopped you two whinging about your girlfriends for a bit."

"And you'd prefer we discussed the death of our parents?"

"I'd prefer we didn't discuss either, but it's all related. Death, love, blood, friends, enemies, parents. They're all synonymous when there's a war going on," mumbled Theo, hooding his eyes. "Ted once said that wars are like the sea; unpredictable and unforgiving, and before you know it everyone's drowning."

.

.

Hermione surged upwards, her mouth wide open and gasping for air as she broke the lake's surface. Whipping her head around to ensure the boys were alright, she checked she had her bag and her wand before she swam for land, struggling to even manage a doggy-paddle, the heavy dress dragging her down. When her feet finally found pebbles, she was tempted to stay in the water, finding that it soothed all the burns on her skin from the items in the Lestrange Vault, but Harry was grabbing her elbow and helping her stumble onto land before she could protest.

When she'd caught her breath, she looked to the sky, watching the dragon that had aided their escape fly over the mountains and out of her sight. "Do you think the dragon will be okay?"

"I'm more worried about us at the moment," said Harry, flinching as he shrugged out of his jumper. "You have anything for these burns?"

"I have Dittany," she replied, reaching into her bag and handing the vial to him. "Try not to use so much though. We might need it."

"That sodding Goblin!" hissed Ron. "I knew we couldn't trust him, that thieving shit. I can't believe he just nicked the sword and left us to fend for ourselves!"

"We escaped with our lives and the Horcrux," said Harry. "Let's just be grateful for that-

"Yes, we have a Horcrux and no way to destroy it. Fucking stellar."

"At least we know how to destroy it though," offered Hermione. "I'm more concerned about the fact that You-Know-Who is going to know now that we are searching for the Horcruxes. What if he..."

She trailed off when she noticed the blank stare in Harry's eyes, and in a second he was growling in pain, clutching his scar, and falling to his knees. Both she and Ron were at his side, calling his name as he twitched and writhed, trying to pull him out of it, but it was futile. Hermione couldn't tell if Harry's turmoil lasted for one minute or ten, but then his eyes snapped open, darting around wildly, and he swallowed heavily before he spoke.

"We need to get to Hogwarts."

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