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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26. Ghost

There were voices somewhere; muffled by doors and distance, but definitely voices. Voices she knew.

Her lashes were locked together with dried tears, and she blinked a few times to dilute the salty sting and the blurriness of sleep. She focussed on the empty space next to her and stroked her hand across the cold, crisp, and undisturbed sheets. Perhaps the lingering scent of Draco's t-shirt had deluded her subconscious, because a hopeful corner of her heart had almost expected him to be at her side, but the reality of yester-time was impossible to ignore.

Draco wasn't here.

She didn't know where he was.

And she had no idea if she would see him again.

The hollow ache that those facts left in her chest felt worse today, and she doubted the painful pangs would fade anytime soon. This nauseating sense of loneliness felt destructively permanent, like a festering tumour wedged between the tip of her spine and the base of her skull.

But.

She balled her fists and buried it; locked it in the attic of her mind with her thoughts of her parents and Harry and Ron. Because she had to. Because she'd promised herself she would.

The country was swarming with the promise of War, so what right did she have to nurse a broken heart when people were dying and mourning lost loved-ones? At least Draco was alive. At least there was a possibility that fate would allow their breaths to mingle again.

Hope is motivation, if nothing else.

The voices were still vibrating downstairs, and with renewed tenacity, she left the bed and rummaged in her charmed bag for some fresh clothes. She slipped into her jeans and pulled a baggy woollen jumper over Draco's top, reluctant to part with the masculine warmth trapped in the fabric that tingled against her skin. Taming her wild hair with a few combs of her fingers, she glanced at her reflection in the mirror and frowned at the swollen, red smudges under her eyes, still glossed with tears. She dabbed her face with her bunched sleeve, sniffing and swallowing a few times so her voice wouldn't betray her, and then she lifted her chin with illusory poise.

The façade was almost perfect; perhaps a little cracked and fragile in the eyes, but her set jaw and the proud purse of her lips would be enough to deceive her friends in the Order.

She looked resilient and prepared. Battle-ready and thriving with purpose. Glowing with that unmistakable shine of Gryffindor optimism and courage. Just as she should be.

Giving her reflection a stiff nod, she grabbed her wand and headed out of the bedroom, following the low hum of the voices. She descended the stairs and meandered her way around the house, pausing outside the kitchen, and pressing her ear against the door to catch the muffled conversation.

"…Should have seen that coming. We could have sent people to King's Cross to help the students-

"We're not going to able to predict everything they do, Alastor-

"We should have been able to predict that!"

"There's nothing we could have done anyway. McGonagall and the other professors will look after them."

"Remus is right. At least if they're contained in Hogwarts, they are still safe to a certain extent-

"And you think being kept there with Snape and those psychotic Carrow twins is safe, Tonks?"

"It's better than getting caught in the crossfire at Diagon Alley or running into some Snatchers."

"What about the Muggle-borns, Kingsley?"

"Most of them are in hiding, but we have word that You-Know-Who is putting his Muggle-born Registration Commission into effect as soon as Umbridge is ready. I have been trying to get a hold of Cresswell and Alderton, but it's difficult."

Hermione frowned on the other side of the door. Muggle-born Registration Commission?

"We need to get word around about the Taboo on You-Know-Who's name."

"I am trying, but our communication methods are becoming more limited by the hour. Tonks, did you Owl your mother in time?"

"Yes, she knows."

"What about our safe-houses, Alastor?"

"Some of the Wards will hold, but not all of them. Your home should be safe, Remus. Grimmauld Place too, and a couple of others, but we shall have to start finding other places to meet. It will only be a matter of time before the Wards on these safe-houses are broken too."

"Did you manage to make enough Portkeys, Kingsley?"

"I managed most of them."

"Will it be enough?"

"I have no idea."

There was a thick pause.

"You can come in, Granger!" Moody's booming voice called after a moment, and Hermione recoiled from the door when the harsh sound made her eardrums buzz. Her hand reached to hover tentatively over the doorknob. "Stop stalling, Granger. This concerns you as much as anyone."

Ignoring the odd bundle of nerves in her stomach, she pushed into the kitchen and greeted the four pairs of eyes with an awkward and apologetic nod. Shacklebolt, Mad-eye, Lupin and Tonks were all seated around the brittle dining table; their expressions severe, sleep-deprived and inevitably concerned.

"Sorry," she mumbled. "I didn't want to intrude."

"How are you feeling, Hermione?" Tonks asked, shifting in her seat to accommodate her bump. "You can go back to bed if you need more rest."

"I'm fine."

"You're a little old to be eavesdropping, Granger," Mad-eye remarked, although his tone was almost amused. "What exactly did you hear?"

"Not much," she shrugged. "Just about the Taboo… and what's the Muggle-born Registration Commission?"

"It's a bloody death trap, is what it is," Mad-eye spat heatedly. "It's a way for You-Know-Who to herd Muggle-borns like cattle until he slaughters them-

"Yes, thank you, Alastor," Remus shot a frown in his direction. "I think there are better ways to put it-

"Well, you can cover it with daisies and glitter all you like, Remus, but that is basically what it is." He fixed Hermione with a steady stare. "Don't worry; you won't be signing up. You will stay hidden and be safe here with Tonks."

Hermione narrowed her eyes with thought. "But what about all the other Muggle-borns?"

"We're doing what we can," Kingsley offered sullenly. "Most have gone into hiding, but there's not much we can do at the moment except try to warn people-

"Which is hard when everyone is Apparating in a panic and probably landing straight into the path of Snatchers," Mad-eye grumbled. "Potter and Weasley might fall into that category, so if you know where they are, Granger, you need to tell us."

"I have no idea where they are," she breathed, shaking her head. "All I know is they are looking for the Horcruxes and they destroyed the locket."

"Yes, they sent me a letter about that," Remus nodded. "But you haven't heard anything since?"

"Nothing relevant. Just a letter every now and then to assure me that they were…you know, alive." She tucked a stray curl behind her ear. "But, no. Never their whereabouts or anything like that. They know it would be too dangerous-

"And gallivanting around Merlin-knows-where with all this going on isn't dangerous?" Mad-eye scoffed.

Hermione's eyes shot back to the Auror. "They're not stupid, Moody-

"Well, their actions contradict that sentiment-

"They'll be fine," she interrupted, but the hitch in her voice was telling. "They will be fine."

"They've survived so far," Tonks said, absently stroking her swollen abdomen. "Have some faith, Mad-eye. I'm sure if they think they're out of their depth, they'll seek us out."

"We hardly have the time for commonsense to catch up with the pair," he groused, rolling his good eye. "So that will be your task for the time being, Granger; figuring out where they are."

Hermione wrinkled her nose. "Wouldn't it be more beneficial for me to try and figure out where the Horcruxes are?"

"Well, if Harry and Weasley are doing what you say they are, then it's the same thing," Mad-eye replied, rising from his seat. "I have confidence in your intelligence, Granger. If anyone can find them, it's you."

She didn't know if he meant the boys or the Horcruxes, but she bobbed her head anyway. "Thank you, Moody."

"And keep up your combative training," he advised slowly. "We are at War now."

.

.

"Draco."

He squirmed and buried his face deeper into the pillow. He was balancing on the blissful crest between sleep and reality, and he'd be damned if he be dragged away before he was ready.

"Draco."

"Bugger off, Granger," he murmured, as he often did when she tried to rouse him. "I'm trying to sleep."

A small silence followed, and Draco wondered if his persistent lover might actually allow him a peaceful morning for a change.

"Draco, it's Andromeda," the voice sighed, somewhat regretfully. "You need to wake up."

His eyes snapped open, and reality came bounding back into his brain like thunder clouds. He wasn't in Hogwarts. He was shacked up with the Aunt he'd never spoken to. Granger wasn't here. She wasn't anywhere, and the absence of her presence brought back the numb throb in his chest. He felt sick.

Granger…

He fired a scolding glance towards his Aunt as she leaned over him, her expression somewhere between concerned and cautious. Her resemblance to his mother struck him for a moment, but he kept his features trained and stern, ready to reprimand the witch for disturbing his lonely morning. He didn't want anyone to witness how this was affecting him.

"What do you want?" he asked in a quiet and defensive voice. "Don't people get any privacy in your house?"

"Draco," she started carefully. "You haven't left bed for three days."

His eyebrows rose high on his forehead. Three days? But it all felt so raw and fresh, like the rain was still peppered across his skin, and Hermione's parting words were still chiming in his ears. Wasn't time supposed to mend the ache of the initial shock? Three days, and he was fairly certain he had slept the entire time. Evidently, his subconscious had decided that sleep was preferable to waking without Granger pressed against his chest.

"So?" he scowled at Andromeda, sitting up in the bed and resting his elbows against his knees. "What difference does it make?"

"Firstly, I need to warn you that there is a Taboo on You-Know-Who's name," she listed. "And secondly, you need to eat something."

"I'm not hungry," he lied, ignoring the painful twinge in his stomach that contradicted his words. "Just leave me alone-

"It's not healthy," she insisted. "You'll make yourself ill."

"I don't give a shit," he grumbled coldly. "I will get up when I'm ready."

"Look," Andromeda sighed, impatience loud in her tone. "Isolating yourself in here isn't going to make you feel any better-

"What, and you think a piece of toast and a skip around the garden will make everything all dandy?" he quipped. "Don't be so bloody soft-

"A warm meal will do you some good," she told him, and his stomach twitched again at the notion. "And perhaps a talk with the others will help-

"And just who the hell are these 'others' you keep on mentioning?"

"People in similar positions to you," she said, and Draco felt his curiosity stir. "Come down for some breakfast and you'll see."

"I don't think so-

"Oh, grow up, Draco," Andromeda scowled, slicing the air with her hand. "I do not have the time to stand here and baby you-

"Well, no one's forcing you!" he shouted back. "I think I've made it pretty clear that I don't want you here-

"Tough luck," she sighed, massaging the bridge of her nose. "There are clean clothes in the drawers. If you're not dressed and ready in fifteen minutes, I will kick you out of bed-

"I'm not ready!" he exclaimed, clenching his fists and slamming them against the mattress. He felt some of the fight leave him, and his shoulders slumped as the next mumbled confession left his lips. "I just…I just want to be left alone. I am not…ready to deal with this situation."

Andromeda's features softened slightly. "I am trying to help you-

"If you want to help me; leave-

"I'm not dropping this, Draco," she told him firmly. "But I will offer you a very generous compromise; if you come down for breakfast this once, then I won't hassle you again. I will leave food outside your door, and you can stay in here to mope all you like."

"And if I refuse?" he asked.

"Then I will drag you out of bed today and every other day until you get the message," she warned. "And you might think you'd be able to hold me off, but I have several people downstairs who would help me, and I doubt you want your wand confiscated when you've only just had it back."

"I am getting so fucking sick of people telling me what to do," he snarled, nostrils flaring as he dropped his face into his palms. "I bet you're loving this; watching the son of the sister who betrayed you in such a pathetic state."

Andromeda released a heavy breath. "That' not true but I really don't have time for this," she said, turning and heading for the door. "I will wait outside your room, and if you're not dressed and ready in ten minutes, we will do this the hard way."

Draco heard the click of the door and groaned into his palms, feeling hot anger burn behind his eyes as his thoughts dragged him back to Hermione. Never would he have imagined craving the shrill pitch of Granger's voice when she was agitated, but he did. He thought of those first few weeks in her dorm; insanity creeping up on him with every word she spoke and every clash of their paths, and the sour-tasting irony almost made him chuckle with dark mirth.

Funny how what had once made him question the state of his mind now seemed the only thing that felt rational and genuine.

Fate was a temperamental bitch with a fetish for mind-fucking.

Apparently, this was how it felt to miss a lover; like someone had fired a brutal Impedimenta right to his chest, and then crushed the reasonable part of his brain and the irrational section of his heart under their heel. He wanted to scream into his pillow loud enough to slit and scratch his windpipe, or slam his fists into the wall until his knuckles splintered his flesh, and he felt somewhere close to rational or balanced again.

He needed to regain control.

He could picture Hermione in his head, telling him to accept the offer of a decent meal and drop the abrasive front, probably with her hands on her hips and rolling her pretty hazels at him. He would wager his questionable inheritance that she would mention the day after she'd been forced to Obliviate her parents, echoing what he'd said to get the grief out of her system on that blissful day in the shower.

Trust me when I say the inactivity will only do more damage.

So, what? You're just going to sit in your room and mope all day?

Snap out of it. You have more strength than this.

"Draco," Andromeda called from the other side of the door, interrupting his trance. "You have five minutes left."

Another painful spasm of hunger made him cringe, and he exhaled with defeat, realising too that his limbs felt weak and sluggish from days without nutrition. His bones cracked and protested as he left the bed, absently selecting a simple pair of black trousers and a turtleneck of the same colour from the chest of drawers.

Heading to meet his Aunt, he glimpsed his translucent reflection in the window pane and froze. Blurry, bloodshot eyes stared back at him as he studied his face; his expression gaunt and tormented, and his normally groomed hair dishevelled and knotted. He looked tenuous and flimsy, like a limbo-lingering ghost.

And he didn't give a flying fuck.

"If you think I am bluffing, you are mistaken," Andromeda warned, and Draco glowered at the door before he grabbed his wand. "You have one minute."

Muttering a chorus of profanities under his breath, he straightened his posture and joined his Aunt in the corridor, fixing her with an incensed glare. "Happy now?"

"This is hardly for my benefit," she said calmly, starting down the hall. "But yes, I am glad you decided to get out of bed and show a bit of backbone-

"I'm only doing this to shut you up," he quickly pointed out as they walked. "Remember, you said you'd leave me alone if I had breakfast this one time."

"I know what I said."

"Then let's get this over with," he mumbled, breezing past her and guessing the route to the kitchen.

"Draco," Andromeda said, coming up to his side. "I feel I should tell you that the others already know you are here, but I haven't told them where you've been until now or who with. I thought it was best for you to decide how much you wanted to reveal to them."

His brow creased with confusion. "These people know me?"

"Oh yes," she nodded. "And you know them."

"Then why not just tell me who they are?"

"Partly because it's easier just to show you," she shrugged, but he noticed the wrinkled corner of her mouth twitch. "And partly for my own amusement."

His bit down on his back teeth at that remark but didn't respond as they came to a stop in front of the door he presumed led to the kitchen. The seductive smell of porridge and coffee wafted into the corridor and instantly triggered more memories of slow Sundays in Granger's dorm, crunching burnt toast and smirking at her morning-mussed hair. He was suddenly very aware that his witch would not be on the other side of the door, drowning in one of his oversized t-shirts and nursing a cup of tea with a book perched in her lap. He didn't have a clue who was inside Andromeda's kitchen, but it wouldn't be Hermione with a lazy, forgiving smile, and an odd bout of anxiety flooded his gut.

"Wait," he said, before his Aunt could grip the doorknob. "The people in there; do they know the things I have done?"

Andromeda's wrinkles deepened with her puzzled frown. "Yes, they know about what happened with Dumbledore."

"Right," he mumbled, disgusted by the unease in his tone. "Then they hate me."

"No," she disputed quickly, as though she had predicted his comment. "They are like me, Draco; confused and wary, but willing to give you a chance to prove that you are not the evil brat everyone thinks you are."

She barely gave him a moment to ponder that statement before she was nudging him forward, opening the door and thrusting him into the kitchen. Draco was instantly struck speechless; his pupils dilating and his jaw going slack as he took in the occupants of the room and tried to comprehend the implausibility of this situation. Five sets of suspicious and guarded eyes gaped back at him, and he didn't even attempt to hide his bafflement as his erratic attention darted from one familiar face to the next.

Andromeda had been right; he knew them. He knew them well.

His brain was roaring with questions as he fixated first on Tracey Davis, balanced on the kitchen counter and nervously tapping her fingers against her knee. Stood beside her with a more pronounced scowl was Millicent Bulstrode, and on the other side of Tracey was Miles Bletchley, his back straight and his chin tilted, as if prepared for a confrontation.

Draco's bewildered eyes then drifted to the two figures sat at the table, focussing on Theodore Nott, who was leaning back almost nonchalantly in his chair, arms folded across his chest but his eyebrows high on his forehead with surprise. And finally, Draco landed on Blaise Zabini, and he bristled under his old classmate's dark, calculating stare. Blaise's chin was rested against the back of his hand, his lips twitching as he licked his teeth, and his features fixed in a trained and unflinching mask of indifference. Only from years of experience did Draco notice the mistrustful and pensive strain of the other wizard's features.

And it suddenly dawned on him.

These people, who he had once considered acquaintances and even friends, were not who he remembered, and it was so obvious as they each regarded him with doubt and intrigue suitable for a stranger who had stumbled across their den, instead of the respect and camaraderie they'd shared in Hogwarts. They were no longer who they had been, and he was no longer one of them.

They were different, and he was an outsider.

"Well, spank my arse and call me Morgana," Theo's droll voice filled the air. "We thought you were fucking with us, 'Dromeda."

"For Godric's sake, Theo," she muttered, moving further into the kitchen and leaving Draco stunned in the doorway. "How many times must I warn you about your language?"

"Excuse me for trying to break the awkward silence," he shrugged. "This is going to be an interesting morning."

Draco felt his voice-box click back into action. "What the hell is going on?" he blurted. "What the fuck are you lot doing here?"

"I think the more pressing question is what are you doing here?" Theo fired back, stretching his arms over his head. "Everyone thought you were dead."

He flinched, absently glancing at Blaise, who had yet to even blink. "Everyone?"

"Pretty much," Tracey spoke up, and Draco noted that Bletchley subtly adjusted into a protective stance beside her. "They said you got caught in the crossfire when you were trying to escape from Hogwarts."

"But then how-

"Hang on," Theo interrupted swiftly, leaning his elbows against the table. "I believe it was our turn to ask a question."

"This isn't a fucking game, Nott," Draco snapped, too flustered to keep his cool. "I want to know what the hell is going on-

"And so do we-

"Well, you're being an arsehole about it-

"Call me an arsehole again, and I'll break your face, Malfoy-

"Enough," Andromeda hushed their ricocheting jibes. "Look, you are going to have to figure out a way to talk this out properly. I need to head back to the other house, and I'd like to believe you're all old enough to handle this maturely."

"Don't hold your breath-

"Shut it, Theo," Blaise finally spoke, shooting his companion a warning glare. "How long will you be, 'Dromeda?"

"Just a few hours," she said, and Draco realised how peculiarly comfortable his Aunt was with his former classmates. "Millicent, I was going to ask if you would mind coming with me? I might need some help sorting through the supplies." The younger witch nodded, and his Aunt turned back to Blaise. "You're in charge while I'm gone."

"Shocker," Theo rolled his eyes. "Favouritism gets you everywhere-

"So does acting like an adult," she frowned at him, gesturing for Millicent to follow her as she headed for another door at the back of the room. "Don't kill each other while I'm gone."

With that, the two witches exited the kitchen, and the tense silence returned to take its place between the remaining inhabitants, and it clawed at Draco's eardrums. Blaise had barely moved during the exchange, his head still propped up by his knuckles and still studying Draco with an intense concentration that felt almost invasive.

"Bletchley, Davis," he addressed the pair on a sigh, slowly turning to acknowledge them. "Would you mind leaving us alone for a bit?"

Miles seemed hesitant. "How come?"

"I think it will be easier if Malfoy only talks with Theo and I for now," he explained, his bistre eyes back on Draco. "Don't worry, you will get your chance to ask questions too."

Miles opened his mouth to protest, but Tracey settled her hand on his and hopped off the counter, whispering something in his ear meant only for him. "Alright," she said, tugging on her companion's wrist. "Give us a shout if you need anything."

As the couple side-stepped Draco to leave the room, Blaise kicked out a chair and cocked his head. "Take a seat, Malfoy," he instructed calmly, waiting until Draco complied before he spoke again. "Tell us where you've been."

"No," he shook his head stubbornly. "Tell me what the hell you're doing here first-

"For fuck's sake," Theo cut in again. "You don't have any right to-

"Give your jaw a rest and calm the hell down," Blaise told him in a low tone. "Try to remember that you were in Malfoy's position not so long ago-

"Yes, but I wasn't the one who let the bloody Death Eaters into Hogwarts."

"No, but you could have been," he replied steadily. "It could have been any of us."

Theo's agitated demeanour faltered before he clicked his tongue and raised his hands in surrender. "Fine," he breathed reluctantly. "Carry on."

Blaise flicked his eyes back to Draco. "The Death Eaters call us 'The Defected,' and the Order calls us 'The Enlightened,'" he said. "I prefer to think of us as the ones who had a lucky escape."

"You defected?" Draco repeated. "Why would you-

But he was interrupted when the back door flew open, and in walked Luna Lovegood with her usual air of tranquil ignorance, and the surprise of her abrupt entrance knocked the wind out of Draco's lungs. She glimpsed at him out of the corner of her eye and, aside from the slight stretch of her smile, gave no indication that she was thrown or perturbed by his presence.

"Morning, Lovegood," Theo greeted casually.

"Good morning, Theo, Blaise," she returned, and Draco didn't miss the softening of Blaise's stoic exterior when she hummed his name, nor did he miss the way Lovegood glided an affectionate hand across his shoulders as she walked past. "And good morning to you, Draco."

"What the fuck-

"See," she murmured in that blank tone of hers, looking specifically at Blaise. "I told you I saw him in Hogwarts at Christmas."

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