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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7. Human

Hermione hadn't seen him for three days.

She hadn't even heard the smallest shuffle from his room, and had it not been for the fact that her cooked meals had always vanished by the time she returned from the library, she might have questioned if he'd been in her dorm at all. The witch had contemplated letting herself into his room again to rush out another string of apologies, but she reasoned that it would probably be a step in the wrong direction. He clearly wanted privacy, and she owed him at least that much after what she'd done.

She was still so mortified by her actions.

She'd never, ever done anything so awful in her life; so wrong. She'd locked herself in her room no less than four times and broken down into uninhibited sobs, cradling her quaking frame. The death of Charity Burbage was still darkening her mind, but she always found herself staring at her palm in those fractured moments, searching for a scar or mark.

She rubbed her forehead as her fingers tossed aside another page. The harsh winds screaming outside the Castle had exiled her to the sitting area, seeking some solace with one of her books. The wind was her weakness. She could happily sit through a colourful thunderstorm, or listen to the beats of thrumming rains, but when the wind sounded like a strangled human, it petrified her.

She'd tried Silencing charms, just like she had in all her previous years at Hogwarts, but they would always waver as her concentration was swallowed by oncoming sleep. The breezy roars would shock her awake, and she would be back where she'd started.

Hermione had quickly abandoned the idea of gaining any sleep too close to her window and was now huddled up on the couch in the window-less living room; reading Lord Byron's poems, one of her guilty pleasures. She pulled the blanket a bit tighter around her as she moved on to She Walks in Beauty, stealing a quick glance at the clock and grimacing when she realised it was half three.

And the bloody wind gave no hint of fading any time soon.

She sucked in a loud breath when a small click broke the air, and her syrupy gaze trailed over to find Malfoy slowly leaving his room. He looked annoyed when he glanced at her, expelling an agitated breath as he headed towards the kitchen, apparently choosing to ignore her completely.

She thought twice before she spoke, but the words hurried out before she could think thrice. "Did I wake you?" she whispered, unsure if he'd heard her or was simply deciding not to acknowledge the question. Merlin knew why she thought asking again was a wise idea. "Did I-

"No," he growled as he poured a glass of water, keeping his back to her.

"Well, then why are you-

"I was thirsty," he offered, pivoting on his heels and heading back to his room.

"Malfoy, wait," Hermione said quickly, straightening her back and wondering exactly what she'd intended to say. She had no clue why he stopped short of his door, but she didn't dare question it, lest he remember his constant desire to get away from her. "Can I ask you a question?"

He sighed like she was interfering with his non-existent schedule. "Make it quick."

She hesitated and licked her teeth. "Are you still angry about...well...about the other day-

"When you cut my fucking hand open?" he clarified in a stoic tone, turning to face her. "Does it matter?"

Hermione watched with trance-treacle eyes as he brought his glass to his mouth, the moisture glossing his lips. "I guess it does," she confessed shyly, averting her attention to her lap.

Suspicion and shock almost made him choke on his drink, but he caught himself. "Why?" he snapped bitterly. "What difference does it make?"

"I'm not really sure," she murmured, carefully rising from the sofa.

Draco's jaw twitched as the blanket tumbled to her feet, leaving her in a simple t-shirt and baggy pyjama bottoms. He found himself holding his breath as she started to move, but she simply headed towards the kitchen, and he briefly wondered exactly what he'd done if she had walked in his direction. By the flimsy flickers of candlelight, she looked different; more peaceful and slightly surreal. It was the darkness toying with his vision and perceptions that made him linger, studying her closely as she plucked two mugs from a cabinet.

"Hot chocolate is better to have before bed," she spoke softly, using her wand to boil some water. "Would you like one?"

He didn't respond. She'd clearly decided that she was making one for him anyway, and the smell of powdered cocoa mingled deliciously with Granger's natural scent. He toyed with the sleeves of his jumper while she finished the beverages, and once they were complete she carried them both over to the sofas and placed them on the coffee table. He raised an eyebrow as she wrapped herself back up with the blanket and relaxed into the couch; his cautious stare shifting between her and the steaming mug that was meant for him.

"Are you going to sit?" she asked, and he could tell she was forcing her tone to be nonchalant.

"I'll drink it in my room," he said with a low grumble, taking some strides towards her.

"I was...," she started awkwardly. "Well, I was hoping you might answer my question...and maybe sit with me a while?"

That caught him off-guard. Of all the things she could have said, he would have gambled away his inheritance that those words would never pass her lips in his company. It was certainly an intriguing development to the shitty situation, and he couldn't help but consider seeing where this would lead.

"Why the hell would you think that?" he drawled lazily, resting his palms against the back of the couch opposite hers. "And I don't have to answer your question,"

"No, you don't," she agreed. "It was simply a request-

"A stupid request."

She frowned and raised her head to eye him wearily. "Never mind then-

"No," he stopped her. "I'm curious to know why you would even ask me to join you-

"You didn't answer my question," she reminded him pointedly, reaching out her arm to stroke the rim of her mug. "So why should I answer yours?"

Draco didn't have a reason, but that was fine because a wind's cry sliced the silence. He saw it then; the flash of fear that streaked across her hazels. He couldn't ever recall seeing her look scared. Uncertain maybe, and sometimes wary, but never scared. Even her demented episode in the bathroom had only stained her features with shame and shock. This little early-morning encounter was turning into right little trove of surprises.

"What's up, Granger?" he questioned cockily, a smirk pulling his mouth. "Don't tell me one of the fearless Gryffindors is scared of a little storm."

He expected defiance and irritation, but she simply pulled her blanket a little tighter around herself. "Not storms," she mumbled after a moment. "I just...I don't like the sound of the wind."

His expression scrunched up with confusion. She was actually owning up to her fear? Admitting to phobias was simply not done in his circles, and especially wouldn't be mentioned in front of an enemy. Broadcasting any form of weakness was just plain foolish, and yet she'd done it so easily.

Trusting and naïve idiot.

But she was suddenly more real...more human, and it sobered him like a blast of winter. She was a personality and less...No, she was definitely still a Mudblood...But she was a Mudblood with a character...Kind of. Possibly.

He observed her with more attention than was probably appropriate as her shoulders relaxed when the wind died. Back was the rational Granger with seemingly no issues with weather conditions, but it was there behind her amber gaze. She lifted her hot chocolate from the table and brought it to those rosy lips of hers, forming her mouth into a small ring to blow the steam away. It shouldn't have held his attention. But it did.

"Your drink will get cold," she murmured, regarding him quietly as she took a sip.

He inhaled sharply before he climbed over the back of the couch and collapsed into the cushions, eyeing her impatiently. "How can you be scared of the wind?"

"It's not so much the wind itself," she answered evenly. "I just don't like the noise."

"That's just stupid," he scoffed.

"Everyone's scared of something," she reasoned carefully. "Aren't you? It's human nature."

He scowled like the suggestion was absolutely ridiculous, but he couldn't help but consider her words. The idea of disappointing his family, or more specifically his father came to mind, but he was guessing she meant something more specific and clinical. Either he simply didn't have one, or he was subconsciously choosing to to ignore it. Still, he hated her for making him think.

"No," he stated simply, leaning forward to grab the mug.

"Maybe you just haven't realised yours yet," Hermione offered with a non-committal shrug. "Will you answer my question? About the other day? When I...you know."

His eyes narrowed. "I doubt it would be possible for me to hate you any more than I already do," Draco told her calmly, his lips twitching. She looked slightly troubled by his words, and the need for him to say something else buzzed around his tongue. He clenched his eyes shut and scorned himself for what he rushed out next. "Consider it dealt with, Granger."

A fascinating mixture of relief and surprise stole Hermione's face. "Really?"

"It would serve you well to just not mention it," he said squarely, having long decided that the incident was best tucked away at the back of beyond. "Unless you would have me bring it up-

"No," she shook her head hastily. "No, I'd like to forget it."

He gave her a brief nod and swallowed a soothing gulp of the hot chocolate, and Hermione resisted the urge to say thank you for agreeing to forget the topic. If she remembered correctly, she had apologised and said please more than she should have on that awful day. If she started spewing out words of gratitude to the arsehole then it would be a step too far.

But as he was now; sat on the other side of the coffee table and looking more calm than she could remember, it made her instinct to despise him waver. She had always believed, and witnessed, how a person's personality could effect how people perceive their appearance. If someone was ugly on the inside, her brain would convince her that ugliness was reflected on the outside. Now, with her hatred for Malfoy slightly dented by the odd calm that had settled between them, she accepted that he was a rather striking wizard.

The dim light caught his pale features well, and the orange glow waltzed in front of his silver irises. The angles and lines of his face were sharp and defined, as though each detail screamed for attention, but it made the eyes dance and she quite liked that. She could argue that he was too pale, almost like he'd been mastered from ice, but she realised he probably hadn't felt a ray of sunshine in Merlin knew how long.

"Have you read the books?" she asked carefully, deciding the silence had been breaching the fringes of discomfort. "The ones I left on the top."

She could see his hesitation to answer her. "Yes," he admitted cautiously.

"Which one are you reading now?" she pressed.

"Why do you want to know?"

"I'm just curious," she shrugged honestly, wishing his suspicion towards her would simmer.

Draco exhaled loudly. "Titus Andronicus."

"Good play-

"It's alright," he corrected her quickly, nursing his drink between his palms. "Some parts are sloppy."

"I'd agree with that," she nodded thoughtfully. "It was one of Shakespeare's early plays."

"You gave me a lot of books by him," he mumbled slowly, giving her a stern glare. "I assume he is a Muggle author."

Her eyes widened. She'd expected nothing short blinding rage when her little experiment came to his attention, but he simply seemed irritated by it. "You knew I gave you Muggle books?"

"It pretty obvious, Granger," he rolled his eyes. "I didn't recognise any of the authors and it seemed like something you would pull."

"And you still read them?" she pushed with a disbelieving tone. "Why?"

His scowl hardened a little. Truth be told, he hadn't touched her Muggle literature for two days, simply eyeing them with genuine disgust. But boredom was too powerful and sanity-draining, and he'd yielded on the third day, rationalising that it was either the reading or a mental breakdown. He'd intended to have the books feed his revulsion for Muggles, providing him with proof that they really were uncultured and uncivilised beings who would struggle to pen a decent paragraph.

But...

But it was actually okay...Good enough that he'd continued to turn the pages and be subconsciously impressed. It was so unnerving and sickening, and it had made him question...things. Only for a moment, but he had. No, he had never believed all that propaganda shit about Muggles being feral, but he'd been convinced on some level that they would be less able with the arts, but this Shake-something guy was...adequate. He couldn't very well tell Granger that though.

"There's nothing else to read," he growled, realising he'd taken too long to respond.

Hermione sighed, watching him under her eyelashes as she took another sip. Her heart thudded with her inquisitive nature, and she wanted to know how far she could test this. "And what do you think of the play so far?"

He snorted. "It's violent," he said as though it was obvious, which she guessed it was. "Which is...entertaining, but it proves how barbaric Muggles are."

"Barbaric?" Hermione repeated, reining in the urge to scream at him. "How so?"

"Well, it's just mindless bloodshed-

"As oppose to all the Wizard Wars?" she pointed out quickly. "Violence is present in all races and species, Malfoy, and especially in humans. Magic or not-

"The guy killed his own son," Draco remarked, cocking his head proudly to the side as if that had been the winning blow. "That's an indication of how uncivilised Muggles are."

Hermione didn't skip a beat. "But Voldemort killed his family."

The blond's haughty expression faltered, and he hated that she witnessed it. "That's different," he mumbled defensively. "That was-

"And Crouch killed his father-

"It's different!" he repeated adamantly, but he knew the argument was weak.

Granger looked neither smug nor arrogant as she raised her head to meet his peeved stare, but simply dampened her lips with a quick flick of her tongue. "How is it different, Malfoy?"

He rummaged through his brain, hunting for a satisfactory argument or reasoning that would knock her back into place. He felt agitated and perturbed, but also a little smidgeon of respect for Granger slithered into his conscious, and that just pissed him off more. This would definitely earn her a mark on his headboard. Shit.

"It just is," he muttered, taking another swig of her rather perfect hot chocolate.

.

.

The stiffness of his neck was his first clue that he hadn't slept in a bed.

Whatever his head was resting on was too hard to be a pillow, and as his eyes slowly blinked open, he focused on a different ceiling to what he was used to. Draco awkwardly shifted to find himself outstretched on one of the sofas, propped up by the armrest. It was still rather dark, but there were no windows in this space, and a brief check of the clock told him it was almost seven in the morning.

He groaned and rubbed his face, slowly rising into a sitting position that caused his back to click like crackling embers. His sleep-blurry vision focussed on his surroundings as he tried to recall just how and when he had fallen asleep on the couch, and his winter-grey eyes moved to the other side of the coffee table.

He stiffened.

She was cocooned from neck to toe in her blanket, her clumsy curls splashed across the cushion in coffee swirls. With her eyes shuttered and her features so relaxed, she looked the embodiment of comfort and peace. Gone were the stressed muscles consistently stretching under Granger's skin, and he couldn't ever recall seeing a person who looked so smothered by sleep. Her slumber-slow breaths hummed in his ears and snatched him from his trance, leaving Draco to silently scold himself for letting the morning fuzz his brain.

He snapped his eyes away from her, finding himself studying her unfinished and cold mug of hot chocolate. And her wand. Just lying there, taunting him.

He dragged his body away from the sofa and meandered his way around the table as silently as he could, knowing all the while that this would probably lead to nothing. She'd told him herself that it was charmed to repel him, but it could have so easily been a well-placed bluff. He shuffled closer to her wand, crouching down and moving into a position just in front of the sleeping witch.

Her breath skimmed over the sensitive skin of his throat, and he fought the shiver that kissed down his spine. Reaching out, all his hope for a chance of escape died when warning magic buzzed against his fingertips before he could even touch it. He'd expected it. With a defeated huff, he leaned back against his haunches; Granger's dreamy sighs still whispering across the fine hairs on his skin.

He closed his eyes...relished the feeling...the smell of her this close...close enough to touch...

And like an army of flames, he was blasted back to reality. He flinched violently away from her, as though she was laced with poison, cursing himself to Salazar's tomb and back.

This was what her sodding blood experiment had done to him.

She was crawling through his system and into his head, screwing up his senses. It wasn't her muddy blood, it was something deeper; something carving his bones and drowning his cells. It was her. Granger. Her substance, her innocence; just racing though him and throwing shards at his sanity. Revolted by his actions, he fled her company on slightly shaking legs; praying some distance would purify him of her.

Hermione was startled awake by the angry slam of his door.

Shame really; it had been the best night's sleep she'd had in weeks. Even if had only been for a few hours.

.

.

The winds were calm for the next four days, and he successfully managed to avoid her while he convinced himself more and more that she was festering beneath his flesh. On the Friday, exactly one week after their blood-bathroom incident, the walls had started to close in again. A craving for interaction with another human settled into his pores and, of course, Granger was the only option. He needed to hear another human's heartbeats because his own were getting too loud with his solitude.

Of all the fucked up things to plague his brain, needing someone else's presence was definitely the the thing that let him know he was going mad. He wanted an argument, or just something to remind him there was life beyond his bedroom door. He rationalised it by pointing out it was entirely circumstantial.. If there was anybody, and he meant anybody, other than her that could chase away his demons, then there would be no need for this.

Anybody, except Weasley. Pureblood or not, if bitchy McGonagall had shoved him into a room with that orange tumour of Wizarding Society, there would have been slaughter by the second hour.

That mental image cheered him a little.

He could hear her shuffling around in the kitchenette, clanging around with various utensils and causing more noise than was probably necessary. Combing his hands through his ice-blond hair and releasing a weary breath, he left the four-walled prison-come-bedroom to find Granger fussing with some pans and vegetables.

Hermione felt his presence before she saw it, and she spun around to give him a curious look. "Let me guess," she said evenly. "I was making too much noise again?"

"Yes," he grumbled, taking a few steps towards her. "What the hell are you doing, Granger?"

"Just sorting out some food for tomorrow," she explained with a delicate shrug. "I probably should have asked you this before, but are you allergic to anything?"

"No," he shook his head, hoisting himself up to sit on the counter. "Just you."

He'd meant the comment to be cold and crisp, but it had lacked that snide edge that had taken him years to perfect. Instead it sounded more...teasing? Well, Granger certainly seemed to find it harmless judging from her amused snort and the slight curl of her lips. He considered calling her Mudblood just for familiarity's sake, but something in his rather warped mind told him not to, and she spoke before he had a chance to question it.

"Have you finished reading Titus?" she asked, evidently a bit uncertain about how she was supposed to act around him. At least they had that in common.

He scoffed. "Give me some credit, Granger," Draco mumbled, resting his elbows against his knees and eyeing her back. "I was almost finished the other day. Of course I've finished it."

"Okay," she nodded, using her wand to help her finish her cooking. "And what were your thoughts on the ending?"

"Too rushed," he stated simply, his tone critical and brusque. "It was a rather amateur ending."

She hummed in thought as she turned to face him, crossing her arms over her chest. "I agree."

"What?"

"I agree," Hermione repeated, catching his stare with an uncertain flush. "It was too fast. Have you thought about reading another?"

He was already half-way through another one of her Muggle books. He'd decided to move away from that Shake-whatever guy, adamant that he would find some level illiteracy amongst her offered Muggle texts. He'd settled on some creepy-looking cover by a Muggle named Wilkie Collins, and had been pretty much absorbed by the pages from chapter one, much to his inner-disgust.

"The Woman in White," he offered with a rushed breath, noting that her grin stretched slightly.

"One of my favourites," she told him. "And how-

"Don't get all bloody enthusiastic," he warned her with a low tone. "The level of writing is below that of Wizard and Witch authors."

Her smile fell and she turned her back to him to complete the preparations for what appeared to be stew. "Do you really believe Purebloods to be superior to Muggle-borns, Malfoy?"

He quirked an eyebrow at that. His stony eyes roamed her shoulders and spine, searching for any clue as to why she had asked such a stupid question. "You know I do, Granger," he answered proudly, but there was an odd throb in his chest as he spoke. "Don't ask piss-poor questions when you're meant to have some brains in there."

An almost disappointed sigh left her mouth. "Then can I make a suggestion please?" she murmured softly, fidgeting with the hem of her too-big, red jumper.

There was her sodding please again; unwelcome and just another reminder of how pathetically pure she was. Somewhere at the back of his brain lingered the memory that he'd intended to argue with her, but here he was again; conversing with her in a way that should have made him vomit. But at least he felt slightly more normal. More human. Just like her shower-sighs, these...almost civil moments seemed to remedy his pulsing headaches.

"You can make all the suggestions you want," he shrugged nonchalantly, his scowl wasted on her back. "But the likelihood of me agreeing to any of them is obviously next to nothing."

She turned back around and her features were calm and soothed, but he could see the flurry of thoughts spinning behind her eyes. She really was so interesting to observe at times such as these; like a cryptic puzzle with no obvious reward. Everything that buzzed in her heart was so willingly reflected in her autumn-hue gaze, something he just couldn't get his head around. It would be wise for her to keep as much hidden as possible; especially from someone she despised. Someone like him.

"After you've finished the book," she spoke slowly. "I would like you to read Martin Luther King's autobiography."

His brow lowered with caution. "Why?"

"I think you would find some of the concepts interesting," Hermione offered, her eyes raking down his body from head to toe. "It's just a suggestion."

With that, she wandered out of his sight and disappeared into her room, leaving Draco reluctantly intrigued by her random request. He wouldn't read it, of course, if only out of spite.

.

.

Hermione didn't have time to mull over her conversation with Malfoy, as she was greeted by a very familiar owl pecking relentlessly at her window pane. She rushed over on anxious feet, throwing open the latch to let the beautiful bird inside.

"Hedwig," she cooed affectionately as Harry's faithful pet dropped the letter in her palm and gave her knuckles a soft nuzzle. "Give the boys my love."

The Snowy Owl never waited for a response as it was too risky to waste the precious time, but Hermione always felt disheartened as she hastily took back to the skies. She would have given anything to write a reply, but it had been agreed that it was far too dangerous to exchange more parchment than could be helped. If she ever discovered anything that could be useful for the boys, she had to pass it on to McGonagall, and she would find a means to deliver it to Harry and Ron. These rules were strict, and she naturally followed them; albeit begrudgingly.

Merlin, she missed them...

The letter was scratchy in her palm, and as much as she wanted nothing more than to tear it open there and then, she couldn't. She'd promised Ginny at the beginning of term that they would read all the messages together. If there was one person who was coping slightly worse than Hermione, it was the Weasley sister. It was her boyfriend and her brother after all, the girl had every right to feel lost.

Hermione shrugged on her robes and carefully tucked the letter and her wand into the pocket before she left her room. A quick scan of the kitchen and the sitting area informed her that Draco must have retired to his room for the remainder of the evening, so she quickly left her dorm, heading for Gryffindor Tower.

Ten minutes later and she was sat on Ginny's bed with the redhead at her side, nervously fingering the ends of her fiery locks. The only other resident of the room, Parvati Patil, was conveniently absent, possibly shacking up with Dean Thomas after their recent attempt at a relationship. The privacy was welcomed by both witches as the letters tended to rouse some emotional reactions, and only a select few knew that her two best friends were in contact.

"Ready?" Hermione sighed, not waiting for a response before she ripped away the envelope and unfolded the parchment, her eyes scanning the brief paragraph.

Girls,

All is well. Not much to report.

Working on something but it might be nothing.

As always, don't worry.

Miss and love you both.

H&R

As always, it was short and to the point, lacking any detail in case it was intercepted. The words were scribbled in Harry's handwriting this time, and Hermione watched Ginny trace her fingers across the blunt sentences with tears already beading between her lashes. She felt her own eyes burn with the inevitable pining, and it wasn't because of what was scrawled across the parchment. It was because of what wasn't on the parchment.

The boys would never talk like that, and the lack of personality behind the words was what she missed the most. Just to read one of Ron's dull jokes or to have a comforting line from Harry would have been bliss. Hell, she'd have probably screamed with joy if they'd have written something about Quidditch. She just wanted her boys back...

"Can you stay tonight?" Ginny blurted over a sob. "P-Parvati's not here, and I don't want to be alone."

Hermione gave her friend a sad nod and pulled her in for a strong hug. "Of course I'll stay."

.

.

Where the fuck is she?

As Draco had noted so many times before, Granger was a girl of habit; sticking to her strict routines with nary a glitch. He'd heard her leave not long after their encounter in the kitchenette, just like every other day; leaving him to his own devices for the evening. He'd read some more of the Muggle novel and had a quick shower before preparing himself for bed, waiting for Granger's return.

And there was the glitch.

He knew from his isolation that the habitual twitters of birds usually started at five in the morning, and she was normally home by three. With a confused glare at the window, he left his bed and headed into the living room, checking the clock to find it was exactly ten-past-five, and Granger had definitely not come home.

Home...?

He could think about that later. For now, all he felt was a heavy and dense weight pulsate in his chest, and it chased away any other notions he could have had. It felt like panic...Yes, that was panic. Questions quickly clogged his brain, painfully hammering against his temple.

Where was she?

If something had happened to her, would he be stuck here?

Forgotten?

Alone?

What would that do to his mind?

What would he do without her scent or showers...?

He needed to get out.

No way in hell was he staying in here; left to rot away like a peasant with no worth. He marched quickly to the main door, ignoring the familiar and irritating static against his palm, warning him not to grab the handle. But he did anyway.

His fist clamped down on the brass, and the pain was instantaneous. It burned his hand and sparked up his arm; scorching his flesh from the inside and searing across his bones. His instincts screamed at him to let go, but his alarm was too strong. He gnashed his teeth in an effort to ignore the pain and tried to push down, but then the fire shot down his spine like blazing scratches. His back arched and he roared with agony; but still, he refused to let go.

He could feel himself weakening; the violent flames burning away his energy and convulsing his muscles. He knew he was spasming with uncontrollable jerks, and another tortured yell tore out of his throat. With one last feeble attempt to escape, he put everything he had into opening the door.

The heat raced right back up his spine and attacked his head, flaring at the nape of his neck before it all went numb. He didn't even feel himself crash to the floor; trembling wildly and writhing as the fit rocked every inch of him with dangerous twitches. And then he was unconscious.

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