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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32. Pulse

Draco managed to keep his balance when they landed, and as the dizzying effects of the Portkey wore off, he found himself in an overgrown garden, facing the back of unfamiliar and secluded house that was blanketed with ivy. It looked far too serene, too innocuous, and he began to question whether Tonks had muddled up her Portkeys, but then he heard the shouting.

Several raised voices were picked up by the wind, the words and intent stifled by the thick walls of the house, but the panic in those voices was loud and clear.

Tonks shot ahead like a bullet and it jerked him into action, his toes practically nipping at her ankles, and Blaise was close behind him as they raced to the house. They barged inside, following the cries for help and the heavy thumps of hasty footsteps to a kitchen-come-dining-room, and Draco froze.

The room was in chaos.

His ears instantly began to ache from all the yelling, until all the voices seemed to blur into a piercing roar of noise. There was too much going on in such a small space, and his eyes darted from one screaming person to the next, trying to make sense of it. He recognised Ollivander first, the elderly wizard trembling and feebly dabbing his fingers against a nasty wound on his forehead. That Thomas lad from Gryffindor…was it Dean?…was trying to help Ollivander, calling out for assistance while tying to nurse his own wounds; an oozing gash on his shoulder, and a broken arm, judging by the abnormal bend of his elbow. Next to them was a Goblin with blood trickling down from his hairline but little else to indicate any distress, and Draco recognised him to be Griphook from Gringotts.

He noticed Lovegood next, looking more dazed than usual with a split lip and a spray of purple-black bruises across her face, chest and arms. Blaise stormed past him to get to her, grasping her elbows and examining her closely, gently tilting her chin and mumbling questions about the severity of her injuries. Lovegood simply smiled a dreamy smile and touched his face.

His attention shifted to Potter, a crumpled and stuttering heap on the floor, half sobbing and half in shock as he hunched over a bleeding House-elf who was dead in the eyes. He was pleading for help, and that Lupin bloke was crouching at his side, trying to calm him and pry the lifeless House-elf from his hands. Potter stubbornly resisted, clutching the small creature and shaking his head like madman as he pleaded with Lupin to try and revive it.

And then his eyes landed on a mess of matted curls drenched with blood, once brown but now a sickly, burgundy colour, and he forgot to breathe.

Completely paralysed.

Hoping he was mistaken, he sought her face and his legs went a little weak. All her familiar features were there, but they were so, so different. Her skin was eerily pale, ashen like an antique china doll, and her lips were blue except for the thin trail of blood sliding down to her jaw. And her arm…dear fuck, her arm. It looked like it had been mauled; deep slices that were practically spitting blood, and her skin was red-raw where it was split into…letters? Mudblood?

There was bile at the back of his throat and he choked.

He realised then that Weasley was cradling her, repeatedly mumbling something that sounded like, "my fault," with tears on his cheeks. At any other time, he would have been infuriated just thinking about Weasley touching her, but he didn't react…barely acknowledged him, too overwhelmed and stunned. He focussed solely on her, searching for any indication of life. A breath. A groan. A flutter of eyelashes. Just any sign of anything.

She really did look dead.

He had to look away. He lost his balance and stumbled back a few paces until he collided with a table, and he grasped it to steady himself, his breaths leaving him in sharp bursts. He closed his eyes when they started to burn and his heartbeat was beating painfully in his sockets and eardrums.

She couldn't be.

Absolutely not.

He opened his eyes and his vision was misty, but that didn't matter because Tonks was kneeling next to Ron and blocking his view of Granger. If he'd had the voice, he would've screamed at her to move, but instead he tilted his chin and watched as she searched for a pulse, drowning out the racket in the room and focussing on his cousin's voice.

"…need to calm down, Ron," she mumbled steadily, but he could hear the alarm in her voice. "Just hold her still…I need to-

"I'm sorry," blurted Weasley. "I didn't mean to-

"Calm down."

"No, but it was my fault, and I-

"I have it!" Tonks gasped with relief. "I have it, I have a pulse! Give her to me, Ron. Let her go."

Draco let go of a strangled sigh and felt some strength return to his limbs. He watched as Tonks practically slapped away Weasley's hands and hauled Hermione into her arms, manoeuvring with a little difficulty as she moved towards the table Draco was leaning against. She laid Hermione down with care and studied her intently, assessing the damage and mumbling behind her clenched teeth.

Draco just kept staring at Hemione, eyes narrowed to stop them stinging and his muscles rigid to hide his trembling. He moved slowly around the table on unsteady feet, pausing at Hermione's side and blocking out his cousin's muttered Healing Spells and everything else in the room.

"Wake up," he whispered, barely loud enough to hear himself.

Being this close to her again made his fingertips itch, but his mind just couldn't make sense of seeing her in this state, and it made him hesitate. His Granger had always been so full of energy, be it a spark in her eyes, a blush warming her cheeks, or a subtle smile on her lips, even in sleep. This Granger looked like she'd been carved from dead stone and then splashed with red paint for morbid effect.

"Shit," murmured Tonks, breaking his trance. "Remus! Where's the Dittany? And I need the Wound-cleaning Potion! And-

"Top cupboard!"

Draco zoned out again as Tonks tore open a cabinet and returned with a handful of small vials. In the corner of his eye, he was convinced one of Granger's fingers twitch, and he thought it might be okay to touch her now. He stretched out his hand to reach for hers, but the moment his thumb grazed the soft but cold skin of her palm, someone was clamping down on his shoulder and hauling him backwards. He was pulled back several paces away from Granger, and he whipped around to confront Weasley, flushed and seething with hot rage.

"You stay away from her!" he spat. "You have NO right-

"Get the fuck out of my way, Weasley!" yelled Draco. "You don't have a clue-

"Yes, I do! She told me about you!"

Draco cocked an eyebrow with surprise. "Then you should know it's a good idea to stand aside-

"YOU WILL NOT GO NEAR HER!"

"WEASLEY, I WILL FUCKING DRAG YOU IF I HAVE TO-

"SHUT UP!" Tonks shouted over them, and it all went very quiet. "Ron, you need to tell me what happened to her so I can help her!"

Weasley faltered. "I don't…I'm not-

"Come on, Ron!" she pushed. "The Cruciatus Curse? Poison? Something else-

"The Cruciatus Curse."

Draco's eyes went wide and back to Granger, and he ached to touch her again. He'd never been subjected to the curse himself, but he knew the possible destructive effects of it well; internal bleeding, seizures, paralysis, organ damage, memory loss or insanity…He winced.

"For how long?" Tonks asked Weasley. "How many times?"

"I don't know," Ron groaned. "We weren't…we weren't there when it was happening-

"Remus!" she called. "Remus, I need your help here! I need more potions!"

Draco tracked his old professor as he offered an apology to Potter, who was still rocking back and forth with the dead House-elf in his lap.

"There's more in the back bedroom," said Remus as he came to his wife's aid, quickly but carefully gathering Hermione in his arms. "We'll take her upstairs."

Draco made to follow as Lupin left the room, but Tonks blocked his path and planted a firm hard against his chest. "Move out of my way," he growled. "I need to be with her-

"No," she shook her head. "You are staying here-

"I want to help her! Just-

"If you want to help, you stay out of the way!" she ordered, also regarding Weasley. "That goes for you too, Ron. Both of you will stay down here!"

An enraged snarl rumbled at the back of his throat as his cousin disappeared out the room, and he was once again without Granger. The frustration, the fury, the resentment, and the angst all boiled and bubbled within his chest, and at the core of it was this devastating craving to just know Granger was alright. But no. She'd been ripped away from him again, and he felt the walls of his control crack, and Weasley might as well have been wearing a target.

"You said it was your fault," he hissed in a forebodingly low tone, locking his dark eyes on Weasley. "What the hell did you mean by that?"

"Piss off, Malfoy."

Draco's fist lunged for Ron's face of its own accord, clipping his jaw and sending him staggering backwards a few strides. "You mind your fucking mouth, Weasel!"

"Don't you dare touch me, you slimy twat!" Ron barked.

"I asked you a question!"

"YOUR FAMILY DID THAT TO HER!" he screamed. "YOUR psycho aunt! YOUR parents in YOUR home!"

Draco hesitated, open-mouthed and so incredibly lost about how to respond to that. He hated Bellatrix at that moment, could feel himself physically vibrating with all the loathing he felt for his aunt. And his parents…he didn't know…he couldn't even contemplate the idea of his mother inflicting torture on another human, Muggle-born or not. His father…fuck, he didn't know. His brain was throbbing. And Granger…Hermione…he'd never be able to get that image of her out his head; so broken and yet somehow still beautiful.

He shouldn't have let his mind wander. Weasley punched him hard in the face, snapping his head to the side with an audible clap. He grunted and spat, staring at the tinge of red to his saliva as his cheek started to pound. His temper soared and he felt his magic course through his veins, that prickling sort of static heat that was untamed and hazardous. It felt volatile, and so did he.

"Bad move, wanker," he growled, looking up from the floor to find the tip of Weasley's wand aimed at him. He reached into his pocket to withdraw his own wand, but then Lovegood calmly stepped between them, facing Weasley, and he scowled at the back of the girl's head.

"Luna," Ron frowned. "What are you doing?"

"Enough damage has been caused by hostile magic today," she said softly. "Don't you think?"

"This has nothing to do with you, Luna."

"Lovegood," sneered Draco. "Get the fuck out of the-

"Hey," said Blaise, cautiously edging closer to his friend's side. "Come on, mate. You need to compose yourself. You're not thinking straight-

"Don't even bother, Zabini-

"It's not the time or the place. You are out of control-

"SHUT UP, BLAISE!"

"Do you think Tonks is going to let you see Granger if you put a hole in Weasley's chest?" he questioned quietly, so only they would hear. "Look, you can beat the living shit out of him any other day, but you know Tonks will send you straight back to Andromeda's if you do it now, and you will have gained nothing."

Draco despised the reason in his friend's words, but the grip on his wand slackened anyway. There were too many eyes on him; Thomas, Ollivander, and even Potter had stopped what they were doing, and he felt far too exposed. He glared at Weasley over Lovegood's shoulder as she continued to speak to him in soothing tones, his thoughts shifting back to Hermione, and all his fury was consumed by concern for his witch.

"You know, Harry looks like he needs your support right now," he heard Lovegood mumble, and Weasley glanced at his inconsolable friend. "You should go and help him, Ron."

With a resigned sigh, he reluctantly lowered his wand and met Draco's aggressive stare. "Keep him out of my face-

"Be grateful it's still intact, Weasel," Draco snarled as Ron headed over to Potter, and it was only then that he tucked his wand back into his pocket.

"Right," breathed Lovegood, turning to face he and Blaise. "I think I'll make some tea."

.

.

Draco rubbed his sore and swollen eyes and wondered if he'd cried today, but been completely oblivious to it.

He guessed he'd been sat in this spot for about six hours, leaning against the wall beside the only door that hadn't responded to an Alohomora and had been charmed with a Silencing SpellThe room Granger was in.

In the hour or so before that, everything had carried on around him in a distant haze. Weasley and Lovegood had managed to convince Potter to relinquish his hold on the House-elf — a House-elf Draco had remembered had worked for his family some years ago — and they'd wrapped the dead creature up in a white sheet, and laid him out on the sofa in the sitting room. After Weasley had fixed his broken arm, Thomas had helped Ollivander to a bedroom and healed his injuries, insisting it was wise for him stay in the same room to keep an eye on the frail Wandmaker. The Goblin, Griphook, had also been given a room, and he retreated upstairs without so much as a thankful dip of his head or any inclination that he cared about the state of the injured.

And then Lovegood had done what she'd said she would. She'd made tea, and she'd spiked it with Sleeping Draught. Had he not been so distracted by his anxiety for Hermione's condition, and the fact that Lovegood annoyed him to the core, he might have mentally commended the witch for the smart move. She and Blaise had used magic to levitate Potter and Weasley to bed, and Draco had instantly set about finding the room Granger would be in.

And he had not moved from his position since.

It was evening now, and the house was getting dark as the final rays of sun simmered and gave way to night. He felt physically drained and his body had gone numb with the need for rest, but his brain was alert, stubbornly refusing to yield to sleep until he knew that Granger was awake and well, and he would demand to see it for himself.

A troubled and lonely mind drifts between self-destructive thoughts when there is nothing but hollow hours and silence for company.

He'd thought constantly about the side-effects of the Cruciatus Curse, reciting them again to himself.

Internal bleeding, seizures, paralysis, organ damage, memory loss or insanity.

Memory loss or insanity.

It was those last two that disturbed him the most. The idea of Granger being unable to remember what had happened between them in her room did damaging things to his psyche, and he had revisited those memories and tried to recall every detail…just in case…in case he needed to remind her.Fuck, that would ruin him.

And insanity…the thought of Granger without that brilliant mind of hers…he couldn't even begin to comprehend how he would deal with that.

And then he'd thought of his family and the part they'd played in his lover's torture. He'd never really held any sort of regard for Bellatrix as she'd been locked up in Azkaban for the majority of his life, and her psychotic mindset had made it impossible for him to ever perceive her as a real member of his family, but his parents…Bloody hell, his parents. The fact that they were still working for Voldemort after he had put a price on his head was disconcerting, but what if they'd been forced? What if Weasley was mistaken? Or what if they had indeed contributed to Hermione's brutal ordeal?

He groaned into his palms as a pulsating headache made his eyes water.

He'd been without her for weeks, and now there was only a wall separating them, but she might be so much further than that if her mind had been effected by the curse. Why was fate and circumstance so hell-bent on sabotaging them?

He'd have risked insanity and isolation to be back in her room again; just the pair of them locked away without Tonks, Weasley and every-fucker-else determined to throw daggers at their relationship.

"I thought you might be here," Lovegood's voice made him start. "I brought you some tea."

He tilted his chin to regard her coldly. "Do I look thick? I'm not having anything you give me."

"There's no Sleeping Draught in it. Just a tiny hint of Lavender to ease your stress."

"I don't want your sodding tea, Lovegood," he snapped. "Just bugger off."

She didn't move, but then he hadn't really expected her to. "You're an odd person, Draco."

"Excuse me?" he scoffed. "I'm odd?"

"You're so determined to distance yourself from those who are trying to help you-

"I never asked for anybody's help. I definitely haven't asked for yours-

"Friends shouldn't have to ask-

"And I am certainly not your friend," he bit out, his tone rough and gritty with distaste. "Do you have any concept of how irritating you are? And you're completely gone in the head. You just sit there talk absolute bollocks and it's infuriating. How Blaise puts up with you, I'll never know."

"He loves me," she shrugged casually. "You know, like you love Hermione, and she loves-

"What?" he hissed quietly. "Get the hell out of my face-

"Oh, I see," she murmured, innocently cocking her head to the side. "You're still pretending you don't love her?"

"How bloody dare you presume you know anything about my relationship with her!"

"Your actions speak for themselves," she said with a slight grin. "See, I told you you're odd. There really is no logical explanation for why you should continue to deny it-

"And you're the queen of logic, are you?" he remarked, rolling his eyes. "You don't know the first thing about how I feel towards Granger, so don't-

"Or maybe I do understand, and it makes you uncomfortable," she interrupted. "You're right though, it's your business and not mine, but…perhaps you should make it Hermione's business-

"That's enough!" he barked furiously. "I won't tell you again, Lovegood; leave me the fuck alone."

With a small bob of her head, she bent down and placed the mug by his feet before she tuned to leave. "I hope you like the tea," she said over her shoulder.

Draco's heavy and incensed glare pierced Lovegood's back as she retreated down the corridor and disappeared down the stairs. He grabbed the mug she'd left behind and hurled it at the adjacent wall, watching the jagged shards of porcelain explode with a loud smash as the tea spattered across the floorboards. He'd deny it until his deathbed, but Lovegood had touched a nerve.

He'd be lying if he said the exasperating topic of love hadn't slipped into his mind in the last few hours, despite his self-conserving attempts to ignore the subject.

He knew what Lovegood was thinking; that he rejected the mere mention of love because he considered it a weakness, but that was a ridiculous notion that always seemed to arise in repetitive romance stories featuring a surly antihero with a maturity complex.

He didn't think love was weakness. His parents were very much in love, openly so, and he'd never thought them to be weak for it. The fact of the matter was, loving Granger would be completely inconvenient. Loving her would mean there was no going back. To admit that he had fallen in love with her would be to slice the final fragile thread that connected him to everything he had lived by before; his prejudices, his wealth, his parents…all of it.

But then, maybe he already had. Maybe convenience had failed to be a factor for some time now.

.

.

Blaise eyed the satisfied smile on his girlfriend's pretty lips as she strolled back into the kitchen. "That took you a while," he commented, leaving his seat to approach her. "Dare I ask why?"

"I just spoke to him about a few things," replied Luna flippantly. "You know, I think Tonks may have some nargles in her garden. I'm sure I put my charm on the countertop."

"It's in my pocket," he said. "What did you say to him?"

"What was necessary."

"Care to elaborate?"

"Possibly tomorrow."

Blaise trailed his fingers down her spine and shook his head. "You're wasting your time there, Luna. He's too stubborn. Even by a Slytherin's standards."

"As I recall, you were also very stubborn," she reminded him. "But yes, he's worse than you were. Maybe even worse than Theo."

"Then why bother trying?"

She exhaled a brief and delicate laugh. "Always the pessimist."

"I refute that. I would consider myself a realist," he said, coiling a loose lock of her hair around his finger. "You, on the other hand, are very much an optimist."

"Perhaps someone needs to be an optimist at the moment," she mumbled, turning her head to place a chaste kiss against his palm. "You know, all great victories come from small ones. Maybe today won't be so dark if Draco sees the light."

.

.

The early hours of tomorrow morning came slowly; one o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, they dragged by at such a taunting pace. He raked his fingernails through his hair for the fiftieth time and rolled his shoulders to click away some of the tension in his muscles and bones. For over twelve hours, he had done nothing but wait with the same clawing thoughts bouncing around in his skull. He was tired and edgy, his backside numb and his limbs like cardboard after countless bouts of pins and needles, but he'd wait another twelve hours if he had to.

He heard the handle of the door creak before he saw it twist, and he climbed to his feet too quickly, all the blood rushing to his head and making him sway. Lupin stepped out the room first, closely followed by Tonks, and they turned their heads to acknowledge Draco with weary eyes and sweat on their upper-lips, evidently fatigued after twelve hours of Merlin knew how many Healing Spells. His breath hitched in his throat when Tonks shut the door behind her and massaged the bridge of her nose, but he kept his expression tight and stoic, fighting the urge to shove them aside and force his way into the room.

"You can go ahead to bed, Remus," she said. "I'm just going to have a quick word with him."

Lupin faltered for a moment, observing Draco with deliberate suspicion before he did as his wife had requested and left them alone. Tonks had placed herself between Draco and the door, and he looked past her at the handle, his tolerance fleeting quickly as his cousin gave no indication that she intended to move.

"Tenacious little bugger, aren't you?" she quipped. "I thought I told you very clearly to stay downstairs-

"Merlin's grave," he growled to himself. "Let me inside that fucking room or tell me-

"I wanted to apologise to you," she interrupted him, and it threw him off guard. "I think I…I underestimated your relationship with Hermione-

"It's not your place to judge mine and Granger's relationship at all."

"I'm just trying to let you know that I understand now," she continued. "And I will give you a break-

"I don't give a shit about your opinion of me!" he blurted. "You want to do me a favour? Then you tell me-

"She's alright," said Tonks finally. "Considering what happened, she is better than expected. Her wounds are healed, except for that…thing on her arm. Physically, she is going to be fine."

"And mentally?"

"We're not sure yet," she sighed. "She suffered a bad blow to her head, and with the Cruciatus Curse…she's very muddled up, drifting in and out consciousness and just mumbling incoherently. As far as w can tell, she's fine, but we won't really know until she wakes up properly."

Draco swallowed down the clot of nerves in his windpipe. "And her memory?

"Again, we won't know until she wakes up, but perhaps-

"Are you going to let me fucking room, or not?" he snapped impatiently. Why was he here listening to this clueless witch when she apparently had no clue how Hermione was doing? "Or do I have to-

"Alright," she stopped him. "You can go in, Draco."

He surged past her and barged into the room, pausing once he had crossed the threshold to allow his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. There was a lone candle in the corner, coaxing flickering shadows to dance across the walls, but he instantly focussed on the silhouette of a figure on the bed. Hermione. He slammed the door shut behind him, adamant that there would be no more interruptions, and then he slowly made his way towards the silhouette, transfixed on the comforting rises and falls of her chest.

All the haste left him, and now that he was only a few feet away from her, he suddenly felt wary and tentative, like he might break her if he got too close. She made a sleepy little sound and he quicken his steps, his heart racing in his ribcage and his pulse banging against his eardrums with anxiety, anticipation, adrenaline…he didn't even know anymore.

He reached the bed and concentrated on the sound of her breathing before he eased himself down and sat at her side. All he could make out was her shadow and a brandy-coloured halo from where her hair caught the candlelight. It wasn't enough. He removed his wand from his pocket and waved it over the flame to give it some life, and finally, he could see her.

And she looked…normal.

She was so different to the haunting version of her he'd seen earlier; all bloodied and battered with frosty skin and a dead expression.

She looked like Granger now, clean and relaxed with some pink in her cheeks and a slight frown scrunching her brow. The only indication of her nightmare were some half-healed, yellow bruises by her temple and the neat bandage wrapped around her arm from her wrist to her elbow, and he glared and the red stain already beginning to seep through the dressing.

He ached to touch her, but it took him a minute or so to actually do so, and he softly grazed the backs of his fingers along her jaw and down to her chin. His thumb absently traced the outline of her lips, but he froze when she stirred and moaned in her sleep. She shifted a little, and then her eyes slowly peeled open with a few long blinks and a delicate fluttering of her eyelashes.

She gazed straight at him with those hazel eyes he had missed, and he stayed completely still, knowing this was the moment when he'd know if her memory had been dented. Her stare was glassy and vacant, and he prepared himself for the worse.

But then she smiled and reached up to cup his face.

"Hello, Draco."

Her voice was hoarse and fragile, but at least it was there. His lids fell shut and he leaned into her palm, exhaling loudly with relief as she tenderly stroked her finger across his cheekbone. She remembered him.

"You're not bleeding this time."

His eyes snapped open and stared down at her with a wide and uneasy look. "Why would I be bleeding?"

"You're always bleeding in my dreams," she murmured, and he grimaced at the eerie innocence to her tone.

"Granger, you're not-

"Dreaming," she finished for him. "You always say that."

"But-

"Will you stay with me?" she asked, her lids drooping and her hand falling back to her side as she struggled to remain conscious. "Will you stay until I need to wake up?"

As Tonks had warned him, she was evidently confused and disorientated, and the disappointment stabbed at his gut. It was not uncommon for those who suffered memory loss from the Cruciatus Curse to recall things subconsciously; sometimes in dreams, and sometimes in old rituals that were never quite erased from the brain. The positive reaction to him was promising, but it wasn't a definite assurance that her psyche had survived Bellatrix's torture, and that vehement fury that he felt towards his aunt started to infect him again.

"Draco?" she mumbled drowsily, severing his train of thought. "Will you stay?"

The anger dissipated, and he kicked off his shoes. "Yes, Granger."

Her lips twitched with another smile, and he didn't bother to undress as he slipped under the covers and pulled her to him, nestling his nose in her hair. She melted into him as she always had done, like it was instinct; her back against his chest and their legs tangled together.

A content hum left Hermione. "I love you."

And because she thought she was dreaming, and inconvenience is inevitable, he sighed and whispered those words back to her, unable to decide if it was a blessing or a curse that she probably wouldn't remember his reluctant confession come morning.

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