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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5. Scent

Every day she came back to her dorm, and he was there. Ready to drill her brain with insults and complaints, and it was starting to suck the life out of her. She would finish her lessons and return to the Head Girl dorm to complete her homework, knowing the library would be too packed until about eight in the evening, and he was always there. Just waiting; his tongue damp and prepared to goad her into arguments that could last for minutes or hours, depending entirely on how stubborn they both were.

It was always the same scornful words.

Filthy.

Bitch.

Mudblood.

Mudblood...

Sometimes they hurt, and sometimes not so much. She was slowly developing an immunity to them, but every now and then he'd throw something new at her, and it would completely shake her. Then again, she gave as good as she got. They were pretty evenly matched, she figured, but after a week of pulsing headaches and his voice thundering in her ears, she'd had enough.

On the eighth day of his stay – a Friday – during her Arithmacy lesson, Hermione had an epiphany, and it came in her mother's voice.

Nothing annoys a bully more than if you don't react. Or better yet, be nice to them.

She had never really paid much attention to those silly little bits of advice that parents gave, as more often than not they did nothing beneficial, but this she could use. Malfoy was clearly baiting her because he bored, and if she refused to acknowledge him, or simply play nice, it would do his head in. And if he got too aggravated, she could just lock him in his room until he'd calmed down.

She'd never treasured her wand so much.

Just two more lessons and she would be finished for the day. And he would be there. Waiting. And she would ignore him. No matter how much he wound her up, she would not react.

She would not react in the way he wanted.

Just Potions and Herbology to go, and she could test her little theory on the smarmy git.

.

.

There were four-hundred-and-five tiles between the kitchenette and the bathroom. All white, and fifty-six had cracks in them. It had taken him three days to confirm that, what with Granger's bloody interruption and his need to double-check.

He'd gone back to the floorboards then. There were ninety-seven all together, thirty-eight in his room and then he had added all the others in the dorm together too. That was excluding Granger's room, of course. He'd tried to break into her quarters two days ago and had received the same burning sensation he'd had from the main door.

Scolded fingertips. Peachy.

He'd woken up at two today after a very tempestuous night. More nightmares, and they were getting a lot worse. His eyes had automatically gone to his headboard to study his artwork, just as they had done each morning beforehand. As it stood, he had six marks, and Granger had five. According to his memory, and a reminder that on some days they'd argued more than once, he guessed it was Friday.

He'd arrived on a Friday so that would make this his eighth day in hell.

At least he was managing to keep a track on time. Sort of...

It really would have been more sensible to mark the day on his headboard instead of arguments tally. But sod it. He was winning, so it would stay as it was.

He left bed, changed, and went in search of something to do. To count. Just until Granger got back and they could have their usual battle of wits.

Granger...

Her scent was everywhere; clouding the atmosphere like a summer smog. That tee-tree soap she used, a hint of summer rain, and what he had finally established was cherry. Sweet with a bit of spice. Not entirely unpleasant; just bloody suffocating when he had to inhale it all day, everyday. Her aroma had even leaked into his room, and was now permanently wedged somewhere between his sinuses and his frontal lobe.

He couldn't get away from it. From her. And it was dragging insanity into his brain just that little bit quicker.

Making his way into the common area, he grabbed his usual bowl of cereal with an apple and searched for something to count...But there was nothing.

So he simply stared at the clock, and watched the minutes tick by until she came home at twenty to four, as she always did. Like clockwork. Her petite little frame slipped into the room and he indulged in a cruel smirk.

Let the games begin.

"Afternoon Mudblood," he greeted with bravado, not particularly bothered when she didn't react. It took her a while to get riled up to a level he relished. "And how did our favourite bookworm Gryffin-bore find the lessons today?"

"Fine, thank you," she responded evenly, taking her usual spot on the sofa.

He faltered. What, no 'sod off, Malfoy' today?

"I asked you a question-

"And I gave you an answer," she replied calmly. Too calm.

"It wasn't good enough," he criticised, walking closer to her.

She shrugged. Just shrugged and removed some parchment to start on her homework. The silent treatment, a challenge. Okay, he could play with that. She would react eventually. She had to. He'd waited for the spark in her eyes and the sharp retorts for over an hour. He wanted them. Thrived on them, actually.

"What the fuck is this?" he spat, snatching the parchment out of her fingers and examining it critically. "You even write like a malformed Muggle. Can't Mudbloods manage decent handwriting?"

She still didn't look at him, just plucked a book from her bag instead and started to read. He tossed her homework to the side and growled at her.

"You're not fooling me, Granger," he said slowly, standing directly before her and crossing his arms. "I know what you're doing."

"I'm reading," she told him quietly, her cinnamon-glazed eyes trailing over the inky pages.

"You know you want to shout at me, Granger," he drawled, convinced he must be teasing her impulse to claw at him with either fingernails or insults. "Or do I have to bring up the twat who won't die and his orange pet?"

His stony glare shifted to her ever-plump lips and waited for the customary twitch of her mouth. When you were isolated to a room with only one person to pass the time and observe, you noticed the telling signs, and Granger was a rather fascinating specimen to read. All it took was a quick offensive slur about her two 'special' friends, and her lips would always twinge. Then her pupils would dilate and an agitated flush would stain her cheeks before the witty comebacks would tumble out of her mouth.

But there was no twitch today. No, her blossom-coloured mouth didn't move at all. She'd broken her routine. The routine he'd almost memorised. How dare she.

He grabbed the book too, and discarded it with a rough chuck behind him.

"Fucking look at me, Granger!" he demanded arrogantly, one whisper away from stomping his foot. "Now!"

She slowly raised her honey gaze to him, but it was completely blank. Bored even. Ignoring him was actually easier than she'd expected, but then she'd had plenty of practice muffling out Harry and Ron's Quidditch conversations. She took this moment just to study his features as he ranted on about how filthy her blood was; taking note of his china-doll skin. Odd though. Normally it suited him, but she would swear it was almost turning grey.

...Will not be ignored by you!" he continued, but she really wasn't paying attention. "Granger, I am bloody...

She shimmied her eyes up his face and noticed how drained he looked. Not sleep-deprived though. More weak-limbed and glassy-eyed with failing energy. She breathed in and he was close enough that she could smell him.

Apples and sleep. Always apples and sleep.

A thought crossed her mind and her lips parted with interest. She was on her feet in a thud of his heart, brushing past him and heading to the small kitchen.

"Where the hell are you going?" she vaguely heard him demand. "I SAID where are you bloody going?"

He was distant blur behind her as she started throwing open all the cabinet doors and examined the contents, also trying to remember what she'd eaten in the last few days. Merlin, how could she not have noticed this before?

"Hey!" he called, marching up behind her. "Mud-bitch! I asked you-

"What have you been eating?" Hermione questioned sharply, spinning around to find him a little closer than she'd have liked.

He blinked with hot confusion. "What the-

"What have you been eating?" she repeated, harsher this time. "As far as I can see, you haven't touched any of the food except some apples and milk-

"What the fuck is it to you?"

"Is that all you've had?" she asked, finding herself horrified for some reason. "Apples and milk?"

He hooded his eyes to mask his puzzlement and scowled at her odd behaviour. Why exactly was she so offended by his eating habits? "And cereal," he mumbled, unsure what else he should say, but feeling an urge to defend himself.

"That's it?" she frowned, releasing a sad sigh that he really despised. "Malfoy, you can't survive on that sort of diet-

"Why would-

"You're becoming anaemic," she continued, and he suddenly stepped back, as though he'd just remembered that her muddy blood could be contagious. "And you're probably developing a protein deficiency-

"Does this boring lecture on anatomy have a point?" he snapped impatiently, pretending to examine his fingernails.

"You need to eat more," Hermione told him, realising that there was an unnerving hint of concern to her tone again. Curse the do-gooder gene in her system. "Why haven't you...

She trailed off as the reality dawned on her, and she analysed him as his features scrunched up with a warning not to voice the comment at the tip of her tongue. But, Gryffindor bravery and all that jazz aside, she was a stubborn witch.

"You don't know how to cook without magic," she surmised, eyes round and voice a little quieter. "Do you?"

"Fuck off, Granger."

That meant yes. Eight days with him and she already had a little built-in Malfoy translator stashed away in her brain. There were new additions everyday, but 'fuck off, Granger' was definitely code for 'yes, and I will not admit it.'

"Why didn't you say something?" the witch questioned carefully, tilting her head to the side in a way that made Draco want to tear if off. "I could have-

"Could have what, Granger?" he sneered, taking a step so he was in her space again. "Given me that stupid pitying look you have right now? Held it over my head-

"I wouldn't have-

"I don't want your help," he told her with a cruel whisper. "Just leave it-

"I can't," she mumbled, and there was a slight apology to her tone. "You need to eat-

"It would serve your purpose to have me rot away in the corner!" Draco snarled, towering over her so his fruity breath glided over her cheekbones. "Why do you give a shit about-

"I just do!" she sputtered, making up for her lack of height with volume. "It's just the way I am-

"Sodding Gryffindors," he grumbled, pulling away from her quickly with only a disgusted glance to leave behind. She watched him closely as he disappeared behind his door, and the October chill suddenly caught up with her.

.

.

Inside his room and away from her bloody concern, he slid down the door and dropped his face into his sweaty palms. This was definitely a new low; sympathised by her. And things had been different today, there had been a glitch in the routine that he and her had accidentally stumbled into. The walls dragged a little closer again.

He didn't even bother getting up to place a mark on the headboard. As far as he could tell, neither had won that argument.

He stayed in that defeated position for an hour or four, listening to Granger's movements and inhaling her unavoidable scent. He heard the main door close, presumably with her exit, and he shakily rose to his feet, suddenly aware of how lethargic his muscles were performing. He went back to the main area and something else filled the air.

Food. And it smelled bloody glorious.

He eyed the steaming pot of stew on the counter warily. She had blatantly left it for him and his pride was trying to quash the rumbles in his stomach. But Merlin, it smelled amazing, and the temptation was too strong.

There was enough for three people and he ate the whole thing. It was perfect.

And then he felt disorientated. There had been too many changes today and it had thrown him for seven. They hadn't screamed mindlessly at each other like they normally did, and then with the whole food thing...

She's screwing with your head.

And there was nothing left to count! Shit, shit, shit!

He needed to keep distracting himself or he would fall. His eyes shifted to her books and decided it was his only option. Hell, he'd eaten food that a Mudblood had prepared, how much more infected could he get if he read one of her books?

Selecting a simple-looking text on Potions that he had probably read before, Draco began to read.

.

.

"Good, Miss Granger!" McGonagall praised, firing another hex towards the younger witch. "Keep up the shield!"

Hermione could feel the sweat breaking out on her forehead and slithering down her spine. The bicep of her wand arm was aching like torture, but she held her defensive position. This was definitely the longest she had ever held a shield charm and it was beginning to waver, much to her frustration.

Just a little more...

The headmistress shot out another spell, and it penetrated her protection. It scolded her arm and she smacked to the floor with a disappointed grunt. She took only a moment to catch her breath before she was jumping up to her feet. "Again," she panted, crouching back into position.

"That's enough for today," Minerva told her, lowering her wand. "It's getting late-

"It's a Saturday tomorrow," she disputed. "Come on, just one more-

"You must learn to quit while you're ahead, Miss Granger," the greying woman advised. "Anyway, I have some questions I would like to ask you."

"About what?"

"Mr Malfoy," she answered, as though it was obvious. "I thought you'd have a lot to say about him, but you haven't mentioned him once. Is everything okay? I had expected you to ask me to remove him by now."

"I think I'm handling it better than I thought I would," Hermione explained with a tired shrug. "I guess six years of putting up with his mouth has prepared me rather well."

"I knew you wouldn't disappoint me," the professor offered her a rare fond smile. "So he has behaved?"

Hermione couldn't stop her snort. "I think that's going a little far," she said. "But I barely see him between my studies and my training with you. We fight a lot, but it's nothing I haven't heard before and I can handle it."

The older woman considered her for a second. "And has the fighting ever tuned violent?"

"He's tried to grab me a few times," she remembered with narrowed eyes. "But I have my wand so I can deal with it."

"Good," the older witch nodded, extending a hand. "Pass me your wand, Miss Granger. I thought of a spell that might help. It's sort of a Muggle-repelling charm to burn the hand of anyone who tries to touch it."

"But Malfoy's not a Muggle?"

"I'm aware of that," McGonagall frowned as she performed the silent spell, and Hermione watched her wand glow green for a moment. "But he doesn't have his wand so it will work just as well. I'll have to renew the spell every nine or ten days."

"Thanks," she mumbled as her wand was returned to her.

"And what about Mr Malfoy's behaviour?" the headmistress continued. "Is he having any odd turns?"

Hermione's damp brow rippled with thought. "I...I don't really know," she mumbled finally. "As I said, I don't really-

"Well, I would like you to pay a little more attention to him from now on," the professor told her student with her familiar clinical voice.

The brunette blanched. "Why would I-

"That boy was imprisoned in a shack for the better part of five months," McGonagall explained slowly. "And now he has been forced to stay in your small room. Confinement can do damaging things to the mind, Miss Granger, and I imagine he has been rather...troubled as it is-

"Well, that's his own problem-

"I doubt dealing with an unstable Draco Malfoy will be beneficial for you," the witch stated wisely, gesturing for Hermione to follow her to the door. "And it might do you well to remember that he was forced into his mission when you are dealing with him."

The young witch chewed her lip thoughtfully. She had known that it had never been Malfoy's idea to kill Dumbledore, and that he had been threatened with death upon his failure. Harry had told her all this, somewhat begrudgingly after she had asked him about what he'd heard that night, but it had never dimmed her hatred for the Slytherin. Mourning Albus and preparing for war had gotten in the way of trying to understand it...Trying to understand him...

She realised then that despite the certainty of Voldemort's wrath, he had still failed to murder Dumbledore, and it completely sobered her. He hadn't done it, even though his life had been threatened if he failed.

She shook her head and huffed as McGonagall led her down the corridor towards the exit, and her stubborn breath fluttered down the passage.

No. It was irrelevant. So he wasn't a killer; that didn't dampen his other vile qualities. He was still a vindictive bully and very much evil.

But...

Nevertheless, something jerked in her head. Something close to the crux of intrigue, and she wondered if that was why she had bothered to leave him a warm meal. She hadn't really figured out where that act of kindness had come from yet.

"Professor," she started reluctantly as they walked. "Why don't you think he did it?"

Hermione couldn't ever recall seeing the headmistress look hesitant or uncertain, but she did at that moment. "I guess only Mr Malfoy knows that," she said finally as they reached the door and paused. "And perhaps the reason isn't so important."

"What do you mean?"

"Maybe the only important thing is that he didn't do it," McGonagall offered, her thick accent rich with a wisdom and age that Hermione always found enlightening. "And I would recommend that you focus on that for the rest of his stay."

The teeth on her lower lip stabbed a little harder. "Alright," she agreed. "I'll do my best."

"And that's all I ask," the ageing witch said. "Would you like me to walk you to your quarters?"

"I'll be fine," she dismissed, taking some steps to leave the headmistress behind. "Goodnight, Professor."

She took her time walking back to her room, considering exactly how she was supposed to keep an eye on Malfoy when all she wanted to do was lock his door and never see him again...Kind of...Her earlier thoughts about Dumbledore made her question if the level of her disgust for him was justified. She would have to think about that.

Hermione half expected Malfoy to be waiting for her; ready to pour the pot of stew over her head for offending him in such a manner. She knew he'd view it as an insult to his pureblood pride, but the guy needed to eat. End of.

If she suffered a stew-inflicted scold for her naïve attempt at kindness then so be it.

But he wasn't there.

And the pot was empty.

He actually ate it...?

Another unwilling smile caused by Malfoy stained her lips, and she felt her intrigue flourish in her chest. Maybe the magnitude of her hatred towards him wasn't justified. Then again, maybe he was just that hungry, and she was always too quick to seek the good in people.

.

.

Fucking hell...

He woke up with salty licks dashed across his face, and he genuinely had no idea if it was sweat or tears.

Sodding nightmares.

The weekend had passed pretty quickly with more steaming meals from the Mudblood and dull passages from two books. Only ninety-nine to go. He'd only left his room to use the bathroom and collect the food. If he didn't run into Granger, then he could pretend that it wasn't her that left the food.

He could pretend that he wasn't accepting her gestures of kindness.

Because the very prospect made him want to slam his head into the wall until be blacked out. Or perhaps vomit, but he couldn't spare the fluids. Especially when he woke up sweating everyday.

He didn't know what was worse; that she took the time and effort to create the food, or the fact that she always thought to make sure it was hot for him, with what he assumed was some sort of warming charm. Why not just leave it to go cold? Why waste her magic on making sure he enjoyed the meal? It was bloody humiliating.

It was Monday, and she was in the shower again, which meant he had woken far too early if she hadn't even gone to lessons yet. The soothing thrums of water danced into his room like a damp dream. He desperately didn't want to return to the nightmares. They were violent now, and he was starting to physically react. They hurt; pulsed in his temple for hours afterwards, and he couldn't stop the trembles that racked his body either.

They were breaking him...

One of her shower-blissed moans shuddered into his room, and he would swear his headache was eased slightly. He licked his lips and waited for the next one, just to check.

Another feminine purr a moment later.

Yes, it was definitely clouding his brain and chasing away the throbbing in his skull. He wanted to question it, but he didn't dare.

Instead, he found himself leaving the bed, tugging the blanket behind him to combat the Autumn morning. He cocooned himself in the thick fabric and settled against the wall which separated his room from the bathroom. He would hate himself for it later, but by Merlin's grave, he was willing to do anything to chase away the painful aftershocks of his nightmares.

With a defeated groan, he rested his ear against the wall and basked in the wet noises and her throaty sounds. One particularly pleasant mew roused a shiver to sprint up his spine, and it was the most relaxed he'd felt since the night at Astronomy Tower.

The water and the witch were lulling him back to sleep, and even while he knew the sounds were pleasing to his ears and psyche, he'd never hated himself so much.

.

.

When Draco woke again, he judged the time by the angle of the cloud-embraced sun. He reckoned it was early afternoon so he shrugged on the usual black trousers and a black jumper, realising his selection of clothes would require washing soon. Great. Another favour from her.

That Gryffindor tie around his throat was becoming far more tempting with every hour-long minute that slipped by. And he didn't mean for fashion purposes. As if he would wear red and bloody gold.

He wandered into the common area to find a casserole waiting in the usual spot by the stove, and another sliver of his pride fizzled away as he opened the drawer to retrieve a fork. He must have opened the wrong drawer because he found himself looking at three little vials of clear liquid and some clear cylindrical tubes with a needle at the end.

What the hell?

He eyed the foreign objects warily for a few moments before coming to the conclusion that they must be some strange Muggle things.

He glanced at the clock then, and groaned when he realised he'd misjudged the time. Just as the thought had carved itself into his brain, the main door opened and Granger stumbled into the room, apparently having a little trouble with her bag.

She looks different...

And she really did. He had no idea what it was but something had definitely changed.

She was the only person he had seen for ten days and he could admit that he had learned her features fairly well, but something was definitely different. She hadn't noticed his presence yet so he trailed his quicksilver eyes across her face to find the change.

Same petal-pink lips.

Same syrupy gold eyes.

Same sun-stained skin.

Same spatter of barely-there freckles across her bridge of her nose.

Certainly the same catastrophic owl-nest she called hair.

She was still struggling with her bag as she closed the door behind her, and after a few more seconds he credited her 'change' to not seeing her for two days. Isolating himself to his bedroom had probably not helped his brain, and it was rather likely that it was playing tricks on him. Wouldn't be the first time.

She snapped her head up, and he found himself stuck in one of those infuriating staring contests he'd refused to participate in when he was a child.

Yes, definitely the same gold eyes.

It took six heartbeats before she shifted her face into a tired frown and turned away from him to shuffle into the room.

"I'm not in the mood for an argument today, Malfoy," she mumbled, collapsing on the couch gracelessly. "So if you-

"Sod off, Granger," he interrupted, noting his voice was a little rusty after his two days of silence. "I have better things to do than waste my time with you."

She had the gall to chuckle. "Oh really?" she scoffed. "And what would that be exactly? Hiding away in your room-

"Hiding from you?" Draco snorted coldly, forgetting his food for the moment. "Don't make me laugh, Granger. I would rather stay in my room than risk seeing your face-

"And what exactly do you do in your room, Malfoy?" she questioned, masking her curiosity with a mocking tone. "I've noticed a couple of my books are missing."

Shit...

He hadn't wanted her to realise that he'd been taking the books. Now she had more things to hold over his head, and his pride would take even more of battering.

"You have a problem with me reading, Granger?" he challenged in a nonchalant tone, deciding that denial was really pointless when he was the only possible culprit.

Hermione paused to consider him for second, and acknowledged that in reality, she really didn't care if he wanted to read her books or not. So long as she didn't require them, it didn't really effect her. The temptation to be petty and cause another argument lingered at the back of her mind, but what exactly would it accomplish?

"No, it's fine," she muttered finally, missing the flicker of shock that splashed across his pale features. "I just wish you would have asked."

He had no idea what to say to that. The prospect of actually asking her for something was just repulsive, and did crushing things to his gut. No, not a chance in this life or the next. If she wanted to prance around and insist on making him food and whatever else, then that was her shovel in the graveyard, but to voice a want from her was something his breeding and pride would not allow.

"You might have ginger bitch and the immortal orphan trained well," he hissed cruelly, although one might note that the familiar bite was a little lacking. "But I can assure you that I won't be asking you for anything."

She simply sighed at him. "That's fine," she offered. "I thought as much. How's my cooking?"

He hadn't expected that, and his eyebrows rose high on his forehead. "What?"

"My cooking," she repeated, perhaps a little shyly, but she hid it well. "Is it okay?"

A small guttural rumble quaked inside his mouth, and the need to answer was an unwelcome prod in his chest. "It's...satisfactory," he offered quickly, instantly regretting it. Especially when a little smile stole her mouth. It was the first he'd seen since he'd been forced to live with her, and it was an unnerving sight. It suited her though.

"Good," she nodded, and the need to change the subject brought back his headache.

"Granger," he started warily, glancing down at the drawer with the odd Muggle items he'd discovered earlier. "What are those things in the drawer?"

"What things?" she asked, rising from her seat to near Malfoy. She realised it was probably the closest she'd been to him without one of them screaming in the other's face, and she felt a little uncomfortable when she accidentally brushed against him. She shook it off, and pulled open the drawer he was gesturing to with a look of understanding on her face. "Oh these? They're my allergy shots."

"Allergy shots?" he echoed, taking a step away from her. Too close to the Mudblood...

"I'm allergic to bee stings," she explained quietly, holding up one of the prepared syringes to demonstrate. "If I get stung, I need to inject myself with some of this. There's Epinephrine in here and have to put the needle in my side-

"Isn't there a spell or something for that?" he questioned.

"There might be," she shrugged. "But I'm used to doing it this way."

His sceptical glare shifted between her and the needle. "That's fucking disgusting," he blurted finally, pushing past her and picking up his casserole and a fork as he headed into his room. "Stupid Muggles."

She rolled her eyes at his prejudiced comment, but she was secretly relieved that they had somehow managed to avoid a fiery argument. It was certainly a first since he'd moved in. Maybe things were looking up.

.

.

The following morning found Draco up too early, and once again resting against the wall with the shell of his ear pressed against it.

He hadn't even tried to resist the dulcet murmurs of her morning ritual this time. It wasn't like she, or anyone else for that matter, could see him listening to her calming chorus of bathing moans. It was just too alluring...Too soothing.

The most effective antidote for his nightmare-heavy headaches. Her ever-present scent was still trapped in his nostrils too...but that wasn't so bad either. Almost like one of those herbal remedies all the Herbologists ranted on about.

And he would swear, just before the noises sent him to sleep, that the walls retreated. Maybe just an inch or two...but the room definitely felt bigger.

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