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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He woke with a start.

He had dreamt of Astronomy Tower again. The sights, sounds and smells had all plagued him ruthlessly; so vivid and vivacious. Even his subconscious was keen to mock him with the fruitful memories; licking away at his brain while he slept, so that the scene repeated itself endlessly in his head. They came every night, some more fierce than others, but there all the same. Nightmares. Tormenting him. Reminding him.

Failure.

Failure.

Failure.

He groaned into the too-soft pillow and turned over, squinting away a tenacious shaft of sunlight. The Autumn sun was irritating and warm on his face, and he didn't like it. It was too garish and deceptive, fooling hopeless morons into believing it wasn't freezing outside. He could already feel the chill creeping along his skin as he pushed away the blankets to set his feet against the bitter floorboards.

He shrugged on the robes he'd been given to beat a shiver, adjusting them over his boxers and vest. Merlin forbid McGonagall could have supplied him with a set of actual pyjamas that might do something to battle hypothermia. He glanced out of the window, but all he could see were roof-tiles, bricks and the brazen sky that was too harsh with the sun. What was the point in having a window without a view? Stupid Gryffindors.

He realised how quiet it was then, and the silence buzzed in his ears, eased only slightly by far away birds. He arched a confused eyebrow, realising something at the back of his brain was telling him he'd already woken up once today. If it still even was today.

Yes, he'd definitely already woken. He could sense the whispers of recollection blowing across his nerve endings. It had been the Mudblood to rouse him again, with her sodding shower and clumsy footfalls. He remembered mumbling a luscious list of swear words into his mattress as he'd listened to her uncouth movements, and he'd been four more obscenities away from marching in there with dangerous intentions. But then a door had clicked closed and the sounds had stopped.

She'd gone. Thank fuck.

So the warmth and soothed him back to slumber. Back to the nightmares.

Leaving the bed, he slipped out of the room in search for something to do, and something to eat. He helped himself to a glass of milk and some cereal that Granger must have left out, reminding himself that he really needed to learn some wandless cooking skills if he ever wanted a warm meal here. Asking Granger was obviously out of the question.

He poured himself a second bowl of breakfast as his eyes settled on the clock, and he released an agitated breath. It wasn't even morning it all; not breakfast. It was almost three in the afternoon; the official sign that a normal sleeping pattern was lost with his wand. With his pride.

His eyes went to the main door, and while he knew it was inevitably pointless, he set his bowl of cereal down and decided he would test it. The second his fingers grazed the handle, sparks shot up the length of his arm; crackling in his veins like spitting flames.

"Shit," he cursed, eyeing the red sting crowning his fingertips. With a resigned breath, he went back to the kitchenette and turned on the tap to soothe his buzzing skin with some cold water.

Then his eyes fell to the kitchenette's tiles. And he started to count.

Needed to do something...Needed to keep busy...

.

.

"You're very quiet," Neville frowned, giving her a long look. "Are you okay, Hermione?"

Her mouth somehow moulded into a too-bold smile. "I'm fine," she assured him smoothly, running her hands over her strategically-placed textbook. "I have an Arithmacy essay due and I'm just trying to think."

It wasn't technically a lie, but she'd completed her essay four days ago. She'd anticipated a few awkward silences between her and her friends when she'd agreed to dinner in the Great Hall, and had purposefully brought something that she could divert her attention to. Who would bother disputing her need to study?

Seamus, Dean, Ginny, and Luna had been evidently surprised when she had entered the Great Hall with Neville, but had all futilely done their best to involve her anyway. She was grateful for their efforts. Really, she was, but the conversation was awkward enough between the other four Gryffindors and Ravenclaw without her input. Everyone just skimmed over the subject of war; of Voldemort, and that annoyed her. But she'd desired company that morning; people who she understood and could safely call friends. After all, it wasn't anyone's fault that times of turbulence could strain relationships, and it felt normal to sit with them.

So, she'd simply nodded and offered them one-word answers, scribbling down an occasional annotation for effect.

"Nobody else is putting any effort into their essays," Neville mumbled quietly, and the others didn't pause their conversation about Qudditch if they heard him. "I guess everyone thinks it's a little pointless at the moment, but I know how you are with your studies so I shouldn't be surprised."

She genuinely adored Neville and his clumsy sincerity. He was so endearing it made her heart ache sometimes, and she knew she wouldn't have agreed to meet the others if he hadn't been here.

"It helps to be distracted," she offered with a meek shrug.

He gave her a small nod of understanding before Seamus mentioned his name and dragged him back to their discussion on...Oh, hell, she didn't even know what they were on about. She pretended to go back to the chart-decorated pages, but found her sleepy gaze steering over to the Slytherin table.

It was empty, of course.

Of the two-hundred-and-fifty odd students that had returned to Hogwarts, only thirty-two bore the green tie. All were fourth years or younger and had taken to dining and socialising with the other houses in small groups. None of them wanted to be associated with the stereotypes of their house, and had done everything to avoid association with the snake emblem. As far as she knew, they didn't even sleep in the dungeons, and had taken up in the many spare beds cluttered around the various dorms.

It was sad really.

They were so desperate to avoid assumptions and bad impressions, even though their presence at Hogwarts alone was proof enough that they didn't agree with Voldemort's views. They were just like everyone else; hoping for safety and praying for it all to end.

She hated Malfoy just that little bit more then, for being so fickle and conforming to the stereotypes that came with Salazar's legacy, and her stare waltzed up the table to land at the spot she'd last seen him sit.

She remembered how awful he'd looked during sixth year and scolded herself for being so naïve to the signs of what had been coming. She could remember her comments to Harry about him, and how she'd almost sounded concerned. How could she have been so blind?

"Hermione," a soft feminine voice pulled her back to the present, and she turned to face Luna. "You okay there? You looked a little distant."

She fought hard not to squint at the irony-laced comment. "I'm fine, Luna," she sighed, gesturing to her book. "Just having a bit of difficulty focussing on this. I think I might head up to the library."

"Already?" Ginny frowned, and Hermione noted her concern was genuine. "You've barely touched your food."

The brunette glanced down at her half-nibbled Sunday Roast. "I'm not that hungry," she shrugged, pushing her plate aside. "I had quite a big breakfast."

She could see their reluctance to believe her, and she couldn't blame them. She knew she'd lost some weight since Harry and Ron had left, but it wasn't so much that she was starving herself, or really eating less food at all; she just ate at abnormal times. It was the insomnia again. Maybe she should take up Slughorn on his Dreamless Sleep Potion offer.

"Do you want some company in the library?" Neville offered earnestly. "I guess I could work on my Herbology essay."

"No, that's fine," she shook her head, rising from the table. "I know you don't like the library and you haven't finished your dinner."

"I might pop up later then," he compromised, spearing another sprout with his fork. "It was nice to see you though, Hermione."

"It really was," Ginny nodded, accompanied by a hum of agreement from Seamus and Dean. "Will you come see us tomorrow?"

No.

"I'll try," she breathed quietly, giving her fellow lions and the blonde eagle a soft smile. "It was nice to see you all too."

She gathered her belongings and turned to leave with a delicate wave in their direction. She could already hear their hushed tones fluttering amongst the Great Hall as she left, all discussing how bad she looked, no doubt. They would talk about the dark smudges under her bloodshot eyes and how her skin had turned a shade paler. Nothing vicious or remotely backstabbing. Just the truth. Just words of worry.

Perhaps she would have felt guilty if her body could accommodate any more negative emotions.

But it couldn't. Thoughts of Malfoy had pretty much filled her to the brim with spicy notions, and combined with a lot of loneliness and a dash of despair, she just didn't have the room.

The hope was still there though; just a flicker of optimism about the size of her heart that refused to perish. She clung to it desperately sometimes, and then cursed it the next moment. It was what kept her going and encouraged her late-night endeavours to read everything about Horcruxes, and also what lead her to continue Order training with McGonagall.

Yes, it was there. It just went missing sometimes...

The library was alive for a change. A few third years were crowded around a table discussing some Potions homework, and another desk was full with a set of fourth years. Madam Pince was tucked away in her usual spot too, with her beak stuck in a book and her narrow stare peering over the pages to watch the students. Hermione offered the sullen librarian a nod which wasn't reciprocated, before she looked back around the space with unsure eyes.

She spotted another batch of pupils behind a bookcase and decided the library was too busy for her liking. She needed solitude. She headed to the restricted section and plucked two of the books she needed from the shelf and decided she couldn't stay here if she wanted to read in peace. She slipped the weighty texts in her bag and contemplated going outside, but the weather was hardly suitable for a reading session.

She just wanted to go back to her room and curl up on the couch with a hot chocolate and literature for company.

But he was there.

Her brow creased with determination. Well, she was not going to be exiled from her own room because of that bastard. She refused. Why should she have to alter her routine just because of Malfoy? If the slimy prat played up, she could just lock him in his bedroom. She cast a quick concealment charm on the books as she left the library, her intelligence warning her that it wasn't wise for him to know the subject of her interest. If the little swine found out and somehow managed to escape, no doubt he would go skipping back to Voldemort, expecting a pat on the head for foiling Harry and Ron's plans.

Her strides back to her dorm were bold and purposeful, building her up with adrenaline to ready her for a confrontation. Mumbling the password to the main door, ad lucem, she shoved open the door harder than necessary and her eyes found him instantly. Whatever she had expected to find him doing, this wasn't it.

He was perched on the counter separating the living space from her kitchenette with his hands braced at his sides. His shoulders were relaxed and his head slightly tilted to the side as he absently tapped one of his fingers against the mahogany surface. He hadn't noticed her, even after she had closed the door with a silent tug and taken some small steps into the room.

She craned her neck so she could catch the right side of his face, realising that his familiar scowl was still in place, darkening his features. She wondered briefly how his agitated expression could be so permanent, but then realised that her mouth had scarcely risen at the corners for several weeks. His scowl wasn't necessarily angry though, more concentrated than anything else.

Hermione peered a little closer, like he was a rare and dangerous bird that she had simply stumbled across. She followed his steadfast glare to nothing but the wall of white tiles. Her lips parted with a look of irritated confusion.

What the...

"What the hell are you doing?" she questioned sharply, watching as he flinched in surprise and snapped his head to look at her. Ah, there was the anger. Clearly she had disturbed him in some way, and he was furious about it. Her amber eyes flickered to the tiles again to see if she had missed something, but there wasn't so much as a blemish against the ivory ceramic.

"Bloody hell, Granger!" he roared, hopping off the wooden top with fluid movements. "I've lost count now, you stupid-

"Count?" she repeated, instinctively laying a hand over her pocketed wand. He didn't near her like she'd expected; just shifted his weight between his legs and regarded her impatiently about fifteen feet away. He still felt too close though. "What were you-

"What the fuck are you doing here?" he snapped quickly.

"I live here," she hissed, crossing to the sofa and dropping her heavy bag. "And I have some work to do, so leave me alone-

"And where exactly would you have me go?" he countered, folding his arms over his chest. He rolled his shoulders like he was preparing for a brawl, and she could see his muscles rhythmically fluctuate under the grey polo neck.

"I really couldn't care less," she answered crisply. "Go yo your room-

"Why should I?" Draco growled, eyeing her with a calculating glare. "You can come and go as you please, so you should go somewhere else-

"This is my room, Malfoy!" she yelled, balling her fists defiantly. "You're just here because the Order feels sorry for you!"

He snarled. "I'm here because you bloody morons can't mind your own business!" he shouted. "Always sticking your noses in and thinking you're helping-

"We are helping you!"

"Well, I don't WANT you're fucking help!" Draco screamed, his tone loud and reverberating amongst the dorm's antique acoustics. "I NEVER wanted your help-

"Well, you've got it," she interrupted calmly, unable to help the haughtiness to her voice. "So stop complaining like the spoilt brat you are and-

"Piss off-

"I'm waiting for you to piss off," the witch retorted. "I need to do some work-

"Why don't you go into your room?" he asked snidely, taking a long stride towards her. "Or better yet, sod off to the Tower with the rest of your dickhead friends-

"Because I shouldn't have to-

"Why do you Gryffindors always insist on making things more difficult?" he questioned, completely serious. "You're always chasing trouble and it's so bloody stupid, and then you wonder why people are always trying to kill you-

"I can understand that you would find it difficult to understand," Hermione said slowly, lifting her chin. "That we're brave enough to stand up for what we-

"Don't patronise me, Granger," he rolled his eyes. "Bravery, my arse. You and those feckless idiots crossed the line into stupidity a long time ago-

"Don't you dare call me stupid," she scowled, removing her hand from her pocket to point a scolding finger in his direction. "I am not-

"Very well," he mumbled, taking her back for a second. "You might have some brain cells to rub together, but the Orphan and the Pauper are just bloody useless-

"Don't call them-

"And there's a lot to be said about your shoddy little group," he continued, taking another stride towards her. "When it's the sodding Mudblood who has the brains!"

The Muggle instinct coasting through her blood goaded her to reach for the mug on the table and hurl it in his direction. And she threw it hard; harder than she had probably thrown anything in her life. But he dodged it. Bastard. She watched it shatter against the wall behind him. Pretty white china raining down with a few splinters of wood. She snapped her fire-gold eyes back to him, vibrating with uninhibited anger when she saw the amusement tugging at his features.

"I won't tell you again, Malfoy," she spat, reining in her stormy impulses to hex him here and now. "Go to your room and let me get on with my work-

"Touch a nerve there, Granger?" he drawled smugly. "Was it the Mudblood, or my comment about the twat twins?"

"Stop calling them-

"Why don't you go and irritate them with your presence?" he questioned with a flippant wave.

"Shut up, Malfoy!"

"No, I'm bloody serious," he insisted, a little intrigued when he noticed her lips twitch. "Why the hell don't you bother Potter and Weasley instead of me-

"Because they're not bloody here!" Hermione blurted, knowing it probably wasn't the wisest thing to tell him. She instantly saw his smirk stretch and resented the boys just that little fraction more for leaving her here. With him. "They're not here," she repeated in a calmer tone, willing herself to keep her wits about her.

"Where are-

"As if I would tell you," she scoffed. "Just leave me, Malfoy, before I-

"This is classic," he chuckled, licking his lips as though he could actually taste her frustration. Apparently it was delicious. "This certainly explains a lot."

She lowered her brow. "What are you talking about?"

"Why your face looks like a smacked arse all the time," he told her simply, nearing her again with a winning swagger. "Why you look ready to slit your wrists-

Too far. "Don't be ridiculous-

"The Golden Trio separated," he mused, more to himself. "That must hurt, Granger. Knowing that the only two people who can actually stand you have up and left-

"At least I have friends-

"But they're not here, are they?" he reminded her with a telling click of his tongue. "Must be a bugger not being able to get your leg over Weasley any more."

She sputtered but drew in her mortification with a quick breath. Ron was...Ron was her friend. Nothing more. She had hoped for more and sacrificed her innocence to him before he'd left with Harry. I had been...uncomfortable, and he hadn't particularly handled it well, and it had been made painfully clear to her that a relationship with him was off her cards, although some of those pesky romantic feelings towards him seemed to linger. Maybe after all the drama of the War had settled...

"Ron and I are none of your business," she muttered defiantly, realising she had probably remained silent too long. "Stop being such a-

"Perhaps you prefer Potter then?" he accused with a disgusted snort. "Merlin, you three are pathetic."

She wanted another shot with the mug. But no. She wanted an advantage that didn't rely on her skills as a witch.

He was closer now, and she noticed briefly that he smelled of orchards and sleep. His actions were too graceful and fluent, like he had planned this all meticulously, with her humiliation as his goal. Her fingers flexed with the desire to wrap around her wand, but she wanted to deal with him without magic if she could. She couldn't very well curse him every time they argued; even it was a ridiculously enticing prospect. She was a clever girl and quick with her tongue; she could handle him. She could.

She needed a new approach, so she placed her hands on her hips and attempted to mirror his cockiness. Fair enough, he knew what made her temper tremble, but he had his weaknesses too...

"It must be difficult for you, Malfoy," she said smoothly, pleased when he cocked an eyebrow with curiosity. "Watching the people you deem inferior doing so much better than you-

"What are you-

"Harry with his Quidditch," she listed proudly, withdrawing her wand and toying with it between her nimble fingers. "Me with my grades-

"Are you implying I'm jealous, Granger?" he questioned sharply, his voice a repulsed rumble in his throat. "Because I would rather-

"It would certainly explain a lot," she reasoned casually, as though she was debating her homework with a friend. She tapped her wand coolly against her palm; nothing offensive, just a little gesture to remind him that she had magic on her side. "All hatred stems from something. I mean, we have managed to accomplish a fair bit in the last six years-

"Fucking, well done to you-

"And as far as I can recall," she carried on, ignoring his sarcastic hiss with ease. "You have yet to do anything particularly...interesting with your life, Malfoy-

"Shut it, Granger-

"And anything you've tried to do," Hermione pushed, unable to stop herself now that impending victory was warming her bones. "You have always failed miserably-

"Shut your-

"I remember the time in second year," she went on, rubbing her chin in an almost pensive way. "When you fell off your broom and lost the Quidditch game to Harry. Wasn't your father there?"

He snarled and went to grab her, but when she flicked her wand towards him, he halted. "I warned you not to discus my father-

"And I bet he wasn't too pleased when he found out your grades were second to a Mudblood," she said, noting that his scowl hardened when she used the derogatory term for herself.

"Don't talk about my father," he repeated, his voice low.

But she faltered when she noticed it wasn't particularly threatening; more irritated and perhaps a little...wounded? That was unsettling.

"Then don't talk about my friends," she murmured finally, watching his jaw clench as an unvoiced agreement was passed between them. He looked a little more human then, and she wanted to punch him again. "Are you going to leave me in peace, or do I have to put you in the room myself?"

He growled, but to her utter surprise and bafflement, he actually moved away from her with a couple of backward strides. His raincloud stare didn't leave her though, just stabbed her like he was trying to melt her away through will alone.

"When I get out of this shit-pit," he started with a dark murmur, just before he reached his door. "And I get my wand back, I'm coming straight for you, Granger."

"I'm sure you will," she nodded with trained indifference.

His eyes swept up and down her with a swift swish of his tar-puddle pupils. And then, almost in a blur, he was out of her sight, with only the expected loud crash of the door to split her ears. She stared at it with slightly widened eyes and chewed at her bottom lip with a proud grin yanking the corners of her mouth.

She had done it. She had managed to get him to leave her alone without using magic. Hermione fell back into the couch and felt a proud giggle shimmy up her windpipe. She had beaten him, despite her earlier troubles when he had decided to bring the boys into the argument. She'd had the last word. She'd gotten what she wanted.

And while she didn't realise it, she allowed herself a smile that wasn't forced for the first time since she had waved goodbye to Harry and Ron. And that had been almost four weeks ago.

.

.

Bitch...

Back in the small space, he would swear the four walls had shifted slightly. The room definitely felt smaller, and it made the beginnings of a cool sweat lick his forehead. He had half a mind to charge back in the sitting area and start screaming at her again, but then what would it accomplish? All she would do was abuse her magic, and he would end up back where he was, but probably in a bit of pain to make his day just that little bit more dismal.

He covered his face with his palms and dragged his scratching fingers through his hair.

He'd never felt so degraded in his seventeen years. When had his life deteriorated so much that he had landed here? Supervised like a pissing child by the Muggle-spawn scum. Trying to avoid becoming one of those sanity-drained freaks that mumbled nonsense to themselves when the walls had gotten too close.

But, it could have been worse, he mused. It could have been the Weasel. That would have definitely ended in bloodshed by now. At least Granger wasn't a brainless prick and could actually back up her arguments.

He went to the bed and slumped into the fabrics, resting his elbows against his knees and staring at the withered floorboards. His eyes shifted to the bedside table and he opened the drawer, peering inside to find only a discarded quill and a Gryffindor tie.

Perhaps he could use it to hang himself with when he'd finally gone insane in this place. When the walls...

He snatched up the quill and waltzed his fingers up the silky feather strands. He glanced back to the drawer to check if there was any ink or parchment, but there wasn't. So, he leaned back on his bed and brought the nib to the mahogany headboard.

He sliced at the dark wood and carved an and a G, and then dissected the letters with a defined line between them.

M for Malfoy. G for Granger.

He would have put M for Mudblood if his surname didn't start with the same letter.

Alright, he would admit that she had won this argument, but he had certainly won yesterday's. It only seemed rational to keep score, and it was something else to feed his habit for counting. He scrawled a short line under each letter to indicate their respective scores and made a silent vow that she wouldn't get any more marks for the duration of his stay.

Then his eyes went back to the floor, and he started to count. First the boards, then the cracks in between.

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