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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41. Snape

Nervously shuffling her feet, Hermione watched Ron as he stepped forward and yanked out seven fangs from the skeletal remains of the Basilisk. It was so cold and quiet down here; too quiet, like the silence was surrounding her, engulfing her, suffocating her. It was eerily still and isolated in the Chamber, and yet somehow Hermione knew that there was chaos swarming above their heads, and it only seemed to make the silence worse.

Reaching inside her bag, she removed Helga's Cup, stroking her fingers over the engraving until Ron held out one of the fangs for her to take.

"Come on," he said, eyeing her expectantly. "You should do this one."

"I don't know, Ron..."

"It will be fine," he assured her, prying the Cup from her hands. He placed it on the ground at their feet and handed her the fang. "Go on, Hermione."

Frowning as she reluctantly crouched down, she took a deep breath as she tightly gripped the fang, raising it above her head before bringing it down to stab the Cup. A breeze of dark energy rushed up, blowing back her hair, and then the Cup bled a thick, black fluid, before it seemed to shrivel up like a dead flower. Another gust of wind seemed to whirl around her, but then it faded, and the room was still again.

"That's it?" she mumbled. "I was expecting...I don't know, but I was expecting something bad to happen."

Ron shrugged. "Well, that's another one down. We should go and find Harry; let him know the Cup has been destroyed and that we have the fangs."

Nodding, she rose to her feet, wiping her dusty hands on her jeans. "I wonder what's going on up there now."

.

.

Draco growled when Theo almost tripped him up for the third time, catching his ankle with his foot. They had squeezed past the last of the evacuating students — escorted by a grumbling Filch and Madam Pince — around five minutes ago, back at the entrance of the tunnel. Their small party had certainly earned a few confused looks and whispers, but they'd just kept marching through the tunnel, led by Tonks, who seemed to grow more panicked with every step.

Glancing behind him, Draco's eyes lingered on Miles and Tracey's joined hands, and if it was possible, his ache to find Granger intensified, like a physical pull on his chest.

He looked at Blaise and Theo then, who both seemed as anxious as he was to get to the end of this sodding tunnel. He understood Blaise's eagerness, but Theo's reasoning seemed more complicated than that; a mixture of many motives, such as vengeance for Ted's death, the need to confront his father, and even redemption.

But then maybe they were all here for redemption on some level.

Finally, he saw a door appear, and he practically shoved Tonks forward, desperate now, and almost light-headed as his breathing accelerated. Tonks pushed the door open, and Draco was momentarily blinded by the welcoming light as he dropped down into the room, closely followed by the other members of 'The Enlightened' as they all paused to absorb their unfamiliar surroundings.

"Where the hell are we?" asked Theo.

"The Room of Requirement," said Tonks. "Quick, look around for the exit. It's probably-

"Tonks? Is that you?"

Draco snapped his eyes to his left, catching a flash of bright, red hair, and then Ginny Weasley slowly meandered her way through the jungle of hammocks, looking past Tonks and eyeing the group of Slytherins suspiciously.

"Tonks, what's going on? Why are they here?"

But before she could answer, Voldemort's voice began to boom and vibrate around the room, so crystal clear that Draco would swear he was standing right beside him. Tracey screamed somewhere behind him, Blaise lifted his hands to his ears to try and muffle the sound, and Theo's eyes darted around the room, trying to find the source. Draco simply stood there, listening to every word. Every syllable.

"I know you are preparing to fight. Your efforts are futile. You cannot fight me. I do not want to kill you. I have great respect for the teachers of Hogwarts. I do not want to spill magical blood..."

.

.

"...Give me Harry Potter and none shall be harmed. Give me Harry Potter, and I shall leave the school untouched. Give me Harry Potter, and you should be rewarded. You have until midnight."

Hermione could feel her mouth hanging open as she met Ron's eyes, which were as wide as hers.

"Oh my God," she breathed. "You don't think anyone would-

"No one's going to turn Harry in. Even if someone tried, the others would defend him."

"We need to find him, Ron. We need to hurry."

"Right," he nodded, grabbing the broom. "Let's go."

.

.

Draco gripped Andromeda's wand a little tighter as the echoes of Voldemort's final words faded. The silence that followed was heavy and thick; the kind you can feel on your shoulders, and he turned to his fellow Slytherins waiting for one of them to break it. It was easy to predict which one would speak first.

"Well," said Theo, "That was fucking unpleasant. I feel like my ears were violated."

"Ginny, where is everyone?" asked Tonks, frowning when the youngest Weasley cautiously glanced at the Slytherins again. "They're fine, Ginny, they came with me."

"Yeah, but they're not exactly trustworthy."

"You don't have to trust them, but you should trust me, and I can assure you they came here to fight. On our side."

That seemed to catch Ginny's attention, and the look of suspicion slowly melted away, until she simply seemed intrigued.

"I don't really know what's going on," she said. "They told me to stay in here because I'm underage. Harry came here then went away for a little while to look for something, then he came back and told everyone to go to the Great Hall, and that the Professors would meet the Order there. But that was about half an hour ago. I don't know what's going on now."

"What about Luna?" asked Blaise. "Have you seen Luna?"

"And Granger?" added Draco.

"W-what? Luna and Hermione? Why would-

"Just tell them," Tonks interrupted, but her tone was soft. "I'm sorry, I don't have time to explain everything to you, but just tell them if you've seen the girls."

"Well...I um...I don't really know," Ginny sighed, evidently bewildered by the situation. "Luna left with Harry the first time and she didn't come back with him, so I guess she went to the Great Hall. And Hermione...I don't know. Hermione and Ron just kind of disappeared not long after Harry left the first time. I have no idea where they went."

"You know," said Theo, "On any other day I'd probably make a comment about Granger sneaking off with Weasley-

"Shut it," Draco grumbled. "Tonks, we need to get moving. I need to find-

"Wait a moment," she said, turning back to Ginny. "Are you sure you don't know where Remus is?"

"Well, I thought I heard him and Dad talking about going up to the tall towers, so they might be in Ravenclaw, Astronomy, or Gryffindor, but I'm not sure. They were talking quietly."

"Okay. Thank you, Ginny."

"How the hell do we get out of here?" asked Draco.

Ginny seemed a little surprised that Draco had spoken to her directly, but she slowly lifted her arm, pointing to a dark corner in the room. "The stairs are back there, but the door opens to somewhere different every time. I'll come with you-

"Not a chance," said Tonks. "If you've been told to stay here, that's what you should do, and-

"Come on!" snapped Blaise impatiently, heading to the exit. "We need to go! We're wasting time!"

Following his friend, Draco grabbed Tonks' arm, pulling her with him as their group headed down a narrow and dimly-lit staircase, and he felt suddenly nervous. His heart was practically bouncing around his chest, but he carried on. Instinct was warning him that beyond the Room of Requirement's safe walls, Hogwarts was in turmoil, and they would be joining it, like sparrows trapped in a hurricane.

The fact that Granger was already caught up in it spurred him on. He knew she was here somewhere, he just needed to find her, and they could ride out the hurricane together.

For the second time in the space of ten minutes, they reached a door at the end of a passageway and Blaise warily pushed it open, poking his head to look left, and then right. The second the door was cracked open, the noise almost knocked Draco back a few inches. He could hear people screaming and shouting, fires burning, glass smashing, explosions, eruptions, and the castle trembled like an earthquake.

"We're on the Third Floor, near the Charms classroom," explained Blaise. "I can't see anything but it sounds like there's something going on further down the corridor...Yeah, there's definitely people fighting down there."

"If it's safe, go," said Tonks, "Wait outside for us."

Doing as instructed, Blaise slipped past the door, closely followed by Draco, until their small crowd was standing in the hallway, and the door from which they'd come had disappeared. Draco's eyes darted around vigilantly, taking in the shattered windows and a gaping hole in the wall just a few yards away from them. At the end of the corridor, the flashing lights of spells displayed twitching shadows.

They were just around the corner.

"Okay," said Tonks. "I need to find Remus, and I know you two," she gestured to Blaise and Draco, "Want to find the girls. We need to split up. There's no point in us all heading up to the towers. I...feel awful for leaving you though-

"Look, you go," said Blaise. "Do what you need to do and we'll sort ourselves out. It's fine."

The building shook as a loud blast penetrated Hogwarts somewhere above their heads, perhaps the next floor up, but it was difficult to tell amongst the din. The voices at the other end of the corridor seemed to edge closer, and the shadows grew larger.

"Tonks, you should go," said Draco. "You need to get all the way to the top. Just go."

Numbly nodding her head, she reached out to place her hand on his shoulder, looking him dead in the eye. "Stay safe, Cousin," she said quietly.

"You too," he replied, and he meant it.

She turned to the others. "All of you, be careful."

And then she sped off, disappearing down a side corridor, and Draco was surprised to find he felt a genuine level of concern for his only cousin, but another explosion somewhere to his left severed his thoughts. He looked to Blaise, who was practically fidgeting to go, and then to Theo, who seemed more alert and nervous than Draco could ever recall.

"Look," said Blaise, "I'm going to head off by myself to find Luna-

"Perhaps we should stick together," reasoned Millicent. "The Order might not even realise we're fighting on their side."

"I can't ask you lot to find Luna with me. It's my issue, so I will deal with it."

"Same here," said Draco. "I need to get to Granger and I'll do it alone. There's no sense in us sticking together when we have different plans."

"He's right," said Miles. "Okay, well, Tracey, Millicent, Theo, and myself will-

"Hold it," Theo cut him off. "I have some shit to do too and I'm not dragging you lot into it."

"Okay," Miles continued, "Then us three will head to the Great Hall, maybe try and find Slughorn and let him know there are some Slytherin allies here. Good luck, you three. Try and catch up with us when you can."

"Will do," Blaise nodded. "Good luck."

Their three companions removed their wands from their pockets and headed in the opposite direction to Tonks, towards the North-Western staircase, if Draco remembered correctly. And then it was just the three of them; their troubled little Slytherin trio, and they stood there in silence for a moment, their eyes downcast and their mouths tight. But another explosion in the vicinity cut through the quiet, and everything started to move again.

"Right," said Draco, "We could be running around here for ages trying to find them. Knowing our luck, you'll find Granger and I'll find Lovegood, so I reckon we should meet up in half an hour; see if we can help each other out."

"Alright," Blaise nodded. "That makes sense. We should meet in the corridor outside Binns' Office, then. It's about halfway, it's close to some of the staircases, and it's quite well-hidden."

"Oh yeah, we used to meet there to skive or plot against the Gryffindors, didn't we?" mumbled Theo. "But you can count me out of that. I won't need to exchange notes with you two."

Blaise narrowed his eyes at his step-brother, scrutinising him intensely, furiously. "And just why the hell are you going off on your own?"

"Bloody hell, Mum, calm down."

"Theo."

"I want to find my father," he said simply, shrugging his shoulders. "This might be the last chance I get to confront the bastard-

"For fuck's sake," snarled Blaise. "Are you really that stupid?"

"Well, it wouldn't be fair to the rest of the human race if I was this attractive and a genius-

"Now is not the time for your sodding jokes, Theo!"

"Hey, you pair are wandering off to find your girlfriends!" he protested. "How is what I'm doing any different?"

"It's completely different!" shouted Blaise. "You're going to track down your father to instigate a fight, and he is stronger than you, Theo!"

"Bullshit! I am stronger than my father!"

"You should've stayed with the group," said Draco. "They could've helped you. Going after your father is bloody-

"Don't you start, Draco. I know what I'm doing."

"No, you don't!" yelled Blaise, clenching his fists. "Would you just listen to me this once?"

"There's no point trying to talk me out of it, Blaise. Look, you and Draco are doing what you need to do, and this is what I need to do."

"He will kill you." Blaise enunciated each word. "You know he will."

"He's right, Theo," said Draco. "You should-

"Stop it," he frowned, his tone uncharacteristically severe and his expression hard. "I'm not fighting with you two when all this shit is going on. I've made up my mind and that's the end of it."

Blaise's frustrated sigh was drowned out by a crash of shattering glass above their heads, and they all instinctively ducked, shielding their faces with their hands as the shards rained down. The bright, green light of a spell shot into the corridor, scorching the wall opposite them, and Draco thought it might have been the Killing Curse, but he wasn't sure. The sounds of the battle seemed to be edging closer and closer to them, and Draco's heart was pounding again, beating loudly in his ears.

"Fuck this," he muttered, brushing the glass out of his hair. "We need to get moving. We're just easy bait, standing here like this."

Blaise nodded with agreement, lifting his wand and tapping it against his wrist until a watch materialised. "Draco, conjure one of these too," he said. "We'll need to keep an eye on the time."

Mimicking his friend's actions, Draco conjured a watch to cuff his wrist and when he looked back up, Blaise was storming towards Theo with heavy, purposeful strides. He roughly grabbed the scruff of Theo's shirt, pulling him close, and the expression on Blaise's face reminded Draco of that day he had destroyed an apple tree when Luna had gone missing. He was so furious with concern he was trembling, glaring at Theo with wide eyes and clenched teeth.

"You be fucking careful," said Blaise. "Do you understand me?"

"For Merlin's sake, Blaise, let me go-

"I mean it, Theo!" he shouted, his voice hoarse. "Please, just be careful, okay?"

The usual cynicism and wryness carved onto Theo's face softened, and he slowly nodded his head once.

"Okay, I'll be careful," he said. "Be careful yourself."

Releasing Theo, Blaise turned to Draco with the same sombre look. "You too, Draco. Be careful, yeah?"

"Of course I will," he replied. "I'll see you in half an hour by Binns' Office. Keep your head down, Blaise."

With a final nod, Blaise turned on his heel and sprinted down the corridor, making a sharp right, heading for the Grand Staircase.

And then they were down to two.

Blaise had barely been gone for a second before another spell burst into the corridor, colliding with the wall, and Draco and Theo hurled their bodies out of the way of the flying debris. As the dust cleared and they clambered to their feet, the screams from outside invaded Draco's ears, amplified by the acoustics of Hogwarts' ancient stones.

"Go on," said Theo suddenly. "Go and be all Gryffindor-y and get your girl."

"Did you just call me a fucking Gryffindor?"

He smirked mischievously, but it was forced. "I did indeed."

Draco scoffed. "I'm nothing like a bloody Gryffindor."

"Perhaps being all Gryffindor-y might do you some good," he murmured, his grin falling from his lips. "They do have a knack for surviving situations like this."

"It'll be fine," said Draco firmly. "We will be fine."

Another explosion ripped through the air, and Draco could hear a woman screaming somewhere, although it was impossible to pinpoint from where. The sound of it just seemed to ricochet around the corridor and then around his skull. His urgency to find Granger returned ten-fold, and he turned to Theo with an apologetic frown.

"Theo, I need to go and find Gra-

"I've told you. Go," he interrupted. "I'll see you later."

Draco sighed, extending his arm until Theo caught on and grasped his hand in a slow, slightly awkward but necessary handshake.

"Good luck."

"Likewise," said Theo. "Don't be an idiot and get yourself killed, alright?"

His jaw twitched. "Stay safe, Theo."

With that, Draco pulled back his hand, spun around, and broke into a run, darting like a bullet in the opposite direction to where Blaise had gone, with no real idea of where he intended to go.

And then he was on his own.

.

.

On the fifth floor, Hermione gritted her teeth when a formidable amount of anger rose up inside of her, like hot steam.

She and Ron were still hunting for Harry, working their way up Hogwarts' floors and asking any Order member they encountered if they'd seen him. During their search for their friend, she and Ron had Petrified or Stupefied at least eight Death Eaters between them, and Hermione had managed to keep a level head, acting calmly and tactically. But when they'd turned a corner and seen Luna being viciously attacked by two Death Eaters, all of Hermione's control leaked out of her.

Sprinting ahead, Hermione aimed her wand and shot a non-verbal Stupefy at one of the masked Death Eaters, striking him square in the chest. Whipping around and deflecting the spell the other Death Eater fired in her direction, she retaliated with a powerful Impediment Jinx that sent him flying backwards to smash into the wall, and then she Petrified him for good measure.

"Are you okay, Luna?" she asked, helping the other witch to her feet. "Did they hurt you?"

"Just a couple of scratches," she shrugged.

"Whoa," mumbled Ron as he joined them. "That was really impressive, Hermione."

"It really was," agreed Luna. "Thank you."

"No problem," she said. "Luna, have you seen Harry anywhere?"

"Yes, I saw him speaking to Helena Ravenclaw's ghost by the Great Hall," she explained in that airy tone of hers. "I thought I heard him talking about hidden things, but I'm not sure. And I passed him on the Grand Staircase not long ago, but he was heading upstairs."

"Upstairs," said Hermione, grabbing Ron's wrist and heading for the staircase. "Right. Come on, Ron. Sorry, Luna, we're in a rush and we need to get to Harry. Neville and some of the others are on the fourth floor. You should try to get to them. Be careful."

"I hope you find Harry," said Luna. "Tell him I said hello."

Hermione smiled at Luna over her shoulder as she practically dragged Ron back to the stairs, quickening her pace with her desperation to find Harry. She didn't even flinch when she heard an explosion outside; she was getting used to them now, and she was so focussed that the racket around them seemed blurred and distant.

"Why on Earth would Harry be heading upstairs?" she questioned, more to herself. "There's nothing up there."

"I know," mumbled Ron. "Well, the Room of Requirement is on the seventh floor, I guess, but what-

"The Room of Requirement," she repeated pensively. "Unless...hidden things...Ron, you are a genius!"

"I am?"

"Yes!"

"You know, that's the second time you've called me a genius tonight," he said. "Did you take a blow to the head that I missed?"

"I think I know where he's going!" she exclaimed, running now. "And I think I know where the Horcrux is!"

.

.

"Fuck," hissed Draco under his breath.

The staircase he'd decided to use was impassable. The tower had been destroyed, and he'd barely ascended five stairs before he'd been blocked by a wall of stone and debris, evidently from a powerful blast on the upper floor. Sighing as he turned to head back from where he'd come, he jogged down the quiet corridor, but when he turned a corner, he found himself face-to-face with a Death Eater mask. His instincts took over and he raised Andromeda's wand, ready to duel, but then the Death Eater spoke.

"Draco?"

He faltered, but he kept his wand aimed. "Who are you?"

"It's me," she said, slowly removing her mask. "Pansy."

Draco's eyes widened as he studied her features. She looked so different, so...dark in her Death Eater robes, and it struck him speechless for a moment. Pansy was pale, thin, and possessed the same cold, cruel expression he'd always associated with Bellatrix, and it looked so at home on her face. She eyed him with a mixture of suspicion and interest, her upper lip curled back and her pug nose wrinkled with malice. It was so obvious in the way she squared her shoulders and gripped her wand that she didn't trust him, but that was fine, because he didn't trust her either. Not anymore. Not one bit.

"Pansy," he mumbled, scowling at her with distaste. "What the fucking hell are you doing?"

"What am I doing? What are you doing?"

"The right thing, for a change."

Comprehension stole her features. "You're here fighting for the Order?"

"Yes," he nodded. "And you're not."

"Of course I'm not!" she shouted. "What the hell happened to you? Did they brainwash you?"

"You're the one that's been brainwashed!"

"What are you-

"It was bullshit, Pansy!" he spat harshly. "Everything they told us was bullshit! All of it! Pureblood, Muggle-born; they're all just labels! Don't you get it?"

"What is wrong with you?" she asked. "Honestly, Draco, stop screwing around-

"I have never been more serious in my fucking life!" Taking a breath, Draco steadied his voice. "Pansy, they can't have fucked with your head that much. Let me help you. Just...just listen to me-

"No, you listen to me! Voldemort will forgive you if you just go to him now. You're still a Pureblood, and everything will be fine-

"Everything will not be bloody fine! He's evil, Pansy! Can't you see that? Can't you see how messed up all of this is? All of this is so wrong!"

"No, those Mudbloods are wrong and this is the way to exterminate them!" she barked back. "They shouldn't be allowed to live among us! Those disgusting, vile creatures!"

Draco saw red and he was all instincts again. He smacked Pansy's wand out of her hand with a fast flick of his wrist, and then the tip of Andromeda's wand was poking into her neck, prodding at a vein with enough pressure to be painful. He towered over her, glaring her down.

"You watch your fucking mouth," he sneered. "Don't talk about them like that-

"You used talk about them like that all the time. You hated them, remember? What changed?"

"I did."

Her scowl hardened. "Well, they're all going to die. Every last one of them. And if I see any of them, then I-

"If you lay a finger on her, I swear, Pansy, I will-

"Her?"

He exhaled. "Granger."

Pansy's eyes went wide, and her mouth fell open like a trapdoor. "Granger? You and...no, that's not possible-

"Me and Granger," he clarified, speaking slowly to stress it, and looking her dead in the eye. "And I can assure you that we are very much possible. In fact, we are definite."

She choked on her gasp. "I...no...that's not...," she stuttered absently, but then all the cruelty returned to her expression, and she was snarling up at him like a feral dog. "You...you are sick! Sick!"

"No. I was sick. I'm better now," said Draco, pressing the wand a little harder against her throat. "And if you touch her, I'll kill you myself."

"You're not going to kill me now?"

He lifted his chin and clicked his tongue. "No," he said. "But don't think my threat is an empty one, Pansy. I'd rip out your throat before I'd let you breathe near Granger, and that's a promise."

Pansy's nostrils flared and all the muscles in her body tensed up, twitching angrily beneath her skin, and all Draco felt for this girl now was disappointment, disgust, and sympathy. He couldn't help the latter; Pansy had been present throughout the majority of his childhood. Had it not been for Granger, he could've so easily ended up standing beside Pansy, clad in Death Eaters robes and hurling Hexes at Muggle-borns with the same mindless hatred that was flashing in her eyes.

It was sad, but he could tell Pansy was beyond help. It was so obvious. She looked so eager to kill, almost excited, and there was nothing he could do.

He realised then that he was just wasting time, and he still had no clue where Granger was. Shaking his head, he lifted his foot and stamped on Pansy's wand once, and then again, until he heard a telling snap.

"It's a shame, Pansy," he said, lowering his wand and taking a few steps away from her. "You could have been somebody."

"I am somebody!" she snapped. "Look at you! What the hell are you now? You are a Blood Traitor!"

"And fucking proud of it."

"You and your little Mudblood girlfriend will die tonight!"

He opened his mouth to retort, but several voices travelling up the corridor cut him off, and he could tell by the aggressive and gruff tones that they were Death Eaters. As Pansy whipped around and called for them to assist her, Draco considered standing his ground, but there were at least six of them, and he had a task to complete. He fired an Incarcerous at Pansy to slow her down, waiting until the ropes were coiled around her body and she fell to the floor before he turned and ran, racing away from the advancing troop of Death Eaters.

He heard one of them call out a spell and then there was an explosion, and Draco glanced over his shoulder just in time to see the wall crumble and crash down on Pansy, cutting off her scream. He stopped running.

He was torn.

A part of him wanted to head back, maybe try to help, if only because no matter how dark his past had been, she had been a part of it, but those Death Eaters were getting closer. One of them must've mistaken her for a member of the Order.

The fucking idiots.

They hadn't spotted him yet. If he shot off now, he could easily evade them, but when he saw a small trickle of Pansy's blood slither out from beneath the fallen stones, he hesitated.

But then there was a hand clamping down on his shoulder and dragging him backwards, into a room. Whoever had grabbed him tossed him carelessly to the side, and his body smacked into a school desk, knocking the wind out of him. When Draco lifted his head, he realised he was in the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, and he looked up to find Snape near the door, waving his wand and mumbling incantations.

"What the hell-

"Shut up," hissed Snape. "Unless you'd like them to find you. Go into the office and wait there-

"I have to go-

"You're not going anywhere just yet. Go to the office. And keep quiet. Now."

Smothering a growl that itched his tonsils, Draco pulled himself up and made his way to the back of the classroom, descending a flight of stairs into the DADA Professor's Office. The room was in shambles: parchment scattered all over the furniture and floor, the bookcase flipped on its side, and various ornaments littering the space. He stood there idly, frustrated that something else was delaying his search for Granger, and also feeling slightly disturbed after witnessing Pansy's death, wondering if he should be more affected by it than he actually was.

He heard footsteps approaching him, and he straightened his spine, tightening his fist a little tighter around Andromeda's wand. As always, Snape's shadow entered the room first, followed by his usual, sweeping, black robes, and then the man himself, wearing his familiar mask of scepticism and scorn.

"Well, well, well," he said, in his slow, droll tone. "Look at you. You look...different."

"What do you want, Snape?" asked Draco. "I have things to do."

"I'm sure you do. Unless I'm mistaken, you are here to fight with the Order, correct?"

Hesitantly, Draco nodded his head. "Correct. But how-

"Interesting," he drawled. "And does this sudden change of mind have anything to do with one Miss Granger? Or should I say, a change of heart?"

"Wh-How the fuck do you know about Granger and I?"

"Your mother used Legilimency on Miss Granger at Malfoy Manor, and she saw you two-

"I know that! How do you know that?"

"She visited me afterwards."

"You've spoken to my mother?" he asked, shocked. "Is she alright? Is she here?"

Snape's face became stern. "Your mother is fine, as far as I know. And yes, I believe she is here."

"Why did she visit you? What did she want?"

"It would appear you and your mother share more in common than blood and hair colour," he said. "She came to me to ask if she could assist the Order. As a spy."

"My mother's helping the Order?" mumbled Draco incredulously. "You're certain?"

"Yes, which is what I must tell you. Anything your mother tells you, you must believe. Don't doubt her intentions. Do you understand?"

"Yes, of course," he nodded, swallowing hard before his next question. "What about my father, Snape?"

"Lucius is a lost cause," said Snape bluntly. "Draco, he has been damaged for a while. You know this. So does your mother. Lucius will never swap sides. Accept that and carry on."

Frowning, Draco shook his head. "He's really that bad?"

"Yes. Lucius made his choice a long time ago." He glared at Draco like he was the most foolish person he'd ever encountered. "Did you honestly believe for a second that he would accept your relationship with Miss Granger and fight for the Order?"

Draco didn't respond. In all honesty, he'd never been certain what to expect in regard to his father, but as he'd told Granger, he'd been preparing himself for all possible outcomes since he'd been staying with Andromeda. His relationship with his father had started to deteriorate in Fourth Year, when Voldemort had returned and Lucius' priorities had become distorted. But still, he felt disappointed, and a certain level of loss, but then he presumed that Blaise and Theo had experienced similar notions, and they'd learned to live with it, albeit resentfully.

"Is that all you wanted to speak to me about?" he asked. "My mother?"

"I was also rather curious to find out if what your mother told me about you and Miss Granger was indeed true."

Draco pursed his lips defiantly. "It's true. So what?"

A sadness seemed to swallow Snape's sharp features, but it was gone before Draco could make any sense of it.

"So, you really have defected then?" he mumbled, closing his eyes for a moment. "And all for the love of a Mudblood."

"Hey!" spat Draco. "Don't call her that! You have no idea what happened! You would never understand!"

"I understand more than you could even begin to imagine."

Snape's voice was quiet and strained, almost desperate, and Draco studied his old professor curiously. He'd never seen the man like this; distracted and hushed, like he was lost in a memory, and the room suddenly seemed heavy with unspoken melancholy.

"You and I are not so different," said Snape quietly. "You want my advice? Find Miss Granger, and get her as far away from here as possible."

Draco blinked, uncertain what to say. "She...she wouldn't come. She wants to fight."

"Then find her, and don't let her out of your sight, or you'll regret it until the lonely day you die. Do you understand?"

"Yes...I think so," muttered Draco, doubtfully. "Is there anything else, or can I go?"

"We both have things we need to do," said Snape, averting his eyes to the chaotic room. "Go. If you can, stick to the west side of Hogwarts. It is less damaged."

"Right," he sighed, making his way to the stairs, but he paused on the second step. "Snape, I am...grateful that you brought me to Hogwarts. "

Although Draco kept his back to him, he somehow knew that Snape's face would be contorted in a troubled frown, shrouded in that strange sadness again. As the silence stretched on, Draco assumed that Snape had no intention of responding, so he continued to ascend the stairs, but when he reached the seventh step, he heard Snape's low, faint voice follow him.

The words were so bizarre that Draco concluded he couldn't have heard them correctly.

"If you are grateful for anything, be grateful that your Mudblood loves you back."

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