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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22. Storm

Days and hours rush by when the company makes you smile for no reason.

Time becomes irrelevant.

It was a good few days since Hermione's outburst in the shower, and things had been easy and almost peaceful in the dorm; just sleepy mornings and smooth afternoons basking in the calm. It was easy and effortless, with the minutes playing host to sarcastic arguments, which were more for amusement than spite, and comfortable silences, as though neither of them dared break the moment.

In those silences, Draco often found his stare lingering on her charming features; absently counting the spatter of freckles across her nose, or secretly grinning as she mumbled something incoherent to herself when she was engrossed in a book. He always caught himself before she noticed and scolded his behaviour, but his eyes would always find their way back to her again, and learn the details of her face.

But the unanswered questions about her parents tingled the back of his throat. She hadn't mentioned them again, and he had refrained from broaching the subject in an effort to keep the relaxed atmosphere, but he needed to know. His instincts warned him that it was something to do with the War, and after months of being stashed away in here and oblivious to the outside world, he was sick of being left in the dark.

Things were happening. Significant things. He could feel it scratching the pit of his stomach.

Hermione could feel it too; the eerie static flickering in the air that smelled like Dark Magic. The snow was beginning to get lighter, and the rain would come soon, washing away the beautiful, white landscape that she loved, and making way for bleak thunderstorms.

Godric curse her for being selfish and a little naïve, but she had shoved the War to the back of her skull for the past few days to savour these moments with Draco. She felt something deliriously close to contentment in his presence; taking every excuse to touch him and memorise how his skin felt beneath her fingertips. Whether it was searching for the blue specks in his smoky eyes, or studying the softening of his face before he fell asleep, she relished all of him and remembered how to smile.

Because she knew it was only temporary.

The calm between storms.

.

.

It was his witch's squirming that slowly stirred Draco from his sleep, and he tightened the arm around her torso to keep her still. He had given up trying to keep a distance from her in bed; his body always sought her warmth anyway, and there was something instinctively pleasing about waking up in a tangle of limbs and body heat.

He could feel her hair tickling the tip of his nose and he pressed his face closer, but hesitated when he realised that something was off. Her normally silky curls felt coarse against his cheek, and when he slowly peeled open one eye, he was confronted by rusty fur instead of the chestnut mane he'd become accustomed to.

"What the…" he mumbled, rearing back to eye his lover's cat with distaste. He wrinkled his nose when the pet had the audacity to creep even closer to him, and he reached over to prod Hermione's arm. "Granger. Granger wake the hell up."

Groaning into her pillow, the sleepy brunette twisted around to face him and squinted against the first rays of morning. "What's wrong with you?"

"Your vile cat is pawing at me," he growled. "Get him off me."

"Don't call him vile," she said, stifling a chuckle when she realised Crookshanks was indeed trying to gain some affection from Draco. "He just likes you."

"Well, I don't like him," he grumbled, picking up the cat and dumping him into Hermione's lap. "Scruffy, bloody thing-

"Oh hush," Hermione tried not to laugh. "He doesn't like many people, so you should be flattered-

"Yes, I'm bloody ecstatic," he drawled, rolling his eyes. "It hardly helps his case when he wakes me up on a Sunday morning."

"It's Sunday?" she frowned, glancing at her Charmed calendar and then her clock. "Damn, I need to meet McGonagall in a bit."

He arched an eyebrow. "What for?"

"Michael's coming back today," she explained, missing the flash of jealousy that dented his expression as she climbed out of bed. "Everyone will be coming back soon, and we need to discus preparations-

"And how long will that take?" he questioned sharply, admittedly irritated that the Head Boy was ruining his chances of a morning quickie. "Fucking Corner-

"Don't start," she told him, shrugging on some clothes and casting a spell to make herself a bit more presentable. "It shouldn't take long; maybe an hour or so. Could you feed Crookshanks while I'm out please?"

"Wouldn't it be more beneficial to society to just let him starve?" he mumbled, flinching when she spun around to slap his arm.

"Don't be such a-

"Fine," he grumbled reluctantly, before his lips moulded into an knowing smirk. "Naturally, I'm going to ask a favour in return."

Her mouth stretched of its own accord, and a playful blush coloured her cheeks. "Dare I ask what it will entail?"

"I'm sure I will think of something by the time you get back," Draco shrugged, but his eyes widened when Hermione suddenly leaned in to smother his mouth with a quick kiss. Studying her curiously and subtly licking his lips as she pulled away, he slowly arched an eyebrow as she flashed him a perfect smile. "What was that for?"

"Does there need to be a reason?" she asked, twisting around and heading out of the room. "I'll be back in a bit."

Staring at her retreating back with pensive eyes, the click of the door snapped him back to the present, and he shook his head, raking his fingers through his hair. It had become so natural to be this way with her now; unguarded and comfortable in her presence, but the moment he was left to his own devices, he berated himself for getting so close.

Too attached.

But there was little be could do about it now. His interest in her was embedded into his system and crawling in his veins, making his heart throb faster when she was close enough to inhale. When once it had felt like an infection, it now felt like brandy; warm and pleasant.

And the War was the hangover. The headache, the sickness, the reality.

The storm.

.

.

The second Hermione stepped over her threshold, she knew something was wrong.

The air felt thick and humid, and she hesitated outside of her door when she noticed all the Magical Portraits were peculiarly subdued or absent from their frames. The quiet hum of distant sounds was vibrating along the corridors, too low to discern but ominously consistent, and her feet began moving towards the source. When something that sounded eerily like a muffled scream harassed her ears, she quickened her steps and withdrew her wand.

By the time she could hear the shouting and panic clearly, Hermione realised she was sprinting towards the Medical Wing, and the metallic tang of blood was drowning her senses, stinging her eyes and simmering on her tongue.

Bursting into the room, she skidded to a stop and gasped at the chaos surrounding her; thirty or so people were crowded into the small space, and littered across the scarce beds and floor, all writhing in pain. Her vision blurred as she tried to make sense of it all; her focus lingering on an elderly wizard with blood weeping from his temple, before shifting to a young witch, whose arm was contorted in an unnatural shape. And then to another person with a different injury. And then another. Another…

Someone was calling her name…

She looked up and locked eyes with McGonagall, and absently registered that the Headmistress, Madam Pomfrey, Professor Sprout and a couple of Mediwitches were tending to the victims as best they could, but there were so many…

"Hermione!" McGonagall called again. "Go to the classroom next door! Horace needs help-

"Wh-what's going on?" Hermione interrupted in between laboured breaths. "What the-

"St Mungo's was attacked!" she shouted over the racket. "I need you to help Horace! Go! Quickly!"

Nodding dumbly and spinning on her heel, she raced to the adjacent room and found a similar disturbing scene; perhaps fifteen scattered victims strewn across the desks, chairs and floor, smeared with red stains and crying in agony. Professor Slughorn and a Mediwitch were amongst the injured, frantically mumbling Healing Charms and prying open mouths to feed them potions.

Hermione was momentarily frozen to the spot as her brain sucked it all in.

There was just…so much blood…

Puddles of it were peppered across the floorboards, dissected by footprints and handprints from people scrambling around and seeking help. Some of the victims were choking on clots and coughing it up into their laps or cupped palms, mixed with watery vomit and bile. Limbs were twisted and bent in revolting shapes, flesh was sliced with deep gashes, and midnight-blue bruises were smacked across every inch of skin she could see.

This was it.

This was the reality of War.

This was the storm.

Hermione sucked in a deep breath and rushed into action.

Her eyes darted around and did a quick assessment, trying to establish who required immediate attention, before running over to a wizard on the floor with gruesome abdominal wounds, and who seemed to have trouble breathing. Sinking to her knees and dismissing the sick squelch as she landed in pool of blood that climbed up her jeans, she studied the sticky mess of his body warily and shut out everything else to concentrate on this battered stranger.

Using her wand to peel away his clothing, she flinched as she registered just how bad the damage was; splintered ribs protruding out of his torso and a wide slash halving his stomach, but she gritted her teeth, ignoring her reflex to gag, and began reciting the appropriate Healing Charm. Glancing up, she found the middle-aged man's weak gaze fixed on her, and she absently used her free hand to give his face a soothing touch.

"It will be okay," she whispered to him reassuringly. "It will be okay."

She wished she believed her own words.

.

.

Draco scowled at the clock for the sixth time in forty minutes.

When Granger had failed to return after an hour, as she had promised, he had gnashed his teeth and surrendered to jealous notions about Corner's intentions. But when the fifth hour had passed by and the day had slipped into the afternoon, he had started to feel uneasy. Granger's cat had also been rather jittery, and while he hadn't paid much attention to her boats about Crookshanks' incredible intuition, something niggled at the back of his brain and warned him to be on his guard.

Releasing a frustrated breath, he headed into Hermione's bedroom to fetch a book and distract himself. Absentmindedly rummaging in her vast collection, he accidentally caught a stack with his arm that sent several texts flying across the floor, and a curse grumbled in his windpipe as he bent down to pick them up, but his eyes narrowed at one particular book.

It was tattered with time and the title was too distorted to read, but he could make out the letters H, C and X, and his brow creased with anxiety. Surely she wasn't reading about…

He reached for the book and frowned when a few sheets of parchment fell out, decorated with hasty scribbles and signed 'H&R.' He couldn't help but roll his eyes. Salazar forbid that Potter and Weasley learn something about the art of being cryptic, but he didn't have time to mull over it, as a quick glance at the first page of the book told him what he'd suspected.

Horcruxes.

Apparently Potter and Weasley were searching for them.

And he didn't have a bloody clue how to feel about that.

He despised Voldemort; that creature had put a price on his head for his failed attempt at Dumbledore's assassination, and had forced him to go into isolation. It had all made sense when he'd been so fixated on his pureblood ideals, and even though he had accepted that Granger's blood no longer bothered him, that was only Granger. He had no idea how he felt about the other Muggle-blooded hybrids.

He might want Voldemort dead, but the idea of championing Potter's side of Muggle-huggers was far from desirable. And just where did his parents stand in all this? Surely they still couldn't be supporting Voldemort when he'd threatened their only son with death?

He didn't know how to feel about anything anymore. He. Did. Not. Know.

Tucking the letters into the book and placing it back where it had been, he shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. Merlin, everything was so monumentally fucked up.

.

.

Hermione sleeved away the sweat on her forehead.

Of the fifty-one casualties and staff who had managed to escape St Mungo's, four had died, and it was doubtful several others would see tomorrow.

Healing Charms drained the energy of the caster and transferred it to the subject's body, so when the scant supplies of Dittany, Wound-cleaning Potion and every other helpful concoction had been used just after she'd arrived, all they'd had was their wands. Hermione had taken two vials of Vitamix just to keep her standing, and had recited every Healing Spell she knew for six hours straight, refusing to finish until everyone had been seen to.

Hermione's muscles were aching with exhaustion and her head was spinning with dizziness, but she refused to blink until this young girl's femur had been fixed. Cringing at the sound of shards of bone clicking back into place, she glanced around to see who need her attention next, but everyone looked like they'd been seen to.

There was some level of order now; chairs and desks had been transfigured into beds, and the wounded had been wrapped in thick blankets; black if they'd been assessed, and white if not.

Aside from the young witch at her side now and the wizard that the Mediwitch was healing, everyone was donned in black blankets, and Hermione was ready to weep with relief. She knew it was far from over, and that the victims would require surveillance well into the night, but the worst of it was dealt with, and for that she was grateful. Waving her wand to change the young witch's blanket black, she started when a comforting hand rested on her shoulder.

"Good job, Miss Granger," Professor Slughorn nodded tiredly. "That's everyone now. Maybe you should take a breather-

"No," Hermione refused. "There must be something else I can do to help."

"The best thing they can do is rest," he told her gently. "Unfortunately, I have run out of Dreamless Sleep Potion, so I shall have to brew some more."

"I have some in my room," she mumbled, getting to her feet. "I don't know if I have much though. I'll go and get it, and I'll help you make some more when I get back-

"Perhaps you should have a nap while you're in your room-

"I'm fine," she assured her Professor, turning to leave before he could argue. "I'll be back in minute."

After spending the morning in a room filled with the devastated and dying, walking down the corridor felt surreal, and the air was fresh on her lungs. She sucked it in with greedy gulps and tried to comb her fingers through her hair, but they got stuck in the matted curls, and the sticky blood gathered under her nails. She absently noticed that her jeans and white jumper were spattered with it too, but she didn't care; it hardly seemed relevant under the circumstances.

Her steps were slow and weary as she neared her dorm, and as she raised a weak and shaking hand to open her door, she silently prayed that she could get in and out before Draco noticed. While a part of her wanted nothing more than to crawl into his lap and steal his warmth, he would have inevitable questions, and her mind was too laden with the day's events to give him any solid answers.

Almost tumbling into the room when her balance wavered, she caught herself and instantly met Draco's wide and wild eyes; flickering with concern and confusion as they studied the state she was in.

"Shit," he breathed raggedly, jumping up from the couch and stalking towards her. "Fucking hell, Granger, you're-

"I'm fine," she interrupted, lifting her hand to stop him. "It's not my blood-

"You're covered in it-

"I know," she murmured, trying to move past him. "Draco, I need to-

"Are you hurt?" he demanded, grabbing her elbows and keeping her steady. "You look like hell-

"Draco, let go of me," she said, struggling in his grip. "I need to get back and help-

"Help who?" he asked. "What the hell happened?"

Sighing in defeat, Hermione placed her palms against his chest and closed her eyes. "St Mungo's was attacked," she told him in a deceptively even voice. "Some people managed to escape in time, and they're here-

"Attacked?" he repeated. "What does that mean?"

"It means that this War has begun," she frowned at him, pulling out of his grip and putting some space between them. "It means that you are going to have to make some decisions."

Draco's brow lowered. "And what the fuck does that mean?"

"Voldemort is getting more powerful, Draco," she explained. "If Hogwarts is next, then you are going to have to decide exactly which side you are on-

"That's not fair, Granger, and you know it-

"Don't you dare talk to me about fair!" she blurted hotly. "I just had to watch fifty people struggle to survive, so don't you dare make yourself into some kind of victim!"

"Do you realise what you're asking of me, Granger?" he fired back. "Just because that psychopath wants me dead, it doesn't mean I'm going to jump on Potter's sodding bandwagon-

"This War is bigger than your pathetic issues with Harry, Draco!" she shouted with frustration. "We're not children anymore! You need to start thinking for yourself and stop tying to be your father-

"Don't mention my father!" he warned loudly. "This is what my family do, Granger! There's nothing I can do about that-

"You could stand up for yourself!" Hermione argued tenaciously, bunching the fabric of his top in her fists and meeting his eyes. "You might have Death Eaters in your family, but you also have good in your family-

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Look at Sirius and Regulus!" she supplied quickly. "They both betrayed your family to try and defeat Voldemort-

"And look what happened to them!" he spat coldly, tearing out of her grip on his shirt. "They're fucking dead!"

"There's Andromeda too-

"What the hell do you want me to do, Granger?" he barked, tossing his arms in the air with agitation. "You would have me fight against my own family?"

"I would have you fight for what you believe in!"

"I DON'T KNOW WHAT THAT IS ANYMORE!" Draco roared, his breathing elevated as he eyed his lover coldly. "You screwed everything up!

Hermione shook her head. "I know you don't think the way you used to anymore," she argued adamantly. "I know that you don't-

"Don't tell me how I think-

"But it's true!" she retorted. "And you can stand there and claim I've brainwashed you all you like, but you know that you came to your own conclusions-

"Don't start with your psychoanalytical crap, Granger," he scolded in a dark voice. "I will admit that I have moved past my hatred for you, but that doesn't mean my views on other Muggle-borns have altered-

"Yes it does," she told him smoothly. "You might be in denial, but I can tell you are different."

He snorted. "You see what you want to see-

"You are not who you were!" she contested, catching his face between her hands and forcing him to match her eyes. "I know you now, Draco. I do-

"You are too quick to seek the positive in people, Granger," he muttered quietly, watching his reflection in her hazels. Lifting his hand to her cheek, he thumbed the smudge of blood there and then dragged his finger across her bottom lip. "Why do we have to fight at all, Granger? Why don't we just…leave?"

Hermione blinked. "You mean run away?" she clarified, wincing when he dipped his head. "You know I can't do that. If Voldemort wins this War, then the other Muggle-borns and I will be killed. I have to fight-

"No, you don't-

"Yes, I do, Draco!" she yelled, backing away from him. "I will die trying! I will not run away like some coward! If you want to, then that's up to you-

"Don't call me a coward," he hissed. "Don't ever call me a coward!"

"Then stand up for yourself!" she snapped back, taking a deep breath to prepare for her next question. The question that had been eating at her brain since she'd begun to fall for him. "If Voldemort agreed to take you back as a Death Eater, would you?"

He hesitated, and Hermione felt her heart drop. She averted her eyes and stalked towards her room, unable to look at him and reminding herself that she'd returned to her dorm with a purpose.

"Don't walk away from me, Granger!" Draco called, his footsteps following behind her. "And don't give me that fucking look!"

She refused to acknowledge him as she retrieved three vials from her trunk, spinning around and crashing into his sturdy body in the doorframe. "Get out of my way, Draco-

"We are not finished here-

"Yes, we are," she interrupted breathlessly, keeping her eyes on his chest. "I can't…I can't believe you would even consider supporting Voldemort after what has happened between us-

"I never said I would-

"You couldn't give me a straight answer," she reminded him sadly. "You couldn't-

"It's not that simple, Granger. It's complicated-

"No, it's not-

"Granger," he murmured quietly, attempting to grasp her shoulders, but she shrugged away his hands. "Hermione, come on-

"I don't want you near me right now," she whispered with a wavering tone. "I can't even look at you."

Draco's defiant stance faltered at her words, and he clenched his fists as she bushed past him. "Where the hell are you going?" he asked as he swivelled around. "Hey! Don't bloody ignore me!"

"I'm going to help those people-

"How long will you be?"

"I don't know, Draco!" she shouted over her shoulder. "As long as it takes!"

He opened his mouth to retort, but the shrill slam of the door cut him off, and a husky growl vibrated behind his teeth. Agitated pants steamed past his lips as he cradled his head in his hands, and his fingernails stabbed his scalp. Merlin knew why, but his feet carried him to the bathroom, and he hunched over the basin; spitting out the bile that had gathered in his mouth.

You are going to have to make some decisions…

His chest heaved as his lover's words rattled around in his skull, pulsing against his temple and making him feel light-headed. The angry heat paced through his veins and throbbed underneath his skin, and he ripped his top over his head, ignoring the sense of déjà vu as his hands clutched the sink. His knuckles paled as sweat broke out on his forehead, sliding down his face and raining against the porcelain.

Maybe there were tears mixed with them. Maybe not.

You need to start thinking for yourself…

He lidded his eyes and clenched them tight, biting his tongue and eyeing the pinkish ribbon of salvia slithering towards the plughole. Flicking on the cold tap, he splashed his face with water and warily raised his tumultuous glare to his reflection. The person staring back made his anger rise.

I would have you fight for what you believe in!

Draco flinched. Why couldn't she understand that he didn't know what to believe in? Why couldn't she grasp that everything in his world had been flipped around and left in a mess that he couldn't decipher? Why the fuck couldn't she realise that he just wanted to disappear in her kiss and abandon the world beyond these walls?

You can stand there and claim I've brainwashed you all you like, but you know that you came to your own conclusions…

"Shut up," he grunted under his breath.

He studied his pseudo-self in the mirror and found Hermione everywhere. The whispers of her kisses staining his lips, her midnight murmurs still tickling his ears, the remains of her fingerprints against his chest; it was all there. She had melted into him. Inside and outside. Physically and mentally.

I know you don't think the way you used to anymore…

"Shut up," he bit out, louder this time.

He hunted his reflection for a shred of evidence that he wasn't the cold bastard he'd been, but he looked the same. The same, but so different that it haunted him. A stranger with his face. His thoughts shifted back to Hermione, and how affected he'd been when he'd seen her covered in blood. It had shaken his soul. He didn't want to see her hurt…Didn't want anything to do with her being hurt. Maybe that was the answer? Maybe that was his decision?

You are not who you were!

Then who was he?

"SHUT UP!" he screamed, hurling his fist into the mirror and instantly feeling the tension leave his muscles as his reflection shattered. That was better. It was distorted now; fractured and broken, and he absently flicked away the glass in his hand as the warm blood trickled down his fingers.

If Voldemort agreed to take you back as a Death Eater, would you?

"No," he confessed to the tiles. No hesitation this time. "No."

And there was his answer.

Dropping his head with surrender, he collapsed to the floor in a heavy heap and stayed completely still as the minutes drifted by without meaning or reason. So lost was he in his trance, that he didn't hear the sound of his lover returning when the time had slowly seeped into the early hours of tomorrow, nor did he notice her entering the bathroom and gently purring his name.

Only when she crouched in front him and slipped her hand into his did he recognise her presence, and he desperately reached for her and pulled her as close as he could. She was coated in dry blood and smelled of hard work and death, but he didn't care. He pressed his face into hers and relished the taste of her breath ghosting across his chapped lips. Her thumbs stroked away the damp tracks on his cheeks, and she freckled his jaw with demi-kisses as his fingers dug into her sides, refusing to her go.

"I'm sorry," he heard her mumble. "I know this isn't easy for you, but you need to decide what you're going to do, Draco. We can't…we can't do this if we are going to fight each other."

He watched her beneath his lashes and felt the comforting warmth in his chest swell.

"I don't want to fight you," she continued, gulping back a sob. "I just want us to be…okay. I want us to be more than distant memory trapped in these walls. I want you."

His grip on her tightened, and he licked his rough lips and swallowed away the dry scratch in his throat.

"I will not fight for your side, Granger," he mumbled carefully, feeling her stiffen in his hold. "But I will not fight against it either."

She shifted in his arms to gaze at him with wide and curious eyes, and he leaned in to plant a fate-sealing kiss against her mouth.

"I will not fight in a War when I don't know what to believe," he explained in an exhausted tone. "But I won't support Voldemort. I swear to you that."

Chewing her lower lip and nodding with understanding, she rested her head against his collarbone and sighed with relief.

"I think that's good enough for me."

Hermione nestled into his strong frame as a foreboding rumble of thunder echoed outside, closely followed by the hard thuds of heavy rain. Knowing the storm would wash away the beautiful snow, she searched for Draco's hand again, and tangled their fingers.

If the storm was here, she wanted to hold his hand.

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