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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20. Tears

Hermione read the damning paragraphs again, blinking away the tears that blurred the words and burned her eyes. She focussed on one of the photographs, recognising the Finch-Fletchleys, Justin's parents, from when she'd seen them at King's Cross a few years ago.

She lifted her chin and gave McGonagall a pleading look. "Is Justin-

"He's alive," the Headmistress explained quickly. "He was visiting his Grandparents when it happened."

"Poor Justin," she whispered sadly, swallowing back a sob. "He must b-be devastated."

Her misty eyes moved to the other three photographs; each featuring a married Muggle couple with beaming smiles to serve as a reminder of how they once were. The eight adults had been murdered in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, all showing signs of torture before the Killing Curse had been used to silence their screams. She wasn't familiar with the names, but she knew their stories well.

"They're all parents of Muggle-borns, aren't they?" she questioned sadly, already knowing the answer.

"Yes," McGonagall nodded, and Hermione could never recall seeing the other witch so shaken. "The Creevey residence was also broken into, but they were fortunately out of the country."

Hermione's eyes fell to the final two pictures; two boys, no older than fifteen, who had attended the wizarding school, Bryn Glas, in Wales. A tear slipped down her cheek as she studied their youthful faces and felt the sorrow overpower her chest. Tortured and killed, just like their parents.

"They're so young," she mumbled. "Too young."

"I know," McGonagall sighed, placing a comforting hand on her student's back. "The Death Eaters are becoming more active-

"Then we should be more active," Hermione forced determination into her voice. "We should be making plans-

"There is only one plan I wish to discuss with you at the moment," she interrupted, somewhat uncomfortably. "The plan that you mentioned to me when you first came back to Hogwarts-

"You mean Obliviate-ing my parents and making them leave the country," she clarified with a deceptively even tone, brushing aside her tears with a trembling hand. "Yes, I remember."

McGonagall grimaced. "Hermione-

"They always wanted to go to Australia," she commented distantly. "I think they would be safe there."

"I know this isn't easy on you," the older witch frowned. "But I fear that things are getting worse-

"I'd hoped it wouldn't come to this," Hermione confessed dejectedly, surrendering to the batch of tears sliding past her lids. "I mean…I know that it is the most sensible and safest option for everyone, but…it…it's just hard-

"I know it is," the Headmistress said gently, giving Hermione's shoulder a sympathetic squeeze as she pulled her into a hug. "Perhaps it would be best if I did it-

"No," she argued firmly. "No, I should be the one to do it. They're my parents." She hesitated and nibbled her lip. "My Mum and Dad."

"Then I will do everything I can to help," McGonagall promised, releasing the younger witch and giving her apologetic look. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but it would be wise to do this as soon as possible."

Hermione gulped back the lump in her throat and forced some stability into her posture. "How soon?"

"Tomorrow," she said in a strained voice. "Early in the morning; before the sun rises. I thought about going tonight, but I think it's best you have a bit of time to prepare the Charm…and yourself. Are you certain are skilled enough with the Memory Charms?"

"Yes," she nodded absently. "I'll convince them to move to Australia, give them fake names and…and make them forget me. I can do that. I can."

"Hermione, you know you can't tell anyone where exactly you plan to send them, unless it is absolutely necessary."

"I know."

"Hermione," the Headmistress breathed wearily, meeting the younger witch's eyes. "If there was any other option to guarantee their safety and yours-

"But there isn't," she finished. "It's okay, professor. I knew what the risks were when I mentioned the idea to you. I know what I'm doing."

McGonagall bowed her head in acceptance. "Very well," she said. "If you come here just before six, it should still be dark enough to go unnoticed. I will Apparate us-

"That's fine," Hermione mumbled, unsure what else she could say. "I should go-

"Would you like to stay for a bit?" the aging witch offered, with concern dripping from her voice. "Perhaps some tea and biscuits would-

"Help?" she supplied doubtfully. "I don't think so, Professor."

"Well, then perhaps you'd like a bite to eat-

"No, it's fine," the young brunette declined as she hastily turned to leave, feeling suddenly claustrophobic in the Head's office. "I should get an early night and look over my books on Memory Charms-

"Hermione," McGonagall called before she could reach the door. "It will be alright."

She flinched at her professor's assuring words and wondered why people were always so quick to offer flimsy promises in times of war. She was too much of a logical person to remain optimistic in this case, and she knew the likelihood that the Memory Charms could be reversed was fifty-fifty, and that wasn't even considering whether they would win the war, or if she would be able to find them.

The fact was; if she died in this war, her parents would neither know nor care, because they wouldn't know who she was.

"I'll see you in the morning, Professor," she murmured. "Goodnight."

Hermione rushed out of the room before McGonagall could futilely attempt to console her again, and her shaky legs moved into a desperate sprint to get back to her dorm. She dashed down the empty and shadow-silent corridors; hot tears spilling from her eyes as she whipped around the corners and stuttered out her password. Shutting the door behind her, she gave the space a quick scan to ensure Draco was still in his bedroom, before she leaned back and willed herself to find some composure.

She rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands and dug her fingernails into her scalp as she forced herself not to cry. She was so angry at herself; this had been all her idea, and she should have been more emotionally prepared, but the dread was laced around every one of her tense muscles, and the sorrow was wrapped painfully around her heart.

Everyone she loved was slowly disappearing; Harry and Ron, and now her parents. Who was next?

"Granger?" his voice startled her. "What the hell are you doing?"

She quickly straightened her back and attempted to discreetly rub away the damp tracks on her cheeks before her blood-shot gaze sought him. He was just outside his bedroom, studying her with curious eyes that made her feel far too vulnerable and completely revealed for him to read.

"Nothing," she mumbled, clearing her throat when it sounded too scratchy. "Nothing-

"Doesn't look like nothing," Draco commented dryly, frowning when he noticed the glittering remains of tears locked between her lashes. "Have you been crying?"

"No," she said quickly. Too quickly. She lowered her head and made for her room. "I have some things I need to do-

"Hold on," he argued, moving into her path. "You're hiding something-

"Move out of my way-

"No," he refused sternly. "Don't lie to me-

"Draco, I swear," she warned, but her voice cracked. "If you don't move-

"Just tell me what's wrong," he persisted, grabbing her wrist and trying to see her face. "Has someone hurt you?"

"No, Draco," she shook her head fiercely, trying pull away. "Just get off me-

"Not until you tell me what's wrong-

"LET GO OF ME!" Hermione screamed, snatching back her hand with a surge of anger. "WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN TO ME?"

"What the FUCK is your problem?" he spat furiously. "I only asked-

"Well, don't!" she retorted, slipping around him and scrambling for her room. "I just want to be left alone-

"FINE!" Draco yelled at her back, his barks fuelled by his sense of rejection. "IF YOU WANT TO BE ALONE, YOU CAN FUCKING BE ALONE!"

Hermione slammed the bedroom door behind her to cut his shouts short, and muttered a quick Silencing Charm to ensure she couldn't hear him, and he couldn't hear her. If she was going to succumb to another round of sobs, she didn't want him to know about it. She couldn't deal with Draco right now; she needed all of her attention on her parents, and she refused to let him muddle her tempestuous thoughts when her Mum and Dad required every morsel of her racing mind.

Priorities. Priorities. Priorities.

She drew in a shuddering breath to ease her shaking limbs before she grabbed her book on Memory Spells and hunched over her desk. She'd read the text countless times and the sentences were so familiar, but for the next six hours she concentrated on engraving them into her skull and practicing the angles of her wand. Hermione did everything she could to remain composed and focussed, but every now and then, a tell-tale tear would kiss a page and betray her torment.

When her lids began to flutter around midnight, she decided that it was wise to at least try and steal a few hours' sleep if she wanted to be alert and capable for the heart-numbing task in the morning. Her movements were sluggish as she undressed and crawled under her covers, mentally reciting the passages from the book and trying to ignore the fact that her parents would forget her before breakfast.

Her mind slipped to the argument with Draco, almost accidentally, and she wished that she'd handled it differently.

She could have done with his arms around her tonight.

.

.

Draco drummed his agitated fingernails against the desk.

After Granger had left him in a frustrated state, he had stomped pointlessly around the dorm in an effort to blow off some steam, but he had found himself screaming at her locked door no less than five times without a response. He didn't know what annoyed him more; how she had behaved, or the fact that he had no idea why she'd screamed at him to leave her alone, before she'd isolated herself in her room.

He hated not having his wand.

Just a quick spell and he could have barged in there to demand what had affected her so much, and he would be lying to himself if he didn't realise there was a certain degree of protectiveness that needed to know the reason for her tears. The concept of someone hurting her, be it physically or emotionally, made his head throb and his blood curdle. He had no idea when this new and intense regard for her welfare had settled into his system, mingling with all the other notions that shouldn't have been there, but it was driving him insane.

He just wanted to know what, or who, had upset her; needed to know.

His storm-grey eyes studied his empty bed bitterly.

He'd spent less and less nights in his room, and when he did it was a voluntary decision on the days when he remembered that he shouldn't be interested in his Muggle-born lover. Those protests in his head and pride had been getting quieter recently, and the thought of sleeping alone in here made him feel cold and uneasy.

He rested his brow against his knuckles and released a heavy breath.

He had a feeling the nightmares would return to haunt him tonight.

.

.

The morning sky was that dark shade of winter-indigo when McGonagall Apparated them to her street. Hermione could hear the distant hum of the Milkman's van, but that was the only sign that life was beginning to stir, and the pavements were completely empty except for a light frosting of snow and a couple of wandering cats. She eyed her house and frowned at the dim light coming from the living room; she knew her parents were early risers, but she had hoped she could do it while they were sleeping.

"Are you certain you don't want me to do this for you?" the Headmistress questioned next to her.

"I'm sure," she nodded tiredly.

McGonagall sighed and gave Hermione's shoulder a reassuring pat. "Very well," she said. "I will be waiting here for you when you're finished. If you need any help or you change your mind-

"I'll be fine," Hermione replied stiffly, taking a few steps forward. "I won't be long."

She inhaled a lungful of the crisp air, before she Apparated into her bedroom with a loud snap. Everything was as she'd left it; her bed made and her shelves bare, save the few trinkets she hadn't taken to Hogwarts. She licked her lips and studied the fragile posters that had been stuck to her walls since she was thirteen, and the stubborn stain on her carpet from when she had dropped her orange juice after discovering she was a witch. The room was rich with memories and the murmurs of her past, but the painful swell of emotion in her chest was interrupted by something nuzzling up against her calves.

"Crooks," she whispered affectionately, kneeling down to gather her beloved pet in her arms. "I missed you, boy." Her rusty-coloured cat rubbed his face against her cheek and purred appreciatively as she held him close.

"You're going to live with me again," she told him quietly, frowning when she heard the movements of her parents downstairs. "But I need to do something first, so you have to be a good boy and stay quiet for me, okay? Can you wait by the front door for me, Crooks?"

Releasing Crookshanks, Hermione watched him skip away from her before she gave her room another thoughtful scan and resigned herself to the task at hand. She cast a quick charm to silence her footsteps and slowly made her way down the stairs; absently running her fingers across the family portraits that were hung in the hallways.

The familiar sound of the television floated towards her, and she turned into her sitting room to find her parents sat on the couch, their backs to her as they sipped their morning teas and watched the news. The smell of burned toast filled her nostrils, reminding her of how endearingly clumsy her Dad could be, and how her Mum would eat it anyway because she loved him too much to complain.

Hermione hesitated in the doorway as the agony threatened to overwhelm her, but she shoved it aside, knowing her mind needed to be clear in order to do this. She wanted to do it now, before they realised she was there and she had to deal with the heartbreak of meeting their confused eyes. Catching a whimper in her windpipe, she raised her wand with a trembling hand and mentally prepared herself for the magic she was about to perform.

"I love you both so much," she breathed, but her voice was drowned out by the television. A lone tear crawled down her cheek as she sealed her eyes and concentrated on the spell with everything she had. "Obliviate."

She reluctantly peeled back her lids to watch her faces disappear from the photographs, and she would swear to Godric she could feel herself being erased from her parents' minds. Knowing she barely had minutes before their brains caught up with all the new and false information, she took a step towards them and kept her arms rigid at her sides. The temptation to reach out and just give them a parting hug was devastating, and it took every sliver of her control to refrain.

Instead, she lifted her fingers to her lips and blew them a kiss. "I promise I will find you when this is over," she exhaled behind them, before she bowed her head and turned to leave.

That was it.

No family. No Harry and Ron. War.

She stole a second to mourn her childhood and the family who didn't know she existed.

Crookshanks was waiting loyally by the door, his head tilted to the side with something that resembled worry. Scooping him back into her hold, she clung to him for dear life as she gave her home a final grieving glance, before she left it behind. Her lungs ached with suppressed sobs as she spotted McGonagall, and she straightened her back in an effort to look strong.

"That didn't take long," the professor commented, extending her arm to give the cat a quick pat. "How did it go?"

"Fine," Hermione answered vaguely. "It went as expected."

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm fine," she lied, lifting her chin to enhance her façade. "We should go back before someone sees us."

.

.

Hermione made her excuses and rushed to her room, desperately desiring solitude and an escape from the sympathetic gaze that McGonagall had fixed her with since she had altered her parents' memories. She'd intended to lock herself away in her room and scream until she felt normal, but her legs crumbled beneath her the moment she entered her dorm.

Crookshanks tumbled out of her hold as she sank to the floor, and she just didn't have it in her to even try and get up. She embraced her legs against her chest and dropped her forehead against her knees as she surrendered to the inevitable, and allowed the broken cries to tear through her throat. Her faithful pet nudged at her with mews of concern for his distressed owner, but she didn't notice; she simply wept into her jeans and pleaded for the crippling pain in her chest to ebb.

That was how Draco found her; a fractured and shuddering mess that made him freeze. His shrinking prejudices battled with his new-found feelings for her, but when she released another cracked cry, his feet lead him to her side too quickly to comprehend or dispute. He crouched next to her and warily studied his witch, hunting for any hint for her misery, but the only thing that seemed out of place was the distressed cat pawing at her feet.

"Are you hurt?" he mumbled doubtfully, but she didn't give any indication that she was aware of his presence. "Granger, what's wrong?"

Nothing. Not a flinch.

He gathered every shred of patience he had and stroked aside some of her chaotic curls so he could see her face. Something about the tortured expression marring her features made his gut spasm, and it affected him in a way that was completely foreign to him.

"Granger," Draco tried again. "What is it?"

Still nothing.

Exhaling with frustration, his fingers subconsciously rubbed the nape of her neck in soothing circles. "Hermione," he sighed. "Tell me what you want me to do."

Finally, he saw something; just a subtle flicker in her broken-hearted gaze that let him know she'd heard him. He found himself holding his breath as she turned her head a little to acknowledge him and struggled to calm her erratic whimpers.

"My…my room," she managed in a small voice.

"Alright," Draco muttered, gently taking her arm and tossing it across his shoulders before he rested one hand against her back, and the other under her knees. He got to his feet and lifted her with him, holding her tight as he headed for her door. Every one of her shivers and moans vibrated against his chest as he carried her into the bedroom and placed her on the bed, seating himself on the edge as she curled up on her side with her back to him.

"I…I want to b-be alone," she stuttered as Crookshanks hopped up on the bed and settled at the foot.

Draco pursed his lips. "Granger, I don't think-

"Please, Draco," she groaned.

The raw desperation in her voice made him cringe, and he released a haggard breath of assent before he eased himself off her bed and made to leave. He lingered in the doorframe for a moment, and glanced over his shoulder at the withering witch, realising with a sense of dread that he'd never been so…aware of another person. Salazar, strike him down, but he couldn't help it.

With a weary shake of his head, he shut her door behind him, and frowned as her sobs leaked from her room, and followed him around for the remainder of the day.

.

.

It was broaching three in the morning when Draco decided he'd had enough. After a day of dragging and testing hours, he had considered every possible explanation for her grief until his head had hurt and his tolerance had simmered.

He knew he needed to be tactical and delicate with his approach if he wanted to discover the reason for Granger's behaviour, and in an odd moment of consideration, he made her a cup of tea. It took a few attempts before he was satisfied, and with the steaming mug in his hand, he pushed open her door, and an unsettling sensation scratched down his spine when he saw her on the bed.

Hermione had pulled her body up into a sitting position and cocooned herself in one of her thick blankets. Her lips were trembling and bruised, no doubt from her incessant chewing habit when she was anxious, and her posture was slumped with defeat, but it was the look in her eyes that made Draco's questionable soul falter. Her cries had stopped but her cheeks were glossed with hours-old tears, and the look in her distant gaze was haunting; beautifully broken and reminiscent of a corpse's empty stare. Steeling himself, he neared her with purpose, placing her tea on the bedside table and sinking into the mattress opposite her, but she looked right through him.

"Come on, Granger," he started, his tone more clipped than he'd intended. "Snap out of it. You have more strength than this."

Hermione didn't blink.

"What's happened?" he tried a different approach. "Is it…Is it Potter and Weasley?"

Simply silence, and that same glassy gaze of nothing.

"Fucking hell, Hermione," he hissed, grabbing her face and forcing her to look at him. "Stop this. Tell me what the hell has happened."

Her lids fell shut and Draco clenched his jaw with growing agitation. Touching their foreheads together, his thumbs soothed away the damp evidence of her mourning hours, and he allowed the pride-killing truth to stumble out of his mouth.

"Come back to me, Granger," he bade in a barely-there voice. "I…," Salazar, forgive me. "I need you."

A drugging rush of relief swept through him when she snapped open her eyes and looked at him; not through him. Her tear-heavy lashes fluttered as she licked her lips, and he didn't dare speak for fear that she would return to her catatonic state.

"My Mum and Dad don't know who I am," she murmured finally, and his brow creased with confusion. "Muggles were…were being murdered, and I had to make sure they'd be safe…

Draco didn't say a word, because he had no idea what he could possibly say. He had questions, but his instincts warned him to wait until she had crested some peace of mind before he had any hope of dragging the specifics out of her. He shifted awkwardly on the bed; comforting people was hardly his forte at the best of times, and he reasoned that perhaps his actions would do more to alleviate her pain than his uncertain words.

Pressing his face a little harder into hers so their noses touched, he tugged her into his lap, perhaps a little too roughly, and tangled his limbs around her. His witch clutched at his arms and chest, like she was trying to melt into him or share his warmth. Leaning forward, Draco plucked the cup of tea from the table and shoved it into her hand.

"Drink this," he told her. "You haven't had anything today." He watched her intently as she brought the drink to her lips to take tentative sip, and she hummed in thought before giving him a confused look. "What?" he questioned.

"You make nice tea," Hermione mumbled thoughtfully, and she felt his scoff of irony-laced amusement ruffle her hair.

"I'll take you're word for it," he said, loosening his arms around her. "Granger, I-

"Do you know what the worst thing is?" she interrupted him, her voice a mixture of distress and resentment now. "I never…I never thought it was in me to truly hate someone; I mean really hate someone…to the point that I wish they were dead."

Draco cringed at her cracked tone but decided it was best to let her speak and empty her burdened mind. His fingers toyed with the tips cocoa-tinted curls as he listened to her empty her soul for him with a sobering level of trust.

"V-Voldemort has ripped apart so many lives and childhoods," she continued, lifting her chin and meeting his eyes. "Harry's, Neville's," she listed, reaching for his hand and grasping it tight. "Even yours."

Draco exhaled and eyed their entwined fingers with an odd sensation tickling his stomach. "Granger-

"I hate him," she spat angrily, as fresh tears fell from her hazels. "I really hate him-

"Granger, breathe," he instructed steadily, a little relieved to hear the fire back in her voice. "Drink some more tea-

"Thank you," she blurted suddenly, and Draco's head jerked up in surprise. "For listening to me. I…I feel a little better."

He gave her an uncomfortable nod and frowned as he watched a betraying tear splash against his knuckles. Listening to the synchronised thuds of their hearts, he tilted his head to catch her lips with a brief but reassuring kiss. Evidently, her melancholy was far from over, but he knew she would chase it away in her own time, because she was too strong to be lost in a lamenting limbo.

"What do you want to do now?" he asked quietly.

"I'm tired," Hermione confessed, fidgeting in his arms and giving him that look when she was about to ask something she knew he wouldn't like. "Will you stay with me until I fall asleep?"

He hesitated but slowly bowed his head with compliance before carefully manoeuvring them under the covers, and allowing his lover to bury her face into his chest and sniff away some stubborn tears into his jumper. As he tossed a lazy arm across her waist, he realised they'd never done this before; simply slept together without the exhaustion of post-coital bliss lingering between them.

If anyone ever asked him in the future, he would say that this was the point when he acknowledged that his feelings for Granger had reached a potent, and ultimately dangerous, level. So strong had they become, that he could honestly say they had blinded him to her impure blood.

He really didn't care anymore.

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