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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35. Water

Draco flicked his wand to ignite the candles and the bundle of logs in the fireplace until the kitchen was illuminated with the amber of the flames. He tucked his wand back into his pocket, careful to keep the base just above the seam in case the occasion called for a spell or two, and then shifted his attention back to Weasley. His long-time rival looked like shit, and that was being generous.

Weasley seemed almost distorted; deathly pale with blood-red cracks in the whites of his eyes, and more haggard than usual, even by the infamous Weasley standards. His eyes were alive though, staring somewhere past Draco's head while his nostrils flared and his knuckles turned white. There was something else too; something that was a little off. Draco couldn't decide if it was in his posture or in his expression, but Weasley looked slightly unhinged and precarious.

"Leave," he spat suddenly. "Just go, and leave us alone."

Draco couldn't help but scoff. "Why would I do that? This is my cousin's house and she invited me-

"You didn't even think of Tonks as your cousin until it bloody suited you!"

"That's irrelevant," he retorted, deciding it was time to broach the inevitable and watch Weasley squirm. "Besides, I think Granger wants me here."

Draco saw an instant change in Weasley's stance at the mention of Hermione; the muscles in his face tightened, his breathing elevated, and something dark flashed in his eyes. It was so amusing to watch, to see him struggle with his words and fidget with agitation. Granger or no Granger, watching a weasel in distress would forever leave an appeasing sense of satisfaction in the well of his Slytherin gut.

"Come on, Weasley," said Draco provokingly. "Let's hear your shite insults and comebacks, or if you want to have a little cry, I'll happily observe-

"YOU DON'T DESERVE HER!" he blurted furiously, slamming his balled fist down on the table. "YOU DON'T! YOU DON'T BLOODY DESERVE HER!"

Draco didn't flinch despite the element of truth he found in that comment. "Neither do you."

"I deserve her more than you!" shouted Ron. "If you actually cared about her, you would let her be with someone else! Someone who actually gives a damn about her-

"Oh please, Weasley," he rolled his eyes. "If you think I'm going to be some wet Hufflepuff and give her up because of some pathetic moral bullshit, then you may have just beaten Longbottom in the dumb fuck race-

"You know she shouldn't be with you!" Ron accused. "You must've…I don't know, you must've tricked her-

"For fuck's sake, Weasley, if you had a brain you'd be dangerous. Granger's a big girl, and she can make her own decisions," he said, pausing to smirk. "And she decided she wanted me. Not you."

Ron sucked in a harsh breath through his bared teeth. "I was her first!" he yelled. "We are more than you think! We-

"I know. She told me," Draco replied calmly, smothering the stab of jealousy and relishing the shock on Weasley's face. "Although the fact that it was you makes the prospect questionable. You can barely use your wand, so I doubt you can even locate your dick."

Rage ignited Ron's cheeks with a red-hot flush, and he flipped the table on its side, removing that physical barrier between them and then stalking close enough to Draco that he could feel his incensed panting against his face. Draco straightened his back and lifted his chin to give himself more height, lowering his hand until his fingers grazed his wand. Just in case.

"You are sick," seethed Ron. "The things you have done-

"Take a fucking step back, Weasel," he interrupted, his tone low and menacing. "Now."

"This is all just some twisted scheme of yours to hurt us-

"Yes, that's it," Draco sorted sarcastically. "Being a twat to Granger for six years was actually a secret ploy to get her into bed just to piss off you and Potter. Congratulations, Weasley, you just won the dumb fuck cup-

"STOP IT!" Ron barked, getting right in Draco's face. "STOP IT NOW-

"I won't tell you again, Weasley, step back!"

"SHE'S WRONG ABOUT YOU! YOU HAVN'T CHANGED AT ALL-

"Don't you fucking dare," warned Draco with a cold hiss. "Don't pretend you know a SODDING thing about me-

"YOU ARE USING HER!" Ron roared. "AND IT'S ALL JUST A BLOODY JOKE TO YOU!"

Draco snarled loudly, unexpectedly riled by Weasley's accusation, and feeling rather suffocated by their proximity. "GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FA-

"AND I WON'T LET YOU HURT HER! I WOULD DIE FOR HERMIONE-

"SO WOULD I!"

Draco meant it, but even he was a little shocked at how easily the words had exploded past his lips, but the stunned look on Weasley's face was worth it. It was like the retort had physically clouted him with a crisp upper-cut to the chin, and he took a clumsy step backwards and almost tripped over the leg of the overturned table. Draco squared his shoulders as he watched Weasley apparently compose himself, and the clack of his tongue hitting the roof of his mouth seemed to kick Weasley back into the present.

"You're not capable of that," he said quietly, flicking his furious glare back to Malfoy. "You're not capable of being that selfless-

"Don't," Draco growled again. "The biggest mistake you will ever make is underestimating me, Weasley. Especially when it comes to Granger."

Ron scoffed. "So you think it's that easy? That you are one of us now?"

"I don't want anything to do with you-

"Well, that's tough shit! Hermione is something to do with me, and you don't know her if you think she will just toss me and Harry to the side for you-

"I wasn't finished," he scowled. "I can't stand you and Potter, but I know she would never discard you pair, no matter how much I detest you. There's nothing I can do about that-

"You're bloody right there isn't-

"Do you honestly think I haven't thought this through, Weasley?" he snapped, and he could feel a rant building in his mouth. The words were spewing out of him, but he didn't stop. "I know that you, Potter and Granger are practically joined at the hip, and I knew it when I somehow ended up here, in a safehouse for the defected, and I fucking knew it when I decided to put Granger before my family! If you think you and Potter are going to stop us, then you are fucking wrong! You might be an obstacle, but you are a small one in comparison to other shit Granger and I have dealt with."

Ron drew in a long breath and sucked in his cheeks. "And her blood status?"

Draco narrowed his eyes into serpentine slits. "Is evidently irrelevant to me-

"It didn't use to be!" yelled Ron.

"Fucking hell, Weasley, do I have to spell it out for you? Are you really that thick?" he spat coldly. "Granger. Is. Mine. Get used to it. The same way I'll learn to get used to your sodding presence-

"I will never accept you as one of us!" Ron interrupted indignantly, but Draco could hear the edge of defeat in his tone. "It won't last! You…you will screw up-

"Whatever helps you sleep at night," he shrugged. "Do you honestly think I would be here, probably disowned by my family and spending my time with you wankers, if it was all just for a laugh?" He took a step towards Ron and cocked his head so he could glare down at him. "And if you try to get in my way, you will see what I am fucking capable of."

With that, he gave Weasley a hard shove and stalked towards the door.

"Where the hell are you going?" Ron shouted after him.

"I'm bored of you," he replied over his shoulder. "And your face is starting offend my eyes-

"We are not finished!"

"I'm sure we're not, but you're pathetic tonight, even by your normal standards. It's too easy, and quite frankly, embarrassing to watch you stutter-

"I'M NOT-

"So why don't you go to bed, weep into your pillow, and memorise a few insults that I can laugh at next time-

"Malfoy-

"And besides," Draco went on, pausing at the door to fire a condescending smirk in Weasley's direction. "Granger's waiting for me in bed."

Every muscle in Ron's body went taut, and his features creased up with outrage. "You fucking-

"Goodnight, Weasel," he drawled seamlessly as he left the room, slamming the door behind him before another slur could be exchanged, but he almost collided with the person loitering in the corridor. "What the hell do you want?"

"I was just standing by in case someone needed to intervene," said Blaise. "You woke me up."

"Were you expecting an apology?"

"Hardly," he snorted, as they both began to ascend the stairs. "But perhaps some gratitude for placing silencing spells on the bedrooms."

Draco cocked his head. "Why didn't you just cast one on the kitchen?"

"And miss the entertainment? Not likely. Speaking of which, that comment about his dick was inspired, but I am rather surprised."

"What about?"

"I expected a far more…aggressive confrontation between you and Weasley."

"It seemed pointless when he could barely keep up with a verbal fight," replied Draco flippantly. "Don't get me wrong, I'm sure my fist and Weasley's face will meet again within the next few days, but there was no need for it tonight."

"Well then, I recommend that you cast a few silencing spells before your next argument, or you'll have Tonks battering your eardrums."

"Noted," he nodded stiffly, pausing his steps outside the bedroom door. "Anything else?"

Blaise exhaled. "You know, I am on your side, Malfoy."

"Are you?"

"Yes."

"Well," said Draco, skimming his tongue across his teeth. "When you figure out what side we are actually on, let me know."

Blaise looked like he might respond, but he simply gave Draco a parting dip of his head and walked away. "You'll figure it out, Malfoy. Goodnight."

Draco glowered at the back of Blaise's head for a moment before he slipped inside the bedroom, keeping his movements light to avoid waking Granger. Easing himself back into bed, she instantly angled her body towards him, like she was restless to share his warmth, and her lashes quivered between sleepy blinks.

"Where've you been?" she asked, her voice soft and muffled.

He draped an arm around her shoulders as she buried her face into the crook of his neck, her drowsy breaths tickling his collarbone, and her palm resting over his heart.

"I'll tell you in the morning."

.

.

When Draco roused, he was momentarily blinded by a shaft of sunlight piercing the room through the window, and he buried his face into the pillow with a groggy groan. But when he realised he was alone amongst the bed sheets, he sat up a little too quickly for his morning brain to handle, and it took a few seconds for the bout dizziness to clear. With a steady head and adjusting eyes, he found Granger easily in their small room, but he frowned at what he saw.

She was on her feet with her back to him, her hands braced against a chest of drawers, apparently for stability, and her legs wobbling. He scooted down the bed until he could see the side of her face, and her features were fixed with concentration, her brow furrowed and her lips pursed.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Her body jerked with shock to the sound of his voice, almost costing her balance. "Bloody hell, Draco," she breathed. "You made me jump-

"I asked what you were doing," he said, leaving the bed. "You shouldn't-

"No, no, no, just give me a minute!" she said sharply. "I took the potion this morning, and my legs felt…I think I might be able to-

"Granger-

"Look!" she exclaimed proudly, carefully removing her hands from the dresser. "Look, see! I can stand!"

Her legs trembled and her posture rocked in the effort to keep her upright, but the delighted smile pulling at her mouth prevented him from immediately gripping her elbows and offering support.

"So you can stand in one spot," he remarked drolly. "That's handy."

"It's progress," she frowned, but then she lost her footing and toppled into his ready arms. "Bugger."

"Tonks said you need to take it slow-

"You distracted me," she accused. "I could've-

He hushed her with a firm press of his lips against hers, swallowing her protest down and down and down until she kissed him back. She latched her arms around his neck and he belted his around her waist, collecting her tightly against his chest and lifting her off the floor with ease. Settling her on the dresser, he caught her bottom lip between his teeth, and sunk his hips into the gap between her thighs. Her fingers were in his hair and brushing his ears, completely absorbed by him, with sweet, quiet sighs leaving her lungs between the tugs and sucks of his mouth. But then Draco broke the bliss, trailing a couple nips along her jaw before he pulled back to admire her flushed cheeks and the slow heaves of her chest.

"What was that for?" she asked quietly. Breathlessly.

"Partly to shut you up," he said with a cocky grin. "And the other reasons should be quite obvious."

Hermione hummed with thought. "I need a shower."

"A shower?" he repeated. "Surely a bath-

"Would be easier, yes. But I want to use my legs as much as possible, and I can stand up now."

"Granger, you barely managed ten seconds on your feet-

"Which is why you're going to be in the shower with me."

Draco's eyebrows shot up high on his forehead. He had memorised her body meticulously in his head, sometime during the last few days of their stay in Hogwarts; every freckle, every scar, and every feminine sway of her silhouette. He'd learned her so he could close his eyes and map her out on the backs of his lids, but despite that, he knew she was self-conscious about being completely bare in front of him. She had always gathered a sheet around her in the mornings or twisted herself away from the light, and even now he could see the bashful uncertainty in her eyes.

"Don't look at me like that," she said. "You have…you have seen me naked plenty of times. There's no logical reason why I should have an issue with it."

It really did sound like she was tying to convince herself rather than him. "Well, I believe that nudity was the one topic you failed to be logical about, but I'm not complaining about you changing your mind-

"You do know I only mean a shower?" she cut him off quickly. "I mean I…I can barely feel anything below my waist, and I want to…well, I want to-

"Be able to feel me," he finished for her, dipping his head until his fringe tangled with hers.

Hermione nodded nervously. "Well…yes. It's not like I don't want to…you know, but my legs…and I-

"Granger, it's fine," he said, with a hint of amusement in his tone. "I get it. Just a shower. You do realise I never even mentioned shagging you-

"It's called sex, Draco-

"Semantics," he smirked, pecking the corner of her half-smile. "I assume you're going to insist on walking, and say no to me carrying you?"

"Of course."

"Very well," he frowned, tugging her forward as she moved her grip to his forearms. "You ready?"

With a slight incline of her head, she rested her weight against him, and Draco slowly guided them across the room with patience he wouldn't have been capable of a few months ago. Hermione's steps were inevitably clumsy as they shuffled across the floor with knocking ankles, and Draco hesitated when he opened the door, checking the hallway was quiet and empty. His actions were a bit hastier but still mindful as they crossed the corridor to the bathroom, keen to lock them inside before anyone could amble by and catch them. Once inside, Hermione released a brief and delicate laugh, and Draco studied her curiously.

"What's so funny?"

"I don't know, it just reminded me of Christmas," she mumbled warmly. "Sneaking around, and then you helping me keep my balance on the ice." She paused and her smile stretched a little. "I love that memory."

Draco didn't respond, preferring instead to watch the emotions play with her features. When the wistful daze left her eyes, he helped her perch on the toilet seat and began to undress, tugging down his boxer-shorts and removing his vest without a tinge of reserve, despite being very aware that Hermione's stare was roaming across every inch of him.

"You're exactly how I remember you," she whispered faintly, reaching out to graze her fingers over his stomach. Her hand must've been cold. She felt his sudden breath, and the dents of the muscles in his abdomen became more pronounced beneath her fingertips. "Exactly how I remember."

His hand rested over hers for a moment and then slid down her arm to clutch her elbow, and when she lifted her eyes to his face, she thought his expression was set somewhere between strained and pensive. He pulled her up to stand and she felt the air rush out of her, momentarily mesmerized by the beauty of Draco stripped bare and close enough that she could feel his body heat through the flimsy fabric of her t-shirt. She rested her hands against his chest and splayed her fingers wide, her thumb stroking across the risen line of his Sectumsempra scar.

"Granger," said Draco, breaking her daze. "Grip my shoulders and balance yourself."

Waiting until she'd adjusted herself, he dropped his hands into the space between them and skimmed his knuckles down her stomach before looping the string of her pyjama bottoms around his finger, and tugging the knot undone. He could feel her holding her breath as he latched his thumbs under the hem of her knickers, and he pushed them and her bottoms past her hips, down to mid-thigh where they fell the rest of the way and pooled at her ankles. There was already a blush glowing in her cheeks when he looked back at her, and he kissed her temple as he wrapped one arm around her waist for support.

"Put your arms above your head."

She exhaled slowly through her nervously puckered lips and reached upwards, keeping her eyes lowered as Draco used his free hand to gather a fistful of her t-shift. He yanked it over her head, and her hair tumbled around her shoulders, her curls bouncing like springs. She raised an arm to cover herself, but thought better of it and offered him a coy smile, returning her hands to his shoulders. Her breasts brushed against his naked chest and they both inhaled.

Draco wanted to take a step back and see her, to ensure that he had memorised her correctly and then reacquaint himself with the slopes and sweeps of her shape, but he resisted. Instead, he picked her up without warning, partly because he assumed she would insist on being difficult, and partly because he was too impatient to feel the familiar softness of her body against his.

Cradling her against his chest and quietly surprised when she didn't protest, he stepped into the rather large bathtub and mumbled a quick incantation to start the shower fitment. He carefully dropped her legs and feet down, facing her away from him so she could lean back into his body for balance if she needed to, but she seemed to have found a stance that she could hold to comfortably stand. His hands remained on her anyway, grasping her sides as the water rained down on them and steam began to envelop them in a thick mist. He watched the water drag and stretch out her hair until it reached down to just above the dimples at the small of her back, clinging to her skin like thick toffee.

Hermione felt his arm snake around her waist and he pressed his palm flat against her stomach, and then his mouth was on her shoulder and dotting lazy kisses there. She closed her eyes and tilted her head so she could nuzzle her nose against his cheek, sighing when his lips trailed to the arc of her neck and he gathered her hair out of the way, draping it over her opposite shoulder. It was all so familiar and wonderful; the feeling of the hot water and him, and she knew if it weren't for her injuries and the numbness below her navel, that she would feel that lustful burn of anticipation between her hips.

It had been two months and she had missed the physical aspects of their relationship as much as she'd missed everything else about his presence. Evidently, Draco had the same sense of withdrawal because she could feel him growing hard behind her, until it was prodding her back, and impossible to ignore.

"Draco, you're-

"I can't help it," he mumbled between kisses. "It's been ages-

"I know, but-

"I know, no sex," he said. "Honestly, Granger, it's fine. Just ignore it. Say something about Weasley, that'll scare it off."

She barely heard the last part, too absorbed with the heavy tightening in her chest. It felt like determination, but it was more the overwhelming need to do something, to give something. Her mind was misted with memories of Christmas again, one in particular which involved a similar scene to where they were now; water-drops pounding down on their naked skin, and a private sanctuary of white tiles surrounding them. She remembered Draco trailing kisses down her torso, and then lower, and lower, until all sensation had followed his mouth there. And the memory bred a bold notion that made her anxious. But there was a brazen flicker of excitement in her too; that Gryffindor spark of tenacity.

"Draco," she breathed with a wavering voice. "Can you turn me to face you please?"

His lips left her shoulder as he slowly pivoted her around. "Are you alright?"

"Yes," she said, catching her bottom lip between her teeth. "Look, I…um-

"Bloody hell, Granger," he frowned. "If we're not having sex until you're better, then you're going to have to stop biting your lip. I thought the plan was to scare away my dick-

"Do you remember Christmas? When we showered together in the morning?"

"Yes," he replied hesitantly. "Why?"

"And do you…do you remember what you did?" she stuttered clumsily. "When you…when you were on your knees?"

"You mean when I-

"Drop me to my knees, Draco."

His eyebrows rose high on his forehead with shock. "Granger, I wasn't hinting that I wanted you to-

"I know, I know," she interrupted, running her fingers along the ridge of his collarbone. "I think that's partially why I want to; because you didn't ask-

"You don't need to-

"I want to-

"I can wait-

"You know, most guys would be just the slightest bit enthusiastic-

"Granger, I'm evidently enthusiastic," he smirked, gesturing to his erection, which was now rock-hard and nudging her hip. "But I know you, and-

"Then do you really want to argue and encourage me to change my mind?" she asked with a tentative smile, tilting her body into his frame and kissing his chin. "Let me do this, Draco."

She felt him coil a lock of her wet hair around his finger and sigh. "You're sure?"

"No," she laughed a little, perhaps more from nerves than humour. "But I want to try. Drop me to my knees, Draco."

He dropped his head to give her lips a quick tug with his, and then adjusted their stance a little, so his back was to the wall, and she would have more room to kneel. Locking her wrists in his grip, he helped her sink down to the base of the tub, his anticipation aching when she pressed a brief kiss by his ribs, and then another against his pelvic bone. When he was satisfied he could release her, he leaned back against the tiles, half-tempted to watch her but reasoning it probably wouldn't help her obvious nerves.

Instead, he stared straight ahead, unable to distinguish his animated heartbeats from the rhythm of the shower, and the next ten seconds of nothing felt like an hour.

The first thing he felt was her fingers gently stroking the inside of his thigh, and then they were firmly circling the base of his length. His gut spasmed when she pulled the O of her fingers up and down him a few times. Slowly. Inquisitively. And then there was this blissful, wet warmth enveloping him, and he dropped his head back, a guttural grunt vibrating in his windpipe as she began to move. He could feel the pad of her tongue licking his tip, like damp silk, and the grope of her lips dragging over him. All his blood seemed to rush down to his groin, until all he could focus on was the moist and soft feel of her drowning him.

Her ministrations were by no means confident or skilled, but he would swear it was more her inexperience that made it so intense. Every lick of her tongue and every pull of her mouth felt delicate and smooth, like it was more the kiss of her breath folded around his erection than actual physical contact. When she did something between a swallow and suck, he gritted his teeth and clenched his eyes tight shut.

"Fuck," he hissed, releasing a shuddering breath.

Merlin knew if it was because he'd been deprived of a sexual release for two months, or because she simply felt so marvellous with the muscles of her throat clenching around him, but he could already feel the building burn of lust inside of him, swelling up like a bubble ready to pop. The combination of her hot mouth and the water's pulse was hitting all his nerves in the right places with the perfect pressure, and his chest began to rise and fall with shallow breaths. And then his bones began to tremble.

"Granger, stop," he blurted, glancing down as she pulled away and stared up at him with wide and confused eyes. "Give me your hands."

She did, and he hastily yanked her to her feet, spinning them around and pinning her up against the tiles. He kissed her swollen lips so hard they would surely bruise, and then bit them desperately, grabbing her hand and pushing it against his length, encouraging her to touch him and drive him to the end. He silently thanked Salazar when she got the message and began to pump her fist around him, and he had to break their kiss to let go of a loud groan, burying his face into the crook of her shoulder. She was kissing the receptive stretch of skin between his ear and Adam's apple, and with a few final tight tugs, he was done. His limbs shook with no control and he groaned it all out, his breath leaving him in sharp gasps as every inch of him tingled and quivered.

"D-don't trust my hold," he said shakily. "Rest against the wall."

His body was throbbing. It was taking all of his strength to remain standing and keep her balanced on her unreliable legs, but he strained and flexed his muscles, waiting until he felt her bodyweight shift before he allowed himself to slide down to his knees. He rested his cheek against the flat of her stomach as the haziness and tremors subsided, lulled into a calming state by Hermione's fingers combing through his hair and tickling the nape of his neck.

"Oh God," she said suddenly. "We didn't cast a Muffliato or anything."

Draco released a short bark of laughter. "I couldn't give a shit."

.

.

Hermione's fingers were fidgeting in her lap as she watched Draco; wondering if she should ask the question that had been pestering her for minutes. After their shower, Draco had helped her into a fresh pair of jeans and a jumper, mumbling some comment about how he preferred removing her clothes to putting them on, and he was now dressing himself. Normally, she would have studied him with reluctant fascination, admiring his finesse and that ability to always appear immaculate, despite being stripped of all the tokens wealth that had graced his youth, but the question was distracting her.

"Granger, I can hear your brain ticking from here," said Draco, his eyes shrewd and enquiring. "What is it?"

She hesitated. "I actually wanted to ask you…and you can say no if you want. I wanted to ask if I could use your wand to dry my hair?"

"That's it?"

"Well, sharing wands is considered rather intimate by some-

"More intimate than sharing bodily fluids?" he interrupted, removing his wand from his pocket and passing it to her. "Go ahead."

"Thank you," she smiled. Mumbling a quick incantation, she felt the wand resist her a little, but it did the job, and when she looked back at Draco, the corner of his mouth was bent with amusement. "What are you grinning at?"

"Apparently I forgot that your hair looks like a nest for a family of blind owls."

"You're hilarious-

"And charming."

Hermione snorted, but it faltered when Draco stalked towards her, leaning forward with his head bent to steal a kiss, but a knock at the door broke the moment before it could begin, and they both sighed.

"Is there no fucking peace in this house?" Draco muttered, turning back for the door.

Expecting it to be Tonks or perhaps Lovegood, he was caught off-guard when he was confronted with his own reflection, doubled in a pair of familiar glasses, and he straightened his spine when he realised they belonged to Potter. The other wizard looked sleep-deprived and tormented, and there was only a hint of that resentment and animosity Draco was so accustomed to finding in his expression. Potter simply appeared exhausted and deflated, eyeing Draco with little more than uncertainty as he cleared his throat and tried to peer into the room.

"Malfoy," he nodded stiffly, his voice strained.

"Potter."

"I want to see Hermione-

"Harry?" she called. "Harry, come in."

Draco contemplated being difficult, but he was in a significantly better mood today after the morning shower and everything that it had entailed. He knew Potter's relationship with Granger was far less problematic than Weasley's, and his demeanour seemed harmless enough, so he stepped aside, watching Granger's features twist into a half-frown-come-half-smile as her gaze followed her friend. And then her eyes shifted to him, connecting with his and hosting the inevitable request that he'd anticipated since Potter had walked into the room.

"Draco, could you leave Harry and I alone?"

Despite expecting her question, he clenched his jaw and shot a cold glance in Potter's direction — more for the sake of dignity and familiarity than anything else — and then turned to leave. Purposely knocking shoulders with Potter as he went, he was oblivious to the annoyed scowl Granger was firing at the back of his head as he slammed the door behind him, and left them to it.

"How can you stand him?" asked Harry.

"I don't want to argue about Draco with you today, Harry," said Hermione firmly. "Where's Ron?"

"I tired to see him earlier, but he doesn't want to talk to either of us."

She cringed. "Maybe if we tried together-

"You know what he's like, Hermione," he said, his voice weary. "He won't talk until he's ready."

"I guess," she agreed grudgingly, her gaze roaming his solemn face. "How are you feeling, Harry?"

He sighed and seated himself on the bed; eyes downcast and rimmed with stress. "I feel…guilty. Tonks told me about your legs-

"It's only temporary, Harry. At least everyone got out okay."

"Everyone got out okay?" he repeated with a confused tone, but then his features tensed. "They didn't tell you."

"Tell me what?" she asked. And then she noticed his hands; noticed that his cuticles were bleeding and his fingernails were shredded. "Harry, what happened to your hands?"

"Bellatrix killed Dobby," he told her. "I dug his grave this morning."

"Oh my God," she gasped. "Harry, I…I am so sorry-

"Everything I touch breaks, Hermione," he mumbled dejectedly, hunching forward and rubbing his face with his palms. "It's like my curse is contagious. Everyone I love dies-

"It's not your fault-

"Isn't it?"

She shook her head and grabbed his hand. "No, Harry, it's not-

"And when I thought I'd lost you-

"Harry, take a breath," she sighed, tightening her grip around his fingers. "Tell me what happened at the Manor, and then we'll go to Dobby's grave together, okay?"

There were tears locked in his disturbed, green eyes as he filled his lungs with air, and began to recount the details.

.

.

"I just think it's odd," remarked Theo. "It's not even your bloody name anymore. We should all be calling you Lupin, really."

"No, it would get confusing with all the people who call Remus that," said Tonks. "Besides, Tonks has been my nickname for years-

"Only because it was your surname, but it's not anymore."

Tonks, Theo, Bliase and Lovegood had already been sat at the table and engrossed in a rather dull discussion about breakfast when Draco had wandered into the kitchen around fifteen minutes ago. That discussion had somehow drifted to the current one about his cousin's name, and Draco rolled his eyes as he finished his glass of juice, wondering exactly how long it would take Potter and Granger to finish their little heart-to-heart. Leaving his seat to prepare a mug of coffee, he perched himself on the countertop and listened without absorbing as Tonks and Theo continued to bicker between mouthfuls of toast and Lovegood's idle humming.

"I like being called Tonks, so that's what I ask people to call me. End of."

"But it doesn't make any sense," Theo argued. "Don't you have a middle name or something? Even that would make more sense if you're so intent on avoiding your first name."

"Actually, I have three middle names," she nodded slowly. "But my mother ensured all of them were ridiculous too. Nymphadora Gwendoline Taura Hyacinth Tonks."

"Bloody hell," murmured Blaise. "That's a mouthful."

"Taura's a pretty name," said Luna thoughtfully. "I like that."

"It's the best out of a bad bunch, I guess," replied Tonks. "For some reason, mum wanted to keep the Black tradition with constellations and it's the feminine name of Taurus."

"Then why didn't you let people call you that?" Theo pressed.

"Because I like the name Tonks, okay?"

"Doesn't make any sense to me," he muttered, turning to Draco. "Malfoy, do you recon you'll always call Granger by her last name?"

"Probably," he shrugged.

"How is Hermione?" asked Tonks.

Draco cast his mind back to the shower and barely stifled a smirk. "Better. She can almost stand up and rest her weight on her legs."

"Good, at least the potion is working. Why didn't you help her down here for some breakfast?"

"Potter's talking to her."

"Oh good," sighed Luna suddenly. "Harry needs her right now. He looked so sad this morning."

"Potter always looks sad," Theo commented, and Draco nodded his head with agreement.

"Don't be nasty," warned Tonks. "He's been through a lot-

"We've all been through a lot," Theo snapped. "Some of us just don't feel the need to fucking moan about all the time-

"Theo, that's enough. I'm not undermining anyone else's problems, but Harry has a lot on his shoulders."

Draco slackened his jaw to comment, but he was cut off as Lupin entered the kitchen with Teddy in his arms. "Good morning," said Remus, passing the baby to Tonks. "I just checked on Ollivander, and he's feeling better. And I saw Hermione with Harry. Looks like she's doing better too."

Tonks tilted her head. "You went to her room to check on her?"

"No, I just saw them outside."

Draco shot up to his feet and marched out of the room, ignoring Tonks' calls for him to wait. Still unfamiliar with the layout of the house, he ended up at the back door and grabbed the handle, but when he peered through the window and caught sight of Granger and Potter, something about the melancholic image of them made him hesitate.

Just a few yards past the garden fence was a delicate stream, and leaning over it, from its seat on the bank, was a weeping willow with brawny branches and flecks of blossom-buds. Between the gaps in the veil of leaves, he could see the two of them, both kneeling down beside what looked like a gravestone; their heads bowed with Hermione rubbing Potter's back in comforting circles.

"You didn't tell her about the House-elf," Blaise's voice made him start. "Did you?"

"I didn't think it was important," he replied bluntly. "It's just a bloody House-elf."

"A House-elf that saved her life."

Draco chewed his tongue but remained silent, frowning as he watched Hermione brush aside the sprinkling of tears on her cheeks and rest her temple against Potter's shoulder. The sensation in his gut was neither jealousy nor suspicion, but perhaps discomfort, because he simply couldn't fathom how she could be upset about the death of something so insignificant. But, again, he was conflicted.

"Draco," Blaise exhaled slowly. "I know it's easier said than done, but you really need to consider the possibility that if your parents were wrong about Muggle-borns, then they were probably wrong about other things too-

"Sod off, Blaise," he groaned. "I am still trying to understand how I ended up falling for Granger and then became involved with this bunch of suicidal idiots. I don't really have the patience to question everything about my upbringing."

"Suicidal idiots?" he echoed, his brow creased. "You don't think they'll win?"

"No," he said quickly, lifting his eyes back to stare at Granger through the glass. "But she does, and she has proved me wrong about everything so far."

.

.

Hermione combed her fingers through her tousled curls and watched Draco undress from her spot on the bed. There was beam of moonlight stretching into the room through the gap in the curtains, and it hit his china-doll skin in a mesmerizing way that made her breath catch in her throat. Her craving for sleep was a heavy pull on her lashes and a persistent ache in her muscles, but it was inevitable after what she considered had been a rather vexing day. Between Harry explaining the events that had occurred in Malfoy Manor and then discovering Dobby had sacrificed himself for them, she was anxious to envelop herself in the blankets and in Draco's arms for some much-needed rest.

But she'd noticed her lover had been distant today, particularly since she and Harry had returned from Dobby's grave a little while after lunchtime. His odd mood had lasted all day, but she'd refrained from questioning him about it; mainly because they hadn't really been able to steal a moment alone. As she studied him now, his dusty, grey eyes were far away and preoccupied, but then they turned to her, and there was a glint of apprehension in his stare.

"Are you angry with me?" he rushed out. "For not telling you about the House-elf?"

The question threw her off kilter for a second or two. "No," she replied after a pause. "It wasn't something you did out of spite. You just…don't understand, I guess."

"It's a just a House-elf to me," he told her honestly. "And I know you bloody love the things with that SPIT thing you did-

"It's called S.P.E.W.-

"And it never even crossed my mind that its death was worth mentioning. It means nothing to me."

"I meant nothing to you once. Opinions change-

"Not overnight," he cut in. "It took time for my opinion of you to change-

"We have time," she said, a slight smile on her lips as she reached out to grasp his hand. "Come to bed, Draco."

.

.

She adjusted the hood of her cloak to better hide her face, flinching as each clicks and clacks of her heels ricocheted around the empty corridors and bounced between the cold, stone walls. She knew the castle well; had instantly recalled the paths that she'd wandered in her youth, but the ancient school's air felt so different now, unfriendly and abrasive. A cruel chill rushed down her spine as she rounded another corner, and she hurried her steps.

She'd been forewarned that the Death Eaters had ensured that disillusionment charms wouldn't work in here, or anything else that might aid a person to escape. There was no getting in and no getting out, unless you knew the right people, of course.

Finally spotting her desired door and the gargoyle guarding it, she mumbled the password she'd been told would work — Agere Sequitur Credere — and released a grateful sigh as the door yielded and permitted her access. Hurrying down the small passageway and into the Headmaster's office, her eyes darted around the large room, before they finally landed on the dark outline of a shadow near the window, and she pulled down her hood.

"How did you get in here, Narcissa?" asked Snape in that slow, thick tone, keeping his back to her.

"Let's just say Alecto owes me a favour."

"And why are you here?"

"You know why I'm here," she accused sharply. "You know exactly what I am doing here!"

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do!" she spat loudly. "You lied to me, Severus! You told me my son was dead!"

He glanced over his shoulder to eye her curiously. "And what would make you think I'd lied? Draco was killed-

"No, he wasn't!" she shouted. "I know he wasn't killed!"

"What are you talking about, Narcissa?"

"That Mu…the Muggle-born girl, Potter's friend. When she was at the Manor, I searched her memories, and I saw Draco!"

"What exactly did you see?" he questioned, nearing her warily. "Perhaps you misread a memory-

"No, I know what I saw!" She clenched her eyes shut to delay the tears. "I am perfectly capable of reading memories, thank you very much. I saw my son alive. You told me he was dead."

Snape cocked his head to the side. "I made a vow to protect your son. I did what was necessary to keep that vow-

"I know you're working for them," she interrupted. "How else could he have ended up with a member of the Order? How could he have ended up in Hogwarts when McGonagall was Headmistress?"

"You are mistaken-

"Stop lying to me, Severus! When I was searching through that girl's memories of Draco, I could sense your presence! I could feel that you were somehow connected to Draco, and that she perceived you as an ally, so don't even try to lie to me again!"

His face scrunched up with distaste. "Are you here to blackmail me, Narcissa?"

"Don't tempt me, Severus-

"Then why-

"I want to help you," she blurted. "I want to help them."

Snape's eyebrows lifted with surprise but he remedied his expression back into a suspicious scowl. "Why would you want to help the Order?"

"Because Draco…because when I was in that girl's mind, I saw how happy my son was…happy with her; a Muggle-born. And I didn't care." She paused to swallow. "I could feel the girl's love for my son, and I saw it reciprocated in her memories of him. I just want my son back."

"You mean Draco and Miss Granger?" he mumbled, his disbelief too intense to mask. "You're certain?"

"Without a shadow of a doubt," she nodded. "You are working for the Order, aren't you? If you weren't, you would've summoned Him by now. And Draco is alive, isn't he?"

"And how do I know who you are working for?"

"Search my mind if you want, or use Veritaserum. I don't care. But look at me, Severus. You know me, and you know I am not lying."

Snape regarded her with a calculating stare and pursed his lips. "How are your skills in Occlumency, Narcissa?"

"Good enough. If He knew what I was thinking, I would be dead by now."

"And does Lucius know you're here?"

"Lucius…," she breathed. "Lucius is barely aware of anything. He has been tortured too much." She choked. "I don't have a husband anymore, I'm just haunted by a ghost that resembles him. I have lost both of my sisters, and I…I thought I'd lost Draco." She choked again. "He's all I have left, Severus, and I will do anything to get him back. Please help me get my son-

He scoffed. "Your family have had enough favours from me-

"Well then let me help you," she implored desperately. "Please, Severus, let me help."

"If you want to help, you will carry on pretending to serve the Dark Lord-

"But I could-

"It's the safest and wisest option," he continued, nodding his head towards the door. "You need to return to the Manor before someone becomes aware of your absence-

"But, Severus, I need-

"Can you get away tomorrow night?" he asked, waiting until she nodded. "I will contact you tomorrow then. It's too risky for you to be here right now. Amycus will be coming shortly. I will let you know of a more appropriate time and place to resume this discussion."

Narcissa released a relief-laden sigh. "Thank you."

"In the meantime," he said evenly. "I will continue to do what I have been doing, and you will continue to do what you have been doing. Do you understand?"

"Yes," she frowned, replacing the hood to conceal her face. "I understand, Severus."

"And keep your mind guarded," warned Snape, watching her through hooded eyes as she pivoted on her heel and left the office. He slowly turned his attention to the portrait on the opposite wall. "I suppose you approve of this revelation about Miss Granger and Draco?"

"Don't you?" the image of Dumbledore countered.

"No, I do not."

"History has a funny way of repeating itself when broken hearts aren't mended, Serverus," the painting spoke softly. "Don't resent the déjà vu-

"If history is deciding to repeat itself, then we already know that there is no happy ending."

"You could help them find one."

Snape turned his back on the portrait and returned to gazing out of the window, wondering how fate could be so callous and intent on tormenting him with such a familiar setting and story. He stared back at his distorted reflection in the drizzle-kissed glass and gritted his teeth against the ache in his heart, unable to decide if he pitied the two doomed lovers, or envied them.

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