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.


30. Taboo

Hermione blinked away the blurry fog of sleep and tried to focus. She felt it before she saw it, something in her hand that didn't belong, and her brow wrinkled with a puzzled frown when she noticed the extra set of fingers tangled with hers. The light in the tent was faint - a small teal flame withering in a lantern in the corner - but she instantly knew whose hand was holding hers, and she followed the arm up to Ron's sleeping face.

She snatched back her hand so quickly, her elbow collided with her hip. The temptation to shake Ron awake and lecture him about the decency of keeping his hands to himself came to mind, but the thought passed and she was suddenly very alert and fidgety. She abandoned the idea of trying to fall back to sleep and eased herself out of her camping cot, tip-toeing out of the tent and deciding to find Harry, who she knew was on watch tonight.

She spotted him several metres from their camp, leaning against the crumbling trunk of a lifeless oak tree, and when the moon glinted in his glasses, she knew he'd seen her. He'd been determinedly avoiding her since her confession about Draco and she thought he might stand and leave, but his shoulders sagged and he huffed out a breath that turned to cold mist as she neared him. There were things that needed to be said; a cracked friendship that needed to be mended.

"Hi," she offered meekly, sinking to the ground opposite him.

"Hi," he echoed, and the awkwardness between them made her cringe. "Hermione-

"I want to ask you-

"I have some questions too," he interrupted, looking almost nervous. "I, um, I want to apologise first for being distant with you for the last week. "

Relief warmed her. "It's okay."

"I just…it was just a big shock…well, it's still a big shock, and I-

"I know," she nodded. "I understand-

"Well, that's my problem," said Harry. "I have been thinking about it, and I still don't understand, and I think I need you…yes, I need you to explain it to me."

"You want me to tell you what happened? Between Draco and I?"

"I want to hear your reasoning," he muttered. "You're the smartest person I know, so maybe if you explain, it might make some sense to me."

She chewed her lip. "I…I'm not sure how to-

"How long?" he prompted. "How long have you…had feelings for him?"

She cast her memory back to the first kiss she had shared with Draco; that odd day with the bee sting when he had saved her life, and she had touched his face so unabashedly, and then it had happened. That had been the catalyst that had sucked her into Draco's life. That insane moment of impulse had changed everything.

"November," she mumbled distantly, remembering the winds. "It started in November."

"Okay," he said. "And how?"

She went back in time again, thinking of all the little events that had built up to that fateful moment; from their lingering stares, to late nights on the sofas with hot chocolate. From him reading her Muggle books, to her cooking him meals. From him panicking when she didn't return, to her stabbing their hands and mixing their blood. From every prolonged glance to every inquisitive touch.

From tolerance, to curiosity, to lust, and then love.

Life is nothing more than a series of flimsy incidents that build up to something beautiful or tragic. Sometimes both.

"You know, it's true what they say," she whispered before she even realised the words had left her. "You never really know someone until you live with them. In a way, we were both lost and out of our comfort zones. I didn't have you and Ron, and he didn't have his friends or family…we didn't really have anything, and when all that was stripped away, there was nothing to hide behind."


"And we both just…crumbled in front each other," she went on. "You-Know-Who wanted him dead and he was completely overwhelmed by his circumstances, and after I Obliviated my parents, I was so…devastated. But it made us...human, I think. We were…we were real because we were broken."

Harry's brow furrowed. "I don't understand."

"I mean it was just…us," she tried to explain. "Our personalities, our…souls, I guess. Just emotions and instincts, and we just…matched. Connected, almost."

"Because you were both alone?"

"No," she shook her head. "No, there were other people I could have found company with if it had simply been loneliness. It was more than that."

She could see the uncertainty behind the glare of his spectacles. "So he just…stopped caring? About you being a Muggle-born?"

"Oh, Merlin no. It took a while for him to even be civil to me, but that's just how he was raised. Perhaps I'm being optimistic, but I think he'd been questioning his ideas about blood prejudices before anything happened between us. Maybe even before he let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts."

"What do you mean?"

"You saw him last year, Harry," she sighed. "How tormented he looked. Surely if he'd been that certain that everything he'd been taught about Muggles and Muggle-borns was right, he would have actually gone through with it."

"Hermione, he was still-

"He was never evil, Harry," she defended her absent lover hastily. "He just…made the wrong choices. I think the doubt was always there, and I simply…gave it a push in the right direction-

"But that doesn't-

"Why do you love Ginny, Harry?"

"I…what do you-

"I mean, it's not exactly convenient," she carried on. "She's your best friend's sister. Why do you love her?"

"I um…," he stuttered clumsily. "I don't know why…I just do."

Her lips twitched at the corners with a sad smile. "Exactly."

Harry seemed to consider her for a silent moment before he shook his head and pushed his glasses further up his nose, a habit she knew he did when he felt uneasy. He stared at the tips of his shoes and exhaled through his nostrils.

"What did you want to ask me, Hermione?"

She dropped her eyes, sensing that he was done with their conversation about her relationship with Draco, and she couldn't tell if his opinion had softened or not. From the agitated drumming of his fingernails against his kneecaps, she doubted it.

"I wanted to know what you told Ron."

"Nothing," he mumbled. "I knew if I said you liked someone else, he would want to know who and ask a lot of questions. I just told him I hadn't spoken to you because I didn't know what to say."

She swallowed down an itch in her throat. "He was holding my hand when I woke up," she said. "Harry, I need to tell him-


"But it's not fair on him-

"Not yet, Hermione."



His lids had begun to feel so heavy, like his lashes were made of lead.

Exhaustion had hit Draco hard in the last fortnight days, sinking deep into his muscles until they throbbed, and a permanent headache had settled right between his eyes. In the fistful of days following the news of Ted's death, all those little patterns and routines that had kept everything running had diminished. There had been no languid games of Wizard's Chess, no communal breakfasts, and no midnight meetings with Andromeda over cold cups of coffee. Everything had fallen into a dreary and disorganised bedlam, and nobody could quite muster the effort to give a shit.

Except perhaps Blaise.

Andromeda had been sleeping in Tracy's room, because she couldn't bring herself to return to the home she had shared with her husband and confront all the memories that would inevitably be scattered everywhere amongst the dust. She barely surfaced from Tracy's room, and Blaise had done his best to keep some sort of order in their safe-house, assigning various chores to the Slytherins and adopting Andromeda's role as the head of the home, although Draco wondered if Blaise might be doing it to distract himself from his lonely nights without Lovegood, who had been missing for almost a week now.

It was...difficult.

Draco couldn't recall a time when he'd been surrounded by people coping with death in such a delicate manner, and he had no idea how to act amongst his mourning companions. He hadn't known Ted well by any stretch, but evidently his affinal uncle had had a huge impact on the others' lives before he'd arrived; a pseudo-father to Theo and Millicent it seemed, and melancholy is contagious when it's trapped in a confined space.

As expected, Theo's reaction had been the most severe, and for the first two days he had done nothing but vomit, scream, and try to demolish anything in his sight. But, much like life and everything else, the anger and energy had slowly bled out of Theo, and for the last four days he had mirrored Andromeda's corpse-like appearance and sluggish movements.

The two of them did nothing more than existed, trapped in a catatonic-like trance of bereavement that resisted any sort of purpose.

Blaise had concealed Theo's wand somewhere, and had also decided that he was to be monitored, and they all took turns to stay in his room at night, although Draco had offered to take the later shifts several times. He slept less than everybody else, so it made sense.

But it was all catching up to him now, and he had actually retired to bed at a reasonable hour for a change, so he was more than irritated when a disturbing dream about Dark Marks and Granger's cries woke him too soon.

Jolting up in bed with a harsh intake of air, there was cold sweat in his eyes and shivers scraping down his spine as the echoes of Hermione's screams rang in his ears. He dropped his face into his clammy palms and tried to steady his breathing, and he shot the clock a scowl when he realised it was half three in the morning.

He was contemplating whether or not it was worth trying to fall back to sleep when he heard it; the faintest murmur of voices from downstairs.

He knew it was most likely nothing, probably Miles and Tracy getting a drink, but a dubious sensation tugged at his gut. Pulling a t-shirt over his head and smoothing it down his sweat-dampened chest, he grabbed his wand and carefully left his room with silent footsteps.

"Lumos," he whispered as he moved across the landing.

The voices grew louder, but he couldn't identify who they belonged to or distinguish what was being said, so he followed them down the stairs and along the corridor until he was standing outside the kitchen door.

There were two voices, both female. He recognised Andromeda's gentle tone, but he couldn't place the second voice. He extinguished the glow of his wand and pressed his ear against the door as curiosity got the better of him.

"…and everything. I would have come sooner but it's so dangerous sending owls now, and I wasn't sure if your Wards would let me Apparate here, and I didn't want to use one of the Portkeys when my due date is so close-

"It's okay," Draco heard his aunt mumble. "I know you've had a lot on-

"No, I should've been here with you-

"Nymphadora, it's okay," Andromeda interrupted, and Draco's face screwed up on the other side of the door when he recognised his cousin's name. The cousin he didn't know.

"No, it's not," she said, and there was bang of flesh against wood, he assumed her fist and the table. He could hear the strain in her voice, that low tone of a person trapped between grief and raw fury. "I'm sorry, Mum, I-

"Stop apologising, Nymphadora. It's really fine. It's just…it's good to see you, sweetheart. I'm glad you're here."

"You know," his cousin said after a moment. "Remus and I were talking, and we decided that we're going to name the baby after Dad if it's a boy." `

There was a hollow pause, and Draco remained as still as his muscles would allow.

"I think that's perfect," sighed Andromeda, her voice fragile with emotion. "Your Dad would've loved that. Really."

"Well, I guess we'll never know, will we?"

"You sound so angry-

"Of course I'm bloody angry!" she barked. "They killed my Dad! They're killing people everyday, and then there's that bloody Muggle-born Registration Commission! Have you seen the propaganda they're making about Muggle-borns?"

Draco felt his chest tighten.

Muggle-born Registration Commission. Muggle-born. Granger.

"Yes," his aunt replied. "I saw something about it in The Prophet and there were some leaflets delivered to the house. It's awful-

"It's disgusting," Tonks spat. "I can't believe some people are actually believing all that crap. You know, when Hermione was staying with me, I…

Draco didn't hear the rest of that sentence. All his blood rushed to his ears and momentarily deafened him, until all he could hear was the rapid beat of his pulse as his vision went misty at the edges. It smacked into him so hard, a shaft of untainted rage that made even his fingernails burn, and then suddenly he was all adrenaline and heat, ramming his body into the door and bursting into the kitchen with his wand out and aimed. The two witches jerked with surprise, and Tonks was up on her feet, her wand centred on him, and her body carefully angled to protect her baby bump.

Tonks glowered at him with disgust. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Where the fuck is she?" Draco hissed at his cousin, and he barely recognised the sinister quality to his voice.

"Draco," Andromeda said warily. "Calm down-


"Mum, what the hell is he doing here with-

"It's okay, Nymphadora-

"But, he's one of them," she argued stiffly. "He took the Mark, and he let the Death Eaters-

"He's defected," Andromeda explained quickly, rising from her seat. "Draco, please just lower your wand-

"Don't you come within an inch of me, bitch," he growled, slanting his eyes over to her. "You lied to me-

"No, I didn't-

"YOU SAID YOU DIDN'T KNOW WHERE SHE WAS!" he shouted, his voice quickly getting hoarse and his chest heaving. "YOU KNEW, AND YOU JUST LET ME THINK THAT SHE WAS-

"Draco, please just put down your wand-


He was panting, eyes darting from his cousin to his aunt, and then back again. The betrayal left a bitter taste in his mouth as he absently wondered when exactly he had started to trust Andromeda, before he was silently scolding himself for relaxing his guard. He really should have learned by now.

"Draco, I swear I didn't know. Nymphadora only told me tonight-

"JUST TELL ME WHERE SHE IS!" he snarled fiercely. "NOW!"

"Who?" Tonks cut in.

"GRANGER!" he yelled, his hot glare back on his cousin. "I swear to Salazar, if you don't-

Andromeda groaned and swiped away a distressed tear. "Draco, just stop it. Please."

"Not until you tell me where Granger is," he said resolutely. "You will tell me-

"You mean Hermione?" Tonks asked, looking suitably baffled. "What does she have to with you?"

"SHE'S EVERYTHING TO DO WITH ME!" he fired back, his wand still trained on her and irately vibrating in his grip. "You tell me now!"

"Wait," his cousin mumbled, her eyes widening as she seemed to reach for a memory. "You? You're the…you're the boy she was talking about? Who she fell for at Hogwarts? You and her were-

"YES, ME!" he blurted, too incensed and impatient to care. "I AM THE ONE! I AM HERS! AND SHE-

"No way," Tonks shook her head doubtfully. "Hermione wouldn't-

"Nymphadora," said Andromeda, fixing her daughter with a meaningful look. "He's not lying."

Tonks' lips twitched, but her wand remained steady, and so did Draco's. There was movement behind him, but he held the eye contact with his cousin, ignoring the two sets of footsteps that entered the room and stopped a few feet away from his side. Intuition told him it was Blaise and Theo, but he was too focussed and driven by his wild temper, scratching like static beneath his skin, to glance in their direction.

"Malfoy," said Blaise, his tone sharp. "What in Merlin's name-

"Leave me be," he growled. "Don't get involved in this, just piss off-

"Draco, she's bloody pregnant-

"I don't give a shit!" he spat. "She knows where Granger is!"

"Granger?" Theo repeated quietly, evidently confused. "As in…Hermione Granger? Why would-

"I don't know where Hermione is!" Tonks yelled over him. "None of us-


"I said she was staying with me," she told him, her voice calmer and clipped. "Past tense, Malfoy. I have no idea where Hermione is now."

He faltered, and he suddenly felt very lethargic. "You're lying-

"No," she stopped him, as if she'd expected his response. "She was staying with me, but she left over a month ago-


"I don't know," she said slowly, relaxing her defensive stance. "She took off in the night. I assume she went to meet Harry and Ron-

"Oh, the death-trap twins!" he exclaimed, grinding his teeth when his voice cracked. "Fucking brilliant!"

"She will be fine," Tonks muttered. "Hermione is the brightest witch of her age-

"You stupid bitch," he sneered at his cousin, but he was starting to lose the fire to fight. He could feel the energy leaking out of his pores as the damaging wave of disappointment sank into him. "You let Granger, a known Muggle-born, just leave when there are Snatchers-

"Hermione knows to be careful-

"What, like your father did?" he replied, and a peculiar flash of satisfaction settled in his bones when he heard both his aunt and his cousin gasp at his cruel comment.

"Malfoy," hissed Blaise at his side. "You are done-

"Would you be so bloody calm if it was your witch?" he snapped at Blaise.

"My witch is missing too," his friend said, and Draco felt a hand applying pressure to his outstretched arm. "That's enough."

Draco didn't resist and lowered his wand, his eyes falling to the floor and clenched muscles flexing in his forearms. He had wanted just a little piece of information about Granger; just an assurance that she was safe, but that fleeting glimmer of something close to hope had been so quickly extinguished, and it felt like the air had been beaten out of him. He cradled his head in his free hand as the dull thuds of an inevitable migraine started banging against his sinuses. He could physically feel the eyes of the others measuring him, and he loathed them all in that moment for witnessing him lose control.

"Fuck this," he breathed, turning to leave.

"Hang on," Theo stepped into his path. "Have I gone insane, or am I hearing this right? You and Granger? Together?"

Draco didn't respond, but he squared his shoulders and lifted his chin, daring Theo to make a derogatory comment or a mocking jeer. Instead, an odd expression stole his features, and Draco saw a flash of the mischievous and sarcastic man he'd known before Ted's death.

"Well," said Theo, a smirk trying to tug at his lips. "That's an interesting plot twist."

The urge to jam his fist into Theo's jaw turned his knuckles white, but he simply brushed past him and returned to his room, craving solitude and a shower where he might imagine Granger's reflection in the tiles.

The confirmation that she was roaming the war-ravaged country with Potter and Weasley injected a fresh and powerful dose of insomnia into his veins, and he did not sleep for four days solid.

He pointedly avoided the others, particularly Theo, Blaise and Andeomeda, until the latter sought him out on a rather dreary Tuesday in April. He remembered eyeing the new leaves and pink blossom outside his window, magnified by the layer of drizzle streaming down the pane. She came into his room without a knock, a genuine smile on her face that looked crooked, like she had forgotten how to.

She told him that she'd just received a letter, and that Tonks had given birth to a baby boy, Teddy Lupin.

He wondered why she thought he would care, and then wondered if he did.

He had mumbled a reluctant "congratulations," and she had left to visit her first grandchild.

The clot in Draco's chest had felt a little lighter, but he'd spent the rest of the day envying that baby for being oblivious to the dark and dying world he'd been born into.

Innocence and ignorance are one in the same; both blissful.



Hermione traced her fingers over the intricate pattern of swirls and loops of the sword's hilt, marvelling at how something so beautiful could be so deadly. Harry had given her the Sword of Gryffindor (and everything else for that matter), to store in her Charmed bag, insisting that she was the best person to keep their belongings safe. She'd had the sudden urge to study the artefact, fascinated by the history that she could practically feel beating in its blade.

It was warm beneath her touch. Warmer than her.

She slipped it back into her bag and returned to her book, underling anything that could be significant and jotting down a note here and there to come back to later. She was completely engrossed in her usual routine of reading and rereading words she had memorised weeks ago, trying to shake off thoughts of Draco that always managed to seep into her concentration. So when a friendly hand touched her shoulder and grazed the curls by her ear, she shot up to her feet with a startled gasp and her wand at the ready.

"Ron," she exhaled, lowering her wand from his Adam's apple. "You made me jump-

"Sorry," he mumbled quickly. "I did try calling your name."

"I was-

"Reading," he finished for her. "Yes, I know."

Hermione could tell he was nervous; it was so blatant in the way he shifted his feet and scrunched up his freckled features with uncertainty. She knew what was coming, and she nervously tucked the stubborn strands of hair he had touched behind her ear.

"Where's Harry?"

"He's making some food by the tent," he said. "Look, Hermione-

"I should go check if he needs a hand-

"Have I done something?" blurted Ron, and Hermione cringed. "I mean, have I…have I upset you, or something?"

She drew in a long breath. "No. No, you haven't upset me, Ron-

"Well…then I don't get it," he tried clumsily. "It's just…I thought you and I were…you know."

"Ron, I think-

"I mean, after what happened at the wedding and everything," he rambled on. "I know we never really talked about it, but I…do you regret it?"

"No, I don't regret it," she replied sincerely. "It's just that we-

"Because I thought that it meant we were together now, but it's…obvious that you don't feel that way."

The guilt was welling up in her chest so quickly. She was going to tell him. She could feel the words forming. "You're my best friend-

"But that's it?" he questioned dejectedly. "Just friends? That's all you see me as?"

"Ron," she started slowly. "You know I liked you, but…our opportunity to be more than friends just…came and went."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean we took too long," she explained. "It was there for us to take, and we just…didn't, and it's because neither of us wanted it enough-

"That's not why-

"I'm sorry, but it is. It would have been…convenient for us-

"Convenient?" he repeated, and he looked wounded as he spoke. "What does that even mean?"

"I just mean that we spent so much time together, and it would have made sense, but…but convenience isn't a good enough reason to start a relationship. In fact, it's an awful reason-


"Don't you think that if either of us really wanted it that much, it would have just happened?" she reasoned. "It wasn't like there was ever anything stopping us, except ourselves. Hell, our friends and family practically encouraged it-

"Are you still annoyed about what happened between me and Lavender?" he asked suddenly.

"No, of course not-

"Because it was just a mistake," he rushed out. He reached for her hand but she pulled away before he could graze her fingertips. "Hermione-

"Ron, I promise it has absolutely nothing to do with that-

"Then do you like someone else?"

There it was; the question she'd been dreading because the answer would destroy him. She wanted so badly to tell him, for only truth to exist between them no matter how hard it would be for him to hear it, but Harry's voice was whispering to her at the back of her brain. She watched Ron's anxious eyes flicker with disappointment, and she realised she'd been silent too long, and silence is simply a coward's confirmation.


"I knew it," he nodded, oddly calm. "I knew, but Harry said I was wrong-

"Ron, that's not the reason things didn't work-

"It's okay," he said with a painfully forced smile. "It's okay. I understand. We didn't see you for…what was it, five months?"

"Six," she corrected. "But I-

"Hermione, do you like someone else?" he asked again. "It's a simple yes or no question."

She shut her eyes. "Yes."

"That's…that's fine," he stumbled over his words. "I just wish you'd have told me-

"It's Draco Malfoy."

There was another silence, but this was the kind when even the birds and the winds seem to die in time, until nothingness is just screaming in your ears like a scorned banshee. She slowly peeled open her eyes and found Ron closer than she'd expected, his face frozen and blank, but then she saw his lips were stretching up his cheeks. And then he was laughing; that soft chuckle that made his shoulders bounce, quickly building in volume until it was heartily boisterous and causing his whole body to shake.

"That-that is hilarious!" he choked out between blasts of laughter. "Oh Merlin, Hermione, you do come out with some mental stuff-

She chewed her bottom lip. "It's not a joke, Ron."

He scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Of course it is-

"Ron, look at my face," she said, bracing herself for the turn. "I'm not joking. It's Draco."

His chuckles weakened with every breath he sucked in, and his expression gradually twisted into a look of utter bafflement. His jaw sagged, and his baby-blue eyes narrowed into thin, curious slits that inspected every detail of her face like he'd never met her before. He cleared his throat, and she found herself oddly transfixed on a thick vein that twitched in his neck.

"Hermione," he frowned. "It's not funny any more-

"It's not meant to be funny," she told him. "It's the truth-

"Don't be ridiculous," he snorted. "No…no, it's impossible."

She groaned into her palm. "Ron, I know this a shock-

"I don't believe you-

"Ron," she sighed. "I swear on my life that Draco-

"Stop saying that name!" he barked, his eyes going wide and . "You've gone bloody mad!"

"We were together at Hogwarts," she murmured. "And I fell-

"Don't you dare say it!"

"If you just…if you just let me explain-

"Hermione, stop it!" he yelled, turning away from her and balling his fists in his hair. "Stop it now!"

"You might understand," she pleaded, trying to grab his arm. "You might-

"DON'T TOUCH ME!" he bellowed, loud enough that a flock of birds in a nearby tree scattered. "I love you! Did you know that?"

"Ron, please-

"Did you know that when Harry and I found the locket, it showed me my biggest fear?" he told her, and the tears in his eyes made her breath hitch. "And did you know it showed me you? You and Harry! And now you're telling that it's you and Malfoy! "

"I-I'm sorry!" she sputtered, and she was crying too. "Ron, I really am. I just needed to tell you-

"How the fuck could you do this to me?"

She flinched. She'd only heard him use the harsher swear words a couple of times and they sounded so out of place on his tongue. "Ron, I never meant to hurt you-

"SHUT UP!" he roared, clenching his eyes shut like he was in physical pain. "Shut. Up! Just stop it!"

"Hey!" Harry's voice came from behind her, and she spun around to find him jogging towards them. "I heard shouting-

"She's lost it, Harry!" Ron shouted, pointing a trembling finger at Hermione. "She's completely bloody lost it! She said that her and Malfoy were at Hogwarts and-

"You told him about Malfoy?" Harry snapped his eyes to her. "I told you not to tell him!"

"I'm sorry," Hermione sniffed. "I needed to-

"Wait. You knew?" Ron accused, and he looked completely betrayed as he regarded Harry. "You knew, and you didn't say anything?"

"Ron, mate," said Harry steadily. "I'm sorry-

"You lying tosser!"

"Mate, calm down-

"DON'T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!" he seethed. "Both of you stay the hell away from me-

"Please, Ron," Hermione tried desperately. "If you just give me a moment I could…Draco's not like he was-

"He's a bloody Death Eater, Hermione! A. DEATH. EATER!"

"No, he's not!"

"Yes, he fucking is!" he spat. "He tried to kill Dumbledore! He let the Death Eaters into Hogwarts! He's got the Mark and everything, you idiot! He follows Voldemort, and-

"RON, NO!" she cried frantically. "THE TABOO!"

But it was too late. The wind changed, and she could hear them coming.

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