Chapter I - Arrival

20 October 1999

When he first saw her arrive at the safehouse, he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him.

She looked like Granger. Same bushy brown hair. Same soft features. Same amber eyes.

But it couldn't be Granger.

There was no fire in her eyes, no stupid grin spread across her features, and no incessant chatter. She didn't look at him, not even to shoot him a murderous glare.

She would've threw her arms around her friends. She would've shouted at him, or maybe punched him like she did in third year.

He didn't believe it was her, even after a few minutes of staring at the girl who was, without question, the girl who he called a Mudblood for so many years. The girl that he despised, and yet had no right to despise. Not anymore.

There were purple bags under her eyes. She was void of an expression, her face as blank as her eyes.

She didn't say a word. She just walked up the stairs to her room. The room beside his.

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2 May 1998, around 17 months earlier

Even Draco was both shocked and horrified at the sight of Harry Potter's dead body; the Chosen One hadn't won. The Boy Who Lived was dead. He swallowed a sudden knot in his throat. There it went, his hope of getting out of this damned life as a Death Eater.

Once all the Death Eaters had gone, he had collapsed and broken down in tears with the rest of the other mourners. No one even said a word to him, questioning why he was sobbing over the corpse of his enemy. Not even Granger or the Weasel. They simply stared at him for a moment before returning to their mourning.

He wasn't grieving Harry Potter; he was grieving for the loss of the only hope of the wizarding world. Tomorrow would be hell, and the Death Eaters would be taking over within hours, if even that. They had already won. His wavering loyalty had helped him to decide to heal the injured Order of the Phoenix soldiers. If the Death Eaters found him in the crowd, he would be the first to be killed.

He knew he had to run, but where to run?

He could throw himself off the highest tower of Hogwarts; that would surely be the

easiest way out. But he didn't have a death wish, not entirely. In all the multiple times he had contemplated suicide in the past few years, he had always come to the conclusion he was afraid of dying.

He tried to think of somewhere else to hide; anywhere to hide. But there was no way for him to hide from the Death Eaters. Harry Potter and his little posse had tried for months, and now here they were, one of them dead. He knew there had to be a safe house somewhere. He needed to know where he could hide out.

The war would go on, of course; but he saw no reason to risk his neck fighting for a lost cause. He would be killed the moment he stepped out onto the field, if that is he wasn't in Bellatrix's hands. No, she would draw it out and make it as painful as possible for him. His father would probably do the same, and his mother would watch, helpless as she always was.

He shuddered, now wanting a place to hide even more. But who would take him in? The Dark Mark was still on his forearm, and though no longer evil, he was still a cold-hearted bastard, and his views on blood status were not completely gone.

He wasn't sure what gave him the courage to approach the Mudblood he had tormented for the past seven years, and the Mudblood whom he had watched be tortured in his drawing room, but he did. She would understand more than Weasel.

"Can I talk to you alone, Granger?" he asked.

She rolled her amber eyes. "What, so you can kill me? Nice try, Malfoy. We all know what side you're on. Besides, I'm a Mudblood. Why do you need to get me alone? Your side's already one. Why don't you challenge me right here?"

"I have no interest in dueling with you, Granger," he replied coolly. "And for your information, we're on the same side now. We have been for the past few months."

Granger laughed. She actually laughed. He would've shouted at her, if he wasn't the one doing the begging in this situation. "I would think you'd have more skill at manipulation with cunning being one of the key house traits of Slytherin. Your attempt was hilarious. Thanks, Malfoy. I needed the laugh."

She turned to walk away, but was stopped by the urgency of his voice when he spoke again.

"Fuck, Granger," he retorted. "Just get me the hell out of here. Are you the noble Hermione Granger or not? I need somewhere to hide for as long as the war draws out; which may well be for the rest of my life."

"You've done nothing to deserve a favor from me, Malfoy," she hissed. "Give me one reason I should help you."

"I don't deserve a favor from you," he agreed, feeling the immediate stab of pain to his pride. "I just... I'm desperate, alright? I'll be killed if they get ahold of me."

She let out another cold un-Granger like laugh. "All of us have that in common, Malfoy. They want all of us dead, not just you. Why do you deserve to be one of the special ones in safety?"

"Granger, for God's sake I'll do anything," he begged. Oh Merlin he was begging now. He was begging a Mudblood for help. He met her gaze. "Please... I'm not ready to die yet."

They sat there on the floor of the Great Hall, staring at each other for a long time before she finally sighed and spoke. "Alright, Malfoy. I'll give you a Portkey to the Safehouse. But only because I saw you hex a Death Eater before he could kill Neville. Go and hide yourself like the coward you are."

And so he did exactly what she asked, leaving without another word.

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3 May 1998

He couldn't sleep. Though everyone else in the safe house was asleep peacefully, he tossed and turned, thinking about the war. He was afraid to close his eyes for fear of another nightmare. He had many nightmares in the past few months; all relating to his father. Many of which were flashbacks.

He could see the light coming through the windows, but it was an eerie light. The rain was pounding against the window, too, as though the world was crying for them... crying for their failure. He grimaced when someone stirred, not yet having to have dealt with any of the other refugees.

He rested his head back on his pillow and acted like he was asleep. That was the easiest way to deal with this situation; hiding, as Granger had put it.

So that's what he did.

.

There were six others not including Mrs. Weasley, who seemed to run things in the safe house. Some old friends, some strangers, and some Mudbloods that he had tormented at school. All of them looked uncomfortable when he sat down at the table with them, and the mousy haired and small boy scooted slightly to the right so he was further away from Draco.

One of the Weasley twins sat down at the table, glaring at him the whole time. Once his mother had left the room, he seemed to feel much safer reprimanding Draco for his past actions. Coward.

"So, Malfoy," the twin smirked, cracking his knuckle. "Who did you have to kill to get here?"

Draco leaned forward in his seat slightly, already feeling his pulse speed up in anger. "Your brother's little girlfriend gave me a Portkey, actually."

"Hermione would never give you one. She loathes you."

"Well apparently not enough to leave me to die."

"She should have," George muttered under his breath. "You're nothing but a less successful copy of your father. If you wanted an escape, you should've just offed yourself and done us all a favor."

Draco stood up, slamming his fists on the table and leaning forward so he was in the lone twin's face.

"George!" Mrs. Weasley shouted from the living room, putting her hands on her hips. "You apologize to Draco right now."

"Why? He doesn't deserve an apology," George Weasley uttered grudgingly, sharing an intense glare with Draco.

"Now," she demanded.

Weasley gritted his teeth. "I'm ever so sorry, Malfoy, dear."

"Up to your room. You can skip breakfast-

"But Mum."

With the look she gave him, even Draco would have obeyed her.

Mrs. Weasley was an intimidating looking woman, and yet so sweet and motherly looking at the same time. Draco couldn't wrap his head around how this was possible. She was a short, pudgy woman in spectacles, slippers and a bathrobe and yet she was still intimidating. He wouldn't dare cross her.

"Who is here besides us?" Draco managed to ask after deep thought on what her reaction would be.

"There are five besides us three: Dean Thomas, Dennis Creevey, Luna Lovegood, and Cho Chang. Some people come and go, but those are the ones who have lived her consistently."

"That's only four."

"Oh yes, Blaise Zabini," Mrs. Weasley replied casually. "He's upstairs sleeping. He was really beat up when he came in."

Draco raised his eyebrows, sure he must have misheard her. "Blaise Zabini?" he reiterated.

"McGonagall sent him," Mrs. Weasley responded. "Apparently you aren't the only one that's experienced a change of heart, Draco."

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4 May 1998

There were weird Muggle things everywhere. Something called a 'fridge', and something else called an 'oven', and another box like thing that played pictures with sound called a 'television.' They were all genius.

And all these years he had spent believing his father when he had said that Muggles were stupid.

Though he wanted to, he couldn't cling on to his lifelong prejudices anymore.

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3 June 1998

He certainly didn't mean to overhear that conversation.

Everyone downstairs spoke of all the crimes the Death Eaters were committing. Fenrir Greyback was killing Muggle children and turning magical children into werewolves to help Voldemort. Bellatrix LeStrange was killing and torturing nearly everyone she could lay hands on, even her own side. Crabbe Sr. had killed Madame Rosmerta.

They spoke of all of them, and he looked down at his mark with self-loathing, but nothing compared to the last person they spoke of.

His father was on the duties of killing Muggleborns at birth. His father was the Dark Lord's right hand man. His father helped Voldemort to make more Horcruxes.

He opened his window then and conjured a rope with his wand. He climbed down it and ran into an orchard beside the cottage.

He slept there for four days before his disgust at himself had faded enough for him to return.

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1 August 1998

He went to sleep in the living room with the others one summer evening because it was too damn hot upstairs. He took his place in the one unoccupied sleeping back that Molly Weasley had undoubtedly placed there in case he decided to sleep with the others, who were already laying down on the living room floor on theirs, but Blaise was the lucky soul with the couch. Conversation and questions immediately filled the summer air, and he knew he wouldn't be getting any sleep for a while later.

"You've changed a lot," George Weasley pointed out. "I mean, you haven't killed any of us in our sleep."

Draco gritted his teeth. "Smart observation, Weasley, but I'll have you know that I've never killed anyone."

Whispers.

"So are you a saint now?" Creevey asked cynically. "My brother always told me how evil you were. But you can't be that bad if you switched sides, right? Or were you like Snape?"

"No," Draco answered curtly. He didn't feel like discussing his past with these nosy imbeciles.

"You've still changed a lot. You're not as much of a prat as you were at Hogwarts," Weasley observed. "You haven't called anyone a Mudblood or tortured Dean or Dennis for the fun of it because of their blood."

"Very fucking hilarious, Weasley," Draco drawled. "Say another word about my old prejudices and I'll make you my first kill. This isn't an interrogation room."

"He's still Draco Malfoy," the singsong voice of Lovegood said from across the room. "He's still sarcastic, proud, and rather cold. His wit hasn't changed, either; he's still intelligent."

"The Sorting Hat's second choice for him was Ravenclaw," Blaise mused.

"Well, you seem very wise, Draco," Lovegood said.

Draco didn't take this as a compliment. If he had learned one thing about Lovegood in the past few months, it was that she only said the truth, and rarely gave compliments. He wasn't sure he had heard her compliment, really. She just spectated on the genuine features of someone's character, and that was either a very good or very bad thing depending on the situation.

"My father always said the more hard times you go through, the wiser you become," she hummed.

Draco let out a humorless bark of laughter. "Well, that would explain it, then."

A couple of the others let out a nervous laugh, but some of them still looked at him as though he would murder them at any moment. He hoped that the ones who loathed him would at least stay out of his way, since evidently, no one else would.

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25 December 1998

Draco refused to celebrate Christmas when asked.

He saw no reason to celebrate anything, simply because there was nothing to celebrate. The past few months had hardly been easy on him.

He didn't want to come out of his room anyways. His room was the only place he ever really was, and he didn't have any desire to change it. He had a reputation to uphold. A reputation of being bitter, stubborn and slightly cruel… but not evil. No, not anymore.

He never thought of himself as a good person. No, a good person would never be the right description of him. He had never been good. The only person he gave a damn about was himself, and he would openly admit to that. No one had ever really gave him a reason to give a damn; except for perhaps Granger. He had to care about her at least slightly after what she had done for him.

Yet he was angry at Granger at the same time, for the same reason he was grateful. She had allowed him to continue living, and despite his nihilism, he was she had saved him. Now he felt as if he owed her something.

Still, the last person he wanted to be in debt to was Gryffindor's Princess.

He punched his desk and then the mirror beside it, shattering it. He cursed at the glass stuck in his knuckles and casted a silencing charm before shouting all the profanities he could think of as he removed it.

Once he had calmed down, he stared at the ceiling for hours until all the cheerful and drunken noise from the living room had ended.

.

Later that night, he went down stairs, picked off one of the ornaments on the tree and hurled it at the ground below him. He hated Christmas, mostly because the festivities contradicted his memories associated with it. It was only when he knelt down to repair the ornament when he noticed an unopened package under the tree. He pulled it out and looked at the tag, which read that it was to him, from Molly Weasley.

He opened it to find a green hand-knit sweater with a silver snake knitted in the middle of it. He didn't know what to feel, because he hadn't received a Christmas present in three years.

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Easter 1999

On Easter of 1999, Draco Malfoy sat with his housemates for the full duration of the meal, the first time he had done so since he had arrived. Everyone was silent as he took his seat, but he didn't give a damn. He was sick of feeling like he was in solitary confinement.

None of them spoke, but Draco still felt a little comfort in the presence of them.

.

Mrs. Weasley came in to see him later that day, which was something she did from time to time. Usually he didn't talk; he saw no reason to. There was nothing to talk about. Nothing monumental had gone on in his life ever since he had gotten here. The most monumental moment was charming his walls to be grey instead of the god awful yellow it was when he got here. He didn't ask about the war, either, so he didn't even know the monumental events of others.

But he wanted to talk today, because he had to admit it, he was feeling lonely. He talked so rarely that he was beginning to wonder if he had a voice left at all. He cleared his throat.

"Hello," he greeted.

The corners of her lips twitched up into a small grin. "Hello, Draco. That's the first time I've heard you say anything in months."

"There's nothing to say," he shrugged, pulling out the chair from his desk and gesturing her to sit down. "It's easier not saying anything, anyways."

"Why?" Mrs. Weasley furrowed her brow in a concerned manner.

"Everyone else tells happy stories to make the pain go away," Draco sighed. "I haven't got any happy stories; not one. Besides, they're miserable, and pissed off."

"Aren't you?"

"I feel apathetic, mostly," he replied. "I don't really feel anything. I don't think I have since fourth year. I probably haven't smiled since fifth year."

"What changed?"

"My father went back to the Dark Lord," Draco answered. He didn't want to elaborate. "But really, I don't think he ever left."

Mrs. Weasley patted him on the back. "I have to go check on George. He hasn't been well lately; he misses his brother."

"Ah."

"I'm always here to listen, Draco."

He nodded, waiting for Mrs. Weasley to leave his room before breaking down and crying for the first time in several years; there was no one to hide from anymore. His father wasn't anywhere in this house. Still, he couldn't help but feel pathetic.

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1 September 1998

He thought of Hogwarts on the first of September and wondered if it was even Hogwarts anymore at all. He knew nothing of the outside world, nothing besides the fact that it was still a living hell and that the Death Eaters were in power. That's all he really wanted to know.

He didn't want to hear who had died, or who had gotten injured. He didn't want to wonder if his father was involved. He didn't want to know much of anything in the outside world. He was here, and he was safe.

He didn't want to know of the other dangers because he figured that was already a danger to himself.

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15 October 1999

This was his first time going downstairs, aside from meals.

He had been hearing sobbing and sniffling all morning and had wondered what the hell was going on, and he went to see Molly Weasley sobbing, the others gathered around her to comfort her. They all stared at him for a moment, their eyes questioning the way they always were when they looked at him. He kept a stoic expression on his face the whole time he stood there, and arched an eyebrow at them.

Molly Weasley came lunging at him then, pulling him into a tight hug, and he was unsure what to do. This was his first physical contact with anyone in months, and so it took him a minute for him to process. After that minute, he rather awkwardly returned the embrace.

"Oh, Draco," Molly croaked before crying again and pulling away. She flashed him a sad smile. "I'm just glad you aren't on their side anymore... and you tried so hard to save my husband that dreaded day. That's the only reason he pulled through."

More whispers. There was disbelief and skepticism in the room, despite Mrs. Weasley's words.

"What's happened?" Draco questioned, furrowing his brow.

"But you don't talk," Blaise said, giving Draco an odd look. "You just sit around like a creepy, brooding robot and give an occasional nod or shake of your head."

"Well apparently I've regained the ability," Draco replied coolly.

"Enough, boys," Molly interjected. She sighed a long weary sigh and choked back a sob before she answered his question. "Ron's d-dead."

Draco looked down at the ground, unsure of exactly what to say to that. He had hated Ron Weasley, and there was no denying that. He was a complete idiot, and he was perhaps one of the most irritating people in Hogwarts. But he felt sorry for Mrs. Weasley, the kind and strong woman that cared about him. Then a dreaded question popped into his mind, and he gulped.

"Was - was my father involved?" he asked in a weak voice.

Molly looked rather uncomfortable. "I believe he was, yes. Hermione said he was. But he killed many others, too. Not just Ron," she paused at the expression on Draco's face. "Draco, you are not your father."

"I-I've got to go," he responded.

He ran back up the stairs and then into the bathroom, collapsing over the toilet and vomiting. He had to vomit when all the memories in the manor came back. The memories of watching him kill innocent people, often leaving blood splattered on the drawing room floor. He remembered watching him kill carelessly and ruthlessly in a battle. His father had no mercy, and perhaps that was what sickened him the most. But really, the most sickening part of it all was that Draco Malfoy was that man's son.

His aunt was dead. At least she was gone, according to what he had been told. He had found that out shortly after arriving to the cottage. At least he could have some peace in that.

And that was the saddest story he had ever told; that he, Draco Malfoy, wished his family dead without the slightest question of it.

He muttered to himself about wanting his father to be killed, about him needing to do it himself.

And Salazar forgive him, he meant it.

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21 October 1999

Draco had set his alarm early the night before simply so he could go down to breakfast. He was curious over Hermione Granger, and the fact that it was enough so to get out of bed only highlighted just how much curiosity he had. He rolled out of bed, rubbed his eyes and put on a pair of sweatpants and a cadet grey t-shirt. He had developed a tendency to sleep in only his boxers over the past year or so, but he never dared to come to breakfast in only that.

He made his way to the bathroom so he could brush his teeth and use the toilet, but he collided head-on with someone as he made his way to the door. He was rather surprised when he looked down and saw Granger. "Sorry," he mumbled. "I'm still half asleep."

She met his gaze, not saying a word. He studied her then and he realized how exhausted she looked. There were dark circles under her brown eyes and her once tan skin was a rather unhealthy pallid color.

"Are you alright?"

No response. Nothing.

"Granger, did you get any sleep last night?"

"I fail to see why that matters to you, Malfoy," she retaliated in a glacial tone. "I'd mind your own business."

"What's got your knickers in a twist?" he snapped. "I was being polite."

"Yeah, well I'm not going to be polite with you," she shrugged. "I'm just a Mudblood, right?"

"You are," he said. "You are a Mudblood, and you saved my life."

"Don't be nice with me," she hissed. "Your father told me exactly what I am."

"I'm not him."

"I see no difference," she said coldly, taking a step back from him.

He nodded, clenching his jaw. "Alright, well if you'd get the fuck out of the way I'd leave you alone and just take a piss."

She crinkled her nose before stepping out of the way and gesturing towards the bathroom. "You're disgusting."

"Well since I'm my father, Granger," he muttered, opening the door just to have eye contact as he said this. "You're repulsive."

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A few minutes later, he went down to breakfast, careful to sit on the opposite side of Granger at the table. The tension in the room was thick, and unanswered questions of why she had showed up lingered in the air. Luna Lovegood was the first to clear her throat and speak. "Why are you here, Hermione?" she asked in a sweet tone of voice.

Granger swallowed and looked down at her pancakes. "I don't really want to talk about this right now, or ever, quite frankly."

Draco's eyes flickered down to her wrist where he knew the word 'Mudblood' lingered. He winced at the sight of it, and noticed a rather peculiar new word beside it; 'filthy'. The fact that it was his father made him want to vomit again, but he held onto the table, looking down to get his nausea under control. There were other word, too, but he couldn't read them from here.

When he looked back up, she looked at him coldly and knowingly and pulled her sleeve completely over the marks.

They glared daggers sharper than the ones that ever carved the words.

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24 October 1998

He was in the living room when he saw her enter the room and cross to the kitchen. It was the first time she'd come out of her room in three days. She had seemingly been careful to avoid people, because it was near midnight when she entered the room. He got up off the couch and watched her from the living room as she poured herself a glass of milk.

"Of course you're here," Granger muttered. "Just my luck."

"You must have good luck then," he drawled.

She scowled at him. "You'd have think some of your arrogance would've gone away when you realized you were too hated to even go out into battle. You ran like the coward you are."

"And do tell me, Granger," he licked his lower lip. "What is it that you're doing right now? You're hiding from your problems. You never struck me as the kind of person that would run."

"That's because you don't know me."

"No, I don't," he replied simply. "But I don't need to to know that you're stubborn and you fight for what you want. Don't you want to win the war?"

"It's none of your business why I left, for your information," she seethed. "Seeing as you neither care nor deserve to know."

He clenched and unclenched his fists. He was growing angry now. The witch was infuriating. But then he had a thought, the right wound to press. He smirked. "It had to do with the Weasel, didn't it?" Draco asked.

"Don't you dare bring Ron into this, you arrogant little git."

"I assure you, Granger," he was smirking wider now. "I'm anything but little. You might want to refer back to your dead boyfriend if you want little."

"You are a repulsive human being," she hissed under her breath. "I should've left you there to die."

"Yeah, and then you could've shagged Weasley in peace somewhere," he said smugly. "I never took you as one to have a fuck buddy, Granger but-

That was apparently enough to drive her over the edge, because she took three steps forward so they were face to face and slapped him across the face. "Listen hear, you git, what I did or didn't do with Ron isn't any of your business and you have no right to talk about things you don't know."

"Oh, she's angry now," he remarked, his expression almost amused. "Consider me terrified."

"Well yes I'm angry, Malfoy," she shouted. "I haven't felt any emotion since he's died and then you come along and now the first thing I feel is absolute hatred and rage. I don't hate."

"You hate me," he stated.

"I hate you," she agreed. "But you're a special case there."

"Because I know how to draw a rise out of you, and because I'm an intellectual equal," he added. "Because you care desperately what I think of you because you don't want to be second best at anything."

"No, you want to know why I hate you Malfoy?"

"I know why you hate me. I just said it."

She pulled up her right sleeve. Her whole right arm was covered in words like 'Mudblood', 'Unclean,' 'Filth', 'Dirty Blood', and seemingly every other synonym for Mudblood his father could think of.

His eyes scanned it and felt his pulse speed up and a surge of rage directed at his father run through his veins. "I didn't do this. I would never do this. How the bloody hell does this have anything to do with me?"

"Because in all the years I've known you, Malfoy, you've admired him."

She glared at him for a moment before grabbing her glass of milk and walking off.
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25 October 1999

Everyone had gone down to the beach below the cottage except for him, Granger, and Lovegood. Molly Weasley had insisted that they play cards at the coffee table and only because of their deep gratitude and respect for Molly Weasley did they oblige.

Draco was winning in their current and ironic game of the card game 'War' and Granger was glaring at him from the other side of the couch. They were sitting as far away from each other as possible, and Lovegood had taken a seat on one of the living chairs beside the couch. She flipped over her last card and revealed a two, and Draco set down an eight. He cracked his knuckles and smirked. She scowled angrily at him.

"You're too uptight, Granger," he drawled. "You've got your knickers in a twist over a game of cards."

"I'm not pissed off over a game of cards," she spat, though there was a slight tint of coral at her cheeks.

Luna Lovegood hummed. "You two always bicker. You shouldn't waste your energy on each other by harboring negativity."

"Well talk to him about it then," Hermione snapped. "He's walking negativity."

"Draco isn't that bad, Hermione. He has just been mislead, and he has been through his fair share of hardships," Luna countered quietly. "But I'm glad you are feeling something. I felt rather sad when you told me about how you felt completely numb the other day."

"Well, anger is the last emotion I need."

"Yeah, well welcome to my life, Granger," Draco let out a humorless bark of laughter. "I'm either depressed or angry most of the time."

"Maybe if you weren't such an argumentative asshole you wouldn't be angry at everything."

"Yeah, well maybe if you weren't-

"There are Nargles around," Luna announced, sighing. "Come on, let's play another game of cards."

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26 October 1999

"What's new in the outside world, Molly?" he asked at breakfast as he put powdered sugar on his waffles. "How is the war?"

"No Muggleborns get into Hogwarts anymore. Slytherin is the only house," Molly answered tonelessly. "Every Muggleborn recorded on the list is killed as a baby, along with the parents. The Order is still fighting, but we're losing. They've got all the power. They've already won."

"Muggleborns are being killed?" Granger questioned, outraged. Everyone stared at her. This was the first time she had really said anything at a meal. "That's disgusting."

"It is," Dean Thomas agreed. Draco had known that Thomas was a Muggleborn, but often forgot. He had never really bothered teasing him all that much. It was mainly Granger. "But I'm not surprised. It's totally something that You-Know-Who would pull."

Draco fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat. If this had all happened years ago, he would be happy that they were killing Mudbloods. That thought made him cringe. Why did he ever think that those people deserved to die? He had, after all, wished Granger dead in his second year.

Sure enough, Granger's eyes met his with an icy glare. "Yeah, I'm not surprised, either," she responded. "I suspect Lucius Malfoy does all the dirty work."

Molly Weasley shifted in her seat. "Well, now that everyone has their food, let's eat."

He didn't eat. He didn't think he could stomach it now that the thought that his father was probably out doing all of it haunting him.

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31 October 1999

Some of them were celebrating Halloween down at the beach, but Draco found that the ghosts from his own life were more than enough to deal with. He sighed and put down his issue of the Daily Prophet to massage his temples. It was ten minutes to midnight, and his lack of sleep was catching up with him.

"You're not in costume," he heard Granger's voice say from across the room. He put down his newspaper and raised his eyebrows in a way that clearly said 'this is going to be interesting'.

"There are plenty of monsters in the world without us in costume, Granger," he replied simply.

She studied him before pouring herself a glass of milk and sitting at one of the stools at the kitchen counter. "You included," she muttered under her breath.

"Why are you so determined to hate me?" he questioned, meeting her gaze for a moment before she looked away. "You want to despise me. Why? Is it because of what my father did to you?"

She choked on her milk at that question, coughing for a few moments before swallowing, her eyes still watering. "I... Your father... Can we not talk about that? Whenever I think of him I think of Ron's death. It hurt."

"So you're just locking yourself away?" he raised his eyebrows. "You're Granger, not this empty shell you're acting like. You close yourself off from everyone and I have yet to see you smile or laugh or have any sort of expression, really."

"Yes, Malfoy, I'm locking myself away," she answered, exasperation in her tone. "And I've had no reason to smile or laugh in the past few days, if you haven't taken notice."

"You say I'm a coward," he muttered, grabbing a bottle of firewhiskey from the pantry. "Why do you lock it all away? Why do you hide?"

She squeezed her eyes shut and made an odd grimace-like expression. "It's just... it's easier that way, alright?"

"So you take the easy way out, then?"

"No."

"You do," he argued.

"Are you calling me a coward?" she snapped, opening her eyes and glaring at him.

"Yeah, maybe I am," he answered boldly.

"Don't you dare call me a coward, Draco Malfoy," she warned, taking a step toward him. "I am not a coward."

"Well isn't that what you are?" he replied. "You call me a coward when you are doing the exact same thing. You lock yourself in your room and try to pretend you're okay when in reality, you're just as broken as everyone else. It's bloody pathetic."

"You don't know what the fuck I've been through in my life. You've had it nothing but easy, being all up your father's arse and-

He cut her off with the cruelest laugh she had ever heard. "Tell me, Granger, have you been taunted and put under the Cruciatus Curse because you have the decency not to be able to kill another human being? Have you watched your father kill innocent people just for the fun of it? Have you watched him torture your mother, the only one that stood up for you? Have you watched your own mother die? Not physically, no. She hasn't died physically. But she's a walking and talking corpse if you ask me. Have you been tortured because you broke a fucking wine glass on accident-

"Let me tell you something, Mal-

"I am not finished," he shouted, seething with rage. "Do you know how guilty I was for calling you a Mudblood-

"That's rubbish!" she burst out laughing. "You don't feel guilt at all much less-

"Interrupt me one more fucking time, Granger" he uttered darkly. "Do you know how guilty I was for calling you a Mudblood when I watched Bellatrix carve that word into your skin? Do you know how guilty I am for basically killing a kind old man like Dumbledore, and for watching everyone around me murder people without doing shit about it? I live with this fucking guilt every day. Every. Fucking. Day. That's why I don't come out of my room. What's your excuse? What have you been through that's so nasty?"

She was speechless. Draco Malfoy wasn't even Malfoy in that moment. He looked murderous; it seemed he could drop his decency and murder her there on the spot. His face was red, tendons in his neck bulging, jaw locked and fists clenched so hard his fingernails were probably drawing blood. So she said the only thing she could say.

"Fuck you, Malfoy," she hissed venomously. "Go drown in all your fucking guilt so the world is rid of you. Everyone would be better off."

"And you think I don't know that?" he raised his eyebrows, talking quietly now, but with just as much venom behind his words. "But to hear it from Hermione Granger. Sweet, pure, Hermione Granger is gone, isn't she? Tell me, did the purity leave when you left the Weasel? Maybe you did the deed with Potter too?"

She surprised him then. She pushed him so hard he fell backwards into the table, knocking it over and falling down onto his arse.

He stared up at her, his lips parted with shock. "Who are you?"

"Figure it out yourself," she said coolly.

She walked away after that, secretly thinking that she can't figure it out anymore.

He needed the last word, so before she had left the room completely, he shouted at her. "You think you're pretty scary on Halloween, don't you Granger?"

.

That night, once it had grown dark outside, he wrote on a crumpled piece of parchment he found in the corner of his room:

I can't figure out what's happened to her, if she is even the same person and not someone else under Polyjuice Potion. Or perhaps today someone chose to be her as a costume. That would make more sense than it actually being her.

But then again, she still slapped me in third year. And she was Granger then.

I'm determined to break her down, and to find out what the bloody hell did this to her. She doesn't even seem alive anymore. The Granger I knew would've never hidden away. She would've openly expressed all her emotions as publicly as possible, just like every other Gryffindor.

She doesn't get an ounce of sleep. I can hear her singing in the shower from here. She sounds bloody terrible. She looks bloody terrible; not by her natural features, Merlin no. There is no problem there. She looks terrible because she seems to be wasting away. She looks more like my mother did right before she became an empty shell.

I am saving Granger from becoming that, because she saved me. I'm going to work my way in and make her angry just so she can feel something and let it out. Because my fate was death, but what she is heading for is worse than death.

.


.

1 November 1999

He could feel her glaring at him all of breakfast, and saw her smirk just once when she saw the bruise on his elbow. She approached him after they are done eating, as if wanting to say anything.

"I'm not sorry, you know," she said matter-of-factly.

"I'm not either," he replied. "You despise every bit of my being. You didn't need to tell me that. So why are you wasting your time talking to me when you could be wasting away in your bedroom?"

"Because you'd be right if I did that," she smiled slyly. "You said I don't talk to anyone. I talked to someone, and now I can go waste away in my bedroom without having the fact I let you be right on my conscious."

.

Draco didn't want to let her be right about him either, now that she had found a loophole in his accusation. He sat beside Blaise in front of the box with the moving pictures and poured himself a glass of firewhiskey. He felt the air shift in the room and felt Blaise tense on the couch.

"What's this thing called again?" he questioned, furrowing his brow at it.

"A television," Blaise answered. "You can call it a TV for short."

"A TB?" Draco inaccurately repeated, not sure if he had heard right.

"No, a TV. How the fuck did you forget that when you hear people talking about the thing all the time?"

"Because I've never bothered with this thing and didn't want to seem stupid asking what it was," he shrugged. "Go easy on me, someone only told me what the thing is when I arrived here eighteen months ago."

"You count the months too?" Blaise raised his eyebrows.

"There's nothing better to do when you shut yourself inside your room all day. I just make little tally marks in this journal thing I have."

Blaise nodded. "Ah."

Draco hesitated for a moment. "So what the hell happened to Granger?"

"Beats me," Blaise gave Draco an odd look. "She hates me almost as much as she hates you. Why would she tell me?"

"I thought someone else might have told you what happened."

"No one knows what happened except for her, not even Molly," Blaise took another sip of his firewhiskey. "There are only rumors. I think a lot of it is that she's seen what we've all seen. She's always cared way too much about humanity. There was no humanity in the war. Watching others die was probably enough to break her. And then she watched Weasley die. She lost her two best friends within a year. That alone would screw anyone up."

"My room is next to hers," Draco mused. "She cries a lot. I hear her through the walls. She's turned into Moaning bloody Myrtle."

"She's healing," Blaise remarked.

"Is she?"

The two sat in silence for a long while before Blaise got up to go to bed. "Goodnight, Draco," he said. "It was nice talking to you when you're not being an arse. But I have one question before I go; why did you come to me to talk about Granger?"

"I'm saving her," Draco responded. "I'm saving her because she saved me. I also wanted to ask about her because she pushed me into the dining room table yesterday so hard that I broke it when I fell. I had to repair it with magic."

Blaise full out laughed his whole way up the stairs.

"It's not funny, you bastard!" he called after his confidant.

.

He lay awake that night. He couldn't sleep with the sound of her muffled sobs. He damned the thin walls of the house repeatedly in his mind.

The more he listened, the more he thought his new mission to save her was impossible. She was broken. Hermione Granger had cracked.

War did that; war cracks even the strongest spirits, particularly those who care so much about the rights of others. There are no rights in a war, particularly that one. There is no right to live, to breathe, to do anything, because you aren't the only one on the line.

He wasn't sure what had happened to her, but he was beginning to think that she couldn't be fixed; especially by him. She loathed him, and besides...

Draco Malfoy was just as broken himself.

.