.

A year later...

.

She barely recognized him, or at least not the boy he used to be.

The innocent if bratty Malfoy heir with a cherubic face and cheerful if mischievous eyes.

Instead, in its place, was a tall, pale shadow of a man.

A man who looked like he missed out on much of his sleep, he never slept without his wand under his pillow, who never trusted anyone, and probably never laughed at all anymore.

His eyes - while still those hauntingly beautiful shade of grey, the Malfoy eyes - were dead. As if the soul had been removed.

What happened to you? she wondered.

What did they do to you?

How many lives had he killed, is what she secretly wondered.

Would he kill her?

This was not the boy she used to know.

.


.

It had been a year since he'd seen her. How many times he had dreamed of holding her, of being reunited with her like this, of having her in his house, where
once a year ago, he had snuck her in his room as he made wild feverish love to her...

Instead she was reunited with him, temporarily and fleetingly, along with Harry and Ron, as kidnapping victims. The Snatchers, more or less worse than the Death Eaters, had finally tracked them down and taken them...They were after Potter.

But Draco could not take his eyes of one person, Hermione Granger.

It took everything in him to hold back and not wrap his arms around her. To tell her how much he missed her, and how much she actually meant to him. That she wasn't a one night stand.

Instead he did the best thing he could do. He lied. He lied to the Snatchers and his father to save her life.

"No I don't recognize him. I don't think this is Harry...or his friends."

Of course it was a lie. He would never miss her face in a million years. Only his father didn't give a damn enough to know that he grew up around these classmates and of course he would've recognized them, even with the number they did to Harry's face.

But his family didn't know him well enough to know he was lying.

And then soon enough they were escaping from his house with the help of Dobby, who still knew the wards and keys of the Manor.

As Dobby died, bleeding, across his floor, again he held back from reaching out. He could not show any emotion, though he desperately wanted to ask Dobby where she was going, that he could trust him, that he meant Granger no harm...yet soon the house-elf was lifeless and dead. There was no way he would be able to reach her or know where she was again.

And he was haunted.

Because the girl, while still beautiful and pale, was not the Hermione he used to know. Like a part of her soul had been removed out of her.

And he wondered, what did they do to you?

How many lives had she killed? Was it even possible Granger killed anyone?

Was it even in her to kill someone? Had she sent any Death Eaters, like him, to their death? Though God knows they would deserve it.

She was not the girl, the innocent playful nerdy schoolgirl, he used to know. The know-it-all annoyingly bossy yet mirthful girl. The one with the wild bushy brown hair. The girl, or rather woman, he had seen today, had hallowed-out eyes and no smile. No mirth. A heavy sense of foreboding, or misfortune, in all her features.

Gone was the innocence.

Where did that girl go?

Did she hate him? Did she really think he abandoned her by choice?

How much he longed to hold her in his arms and never let go.

Draco excused himself and went to his upstairs bedroom.

He placed silencing and locking spells on the door and sure at least he was alone, he settled for curling up in a ball, holding his knees, and crying until the snot ran down his face and his body went numb.

If anyone heard him crying, he wondered if they would believe he could actually be a Death Eater.

He hadn't cried in 6 whole months, since he saw his best friend's dad die.

Yet seeing Granger alive and within his reach? It never had pained him more to be so close and yet so far from the one person he still cared for.

It broke him to let her go.

Again.

Because she didn't know.

He loved her.

.


.

She couldn't quite understand the pureblood's motives for helping Harry and Ron escape from his own house. Draco surely couldn't care for her? Yet he wanted to help save them?

If it were not for Draco pretending to not recognize them as the Golden trio, they would surely be dead at Voldemort's feet.

Yet Draco had pretended to not know them, just as he stared into her eyes, as surely recognizing her as if it had been yesterday.

Yet she couldn't understand why he stared at her like that - as if almost liked her - when he chose to abandon her and leave to become a Death Eater without even another word to her since that night they spent together. Surely he couldn't really care somehow after a whole year of silence. Did he feel guilty, is that why he saved them? For her?

Hermione get a grip of yourself, she scolded herself that night, once they had escaped far away from the manor. Draco doesn't feel guilt, he doesn't even feel anything towards me. Stop being a fool, she berated herself. It's impossible.

While Harry and Ron celebrated their close escape with Bill and Fleur, Hermione excused herself to go the upstairs bedroom alone. She placed silencing spells on the doors so no one would hear.

She should be happy they made it out of the Manor alive.

Instead she cried her eyes out.

It broke her to be so far away from him when she had been so close.

Again.

Just out of reach.

Because he didn't know.

About their child.

That she lost.

.


.

"And now I have nothing." she whispered numbly to herself as she fell asleep, hungry and covered in the salt of her own tears, knowing that Draco was a million miles away and not even the same boy or man she knew. "Nothing except the mission."

So she lived, breathed and conceived no other thoughts than destroying the Horcruxes. Horcruxes, horcruxes, horcruxes.

Because she had nothing for herself.

She had lost everything.
.


.

"And now I have nothing." Draco thought as he stood, cleaned his face, then put on his mask and robes of a Death Eater. "Only pretending."

Only pretending that this whole war wasn't a futile exercise in human suffering.

Only pretending that this wasn't going to end miserably, either way.

When the woman he loved was a million miles away.

When the end of the war was a million miles away.

When saying anything to her would surely kill either him or her for traitors.

.

.

Did it ever end? Was there ever a light at the end of the tunnel?

The hope of the war ending was the only thing that kept him going.

.


The hope of the war ending and finally speaking to him was the only thing that kept her going.

Even if they only spoke as enemies.
.

.
She had to keep going.
.


He had to keep going.
Because one day he might speak to her.

If only as enemies.

He'd be happy to see her alive.

Just to see her alive.

.

.

So he had to keep fighting, defeating the Death Eaters from the inside. Destroying their ammunition, leaving clues for the Order, dropping hints of the Horcruxe locations.

Making it easier.

So he could find her.

At the other side.

Of the war.

Alive.