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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24. Hours

The bitter breeze thrashed around her, like it was trying to sneak into her pores and freeze her blood.

Merlin knew why, but her feet had carried her to Astronomy Tower, and she would swear the residual energy of Snape's Killing Curse was still clouding the air up here. The atmosphere felt thicker and close, and a niggling itch had scratched at her spine the moment she had arrived.

Leaning against the railing, her troubled stare searched the skies and tried to look past the shadows of storm clouds to find the stars, but only Vega and Arcturus were bright enough to wink back.

Forgotten voices ricocheted around her skull.

I have to do this…

She shuddered. Harry had told her exactly what Draco had said that night, and she would swear on Godric's grave that she could hear the whispers of his words crawling across the walls.

I have to kill you, or he's going to kill me…

She gripped the railing tighter and closed her eyes, and the ghosts of the past formed in her mind. She could see it all so clearly; the scene repeating itself in her head. Draco, Dumbledore, Snape, Bellatrix. So alive and fresh, like she could graze her fingertips over their forms and feel the beats of their hearts.

Hermione focussed on the image of Draco that her brain had conjured as he lowered his wand, just like Harry had described, and her heart felt like it was throbbing in her throat. He looked so vulnerable, and it made her fall a little harder for him, but the logical voice in her head reminded her that this was purely her interpretation of the events.

Just before Snape lifted his wand to murder the man she had admired so much, she felt a breathy murmur tingle her ear, and her eyes snapped open. Spinning around with a sharp gasp to inflate her lungs, she frantically hunted for the source, but she was alone.

Completely alone.

And it petrified her.

Her surroundings seemed to vibrate with sinister shadows, and eerie whispers were buried in the dark. The space became suffocating, and her chest was suddenly heaving as the icy chill coiled around her limbs.

Breaking into a sprint, she ran to her dorm, leaving the spirits of the past to fizzle behind her in the Tower. The slaps of her racing footsteps echoed down the empty corridors and she dived into her room, skidding to a stop and shutting the door behind her. Pivoting on her heels, her eyes softened when they landed on Draco; snoozing on the sofa with Crookshanks resting in his lap. A sad smile pulled at her lips as his husky breaths drifted over to her, and that painful pulse of affection drummed in her chest.

"Crooks," she whispered, tip-toeing towards the couch. "Come down, boy."

With a lazy stretch, her faithful pet obeyed and wandered into Draco's room to give them the privacy she wanted. Reaching out with uninhibited fingers, Hermione stroked his face. She had repeated these ministrations before, but had never taken the times to feel how he was between the caverns of her fingerprints, and he felt like liquid Autumn; pleasantly cold and like the firm flesh of plums. Closing her eyes, she engraved the sensation into her brain, noting his lips were the texture of melting wax and the fine stubble on his jaw tingled like static.

"What are you doing, Granger?"

Her eyes snapped open just as Draco's lids slowly peeled back to fix her with a suspicious glare. Her body went still for a moment, but with a single tug of her lip with her teeth, she simply sighed and lifted her chin.

"I met a woman who lost someone she…" Loved. It was what she wanted to say, but her tongue hesitated. "Someone she cared about."

Draco's brow furrowed, but he remained silent.

"I know our…relationship is complicated," Hermione continued, a little relieved when he didn't scowl at the 'r' word. "And I never meant for any of this to happen-

He snorted. "You think I planned-

"Please, Draco," she interrupted. "Just let me finish. I don't think either of us planned any of this." She swallowed and caught his eyes. "But I don't regret anything. I care about you. And I don't want us to be separated, but there's nothing I can do about it."

Draco tensed his jaw, but some of his resolve simmered as he watched her shoulders droop with fatigue and defeat. Her cheeks were shimmering with hour-old tears and her hair was wild from wind-play, but she was so raw and real like this, and it kicked him in the gut.

"But I can do something about the goodbye," Hermione said with a purposeful tone. "I will not fight with you anymore."

He arched an eyebrow. "What are you-

"I don't know when we will have to leave," she mumbled. "But I will not let our last days involve us at each other's throats-

"We fight, Granger," he stated with a stoic shrug. "It's what we do-

"I don't mean the harmless stuff," she said with frustration. "You know what I mean, Draco; all the fights we've had recently, and I won't do it any more. I refuse."

She paused, waiting for him to speak, but he simply regarded her with that familiar look of detachment that made her fists clench.

"I just…" she trailed off, her fingers finding their way back to his face. "I want to remember you like this. Calm and…and not looking like you hate me."

Draco frowned but absently leaned into her touch.

"So that's it," she spoke, dropping her hand back to her side. "I don't know what's going to happen to us. McGonagall said she might have found a place for you, but I don't know anything else. I have given you all the answers I can, so I will not argue about our circumstances anymore. I am tired of it-

"Granger-

"So if you can't do that-

"Granger-

"Then I don't want to speak to you-

"Granger," he growled with impatience, snatching her hand and yanking her into his lap. "Take a fucking breath-

"I'm serious," she told him, stiff and resilient in his arms. "I won't do it."

Draco's expression slowly morphed into an amused smirk, and Hermione studied him warily, subconsciously halting her breaths as he clicked his tongue. "Always so stubborn," he remarked with a low and quiet rumble of his vocal chords. He licked his lips. "Fine, Granger. No more questions."

She couldn't help the loud sigh of relief that left her lips and toyed with some of his blond hair. "Thank you," she said, relaxing in his lap and brushing a delicate kiss at the corner of his mouth.

Draco tucked his hands between the backs of her knees and gathered her closer, adjusting her legs into a comfortable straddle as he pressed harder into the kiss. Something about Granger's gentle but determined nips and licks always roused a hungry and inescapable urge in his veins. Knotting his fingers into her rebellious locks, he held her head in place and sucked at her lips with something devastatingly close to desperation.

Dropping his damp nibbles to the swoon of her throat, he resisted a shiver when one of her moan-come-gasps ticked the receptive skin of his shoulder and glided down the bumps of his spine. His fingers stabbed into the denim-clad pinch just beneath her buttocks when she roughly tugged at the hem of his top and broke the kiss to rip it over his head.

Broken kisses taste better when they're fixed.

She was doing that thing he secretly adored; softly scraping her nails across his chest and freckling barely-there pecks against the shell of his ear. Hastily tearing off her jumper, he grazed his teeth over the rise of her collarbone as he fiddled with the clasp of her bra.

Both bare-chested and starting to glisten with pre-bliss sweat, an unvoiced agreement was shared between them as they stole some sacred minutes, just to relish all the details that teased the senses.

To kiss…touch…bite…sigh…savour...

To memorise.

But the trapped heat beneath her stomach made Hermione squirm, and she tore herself away from him and got to her feet to step out of her jeans and underwear, while Draco swiftly eased out of his trousers and boxers. He could see the beginnings of her insecurities in her hazels as he openly stared at her, willing his brain to remember every inch of her body before her anxiety shattered the image.

Why couldn't she understand that she was fucking beautiful?

Perhaps because he'd never told her.

She made to settle next to him on the sofa, but his hand shot out and latched onto her wrist, slowly but firmly dragging her back to where she had been; thighs against thighs. He pushed away the brandy-tinted tresses hiding her face, and he could see the uncertainty reluctantly etched into her charming features. They'd never done it like this before, her on top and needing to set the pace, and he lifted her chin so she would meet his encouraging look.

"You will like this," he assured her, snatching her lower lip between his teeth. "Trust me."

Hermione's eyes widened and her shoulders relaxed as a slow smile graced her nibble-swollen lips. "I do trust you," she confessed quietly, gripping his shoulders as one of his palms settled on her back, his fingers rousing pleasant shivers to trickle down her spine.

His other hand traced an imaginary trail from the wave of her hip to the moist slit that he craved and dipped two fingers inside, catching her keening whine with his mouth. He only teased her for some stolen minutes, sprinkling tongue-heavy kisses against her chest and growing harder as her dulcet purrs tingled his ears. She tried to reach for his erection, but he pushed away her eager hands; he wanted this to last a while. He wanted to be consumed by the experience of the intimate link, instead of striving to reach the climax.

He didn't know why. He just did.

Just a couple of strokes against her most sensitive flesh to ensure she was ready, and he slowly slid her up his legs until her cherry-tipped breasts were against his chest. With a slight wriggle of her body, she swallowed his desire inside, arching her back and adjusting herself to the unfamiliar but delicious angle.

Draco sucked the air through his teeth as he melted into her warmth, and his grip on her waist tightened as a twist of her of her hips made his gut pound with lust. Moving her body to help build a rhythm, he rocked her slowly against him, his lips remaining securely fastened to any inch of skin he could taste.

Something between seconds and hours passed with the gradual build-up; gentle sways of bodies and languid brushes of lips. She was making those husky little moans that sounded too pure for his side of reality, but he inhaled them anyway. Her head lolled forward until their brows touched, spilling her coffee-curls around them like a veil to muffle the rest of the world.

Kisses match the flow of sex; slow but deep, and setting nerve-endings on fire. As the imminent bliss began to inflate beneath his stomach, Draco locked his arms around her torso so she was flush up him and took over the tempo, bucking into her a little faster and harder. He knew from her tell-tale twitches and her elevated breaths that she was reaching the peak of her pleasure, and he broke their kiss, grasping her face so he could witness the moment dance across her features.

The parting of her lips. Her blinks of bewilderment. The dilating of her pupils. Her choked whimper.

"I want to remember you like this," he mumbled, almost accidentally as the vibrations of her release brought on his.

Forehead kissing forehead and harsh breaths clashing between them, Draco absently stroked lazy patterns against her hairline as the orgasms simmered away to leave that playful tingle in their bones. Her hum of satisfaction ghosted across his shoulder and her lids fell shut, but he didn't let her head drop as some damning words tumbled out of his mouth.

"One final question," he rasped out, and her eyes reluctantly opened to meet his. "How long do we have left?"

Hermione's sated expression creased into a heartbroken frown, and she gulped down the clot of sorrow in her windpipe. "Not long."

.

.

Time is subjective to the happiness of hearts.

Time is bitter and selfish; won't slow down no matter how hard you beg.

Time breezes by when you stumble across something close to contentment.

They spent the next few days tangled in each other's limbs, amongst the bed-sheets or shower spray and tried to block out the world beyond the door, as young lovers do. In the fragile hours between, they perched on the window-seat, watching the wild displays of the January thunderstorms and absently reading Shakespeare, Byron or Donne between lazy kisses.

Draco resented the moments when Hermione had to leave for a couple of meetings with McGonagall and to help the St Mungo's victims in the Medical Wing, but he chewed his tongue to keep the peace, as he'd said he would. Although the shadow of the impending War never left the room, she'd been wearing a subtle smile since their talk, and he was adamant he wouldn't chase it away.

"Draco."

"Hm?"

"Do you want to go to bed?" she asked. "You look a little tired."

Sleep was a waste of time.

"I'm fine," he mumbled, gesturing for her to flip the page. "Might as well get to the end."

Hermione craned her neck to nip the corner of his mouth.

She had fought hard not to be seduced by a false sense of security, but Draco's relaxed demeanour had been like a drug to alleviate her dread. Hogwarts had felt more peaceful too; most of the survivors of the St. Mungo's attack had made quick recoveries and been sent home, and around forty students had returned to the school from the extended Christmas break. The rest of her classmates were due to return tomorrow on the Hogwarts Express, and she was looking forward to seeing Ginny and Neville, if only to say goodbye before the Ministry was overthrown and she would need to leave.

Among the forty who had returned were the Creevey brothers and a third-year named Joanne Preston; Hermione's fellow Muggle-borns, and her main priority when the inevitable happened.

McGonagall had outlined evacuation plans for the Muggle-borns meticulously, but remained decisively vague about Draco; simply nodding her head and assuring that 'something had been arranged.' The stressed wrinkles dissecting the Headmistress' face had been a little deeper recently, and Hermione had refrained from pushing the matter, trusting her mentor implicitly and shoving her concern to the side.

And she really was concerned about Draco; so much that it terrified her.

She had mentally prepared herself for the fall of the Ministry and Hogwarts, but the idea of Draco's looming departure made her breathing falter. These final days spent wrapped up in his scent, voice and warmth had been soul-soothing and possibly the most beautiful in her short life.

But everything has an expiry date.

"Granger."

"Hm?"

"You haven't turned the page in about ten minutes."

"Oh," she frowned. "Sorry. I was thinking about something."

"Shocker," he drawled with rich sarcasm, feathering a kiss behind her ear. "Come on, Granger. Turn the page."

Numbly doing as requested, Hermione tried to sink further into Draco's body heat and scolded herself for letting precious minutes slip through her fingers.

The clocks were mocking her.

.

.

She woke to a nervous knot in her stomach.

It was still dark, and Draco's arm was belted around her waist as his sleepy breaths ruffled her hair. Glancing at the clock and finding it was almost five in the morning, she cautiously eased herself out of the bed and tried to establish what had stirred her, hunting for something out of place.

Sparks of lightning illuminated her room between low roars of thunder, and she shuffled warily over to her window, eyeing the navy skies that played host to the flaunting storm. Another twinge of unease invaded her stomach, and pronounced goosebumps bubbled across her skin, but she had no idea why.

Something just felt…off.

Something in her gut told her to leave her dorm, and she quietly changed into her jeans and shrugged on one of Draco's tops and a jumper to confront the chill. Grabbing her wand, she hesitated on her way out to gently stroke her sleeping lover's hair before pushing open her door to find Crookshanks agitatedly pacing around the sitting room, making troubled growling sounds and clawing at the floorboards.

"Calm down, Crooks," she whispered, giving him a gentle pet. "I'll be back in a bit."

Allowing intuition to guide her, she tip-toed down the empty corridors with only the thuds of her heart to disturb the eerie silence. Absently wandering in a direction she didn't really want to go, she dragged her fingers across the stone walls, as if she was somehow trying to soothe the school itself for what was to come. Climbing a flight of stairs and realising where she was heading, her eyes widened when she found that someone had already sought answers in Astronomy Tower in the early hours of this peculiar morning.

"You feel it too?" she asked, coming to stand at her Professor's side.

"Yes," McGonagall nodded, her hands gripping the railing and her thought-laden eyes studying the battling clouds. "Something is not right."

"What is it?"

"I'm not sure," said the Headmistress tightly. "The storm is different. It feels…unbalanced"

"Do you think…" but Hermione trailed off as she caught sight of a lustrous white sphere shooting towards them like a comet. "What is that?"

McGonagall bowed her head and clenched her eyes shut with dismay. "Our warning."

They both retreated a few paces back as the light bounded in the tower and burst into the stunning the Patronus of a doe, and Hermione thought of Harry's mother. "Professor, whose-

"Quiet, Hermione," the older witch hushed her. "This is important-

"One hour," a familiar male voice echoed around them. "They are coming, Minerva."

The glowing doe disappeared as fast as it had arrived, and Hermione released the breath aching her lungs as she looked to the Headmistress expectantly. "They're coming?" she asked. "The Death Eaters?"

"One hour," McGonagall repeated distantly. "I don't know if that will be enough time-

"Was that Snape's Patronus?"

"Yes," she nodded, turning to her student with a grave stare. "Listen, Hermione, I need to alert the other Professors. You must wake up the Creeveys and Miss Preston and take them to my office. I will be with you as soon as I can-

"I thought we were going to evacuate them with the Thestrals-

"There's not enough time," she shook her head. "Just get them to my office and I will be with you shortly. Do you understand?"

Her Gryffindor instincts took over, and she straightened her spine before she gave her Professor a firm nod. "Okay. I'm going-

"Be as fast as you can!" McGonagall called after her as she sprinted away.

By the time Hermione reached the Gryffindor dorms, her muscles were sore and her head was pounding with adrenaline. Waking up Dennis, Colin and Joanne, she fidgeted fretfully as they hurried to gather some of their belongings, throwing worried glances at the clock and willing them to hurry.

Sweet Merlin, it's happening….

Nineteen minutes later and they were all gathered in the Head's office; Colin trying to comfort his frightened brother, and Hermione trying to reassure thirteen-year-old Joanne that she would get home safe. But as the minutes drifted by, Hermione became increasingly restless, trembling with nerves and impatience as the time dissolved and the threat of the Death Eaters became louder in her head. Each flick of the clock's hand meant one less minute to get Draco out of the Castle, and she fought hard to keep her mind on her duty to McGonagall and the Muggle-borns.

"Where is McGonagall?" Colin questioned with panic shaking his voice. "You said she wouldn't be long."

"She's on her way," Hermione replied, unsure if she was lying or not. "It will be fine."

What if it's not fine?

Waiting can drive a mind to ruin.

With only twenty-two minutes to spare, the Headmistress finally burst into her office, and Hermione had never seen her mentor look so flustered; her brow covered in a thin sheen of sweat and creased with stressful lines. Rushing over to the fireplace, the aging witch recited a quick spell before she turned to the four teenagers and gestured for them to come closer.

"You're going to Floo to Kingsley Shacklebolt's home," she explained in a edgy voice. "He will make sure you all get home safely, okay?" The three youngest heads bobbed with understanding. "His address is Twenty-three Wordsworth Way," she told them, reaching for her bowl of Floo Powder. "Miss Preston, you go first, and remember to say it clearly. We have to be quick."

Hermione watched as Joanne disappeared amongst the garish spurt of emerald flames, closely followed by Dennis, and finally Colin. A small dose of relief dulled the heavy beats in her chest, but she frowned with confusion when she realised McGonagall was holding out the pot Floor Powder in her direction.

"Come on, Hermione," the Headmistress prompted. "You have to leave-

"I'm not leaving," she disputed, backing away from the other witch. "I have to get Draco out of here-

"There's not enough time-

"But I need to-

"Hermione, the Death Eaters are on their way!" McGonagall snapped strictly. "You have to leave-

"NO!" she screamed, balling her fists. "I am NOT leaving! I need to get him out of here! You swore to me-

"Hermione, please be reasonable-

"You're just wasting more time arguing with me!" she insisted angrily, frustrated tears spilling down her cheeks. "If I have to do this without your help, then I will! But I am not leaving until I know he is away from here!"

McGonagall went stiff before she exhaled in defeat, eyeing her student with weary eyes as she reluctantly made her way over to her desk. Waving her wand to open a drawer, she removed a small round-shaped object wrapped in fabric, and a wand Hermione recognised to be Draco's.

"So be it," McGonagall mumbled on a sigh. "Listen to me carefully, because I only have time to say this once. Use the back entrance and run down to the edge of the Forbidden Forest by Hagrid's hut. Don't go too far in; just enough to remain unseen."

"But what if someone sees him in the school?"

"All of the Professors are gathering in the Great Hall and most of the students are still asleep," she supplied. "You will get there fine-

"And what do I do when I get-

"This coin is a Portkey to a safe-house," she interjected, holding up the cloth-covered item. "When you leave here, I will let them know you are on your way."

Hermione swallowed as the Headmistress pushed the Portkey and Draco's wand into her hands. "You're not going to tell me where he's going, are you?"

McGonagall shook her head. "You know it is safer if less people know-

"But he will be safe?" the younger witch implored, pocketing the two items and ensuring they were secure. "You promise he will be safe?"

"I promise," she nodded. "Now listen, Hermione. After Draco is gone, you need to head back the way you came. On the fringe of the Forest by Hagrid's hut, there is a red rock underneath an Oak tree. You will be able to Apparate from there. Go to Tonks' home, and I will Fire-call her to let her know you're coming so she can alter her Wards."

"Red rock under the Oak tree," she repeated numbly, before she practically pounced on the greying witch and clutched her in a rib-cracking hug. "Thank you so much. For everything. I'm sorry for being so selfish."

McGonagall accepted the gesture with a sad frown and patted her companion's back. "You need to go," she advised, pulling away and manoeuvring them towards the door. "Go now. You don't have time for this." The Headmistress paused and exhaled a haggard breath. "I wish you both luck."

Offering Minerva a parting look of gratitude, Hermione's body jolted into action. Stumbling on haste-clumsy feet, she fled the office; her devastated heart lodged in her throat, and the world crumbling around her.

.

.

Draco sat up in bed and eyed the cold dent of Hermione's outline in the mattress with lowered eyebrows.

Where the fuck…?

It was quarter to six and the sky was barely beginning to soften into a lighter shade of blue, so just why was he alone in bed? And furthermore, why couldn't he hear the sounds of a shower, or her shuffling around in the kitchenette?

Scowling with irritation, he tossed aside the covers and tugged on the clothes he'd been wearing the day before in an effort to beat the winter air that had snuck into Granger's room. Padding his bare feet across the floorboards and heading into the living area, he almost stumbled when his lover's pet blocked his path.

"Clever cat, my arse," he mumbled, giving the half-kneazle a scolding look. "If you're so smart where's-

He was cut off as Hermione surged into the room, panting wildly, cheeks shimmering with tears and tripping over own her feet. "Oh thank Merlin you're awake!" she wheezed, clambering towards him and grasping his jumper in her shaking fists. "We-we need to go-

"What the hell?" he blurted, gripping her wrists and steadying her. He'd never seen her this way, and his insides twisted with dread as he absorbed her frantic behaviour. "Where have you been-

"We have to leave!" she shouted. "The Death Eaters. They-they're coming! We need to go! Now!"

"Granger, just bloody breathe-

"You're not listening to me! We have minutes!" she yelled, ripping herself out of his hold and flicking her wand to Summon his shoes and coat. "Put these on, Draco! Quickly! I need to get you away from here! Just hurry!"

The gravity of her words and the desperation in her voice smacked him in the chest like an Impedimenta, and he did as she bade as she ran into her room and returned with her charmed bag and a jacket. He'd barely fastened the first button of his coat when she snatched his hand and began dragging him out of the room, her fingers clamped around his so tight it cut off circulation.

"Crooks!" she called over her shoulder as she flung open the door. "Follow, Crooks! Come on!"

Her intuitive pet cantered ahead as she yanked Draco into motion, both of them breaking into a clumsy sprint and charging down the Castle's barren passageways, fuelled by fear and refusing to unlink their hands. Reaching the back doors, the wind and rain hammered against them with relentless force as they skidded and staggered across the mud-slicked grounds towards the Forbidden Forest. Passing Hagrid's hut, they dived into the trees, shoving aside the clawing talons of branches and twigs that tried to hinder their escape. In the corner of her eye, Hermione registered a flash of burgundy, and she halted her burning legs to bring them to a too-sudden stop.

She kept Draco's hand clamped in hers.

"Fuck," he cursed, narrowly avoiding slamming into her back. "Granger, what the-

"Red rock," she murmured to herself, eyeing the towering Oak tree McGonagall had mentioned. "Come here, Crooks," she beckoned her pet, who had raced a few yards ahead but quickly came scampering back to her side. "Stay here, boy. I'll be back soon."

Satisfied that her magical familiar understood, she was pulling Draco and running again, blood seeping between their palms as their fingernails hooked into each other's skin. Another spasmodic crash of lightening and thunder exploded above their heads, and Hermione blinked away the sodden strands of hair trapped between her lashes and itching her eyes. Her bones felt like fracturing glass and her lungs were straining against her ribs, but she couldn't stop running.

Keep going…

Have to get him away…

Need to get him to safety…

"Granger, stop!" Draco shouted behind her, digging his heels into the ground and tearing his hand out of her vice-firm grip. "Just fucking stop!"

Hermione whipped around and tried to unsuccessfully reconnect their fingers. "Draco, we need-

"This is far enough!" he snapped. "What the hell are we doing here?"

She felt her weather-battered face scrunch up with anguish as she tried to find the words. Oh Godric…her heart was aching. Gazing at him now; hair ruffled by the wind and his ashen features raw from the punch of the cold, he looked so human and perfect, and the emotion strangled her.

"We…we're here to say goodbye," she mumbled through quivering lips and chattering teeth, watching his brow furrow with uncertainty. "Our time is up."

Draco shook his head stubbornly and his lip curled with defiance. "What are you-

A shrill and prolonged crack severed his words, booming throughout the Forest and vibrating the ground with its volume. He instinctively reached out for Hermione, grasping her elbows and drawing her close as the tremors subsided. Somewhere in the distance, he could hear the swarming hisses of approaching brooms and what sounded like panicked shrieks from Hogwarts. Even the trees seemed to groan and flinch, and Draco scrutinized his surroundings with a suspicious stare, keeping Hermione locked in place against his chest.

"What the fuck was that?" he growled as the eerie echoes died.

"The Wards breaking," she answered dazedly, glancing over her shoulder in the direction of the Castle. "They're here." She gulped back the grief. "Draco, you need to go-

"No," he spat harshly, loosening his grip so he could bring his face close to hers. "No! We need more time-

"There is no more time," she whimpered, her breath leaving her ghostly gasps. "You have to get away from here, or they'll find you-

"I'm not ready!" he interrupted, lifting his hands to brush away the drenched curls spattered across her face. Their blended blood smeared across her cheek, and he absently remembered the day in the bathroom, when she had sliced their palms and initiated their fated bond. Blood had been so different then. Now it was irrelevant. "Come with me," he blurted heedlessly. "Come with me and we can hide-

"I can't!" she yelled, breaking free of his arms. "We talked about this, Draco! We agreed-

"Well I changed my fucking mind!" he retorted fiercely. "What do you want me to do, Granger? Do you want me to get on my fucking knees and beg?"

"No!" she choked on a whine. "I want you to be safe! That's all I want!"

"And I want you to be safe!" he screamed back. "Don't fight in this War, Hermione! Don't-

"You know I have to-

"BULLSHIT!"

"Draco, please," she whispered, reaching into her pocket and fingering her wand. "You have to go-

"I need you, Hermione!" he barked his confession. Fuck you, Salazar. "Is that what you want to hear? Is that what it will take?"

"I didn't want to say goodbye like this," she murmured, more to herself as she withdrew her wand with quaking fingers. "I didn't want it to be this hard-

"What the hell are you doing?" he questioned, eyeing her with a wary and cautious glare. "Lower your wand, Granger!"

"I'm sorry," she moaned, straightening her wrist. "I'm so sorry, Draco, but I need you to be safe-

"Don't you DARE, Hermione-

"Petrificus Totalus!" she cried, and Draco's body went taut and still as the spell took effect. He reminded her of one of those toy soldiers; firm and proud, but completely lifeless in the eyes, and she knew this would haunt her.

Her hand fell limp at her side, and she clenched her eyes tight as scalding tears blurred her vision and smudged the bloodstain he'd branded her with. Abandoning her plan to feign composure, she slowly neared him and nuzzled her face into the junction of his neck and sobbed against his throat.

This wasn't how she'd intended them to part ways.

The wind swallowed them, the rain was slashing at their skin and the cold was rousing violent shivers to harass every inch of her body. Draco was inevitably silent and motionless under the spell, and she would have sacrificed almost anything just to feel his arm snake around her waist. It was unromantic and bitter, but she locked the precious seconds into her memory, cringing when more sinister sounds from Hogwarts interrupted her tender touches, and she was forced to realise that their clock had stopped.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled again, raising her chin and stroking her trembling fingers across the line of his law and his lower lip. "But this is the only way."

She could physically feel her heart splintering as she studied his frozen expression one final time and silently pleaded with her brain to remember every aspect of the face she'd woken up to for the last several weeks and come to…

"If-if we both come out of this War alive," she breathed, despising the word if. "I…I want you in my life."

Reaching into her bag, she removed his wand and slipped it into the pocket of his trousers and then returned to she rummage for the Portkey. Carefully peeling away the cloth and staring down at the innocent-looking Galleon with resentment, she pinched it between the flimsy material, and hovered it hesitantly over his knuckles.

Sucking in a shaky breath to soothe her withering soul, she spread her free palm across the side of his face and brushed her thumb up the ridge of his cheekbone. Tilting forward on the tips of her toes, she pressed her quivering lips against his unresponsive ones to cherish the last kiss; barely a connection, but it warmed her for that sliver of a moment.

Pulling back, she cheated herself into believing that the raindrops freckling his milky skin might be tears, and the final weak strings of her heart snapped.

Her heart had broken, and the pain was crippling.

Time's up…

"I love you," she sighed sadly, before she slapped the coin against his skin, flinching as the air shifted to accommodate the Portkey's pull.

And then he was gone.

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