Title: Don't Leave Me This Way

Author: Katie A.

Author E-mail: insufferable_know_it_all@hotmail.com

Category: Romance, Drama

Rating: PG-13

Keywords: Harry, Hermione, Voldemort, Another-Quest-In-Which-Harry-Goes-To-Kill-the-Dark-Lord-And-Hermione-Throws-A-Fit.

Summary: Another-Quest-In-Which-Harry-Goes-To-Kill-the-Dark-Lord-And-Hermione-Throws-A-Fit?

Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Alas, too many H/Hr fics and seeing Moulin Rouge on HBO one too many times leads to fics like these. The title 'Don't Leave Me This Way' is from a scene in Moulin Rouge -- I know it's a real song, but I have no idea who sang/wrote it. If anyone knows, please e-mail me so I can fix the disclaimer.

*****

I'm leaving, unless someone can give me a good reason to stay.

A good reason. What good reason did she have? Could she really tell him now, with everyone around? Could she find the courage to stop him? It didn't seem likely. Her feet remained planted firmly where they were, her throat remained blocked. If she could open her mouth, any sound that came out would be a sob. But she couldn't let him go. He would be walking into death's arms if she were to let him go alone.

"You can't leave, Harry," she said. She didn't need to cry out; the room had been silent since he had said those words. It didn't matter that her voice was soft and shaking; everyone heard.

He froze, rigid, his back to the room. "And why not?"

"You can't go alone," she announced. She could keep her private reasons hidden for now. She could convince him to stay without them.

He whirled around, eyes flaring, almost frightening. "I thought you, of all people, would understand. I have to go alone. I can't take anyone with me."

"You could. You could let someone choose to go with you, rather than making the choice for them!" Hermione cried out, almost betraying the emotions that were quickly bubbling to the surface.

"Is that what you want, Hermione? You want me to put people I care about in danger?"

"You know that's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean?" he asked, quieting. The others in the room looked on in silence, and perhaps in fear of this new side Harry was showing.

"I want to go with you."

"You can't," Harry and Ron said unanimously. Hermione blinked at them, offended. How could they just tell her no?

"Yes, I very well can! Who are either of you to control me?"

"You're not going with me, Hermione!" Harry shouted, his temporary calm fading swiftly.

And she couldn't be angry with him, because he was doing this for her sake. But she could feel frustrated. "Fine, Harry, if that's the way you want it. Force me to stay behind. I'll find you, though. Don't expect me to sit back and wait -- if you won't let me fight at your side, then I'll just have to fight for you any other way I can."

"You won't, Hermione," Harry said, his weariness becoming evident. "Please, can't you just --"

"Don't ask me to sit back and let you go, or to do nothing while we all wait to find out if you're alive or not! You know I won't."

"Why do you have to be so bloody difficult?"

"Me? You're the one who's too stubborn to accept any help!"

"Damnit, Hermione, don't twist my words around!"

Hermione suddenly realized how unbearably silent and how completely full the common room had become. Every Gryffindor from first to seventh year must have been packed in. And she had reached the need for her final weapon, one which she couldn't possibly use among all these people.

In a sudden, decisive movement, she went to Harry and took him by the arm. "There's something I need to tell you. Alone," she added, casting a quick glare at the spectators, Ron especially.

Harry sighed. "Fine." He allowed her to lead him into the hallway outside the portrait hole. Once outside and sure they were truly alone, she relaxed.

"Harry -- you can't leave, not until you know..." she trailed off, gathering her wits. She wasn't prepared to tell him, to let him know. But why not? Everything was changing as it was, and for the worse. At least she could tell him before he disappeared for good.

Harry looked annoyed. "Know what, Hermione?"

"Damnit, Harry, how can you not see it?" she snapped, hands beginning to shake.

"See what?"

"God, Harry, you can't leave without me. You can't...because..." She sighed and looked at him for a moment. How could she phrase this? Oh, she had imagined thousands of times in her head the way she would profess her love to Harry, should it ever happen, but none of those inner dialogues seemed appropriate. More than once, she had considered a much simpler option. Oddly, it suddenly seemed more and more feasible.

Well, why not? Desperate times call for desperate measures.

In less than two seconds, she was inches away from him. Framing his face with her hands, she took in a deep breath, and kissed him.

To say he tensed would be an understatement. Rather, he went completely rigid, as if suddenly Petrified. Hermione backed away quickly, knowing. Knowing that he couldn't possibly feel the same way, that he would never return the sentiment, that he would leave anyway. Without her. But for some reason, her heart refused to know it.

He was staring at her. Just staring. It was driving her absolutely mad.

"Oh, for the love of Merlin, say something, Harry!" she cried out.

He blinked. "Couldn't you have done that…sooner?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, excuse me. I'll just go get a Time-Turner and do it at a more opportune moment!"

"Don't get mad at me, Hermione. It's just -- You really don't know just how long I've wished you would do that, do you? And…damnit, you just had to do it when I can't do anything about! I've got to go, Hermione. I'm going, because I have to, and you're not coming with me. It's too dangerous."

Hermione found herself bemoaning the situation as well. He felt the same way, but it was too late. It wouldn't do any good.

"God, Harry, don't leave me behind. Please. You must understand -- you want to leave me here to protect me. But, Harry, I want to come to protect you."

"I don't need protection."

"Yes, you do!" Hermione shouted. "Harry, if it's your duty to protect the world, why shouldn't it be someone's duty to protect you?"

Harry shook his head. "It doesn't work that way, Hermione, you know it. Now, please, don't make this any harder. I've got to go."

He adjusted his bag on his shoulder, his expression shifting from annoyed to rueful. "I'm sorry," he added, starting to walk away.

"Don't," Hermione cried out, voice softening as she continued, "Don't leave me this way."

Harry turned around to look at her. "What do you want from me, Hermione?"

"Let me go with you."

"No."

Tears, stupid tears. Why did they have to force their way out at a time like this?

"Don't cry," he whispered, suddenly very close to her.

"Why shouldn't I? There's no point in pretending anymore. There's hardly any point in…in anything!"

"Don't say that."

"Why can't you see it, Harry? You're not protecting me. You're just hurting me. Can't you see that the only life I want is with you, and that a 'safe' life away from you is only going to kill me?"

He looked ruefully at her. "If I come back, I want to know that you're safe here, waiting for me."

"And if you don't come back, I don't want to be waiting here!"

"Hermione," he said intensely, tilting her face up to his. "Please. Please, don't do this. Do you think it's easy for me to leave you like this? Now that I know? It's the hardest thing I'll ever do, and you're not making it any easier!"

"Oh, so it's my job to make it easy, is it? If you won't stay, please, I'm begging you, let me go with you!"

Their eyes locked, to the point where Hermione was left to wonder if their fate depended on who won the staring contest. Harry blinked quite abruptly, however, and she knew he had won anyway.

She was suddenly jerked, and found herself quite literally smashed up against Harry to be given a thorough kiss. In the months ahead, she would often relive that kiss, wake up from dreams to feel the lingering sensation on her lips.

Harry pulled away, and said, softly, "I can't."