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Gone

"Nobody will ever love you like I do," he says softly. She nods and a small, regretful smile tugs at her lips.

"I know," she answers. "But I can't love you back."

The atmosphere suddenly seems so much colder and harsh. His eyes, so strong and cold, sting her tear streaked face and she can't help but turn away. There is no more concern and love. There's no more trust and silent hope. Instead, all he sees is loss and she does nothing to stop him.

Winter is always cold at Hogwarts - and this year was no exception. Broken promises, lives lost, hearts broken. A world in tormoil and students who were still too young to understand themselves. And yet they had found each other, through thick and thin and terrible consequences.

His prejudices had run deep and her stubborn attitude hadn't helped in the least. They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and Draco Malfoy had become the very specter of his father. A loathsome, cruel child who thrived on attention and who openly despised her and her friends. So what had changed to bring them together? What great, phenomenal force had made them overcome their mutual hatred of one another?

Perhaps it had been their losses, or their new found realisation that everything in the world was not always black and white. He was a far cry from evil, but more of that untimely brat who makes life hell for you at school - who teased you behind her back and makes it his life's work to hurt you in anyway he knew.

Perhaps it was his understanding of the world and how everything cannot be learnt in books or heard by word of mouth. That his grim attitude towards life did not preach a happy ending, but rather an ending wherein somebody will be satisfied. Either way, neither of them knew. Day after day they had met secretly, whispering to one another about the days events - about their fears, hopes and dreams.

He wanted to see his father freed, he wanted to walk down the corridor and not be looked down upon by his peers. She wanted to see her friends survive to see graduation and for the world to realise that the war they were fighting wouldn't just disappear like it had sixteen years ago.

It was a careless compromise.

No strings attached, right? No need to be held and loved, when you can merely spurt your deepest fears to someone you've known for years.

Someone you've hated for years.

And then it had scared her, because he knew her weaknesses now. He knew how to hurt her and to make her pay. He knew her every quirk and her way of thinking. She misinterpreted all the signs, once his father had been freed. She had been so afraid that he'd tell somebody or that she'd become the spectacle or some great embarressing scene once he had what he wanted.

If only she had trusted him, and let him care. It had taken so much already for him to listen and to compromise his beliefs, for him to put aside years upon years of commands and neglect and finally learn that there are other ways to see the world. But she had broken everything and thrown it away without even knowing it. She had walked away, finding solice in the arms of her friends and in her dusty old books.

Loneliness encompassed him and he was left alone, contemplating a dark future where nothing made sense now that he no longer had the chains of the past to restrict what he saw and tarnish whatever new ideas of beliefs surfaced. He didn't understand anything anymore, and then she had realised that she couldn't do this to him. You can't just tear down somebody's world and walk away, like it didn't matter.

And she came back.

And she explained everything to him. She held him in her arms and stroked his white-blonde hair, whispering in his ear all the answers to the world he would never understand. Why we have to live and love and care. Why nobody is perfect and why we make mistakes. She didn't care if her answers were wrong, or imprecise. She didn't want anything but to love him and hold him.

But she couldn't.

She couldn't betray her friends, who had stood by her for so long. She couldn't sit with him forever, she couldn't stay. No - she had to go and she had to fight. Her place was by the side of the hero, like it had been for oh so many years. She couldn't abandon those who had been loyal to her, even though she desired with all her heart to stay and be with him.

"When you're done fighting, Hermione," he whispers, "I'll still be here."

She strokes his cheek lovingly, biting her lip and trying to keep her tears at bay. If anything, she doesn't want him to hate her for walking away. She doesn't want him to regret whatever time they've spent together.

And he doesn't.

"I know you will," she says, "just don't be upset if I'm not."

He's confused and fearful. She doesn't explain, or elaborate any further. She merely kisses his cheek and walks away, heading to join her friends - his enemies. Seconds turn into minutes, minutes into days and he's still standing in that corridor, letting himself slowly slip down to the ground. He ignores the people passing by and the teachers who question him as to why he's not back in his common room.

Nothing matters, not now she's gone.

~Fin