Disclaimer: I don't own the Harry Potter universe, and I'm not making any money off of this.
Author's Note: Sequel to "Together" and "Never". Third in the Hermione/Barty Jr. series.
By Dagniro Vanaliel
Hermione looks at the little bottle of gold liquid, and the bottle peers back at her. From somewhere in the distance, she hears a crash. Though she's not fully sure what's going on, she does know, deep down, that the Death Eaters are in Hogwarts. They've invaded.
Next to her, Ron Weasley urges her to drink up. She shoots a glance at him and wonders what she must have been thinking. This whole year has been spent faking sexual tension, or some sort of tension at any rate. He's too thick to pick up on the obvious suggestion that she likes him, and while that frustrates her, at least it means she won't have to follow up.
She's been keeping up this act for far too long. It must end soon. She's getting sick of it.
Rolling her eyes, she takes a sip of the potion and hands it off to Ginny. Immediately she feels good about today. Today she is invincible, today everything will work out, today...
He's here. A broad grin crosses her face, and Hermione hopes the others just think it's a result of Felix Felicis. Maybe it is. Because it's Felix that's telling her that among the Death Eaters attacking Hogwarts--let in by Draco Malfoy, though she knew that a long time ago--the man she loves is back again.
There's a job to be done.
Take out the Order of the Phoenix, capture Harry Potter, make sure Draco Malfoy kills Dumbledore. Simple, straightforward orders.
Barty Crouch knows there's no such thing as a straightforward operation. For one, he can almost see the girl in his mind's eye, and for another, there's no telling what she might do when they meet up. Because they will meet up again; it's their fate and their doom.
Twice he's been forced to leave her. Twice he's been forced to convince himself that it isn't meant to be. But the heart is a strange thing; despite everything--age difference, being on different sides of the War, difference in parentage and blood, and the fact that she's a likely candidate for a Death Eater kill list--he still loves her and still believes that someday they can be together.
He smiles to himself. She's seventeen now. Maybe not graduated yet, but she's of age. She can make her own choices. He doesn't have to keep leaving her for her protection. She--
She's still young. And even if there was a chance, there's still a job to be done, and Barty will carry out his master's orders. He will even follow the requests of an idiot teenager who's way over his head.
Hermione pulls out her wand and runs out into the hallway, sliding down the banisters of one of the staircases in an attempt to reach the battle faster. She has no intention of attacking anyone. Even now, with everything at stake, all she can think about is finding the man she loves.
It's stupid, it's juvenile, and there are much more important things she should be concerned with, but she's not. The only thing that matters to her is never leaving him again.
She understands why he left her before. She understands how he needed to protect her. She forgives him for all that.
Or rather, she'll forgive him when they're together again. In spite of everything, she still maintains the belief that love conquers all. It's silly, she knows this, but it gives her hope.
She skids to a halt, nearly crashing into a wall, and whips around. It's dark and hard to see, but she can just barely make out a figure coming towards her. Even before she can see his face, she recognizes him.
Grinning happily, she runs over to him and throws her arms over his neck. He laughs and picks her up, spinning her around. Neither can stop smiling, and neither can let go. Hermione and Barty are together again.
A crash and a scream from somewhere downstairs brings the two back to reality. Their arms drop and wands are pulled out, and Barty places a hand on her shoulder in a reassuring way. They glance at each other once more, then run.
They run to the battle, robes billowing out behind them. Hermione doesn't know why--couldn't she and Barty just leave together? But something within both of them drags them back to the present, back to the War, and back to obligations they would give anything not to have.
Spells fly. Hermione isn't sure who she's firing at, or even what spells she's shouting. Barty's at her back, doing the same. She hopes she's on his side, but winces at the idea of hitting one of the few people who makes life with the Order halfway bearable. Like Remus Lupin, who is a rare combination of intelligent and realistic and a decent conversationalist.
Someone grabs her wrist and pulls her down, shouting something about get out of here, the battle's too big for you! Hermione stares at the person dumbly--it's not someone she recognizes--and attempts to get back up. The person pushes her out of the way and points his wand at Barty. Hermione kicks him in the shin.
The person yelps in pain, distracted just long enough for Hermione to jump back up and drag Barty away.
Come on, she whispers. We have to get out of here.
For the third time, Barty hesitates. She's suggesting running away, and while it makes perfect sense, he can't really understand it. She wants to leave. She wants to leave with him.
As he looks into her brown eyes, soft and pleading, he knows he can't. She's still young, he tells himself. She doesn't understand. She's only seventeen.
He brushes a bit of hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. She looks close to tears.
I'm sorry. He presses his lips to hers, kissing her softly, and then turns to leave. He hears a sob, feels his own tears running down his face, but he doesn't stop.
He knows, even if she doesn't, that it's not meant to be, and if he doesn't stop the insanity it will kill them both. He knows it hurts her, and it hurts him, and there's nothing he hates more, but he knows there's no other choice.
He has to sever ties with her.