Her lungs burned painfully with each gasping breath she stole. The crisp fall air did little to help, but she couldn't risk pausing for even a moment to catch her breath. Not when he was after her. The Harrier.
She didn't mean for it to happen. Not when she'd spent her whole life hiding the secret. Her parents had taught her from a young age. Conceal it. Make sure no one ever knew. Not her friends. Not her extended family. Absolutely no one. But her magic was as much a part of her as the hair on her head. It was like a ticking time bomb, waiting to blow, and that is precisely what happened a mere hour prior.
She'd been waiting tables at McHenry's. Something she'd done since her fifteenth summer. Nothing was out of the ordinary that afternoon. The same drunk patrons, stale beer and greasy food. She had been halfway through her shift when he walked in. Even from across the room she immediately noticed him. The while blond hair stuck out in the crowd like a red rose in a garden of white. His attire didn't help either. The Amber's was far from an affluent part of town, and even from her vantage point across the dimly lit room she could tell he wore clothes worth well over a week's pay.
The girls in the back spoke of the fair stranger in hushed tones as they waited for their orders to be filled from the kitchen. If she would have known his identity then, she would have run rather than participate in the girlish gossip. But hindsight is always twenty-twenty, or at least that's what her mother used to say—before The Crown took her.
Turning a sharp corner on the cobblestone street, Hermione navigated her way through the maze of The Amber's buildings with a confident ease. While The Harrier was rumored to be the best bounty hunter in the land, he was not from these streets. He had not grown up exploring the labyrinth that was The Amber's like she had from birth. As she ran, filthy water splashed up from the ground, splattering the hem of her blue cotton dress, saturating the simple canvas shoes she'd selected this morning. Hoping to lose him through the complex network of alleys and narrow streets, she increased her pace, winding her way through the confusing passageways.
She couldn't have stopped it if she tried. The magic. It was impulsive. Uncontrollable. Volatile. Like a wildfire. She had just served table twelve when she heard it. Ginevra's shout from across the barroom. Normally, a handsy table was far from a problem, but this particular patron had done more than merely pat her arse. He'd pushed the petite red head against the wall in the galley to the kitchen, his hand fishing beneath her skirt despite her obvious attempts to rid herself of the unwanted advances. Nearly instantly the fire took hold of her. The round tray she carried clattered to her feet as around her a sea of glass burst, and the subsequent shards flew across the now silent room towards the man.
They imbedded into his back. His shoulders. His hands. Burrowing into his skin until they cut through his veins and blood poured from what looked like thousands of tiny cuts. Hermione could do nothing but just stand there, the dust beneath her feet swirling around her as she watched the man crumble to the floor, his blood pooling around his body. She was frozen, unable to move, shocked. Scared, no, petrified. She didn't even need to look at her hands to know the color that would paint them- Gold. As a small child she would stare at them, admiring their beautiful shade, but now that colour ushered in a fear so consuming even her soul cried. The glittering proof of her magic would mark her skin for the next two hours. Reminding her and everyone else who caught a glimpse of exactly what she was. A criminal, and worse—a witch.
So thus she ran. She didn't need to wait to know what would happen next. She had used magic—no matter how accidental—in a crowded room. She'd killed a man because she wasn't able to contain it. The Crown would demand retribution. They would demand her head, but only after the High Augurer took what she needed from the captured.
Hermione had bolted for the door, the dust cloud at her feet licking at her heels as she yanked open the heavy wooden door, and just as her body lurched towards the cobblestone street, she felt a strong grip curl around her wrist preventing her escape. She expected to see her boss, or perhaps a stranger who had been with the man she'd just killed. What she did not expect was the blond from before. The same strikingly beautiful stranger that had been the talk of the waitresses. His fingers curled tighter around her wrist as she tried to yank from his grasp. It was only when he pulled open his leather coat that she caught a glimpse of the symbol. The Harrier. An intricate web of filigree surrounding the outline of the bird of prey. This man was not just a pretty face. He would be her demise, just as he had been to so many before her.
How she had managed to escape was beyond her. One minute he was reaching for the shackles on his hip, and the next the blond was stumbling back clutching his head. She didn't wait to see who her savior was—for all she knew it could have been another bout of her own accidental magic. Instead she ran. She took to the streets that she had called her own so many years now.
Moving past Madam Celeste's Herbal Shop, she jumped over the small hole in the alleyway, the sound of her feet snapping against the stones and her labored breath providing the perfect soundtrack for her flight. In the distance, she could hear the thundering footstep of The Harrier, and the menacing rattle of his shackles. She just needed to go a bit further. Just two blocks up and she'd be safe. There was a crack in the basement of George's Impractical Joke Shop that she would barely be able to fit through. It would be a tight squeeze, but some bruised ribs would be a small price to pay for her freedom.
"Stop! By Order of the Crown, I command you to stop!" The Harrier shouted as he barreled after her.
She looked over her shoulder briefly, her bottom lip bit between her teeth. He was close. Closer than she had thought! Cursing under her breath, Hermione turned forward, preparing to use the last of her energy to sprint the last two blocks. But just as she looked back ahead of her, instead of the expected street, she only saw a wall.
"What the fuck?" She came to an immediate stop, caramel coloured eyes wide with astonishment as she looked at something she knew shouldn't be there. She had spent her life navigating The Amber's. She could walk them blindfolded and backwards. This wall…This wall wasn't supposed to be here.
Reaching out, she pressed her fingertips against the rough stone, as if to make sure it were real and not a mirage. She knew she should continue to run. She needed to get away, but the adrenaline coursing through her veins didn't matter any longer. At least not while her mind backfired in an attempt to process what she was looking at.
Just as she dragged her fingers across the hewn stones, letting the sandpaper texture tear at the soft skin on her fingertips, her body was shoved forward until her cheek and chest were pressed tightly against the unyielding surface. Her ears rung from the impact, and all of the air that had filled her lungs rushed out in a quick breath. She could feel an arm dig against her shoulder blades as The Harrier wrenched her arms backward, and the muscles connecting her arms and upper back screamed in pain as the cold shackles were roughly clasped around her wrists.
She could hear the murmur of his voice against her ear, but she couldn't make out precisely what he said as he hauled her backwards down the road, the soles of her shoes tearing on the cobblestones as her feet refused to move. She should cry. She should be screaming, fighting, for freedom, but instead she remained frozen, emotionless as she stared at the wall she knew deep within her bones should not be there.
"What is your name, little witch?" The Harrier questioned, glancing up over the top of a roll of parchment, his raven feather quill swishing through the air as he 'd pulled her into an unmarked building along the waterfront. One she had passed nearly every day on her walk to and from work. One that she had always just assumed was an abandoned shanty, like half of the other buildings along this said stretch of road. Homeless camps. A place for those less fortunate than herself to rest their heads.
How very wrong she had been. Inside the unassuming decaying flat was a safe house for the Bounty Hunters that slunk through their city like fleas on a rat. Unwanted and unneeded pests bound and determined to ruin their city.
She sat on a stiff armchair; her wrists still bound behind her back by the cold iron shackles. Their weight a constant reminder of her capture. She lifted her eyes from the floor where she had been counting the planks of wood, trying to occupy her time. Did he really assume she would answer? Her life was already over. He'd turn her into The Crown and collect his reward, and she would find a fate worse than the eventual death that awaited her after The High Augurer took what she needed from her.
Hermione watched a white eyebrow cock at her, and the swish of his quill stopped as he waited for a response. When none came, he set his quill in his inkpot, the small tink of metal hitting glass audible even from her distance. She watched as he leaned back in his chair, reaching up to adjust his leather gloves, pulling them tighter over his hands as the sound of the leather stretching filled the silence between them.
"I do not like repeating myself." The Harrier said slowly, his voice dangerously low.
"I am no witch," She responded, her tongue brushing across her lips as she gathered her courage. "so, excuse me for not realizing your question was for me."
"Who else would I be referring to?" He cocked his head to the side before sweeping a leather covered hand around, silently inviting her to look around . "We are the only inhabitants of this flat. And you used magic, did you not?"
Ah. A trick question. If she answered yes, she was admitting her crime. If she denied it, he could use it against her as lying to a Crown official. She might not possess the wiles that many other women her age did, but cleverness was a gift she held in spades. "You accuse me of practicing. Yes."
"Do you not admit your guilt?" The Harrier leaned forward, the spring in his chair creaking as he planted his elbows on the desktop he sat behind. "Are your palms not shrouded in gold, little witch?"
Hermione shoulders lifted in the smallest shrug she could allow in the shackles without discomfort. "Seeing as my hands are behind my back, I cannot confirm your question. But perhaps if you would unbind my wrists, I could examine them for myself and let you know what I find."
The Harrier laughed. Despite the icy cold demeanor that he held since catching her in the street, his chuckle sounded warm. A distinct opposition from everything else about him. "You are not the first witch to attempt to use your cleverness on me. Nice try, but you shall stay shackled. Those iron cuffs prevent you from casting your spells."
"Spells?" Hermione repeated in disbelief before she shook her head. "I am no sorceress. I'm a waitress. The only spells I know how to cast are bringing you pints of ale with your pie and not spilling my entire tray when a patron gets too handsy. I am far from what you claim."
"Did you not kill a man, little witch?" The Harrier questioned.
Hermione bit her bottom lip, caramel coloured eyes narrowing on The Harrier as a sly smirk fell across his lips. "You ask far too many questions for a man who is rumored to know all of the mysteries of our land."
"Is that so? All of the mysteries of the Crownlands?" The Harrier questioned, his brows lifting in amusement.
"See, another question." Hermione pointed out. "Since you're clearly cursed to only speak in questions, how about we make a compromise. You answer my questions, and I shall answer yours."
"This is no game, little witch. You are under arrest, and therefore required to answer my questions per the authority of the Crown." The Harrier pushed up from his chair. His heavy foots thumped against the aged flooring as he moved around to the front of his desk and slowly lowered himself to perch on the surface. Crossing his legs at the ankles and his arms across his chest, he looked at her with what she could only describe as curiosity. Perhaps no one had challenged his edict before. Or perhaps he found her subtle defiance a worthy challenge. Whatever the case may be, what he said next surprised her. "You may ask your question first. I will then expect your answers to speak nothing but truths."
Hermione studied his face silently. He really was striking with his sharp jaw, angled nose and piercing gray eyes. If he were anyone other than The Harrier she might blush under his gaze, but she'd heard far too many stories about him to think his face pretty. "What is your name? Your real name."
A muscle in his forehead jolted with curious tension, causing his eyebrow to twitch at her question. The aliases the bounty hunters created were for their own protection. The jobs they held were dangerous; chasing and capturing wielders of magic. It was a meant to prevent the gifted few from cursing their families. She knew it was a bold question, but she had to see how far he was willing to do to get the answer to his own questions. "Draco." He responded slowly.
"As in a Dragon?" She questioned before she could prevent it from leaving her lips.
"A well-read little witch as well….curious," He reached up to run his thumb across his jaw as he watched her, his lips pursing ever so slightly. "That was two questions. I expect two answers."
"But you never answered the second." Hermione said quickly, shifting in the hard chair to find little relief from the pressure ulcers she was sure were forming on her thighs.
He rolled his eyes, lifting a gloved hand towards her to concede to her argument. "Tell me, what is your name, little witch."
"Hermione," She deluged despite her better judgement. Her spine straightened as she lifted her chin boldly towards him. Better to look the devil in the eye when you bargain with him than hide. "What will happen to me?"
"We will travel to Crown City. There I will turn you over to the Priests of the Red Citadel. What occurs within the castle's crypts I cannot say." He replied flatly, gray eyes dulling ever so slightly. He was lying. He knew exactly what fate she faced. But he was either too cowardly to tell her, or stupid enough to believe she wouldn't see right through his deceit. "Why did you kill him?"
"I didn't mean to," She said quickly, wincing as she leaned forward in the chair, pulling her arms out in her attempt to shift positions. "I…I've never hurt anyone before."
"Until today." Draco shrugged indifferently.
"Until today." She repeated deliberately, letting the words process as they left her tongue. She had never hurt anyone before. All of her magic had been so different before. Light. Happy. She'd made fallen pedals dance for her mother after a long day at work. She'd burst fireworks into the night sky after her first kiss. But she'd never physically harmed anyone before. "Why do you do this? Hunt magic users like game in a forest?"
"Because…" He paused, his brow furrowing in concentration and that faraway look in his eyes faded. Instead he looked at her as if he could see within her. No secrets. No lies. It was as if he were inside her mind in that moment, roving through her innermost thoughts. Learning everything he could about her. "Because I am paid well. Because people like you—witches, wizards. Magic folk. You're unpredictable. You harm others without intention. You cannot control the magic within you."
"And is it the Crown's place to say who can? How are we to control something that we have been taught to hide from birth?" Hermione snapped, unable to help the anger from rising within her.
"You seek to capture magic users at the request of a King who holds no value in your life. You are as replaceable as I am to him, but less valuable. Because my head is worth something to the High Augurer, but only because of something I cannot control."
"Mind your tongue, little witch. You are under arrest, and I am required to turn you over alive to The High Augurer, but there is no stipulation on keeping you intact during transit." He threatened, his jaw clenching tightly.
"Take my tongue if it will appease you!" Hermione returned. "You may silence me, but you will not silence what I represent. I was born with this gift. It is not learned from books. There are no spells. My magic is a part of me just as the color of my eyes and the curl to my hair. It is in my blood. You may spill it. You may curse it, but you shall never be free of the damage you have done to our land—to our people because you choose to follow a ruling set forth nearly three hundred years ago."
"You know nothing of what crosses I bear!" Draco pushed off the desk swiftly, crossing the few feet to her and he leaned down, his hands resting on the arms of her chair as he lowered his face dangerous close to her own. "I am done playing your game, little witch. You speak as if you know me. As if you understand. But make no mistake. You are nothing but a criminal. And this gift you speak of? It is no gift. It is a curse. A plague set upon our land by Nimune as retribution for killing her husband. You are nothing but cursed. One that the Crownlands will purge themselves of. Now shut your mouth, before I remove your tongue for your insolence."
As he pulled back from the chair, moving to rise to his full height, Hermione heard the distinct sound of fabric ripping. Her eyes dropped to the sound, seeking its source, surprised to see the tear in Draco's glove from where it had caught on the splintered wood of the chair. Before he could realise what had happened, he continued to pull away from Hermione, completely ripping open the palm of his left glove in his haste. Beneath the black conditioned leather lay the second most surprising thing she seen that day. Gold. The palm of his hand was sparkling in the dim lighting just a brightly as her own.
The days felt like a blur since her capture. She couldn't pinpoint exactly how long the Harrier—Draco-held her captive, but based on the waning moon that hung in the night's sky, it had been over two weeks. She sat beside a large window in what she had come to realise was the Harrier's home, the cold glass providing some relief to the warm fire that crackled across the room. Since finding out his secret, he had been unable to figure out what to do with her. Should he turn her over to the Crown, he risked her divulging his little secret. Should he let her go, he would have to explain why he released a magic user. Both scenarios would only complicate things for the notorious bounty hunter, so instead he'd kept her trapped in his home while he tried to determine the best way to dispose of her.
For the first two days he kept her shackled in a small room at the back of the house, dropping off plates of food and escorting her to the restroom when necessary. No speaking. No prolonged eye contact. Nothing except that which was required to keep her alive and well. It was not until her fourth night in his house that he finally removed her shackles, and requested she follow him out of the room. He led her through his flat, and sat her in the dining room where he gave her a meal of rich stew, crusty bread and a goblet of red wine. As she ate, she wondered if it was to be her last.
Instead of killing her, like she'd begun to assume was his plan, he cleared the table and excused her for the evening. There was no mention of how long this captivity would last. No mention of his golden hands. Nothing that would provide any sort of context as to what she could expect.
That is how they existed over the next several days. Silent companionship. Her mind filled with burning questions. His cold stare always silencing them. But the silence was eating away at her. The growing wild becoming too hard to control within her soul. A restlessness that the stark white walls of his home were only making worse. She needed to know what she saw was the truth. His palms of gold. He was the same as her. A criminal. A defiler of the Crown's rule. And if that was the truth, why did he work to turn in people like her—like him?
"Shall we play our game?" Hermione questioned, glancing over her shoulder, thick waves of chestnut curls hanging loosely down her back.
Draco looked up from where he sat across the room, a large leather bound tome opened on his lap. The elegant script from the author's hand let her know the book was very old, possibly even centuries at this point, and most decidedly in a language that she was incapable of deciphering. She could only assume that was why he felt comfortable reading it in front of her. "Our game?"
Hermione turned, pressing her spine against the glass window, letting the soft light from the city below act as her backdrop. "Yes. Our game." She repeated. "Question for question."
His index finger tapped against the worn parchment pages, gray eyes narrowing on her, as if trying to determine her intent from across the room. Lifting his leather gloved hand, he closed the heavy book with a soft thump and gestured for her to join him on the couch.
Pushing off the perch she'd claimed earlier, Hermione moved across the room, bare feet padding softly against the wooden floor. She curled up on the edge of the couch opposite from him, her back against the arm of the couch so she could face him. "Why haven't you turned me in?"
His lips twitched in the smallest hint of a smirk, gray eyes dropping to watch his gloved fingers caress the cover of the tome. "I believe you already know the answer to that one, little witch." He responded languidly. "But if you must—" he paused, taking a slow breath before glancing over to her once more. "Because you're a liability."
Hermione nodded, her fingers picking at the hemline of the simple tunic shirt he'd left in her room two days ago. "The gold?" she lifted a single hand, palm up towards him. Her own were free of gold, as she hadn't used magic within the past few days so she bore no evidence to her crime. She didn't think he has used magic either, but he still kept his palms concealed, hidden beneath a fresh pair of black leather gloves.
He gave her a small incline of his head as he flexed his fingers. "The gold." He confirmed. "How long have you…" his voice trailed off and he gestured between them for her to fill in the blank, as if afraid to actually speak about using magic.
"For as long as I can remember," She looked down to her own hands, eyes tracing the lines in her palms and examining her fingers as she spoke. "My parents helped me when I was younger…but my mom was taken in by the Crown when I was thirteen. For magic use. And my dad got sick…" She looked up bit her bottom lip as she gave him a small shrug. He didn't ask for her life story, nor was she keen on sharing it with him. Instead she cleared her throat and brought the focus back onto the game they'd began to play. "How do you control it?"
Draco looked taken aback by her questions, his brow furrowing. "Can you not?" He questioned.
"That's another question." Hermione pointed out quickly. "But…no. Not really."
Draco nodded, his lips pursing in thought as he studied her from across the cushion. Without saying another word, he pushed himself up from the couch and crossed the room towards a large bookshelf that sat along the wall. His fingers walked the spines of several books until he found one that he was searching for. As he pulled on a lavender colored paperback, a loud pop echoed around the room and the book automatically retracted into the bookcase, the entire shelf slowly swinging open to reveal a hidden compartment.
She couldn't see what lay inside the secret shelf, but one by one, he pulled out a small handful of books. They were thin, and no larger than a piece of parchment folded in half. He collected four in total before closing the shelf and he moved back over to the couch, laying the small stack of aged paperbacks beside her. "Can you read?"
"Of course I can read." Hermione scoffed, reaching out to pick up the first paperback and she examined the cover curiously. The block typeface on the front read 'Standard Book of Spells by Miranda Goshawk'. She looked up to Draco, lifting a thin brow at his curiously.
"Read these. Master them. They'll help you control it." He explained as he lowered himself onto the couch, adjusting his leather gloves.
"You want to help me?" Hermione slowly opened the book, her eyes scanning the pages superficially. Despite her uncertainty about trusting him, there was a small part of her that was bursting with excitement. Magic. Something she had hidden for so long. A part of her that she longed to explore was going to finally be accessible. It was like being told she would be reunited with an old friend.
Draco shrugged, gray eyes flashing down to the stack of books before back up to her. "It'll buy me time until I can figure out what to do with you." He responded plainly before picking up the heavy tome he'd set down earlier and he opened up his book once more, obviously done playing their little game for the night.
"Concentrate." Draco's voice was a whisper in her ear, his hot breath running down the side of her cheek and neck. She could feel his hands settle on her hips, his fingers curling against her bones, rooting her in place as she narrowed her eyes on the vase across the room. "Focus your magic…you have to want this."
She did want this! She wanted it more than she'd wanted air to breath. Since cracking open the books nearly a month prior all she had done was dream of using her magic. Exploring the seemingly endless possibilities of what this gift meant. The books Draco provided were rudimentary, obviously intended for children. She had mastered the skills inside easily. Levitating and summoning objects. Producing water and fire. These were skills she would have thought impossible a mere month ago, but now they were like breathing—involuntary.
She watched the vase tremble on its pedestal, her fingernails digging into her palms as she tried to empty her mind and focus on the new spell she'd spent the better part of two days trying to learn. But it was nearly impossible with his hands on her waist, and his voice low in her ear. She could feel his heartbeat against her back as he moved even closer, pulling her body against his to straighten her posture, and for the briefest of moments she could feel what she had come to realise was his magic brushing against her own. And just as their magic tangled, twisting into a complex knot, the vase burst apart, shattering into thousands of tiny pieces that disintegrated into dust the moment they hit the floor.
Her eyes widened, and her hands went to her lips to cover the excited scream that left her throat. She spun in his grasp, her hands bracing against his chest as she felt him lift her until only her toes brushed against the floor, his own laughter filling the room. "I did it!"
"You did!" Draco's smile stretched across his face. Even now she was still taken aback at how handsome he was when he did smile. It was such a contrast to his normal demeanor, but in these moments—these small victories he'd shared with her over the past couple of weeks, she longed to make his smile appear more and more.
Draco finally set her down, but his hands didn't leave her waist as they looked into each other's eyes, only the lingering sounds of their laughter filling the room.
Her fingertips brushed over his crisp button down, feeling his heart tattoo a wild rhythm against his chest. This was inappropriate. They both knew this was a dangerous game they were playing, as she was technically still his captive, but over the past few weeks the lines had blurred. Her confinement felt less like a sentence and more like a holiday since he'd given her the books and freedom from the shackles. Biting her bottom lip, she watched his eyes drop to her mouth and dilate in the artificial light. Before she could even begin to process what the look in his eye could mean, his lips were pressing down upon hers.
Around them the room seemed to tremble. The wooden chairs burst apart, and the cabinet doors pulled from their hinges as their magic exploded around them, destroying his study as he pulled her impossibly close. His lips felt like the softest silk, and he tasted smokey and forbidden. Like a splash of liquor in her cup of tea on a cold winter's morning. Her hands moved slowly over his chest before coming to rest on his shoulders, fingertips brushing through the tips of his white blond hair and just as quickly as their kiss started, he abruptly pulled away.
She stumbled backward from the immediate loss of his warmth, and his magic felt like it had literally ripped from her own and she looked up to him, stunned into silence. His gloved hand was on his lips, touching the kiss swollen skin. His gray eyes were nearly black, and there was a red flush to his cheek. Her heart fluttered like a trapped sparrow, beating against her ribs like wings on a cage as she watched him turn on his heel, leaving the room without a single word as to what happened between them. But she knew, without a shred of a doubt, that if she were to peel back his leather gloves, beneath she would find his palms as gold as her own.
"Where are you taking me?" Hermione demanded from the back seat of his car. He'd woken her up in the middle of the night after avoiding her for the past two days. He had not even allowed her a chance to change from the sweatpants and t-shirt she'd worn to bed before he pulled her from his flat and into his unmarked vehicle.
A melancholy piano melody crackled over the airwaves as he'd driven her out of town, ignoring her questions and pleas for some sort of an answer. At first she was frightened. Scared of what rash decision he had made since their kiss, but now she was just pissed. Forty-five minutes of silence was enough. She wanted answers. She needed him to be honest with her!
"God damn, Draco!" She snapped, kicking at the back of the driver's seat angrily. "Where the bloody hell are you taking me?!"
The car came to a screeching halt and she flew off of the back bench. Her body slammed against the back of the driver's seat before she crumbled to the floorboard, her body twisting painfully over the drive shaft hump in the center of the floor. She lay dazed for a moment, the world around her swirling as she tried to gather her bearings but suddenly, she was being pulled from the vehicle, his strong hands on her once more, lifting her effortlessly from his car and he set her down on the dirt road that was outside of the city.
Gray eyes were dulled, as if he'd pulled back from the moment. It was the same clinical approach he'd had when he met her nearly two months ago now. "You need to avoid the cities for the next couple months. Hide in the villages. Whatever you do, don't use magic." He instructed as he shoved a leather backpack into her hands.
"W-What?" She stammered, her eyes dropping to the back before looking back up to him. "Wait. No. No no no! I'm not leaving."
"Yes you are," He replied firmly, his hands going to her shoulders as he looked her in the eyes. Holding her gaze. "You have to go…I can't—I can't keep them busy forever. I took too long already."
Hermione shook her head, dropping the leather bag to the dirt floor carelessly and she grabbed at the front of his button down. "I...I can't go! I just started learning! I don't have anywhere to go. I have no money."
"You're a smart woman, little witch. I have no doubts you will be able to find your way," His hand rose, touching her cheek softly and for briefest of moments, a softness invaded his eyes as he looked down at her. "You have to go. You don't have long."
He hesitated, his fingertips lingering on her cheek before he pulled back and took two large steps away from her, providing a physical barrier between them that felt like a knife wound to her already bleeding heart. She shook her head, teeth sinking into her bottom lip. This wasn't right. She'd just found him. She'd just learned how to use her magic, and now he was getting rid of her? Because of what? Their kiss? The crown? Neither answer seemed to make any sense in this moment.
"Our game," She said quickly, looking up from where she'd been staring at the leather backpack to him once more. "I want to play our game."
"Our game? There's no bloody time for—"
"Did you feel it?" Hermione interrupted, lifting her hand to silence him. "When you kissed me…did you feel it?"
She watched his tongue moisten his lips, his eyes darkening at the mention of their kiss and his gaze turned from distance and cold to heated within seconds as the memory of their embrace was called forth. "Of course I did."
"Then come with me." She stepped over the backpack and moved towards him. "Let's leave together…find some place where we don't have to hide what we are." She took his hand between both of her own, her fingers brushing across his palm through the soft conditioned leather that hid what he was from the world.
Draco's eyes dropped to their hands, watching silently as she slowly peeled off his glove, stripping him bare. His palm appeared no different than any one else's right now. Not gold, but plain. But she knew that same tingle that rattled in her bones was in his as well. Magic. That pull to call forth the most sacred part of their souls and let them dance with one another as they had days earlier.
By the time she worked the other glove free from his hand, she could hear each labored breath he took, their bodies having inched closer together until she stood nearly toe to toe with him. "Please…come with me." She whispered, looking up to him through her thick black lashes.
She could see him weigh the risks in his mind, as she would expect any trained mercenary to do, and just when she thought she might have lost him to reason, he gave her a sharp nod and her heart stuttered.
"Okay…" He whispered. "I'll come."
Hermione leaned up on the tips of her toes, her arms circling his neck as she pressed her lips against his. Just as before, the world around them burst to life. The brush of their lips ushered their magic into one another's, twisting and turning until she could no longer tell where hers began and his ended. His palms tingled as she felt the color rush to them.
Not long ago she had feared the color. Gold. Its sparkle menacing, marking her a criminal for all those to see. But now? Now she couldn't wait to see how his own gold would sparkle against hers in the days to come.