* * * Please Read * * *

This is my first attempt at HP fanfiction, so I hope it will be received well. I will not be posting AN's at the beginning of each chapter, so this will be the only AN for this story.

Disclaimer – I do not own HP or the characters. Those are JKR's. I drew inspiration for this story from an old NCIS episode. Otherwise, the storyline is mine.

Rating – The Token is rated M for language, violence, and sex. There are also mentions of torture and rape (no graphical descriptions). Be warned now, if that kind of thing bothers you, please don't read.

Characters – This is a Dramione story. Ron fans might want to go away now.

Posting – The story is completely written. There is a prologue, 19 chapters, and an epilogue. Most chapters are around 3,000 – 3,500 words, so kind of short by some standards but that length works out best for me.

Posting Schedule – The posting schedule is very important to me. I am posting this story as a tribute to my mom. Two years ago today, on July 13th, 2012, a CT scan revealed a tumor in the middle of her brain. It was later diagnosed as stage 4 glioblastoma brain cancer. She passed away ten weeks later. Mom loved reading, and she loved reading my stories. When she got sick, I stopped writing. A few months ago I had the urge to start writing again and The Token was born. In her memory, I am posting the Prologue today, on the anniversary of the day they found her tumor. I will post every Wednesday and Sunday for the next ten weeks. The Epilogue will be posted on September 21st, the two-year anniversary of her passing. So this one's for you, Mom. I love you, and miss you so very much.

Reviews – Feel free to leave me a note to tell me what you think of the story. I will read and respond to all reviews, and I always love to hear what you all think.

I think that's about all for my author's notes. A big thank you to Jenny for pre-reading and beta'ing the story for me. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

* * * The Token * * *

{ Prologue }

Draco Malfoy practically fell out of the fireplace with sheer exhaustion. The clock struck one o'clock in the morning as he stood and dusted himself off. He had been working a late shift with Potter, patrolling Knockturn Alley. They were both members of the MLE, Magical Law Enforcement. There had been a rash of break-ins in recent days, along with thefts of several dark items. As a result, all patrols had been increased. Draco was feeling it in every bone in his body.

He collapsed onto the couch heavily and felt his eyelids sliding closed. Sweet sleep beckoned and he was ready to heed the call.

Tap. Tap. Tap.

His eyes flew open and his hand grasped his wand at the sound. Immediately he was alert, all evidence of exhaustion forgotten in a rush of adrenaline.

It didn't take him long to discover what was causing the offensive noise. An owl, small, brown and nondescript, sat on the windowsill and held an envelope in his grasp. The bird stared at him with a look that clearly said "it's about damn time, now what the hell are you waiting for?"

He released a breath that he hadn't even realized he was holding as he slid his wand back into it's holster. Mumbling something about damn ruddy birds, he made his way to the window and took the package from the owl. The owl didn't fly away immediately, which meant it was waiting for a reply.

Great, he thought. Sleep would have to wait.

He returned to the couch and examined the envelope in his hands. It was completely blank, no indication that he was the intended receiver at all. There was a bulge in the package, indicating there was some sort of object inside, and it had some weight to it. He retrieved his wand once again and performed a series of charms over the envelope, looking for any sign of magic, charms or curses. Finding nothing, he slowly opened the seal and looked inside.

His eyebrows furrowed as he reached his hand into the envelope and wrapped his fingers around a rock. The rock, or more precisely the piece of stone, was about the size of his hand. One side was smooth, cut and shaped to precision. The other side was rough, jagged. On the smooth side, a date had been carved.

His hand tightened around the stone and he closed his eyes as he inhaled sharply. The date, that date, would be carved into the wizarding world forever. The Final Battle, The Battle of Hogwarts, the day Harry Potter fulfilled his destiny, the day Voldemort was defeated once and for all. Different people remembered it different ways.

For Draco, it would forever be the day that Hermione Granger had saved his life, twice, and he had sworn to return the favor someday.

The piece of stone in his hand, a piece of rubble from Hogwarts, from the exact wall that had nearly crushed him, and would have if Granger hadn't pushed him out of the way. It was a reminder. A reminder of the debt he owed. After all, he owed his life to her, and now she intended to collect.

He stared at the stone, at the token of his debt, for many minutes. His mind went back to that fateful day, five and a half years ago.

He hadn't wanted to be there. In truth, he had lost his faith in the Dark Lord long before the final battle. He knew the blood purity bullshit that he had been taught his whole life was just that, bullshit. He needed to look no further than Hermione Granger to figure that one out. She was the brightest witch of their age, true, but she was also brave and beautiful and strong.

He had watched in horror as his Aunt Bellatrix tortured the girl mercilessly on his own Drawing Room floor. Her eyes had locked onto his and he had wished there was some way he could save her. There was nothing he could do, though. Any course of action he could think of would only result in both of them being dead. So he did nothing but watch and hope for it to end soon. Despite the horror he felt in those moments, he also began to feel something else. Pride. She never cracked under torture. She never told Bellatrix what she wanted to hear. He was proud of her for that. He had never seen anything like it. Once again, she had proven to him that she was better than most pureblood witches and wizards.

When Potter and Weasel rescued her, Draco never even put up a fight. He was too relieved. Relieved to see them rescue her before worst could happen. He was so relieved, he just handed his wand over to Potter.

The day at Hogwarts came soon after. He had been attending classes, otherwise he never would have been on the castle grounds. He didn't want to fight. He didn't want to die. He didn't want to watch others die around him. Unfortunately, he didn't have a choice. He had to fight. He had to watch others fight and die.

He was in a fourth floor hallway when it happened. The Death Eater behind the mask started taunting him, telling him he was a blood traitor, a disappointment, a liability. It wasn't the first Death Eater he had fought that day, but she was, by far, the deadliest. Bellatrix LeStrange. They dueled for several long minutes and he was starting to wear down when he felt someone beside him. He didn't dare look away from Bellatrix to see who it was, but he heard her firing curses off and he knew it was her.

The two of them fought together against the deranged witch, side by side. Finally Hermione had managed to hit her with a stupefy, but not before she sent a reducto flying in his direction. Hermione saw it coming and jumped in front of him, throwing up a shield charm. The curse hit the shield and ricocheted into the wall beside them. It hit the wall with the force of an explosion.

Draco had just enough time to think "that curse was supposed to hit me" before Hermione was shoving him backwards and they both tumbled into a separate hallway. The wall and ceiling collapsed right onto the spot they had been standing in only moments before.

They sat in the hallway, side by side, as they each caught their breath and let the realization of their near death experience sink in.

"Why?" He asked her quietly. Why did she fight beside him? Why did she save his life? Why was she still sitting next to him? Why, why, why?

"Because it would seem that you've finally pulled your head out of your ass, Malfoy." She grinned into the dim light of the hallway, letting her head fall back against the stone wall as they both caught their breath.

His hand found purchase on a piece of loose stone and he picked it up. He studied it for a long while before he pointed his wand at the smooth surface and gently edged the date into the stone.

"I owe you my life, Granger." He held the stone in his hand and pressed it into her palm. Her brown eyes widened as they held the stone between their hands. "Do you accept this stone as a token of my debt, to be held until such time that the debt can be repayed?"

Her eyes searched his as the stone became uncomfortably warm between them. A Wizarding debt was not something to take lightly. By offering and accepting the token, they would be linking themselves together magically for possibly the rest of their lives.

With a deep breath she squeezed her hand around the stone.

"I accept your token." As she uttered the final words of the incantation, the warmth from the stone broke free and traveled through their hands to suffuse their bodies with a warm electrical like charge. The effect lasted only a moment and then they were left sitting in a hallway, surrounded by rubble while a battle raged on beyond the walls.

They had not spoken of the debt or the token since then, but he had known this day was coming. He knew what he needed to do to repay the debt. He also knew that it was his choice. She would never make him do it.

The owl screeched to remind him that it was still waiting for his reply. If he sent the token back in the envelope, he would in effect be declining her request for help. If he sent the envelope back empty, she would know that he was ready to repay the debt and he would do whatever he could to save her life.

He ran his fingers through his blonde hair and glanced at the clock again. It was now almost two o'clock in the morning, and apparently the next day was going to be a very long day. He stood, handed the envelope to the owl, and watched as it flew out the window, carrying a wordless message back to the witch that no one had seen or heard from in over two years.

The token weighed heavily against his palm.