"This is our only option," Ron said. The words weren't even a question. He sounded furious and disgusted and, perhaps, even betrayed. They'd fought for so long, and lied to themselves about how well things were going. Things were not going well. You could only mop up blood and bind wounds and apparate away from groups of ever-more Death Eaters before you had to stop pretending you were winning. Voldemort had been a figure head. Yaxley, it turned out, was a much better strategical thinker. With Yaxley in charge, they were winning.
"Espionage has a long history of success," Moody said. His arms were crossed and his false eye was twirling and spinning as it examined the room. Hermione wondered, not for the first time, if it could see through clothing. Was life one big peep-show to Mad-Eye? Did his magical vision stop at her brassiere, her skin, or could he see the blood pounding in her veins? Could he see the way her own fear sped her heart. Could he see the way she swallowed her hate?
"You mean whoring," Ron said. "Let's not dress this up with pretty words. What you're asking her to do is fuck a monster for us."
"He has an obsession, it would seem," Moody said. "His mother calls it love."
"Narcissa Malfoy could lie to the devil himself," Ron said. He was just getting more heated. "Do you know how you can tell if a Malfoy is lying? Their lips are moving."
"That's old," Harry said. He hadn't moved from his chair since they'd passed Draco Malfoy's proposal around the table. Safe passage for all of them to the continent in exchange for Hermione Granger. He promised she'd be treated well. He loved her.
Tell him no, and he'd relay their position to the power that be that night.
"Can you do it?" Harry asked her. Ongoing war had hardened him. He'd died twice already and didn't have time for people who weren't just as willing to sacrifice as he was.
"Pretend I love Malfoy?" Hermione asked. She shook her head. "Get intelligence out to you? Sure. No problem. But convince that tosser I don't think he's a filthy bottom-feeder?"
She didn't bother to answer her own rhetorical question. They all knew she couldn't manage it. She thought that would be the end of it, that they'd just fight their way out to another safe house, until Molly coughed. Everyone looked at her.
"I doubt he expects you to fall into his arms," Molly said. Her hands were curled along the edge of the table so tightly her knuckles were white but she kept her voice calm. Her eyes betrayed her, though. She flicked her gaze from Ron to Ginny to George. Three of her surviving children, all in one room, all at risk. "He'll expect to have to woo you."
Hermione closed her eyes. She pictured Draco Malfoy, pointed, prejudiced, posh, and tried to imagine why he wanted her. She knew Molly was right. He was smart enough to know if she arrived claiming to have always loved him she'd be lying. He'd be planning on her hate. She could her Ginny shift uncomfortably in one of the chairs. She'd been hit with a curse the week before, one that had left her paralyzed for four days. George still broke every mirror he found in fits of rage.
"I'm not very wooable," Hermione said.
She opened her eyes and looked at Harry. How long would she last, she wondered, before he'd ruin her? How long until Stockholm Syndrome kicked in and she did something that looked like love him back?
"Be careful," Harry said. He knew she'd agreed.
"No," Ron said, all rage. She reached a hand out to cup his cheek, ran her thumb along the jaw she'd slept next to for years. He swallowed and she brushed away the one tear he let escape. "Hermione, I'll - "
"Sooner or later I'll be unreliable," she said. She couldn't let him make promises. Promises were things you broke. Promises were things that broke you. There'd been a lot of promises in this war. "Be careful with what I send you."
Moody nodded brusquely. "He sent portkeys," he said. "You use the main one, it turns on the rest so we can go to the continent." Before anyone could ask he added, "It's keyed to you, Granger. Won't work for a substitute. Already looked at it."
"Smug bastard," Ron said.
Hermione let him go, and picked up the box Moody slid across the table to her. Portkeys were usually junk. They were meant to be unremarkable. Not this one. When she opened the box a diamond tennis bracelet winked up at her.
"I hate him," Ron said.
Hermione reached out and picked up Draco Malfoy's bracelet.
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N Thank you to palisauraus for the prompt on tumblr.
OK, I did end up expanding it. You can read the second part in its own fic: The Pretense