"A portkey?" Hermione bent down to pry one of the shoes off and flexed and stretched her foot. "Why would I want that?"
"Mother can make you one," Draco continued on as if she hadn't spoken. She was only half-listening to him because her mind was churning over how angry she was at Percy for this. She understood being angry because of Fred's death. Maybe not quite as viscerally as he did, but her time in the Order has been fueled by rage just as much as his had, and yet was she carelessly flaunting herself as she burned things down? She was not.
She straightened up, both shoes dangling from her hand, as Draco said, "I would understand."
"Understand what?" she asked. She had no idea what he was talking about and right now seemed like a bad time to go into whatever feelings he wanted to discuss.
"Understand that you wanted to join everyone else in France."
Hermione blinked at him a few times.
"Why would I do that?" She knew that she wasn't unclever. She was used to being able to follow even the most convoluted arguments. This made the opacity of the way Draco was nattering on even more annoying.
She began to walk briskly toward her room as he gaped, then hurried to keep up with her. "Dolohov is probably gathering Death Eaters," he said. "They're going to… he's going to use you to track down Percy Weasley and then kill him." He paused. "Or put him on some sort of a show trial. He might prefer that."
They passed a portrait of one of the endless Malfoy ancestors. Hermione wondered why rich people wanted to be constantly staring at the dead. She certainly didn't want her great-great Aunt sitting around in constant judgement of what she was doing.
Of what she was about to do.
"He's your friend," Draco said.
"Percy knew what he was doing," said tightly, though what in Merlin's name that was she had no idea. He was a fool. He was a brave, noble, stupid fool of a man who had decided he was right and so he was just going to do what he wanted. "He's an adult. He's responsible for his own choices."
"I just… I don't want you to have to do this," Draco said.
She stopped walking and turned to look at him. "And what happens if I run off?" she asked. She knew the answer but she wanted to hear him say it.
"I'm sure I'd survive," he said. He forced a smile to his face. It was even and perfect. You could sell toothpowders with that gleaming smile. "My family is still significant enough that just killing me out of hand wouldn't go over well, and my mother, well, you know."
"What would happen to you," she asked again.
"Crucio," he said with no inflection. "But, like I said, I'd survive. I've survived before."
She reached a hand out and brushed some of the hair out of his face. It was almost white, that hair. Really, it was an absolutely absurd color for hair to be. "Well, I won't be responsible for you suffering it this time," she said.
He took a step back, out of the reach of her hand, and that smile faltered. "What?" he asked.
"I'm going to go to my room," she said, "put on practical trousers, and lead Antonin Dolohov to where Percy most likely is. And then we will come back here and have cake. There is cake, right?"
"Why?" He whispered the question.
"I like cake," she said. "And you need to eat more." She knew that wasn't what he meant, but before he could press, before they might risk some kind of display, she turned on her hare heel and headed off toward her wardrobe and her trousers and her betrayal.
Draco followed her like a puppy. She left him standing, lost, in the sitting area of her suite as she shut the door to the bedroom and changed. When she came out in the most offensively Muggle thing she could find – though she doubted the concert t-shirt would mean anything to Dolohov – he hadn't moved. He stared at her as if he'd never seen her before and she had to push away the urge to slap the expression off his face. She knew her feelings weren't fair. She knew they were really about Percy. She hadn't expected being the plant inside the Malfoy's estate to be fun. From the moment she'd picked up the bracelet still on her wrist she'd assumed she'd be asked to do things abhorrent to her.
She'd just expected those things to involve sex with Malfoy.
Betraying a man whose brother she'd planned to marry hadn't ever crossed her mind as a possibility. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. She wanted to lash out at anyone who made the mistake of getting in her way. Instead she took a deep breath. "Will you be coming along?" she asked.
"If I have to," he said.
He had to.
Dolohov looked far more pleased by Hermione's non-wizarding attire than she would have expected until she realized she'd given him the perfect optic. They gathered outside one of the little cottages that had become safe houses for the Order and she stood with her bushy hair and Muggle trainers and tie-dyed shirt and there was no mistaking her. The black robes and masks the Death Eaters wore framed her as she walked to the cottage, broke the Fidelius, and let them in.
Percy was sitting at the table eating a bowl of soup and reading a biography of Trotsky.
He wasn't expecting her.
She'd half-hoped he would be. She'd hoped his obvious mistake hadn't been a mistake at all but had been a plan to have her lure Death Eaters into a trap where they'd be met with enough firepower to kill them all. Instead he looked up, spoon half-way to his mouth, and said, "What are you doing here?" before Dolphov spoke. Despite the mask the smug pleasure in his voice gave him away.
"Percy Weasley," he said. "You are under arrest for domestic terrorism."
"Hermione?" Percy asked.
"Yes, Hermione," Dolohov said. She could feel his smile in his voice. "She's quite the good little defector, Weasley. I admit I had my doubts. I thought no one could possibly like Draco Malfoy enough to turn against everyone she's ever known but, well, perhaps what young Malfoy can't offer the knowledge she's on the winning side does. I admire that kind of pragmatism."
"It was wrong to blow that building up, Percy," Hermione said. "Real change is effected through the democratic process."
She hoped she didn't sound as wooden as she felt. She hoped the thing in her throat threatening to choke her wasn't obvious to all these men in black robes and silver masks.
"I assume you'll testify at his trial," Dolohov said. It was a near purr.
"I am at your disposal," Hermione said. "Terrorism cannot be allowed to stand."
"Bitch," Percy said. The word was low, shocked, and vibrating with hatred. It pounded against her heart. "You bitch," he said again. "You whore."
The diamond bracelet felt very heavy as Hermione turned to go. "May I leave?" she asked Dolohov.
"I'll be in touch, Miss Granger," he said. As she walked out of the cottage she heard the sounds of Death Eaters physically beating Percy Weasley. She could hear each blow fall despite how loud her footsteps were. The wand she made no movement to grab pressed a rebuke into her side. At least they wouldn't kill him. They had opted for the trial. She would testify. Everyone would know. She wanted to be sick.
One of the Death Eaters followed after her, his robe swirling around his feet, and she knew by the set of the shoulders it was Draco. He took her hand and she clung to those fingers so tightly it had to be painful, but he said only, "Shall I side apparate you?"
"Please," she said, and then she was sucked into the void.
She just had time to think Destination, Determination, Deliberation and they were at the driveway that wound up to Malfoy Manor. The house loomed down at them, and a peacock was screaming somewhere off in the distance, and she could feel the tears begin to burn at the corners of her eyes.
"Cake, I think you wanted," Draco said.
She managed to choke out, "Cake would be lovely," and then he was holding the door and Narcissa was on the other side and pulling her into a hug that left her shocked senseless.
"In this war," the woman said so very softly into her ear, "there is nothing we will not do."
If you had asked Hermione a week earlier if she ever would have felt comforted by Narcissa Malfoy, she would have laughed. Now she felt her spine stiffen because this arrogant, aristocratic nightmare of a human being was absolutely right. "I will see them all in Azkaban," she said back, her voice just a hint of a breath at Narcissa's ear. "I will find their weaknesses and I will take them all down."
"I know," Narcissa murmured.
Narcissa released her after that and smiled with conspiratorial pleasure before saying with her regular, posh sneer, "I had the staff make a nice lemon cake. Perhaps with tea in the privacy of your suite? We were so rudely interrupted with this little problem before dessert."
Little problem, indeed.
"That would be lovely," Hermione said. "Thank you."
"Draco," Narcissa said. "Come with me and I'll give you a tray to bring up."
Hermione trudged through the corridors alone, past the ancient Malfoys and the inexplicable pictures of birds and fruit that the Malfoys, like every miserable museum she'd ever been dragged to in primary, seemed to collect. The carpets were thick and flawless. The manor airy and beautiful. The decorations beyond compare.
She supposed spies had sold their souls in less attractive environs. She understood Snape had lived in a slum, one of those old two up two downs that, for whatever reason, no one had gotten around to bulldozing quite yet. She supposed if she had to pick a place to live while being hated by her own side, this was better.
The food had to be better. Draco appeared before she'd even kicked her trainers off, tray of miniature glazed lemon cakes in hand. He set it down on the floor by the fire and, as she sat and watched, he lit the blaze with a wordless, wandless spell, poured her some tea, and handed her a plate and fork. She dug into the cake in silence and took a bite. It was excellent. The lemon gave just enough bite and the sugary topping wasn't overwhelming. The Malfoys didn't spare any expense when it came to hiring an excellent chef.
What was Percy eating tonight? What was Ron?
She took another bite. "This is good," she said.
"Yes," Draco said. "If you like it, I'll ask they make it again."
"That would be nice," she said. "Thank you."
"Thank you," he said.
She'd been keeping her eyes fixed on the cake and the way the firelight danced over it but that made her look at him. His mouth had twisted and his fingers were shaking. He set his plate down on the rug and the fork clattered against it.
"It was nothing," she said.
"It wasn't," he said, and that was when she started to cry. Great, wracking sobs shook her until she had doubled over as if making herself smaller might make the pain go away. Somewhere in there, Draco took the plate from her hand and set it aside, and moved the tea cup away, and he was holding her and she had her face pressed into his shirt and she was crying and crying and crying and it didn't help. Nothing was ever going to help again.
. . . . . . . . . .
A/N – Thank you for all your endless support. Your words can and do give me the inspiration to work and to write.
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