Sirius asked them first: Draco, Hermione, Harry, and Claire. Although Harry and Claire already knew what Sirius was requesting, given that the three of them had been living in Potter House over the Yule Holiday. But because of his history, Sirius understood the importance of being properly consulted.
If Sirius had learned anything it was that being kept in the dark could lead to terrible mistakes. He had brought Theodore Nott into his home to be given an actual choice about his life going forward.
"I'd like your permission to tell Theo what's really going on. He's been a good houseguest and it was brave of him to come here in the first place."
Draco felt like he had been struck in the chest that he, Hermione, and Harry were being consulted in such a manner. It was just a further solidification that the baton well and truly had been passed to them.
"I'd prefer if he was offered the option of a ticket abroad, or a safehouse," Hermione shrugged.
"I thought you wanted him on our side," Draco hissed, "you had an entire plan based on his cooperation!"
"It has since occurred to me that he may be somewhat of a loose end," Hermione answered, her shoulders hunched defensively.
Harry interrupted. "I think I can speak for Hermione, and even Draco in saying that we don't necessarily want him to be sent away. But trust is hard, and remaining in Britain will be even harder." He shrugged his shoulders like what he'd just said was no big deal. "Maybe we should give it some time to see how he reacts?"
He looked at Hermione, and then Draco. It was the first time Harry had been the level-headed one of them.
Hermione deflated and Claire reached out to put an arm around her shoulders. "It's scary?"
Hermione looked at her questioningly.
"Letting other people in?" Claire asked. "Sirius and Harry were one thing. I know how much you care for them. But the circumstances didn't really leave you a choice. And this is different."
Herrmione nodded, took a deep sobbing breath and allowed her head to fall to Claire's shoulder. Sirius quietly walked away while Draco and Harry looked at each other uncomfortably until Claire snorted at them. "Neither of us is going to fall apart! She'd just upset. Stay put, and then we can go to the Granger's for dinner."
"Mum's getting take away from that Chinese place you both like," Hermione chuckled, giving her friend a hug. "Let's go."
It turned out to be somewhat of a superfluous conversation- for the time being- as Theo had opted to continue to spend most of his time at Potter House inside the room that had been allotted to him.
Hermione had been concerned by the reports, but both Sirius and Harry had seemed to think that his behavior was normal, and given that it was their house, she didn't argue with them. He even opted out of coming to view the wholesome dog racing competition. They tried to engage him but didn't want to force him.
When he was asked if he wanted to take secrecy charms, or leave, it had taken him surprisingly little time to consider the issue to just swear the charms. He didn't seem surprised to discover that Harry Potter had secrets that needed to be kept. He actually seemed to be mostly impressed that Potter's guardian would take measures to keep them.
Theo snuck down the stairs on Christmas Eve and sat on the bottom step, just watching the merriment. Harry approached him quietly with a plate full of food, pressed it into his hands, and just shrugged when Butch settled at his feet.
On Christmas Day Theo had no intention of getting out of bed. It should have been depressing, but peaceful rest was more than he could have asked for at his ancestral home, and he intended to relish it on this holiday.
But then bloody Potter came pounding on his door, demanding that he come downstairs.
Then there were presents, and he had his own pile. Some of them were generic- but that was still nice. But some of them seemed to have been especially chosen for him. Sirius and Harry had been very welcoming, but he couldn't imagine how either of them knew about his interest in runic studies. An interest he'd only discussed with one witch - and very briefly- and as if called the witch in question and her betrothed stepped out of the fireplace.
"Well, I did not see this coming," Theo looked between Draco and Hermione, and back again, then cleared his throat. He had nearly passed out when Mia Garnier had removed her charm bracelet and he'd recognized Hermone Granger for who she was.
"I thought that there was something going on with you," Theo wiggled a finger at Draco, "but I didn't imagine this."
"To be honest, a few years ago I didn't either. Now you need to decide if you want to stay."
Sirius cleared his throat. "You'd have our protection and our gold at your back either way. I know that you're of age, but I don't know how your inheritance is distributed. If you want to leave the country we can make that happen, if you want to stay quietly, we can also make that happen. If you want to go back to Hogwarts, you will be protected.
Theo looked at Draco. Draco Malfoy who was holding hands with Hermione Granger. Draco Malfoy who was murmuring to Harry Potter in a way that spoke of deep trust. Then he remembered Luna.
He was certain he'd been played. He should be angry. But he wanted to be on the side of the players.
"Okay I'm in."
They- Draco, Hermione, Harry, and Claire, were gathered in Harry's private sitting room in Potter House. Hermione was attempting to behave casually, but Draco immediately recognized that his cousin was uncomfortable. He eyed her and evaluated the situation, but his betrothed beat him to the punch.
"Harry, I haven't really had a chance to ask you," Hemione said," every time we meet we are so busy. How are things in Gryffindor?"
He chuckled. "They're fine, Hermione. I mean I miss you, obviously. But Ron is a good friend, and my other housemates are good to have around."
"That's still okay, with Ron?"
Draco knew that Hermione felt a large amount of guilt about the deterioration of Harry's relationship with Ronald Weasley, and while Draco- as much as was possible- sympathized, it wasn't as if there was anything to be done. Ron couldn't be trusted with their secrets- he'd neither the required occlumency training, nor would his mother give permission for him to undergo the vows required to keep them. But Draco didn't lament those facts either because he simply didn't like the wizard.
He knew Harry maintained a friendship with the boy, and Draco- graciously, in his own opinion- hoped it helped fill what Draco imagined must have been the enormous void in Harry's life in Gryffindor Tower which was Hermione. He knew what it was like to walk through life day to day in Hogwarts without Hermione.
"We're not as close as we used to be, he's not stupid. He knows I'm keeping things from him, but you knew this."
"It's not your fault."
"Soooo," Draco wondered, as he eyed the way that his cousin and Harry were cuddled up together on the sofa in Harry's sitting room as he attempted to change the subject.
His betrothed elbowed him, and Draco returned the gesture in kind- "Harry had a lot of questions for me when we started dating, I think I have a right to respond in kind."
"Okay," Harry agreed, and if Draco had been asked, he couldn't have said that he didn't enjoy how the other wizard looked slightly nervous.
But then Claire huffed, detached herself from Potter and sat up. Truth be told, Claire had been in England for over a week and had stayed at Potter House for the whole time. She had even attended a few close family events that were only between themselves, the Grangers, and Sirius. If she hadn't been firmly cemented into their family, he couldn't say what would allow her to be.
But she was his cousin.
She was now also the girlfriend of his best friend.
Draco suddenly had a lot more sympathy for the Harry Potter of their Fourth Year when he'd discovered Hermione in a compromising situation with Draco.
Hypocrisy was an annoying fly which Draco wished he could just swat away.
And he liked to think that he probably would have if it wasn't for the accusing eyes of his cousin, the very pointy elbow of his betrothed, and the sad expression on the face of the wizard who he now considered to be his best friend.
He sighed and directed his attention towards the sad eyes in question. "If you hurt her I'll find a way to kill you, I don't care what my cousin and my future wife say. I have a very powerful wand now, you know," he smirked, and even brandished the Elder wand.
Hermione snorted and then they all laughed.
"Can we be done with this now?" Claire asked. "Or do I not get an opinion, are you going to act like Grandfather.
Suitably chastised, Draco nodded. "I apologize." And he realized that he was probably being overprotective. Gender politics aside, he would trust Harry with anything, but the need to protect Claire was almost as deeply entrenched as the one to protect Hermione.
But this was all happening so fast.
Hermione had already started talking about how they would all need therapy when this was all over. He thought that their chosen therapist would probably need therapy just to treat them. He was also ever so grateful for all that he'd learned about the muggle world since he'd met Hermione.
The idea of a retreat into the muggle world had once seemed like a last resort. Now it seemed an optimal escape, at least for a few years.
He took another breath. "There must be a reason you called us here specifically?"
Claire nodded and Harry beamed, Draco didn't think he'd ever seen such an expression from the other wizard. "Claire wants to tell you about the army she's built, the one that Mum mentioned. It's brilliant!"
Draco viciously knocked back a set of emotions that were telling him Claire should have told him first, and settled in to listen to her answer.
"It cannot be a surprise to either of you that Voldemort is a threat to anything even slightly outside of the constructs of pureblood magical society," she shot an apologetic look towards Draco at this, but he just nodded. In fact, he found it kind of amusing given that Claire was a pureblood herself who had been raised much in the same way that he had been.
"So," Claire continued, "he's a huge threat to artistic society. Freedom of expression is the antithesis of what he preaches. His influence was minimal on the Continent last time, but we can't count on that again. And we're willing to fight, especially because it seems that Britain isn't willing to do it, by itself. And we're willing to do it with weapons most magicals ignore."
"The internet." As if that actually answered the question.
"We know what the internet is, Claire," Draco huffed, and pointedly ignored Harry's side-eye. He wasn't going to stop speaking to his cousin the same way that he always had just because she now happened to be Harry's girlfriend.
Claire ignored them. "Yes. But I know you don't have a lot of experience with it- and don't pretend that I'm wrong. You've had plenty else going on."
"What about the internet?" Hermione cut in.
Hermione's eyes lit up. "I've heard of those. You can join a chat about any number of things, and you choose it based on whatever the-" she paused "board, I think, is labeled?'
Claire nodded enthusiastically.
"I poked around a couple this summer," Hermione explained, "but what does that have to do with us?"
"It may surprise you to hear that there are groups of people who are very opposed to Voldemort gaining any kind of position of power. So many people let out a sigh of relief in 1981," Draco watched Claire grasp Harry's hand in apology.
"It's exactly what I don't want to happen again," Harry answered.
"I agree," said Hermione, "but what did you tell them to get them on our side. Vodemort has done an impressive job keeping his resurrection quiet. And why do they care anyways?"
"He has done an impressive job of keeing his resurrection quiet in Britain. Not everybody on mainland Europe is so believing. There are too many incidents, too many coincidences from last time."
"So they want to fight?"
"It's a small group, in the scheme of things. But they believe in the seriousness of it all when I'm the one telling them, due to my heritage. It's the one way I've used it for good," she murmured bitterly," She glanced at Draco, "I love our family but-"
"I understand," he answered.
She took a breath. "I'm not saying that I have the desire to storm the Isles but I'm gathering resources."
There was a long pause.
"What does that mean?" Hermione eventually asked. "I just- how the hell are we going to do this Claire? Do you have a better idea? Because as much as we've been training, I feel pretty lost."
"I wish I had some great solution. But I don't."
"That's okay," Harry rushed to reassure her.
"Of course it is," Hermione said. "I just want to know everything. We need to know everything to make a plan."
She nodded at Claire who nodded back.
"Tell me everything please." Hermione glanced at Harry. "This is how we finish this."
"Wands, for one. We all need an extra. Everybody needs an extra." Claire took a breath. "Evacuation portkeys. Safehouses. Money and personelle outside of Britain. Other weapons and general training for those willing to undertake it, given that there's time to even do so."
"Damnit," Draco breathed. They hadn't even considered these things outside of their immediate group.
"And more magical training for anybody who does want to fight. If your timeline remains intact, we don't have much time. It's only only five months until June."
Draco leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, the base of his palms rubbing his eyes. "Care," he muttered. He wasn't a fool, he knew that it was far too late to keep her away from this fight, as much as his parents had tried. But it was difficult to witness.
"Draco," Claire responded in kind.
He gave her a short nod while he silently wondered why all of the women in his life had to be so brilliantly, stubbornly, maybe not- the thought of Pansy Parkinson continued to make him cringe.
"What do you want?" He sighed.
"I suppose I need somebody to liaise with on the Order of the Phoenix's side? I can't just bring my people in at the last minute. They'll never be trusted."
Draco buried his head in his hands and then he looked up, glaring at Harry. "You knew about this."
Harry shrugged. "She's not wrong."
"And who do you suggest? I assume it's not me- the dark lord in training- or Hermione, my delinquent girlfriend- or even yourself, Potter, given that you're the Chosen One?"
"Draco," Claire remonstrated quietly.
He huffed but took comfort in the fact that while Hermione continued to hold his hand supportively, he could feel that she was also trying to get a reign on her own emotions. He was not alone in this.
"Sirius?" Hermione asked tightly.
Claire shook her head. "He's considered to be too explosive."
Harry blew out a long breath. "Everything he does is scrutinized thoroughly because of me."
"And how would I explain my relationship with him anyway?" Claire continued. "It could be traced back to Uncle Lucius and I know we're not ready for that."
Hermione contemplated that. There were already so many links connecting Sirius to the Malfoys. If anybody sat down and tried to find them.
Oh what a tangled web we weave.
"Then who?" She asked.
Hermione shook her head vigorously. "Narcissa wanted to keep them out specifically. That was one of her major goals from the beginning!"
"But then they joined the Order," Draco sighed.
Hermione shot him a look.
He grabbed her hand. "They did. As I understand it they stayed neutral last time. I also respect that choice. They had a baby. Both of Andromeda's sisters were on one side. Joining the Order would have put a huge target on their backs. But this time they've made their allegiance clear."
"What are you suggesting?"
He looked at Claire. "I assume you have a plan. I won't support anything without everybody's full consent."
She smiled at him. "Of course not.
"The plan…" Draco encouraged her to keep talking.
Claire shrugged. "We tell them everything, if they're willing to know and to take the requisite vows. Then we leverage my relationship with Hermione as a link to them, and thus, the British resistance. Voila, a Malfoy-less line of inquiry!"
"Except that I supposedly seduced Hermione and ran her out of the country," Draco griped.
"And the Tonks' know what it's like to be on the outs with a pureblood family- to be humiliated by them. It would be plausible that they kept in touch with Hermione, just to assure that she was okay."
Hermione pressed her thumb between her brows and looked between Claire and Harry. Claire looked determined, Harry looked nervous.
"There was never any way that this was going to go that we weren't going to have to ask people to do hard things on our behalf, was there?"
She had expected the answer to come from Claire. But it came from Harry
"You know that there wasn't."