Hermione was restless. She has been waiting for days. She finally understood what frustration Sirius had felt the previous year when he was shut in this horrible old house. She was there only on Christmas break but even studying couldn't keep her mind off Draco.
She thought at first that he would come on the Hogwarts Express. But there was no sign of him at the Prefects Meeting on the way which meant that he must have remained at Hogwarts. She did realize that he wasn't going to just stay at Grimmauld Place the way her, Ron and Harry did every Christmas since it became the Order's Headquarters, but she had her naïve hopes.
When there was no sign of him by New Year's Eve she was starting to get worried. He was meant to report to the Order! She was sure that Dumbledore wouldn't prevent them from seeing each other. Besides she has been keeping an Extendable Ear on the goings on at the meetings.
Draco was sitting in his room playing with the small vial of potion. Hermione had established that there was some sort of connection, probably accidental and that they could indeed use it as a means of communication. Hermione also devised a charm (similar to what she used on the D.A. coins the previous year) that would make their bottles heat up when they were trying to contact each other.
He tapped the little bottle with his wand and waited.
Hermione was just making herself a cup of tea when she felt her left thigh suddenly burn. She gasped and dropped the teapot onto the bench.
"You ok 'Mione?" Surprisingly Ron did notice.
"Yeah." She tapped her pocket with her wand and cursed herself for not adjusting the temperature of the charm.
She quickly poured the boiling water into her cup and ran to her room.
They were in their dinghy once again.
"Oh Draco." Hermione carefully edged forward in the small vessel trying to not tip herself out.
He smiled at her and reached for her.
"Why haven't you come to the Headquarters yet?" Her eyes were very shiny as she spoke.
"Dumbledore deemed it more 'safe' that I stay at Hogwarts and report to him personally. I'm guessing that he doesn't trust me to know the place or members of the Order. I can guess quite a few anyway. But the point is that he doesn't yet trust me." He looked bitter as he said this.
She brushed his hair out of his eyes.
"How is your mission going then?"
"It's a stupid task. I'm spying on teenagers. Sure, some of them go on about 'purification' of wizard kind but that's typical of Slytherin, that is no news. Surely Dumbledore must know this!"
"He means well! But you don't exactly have a clean slate…"
He pulled away from her abruptly.
"So this is it? You think that I don't belong in your precious Order!"
His face had a twisted sneer as he pushed her away. She sat in a crumpled heap on the floor of the wildly rocking boat.
"No that is not what I meant! I-"
"You think I'm not good enough. Well let me tell you my past is spotless compared to Snape!"
"How do you know about Snape?"
"I can see it in your mind. I have done nothing wrong besides couple petty childish insults. Will you judge me on what family I was born to? I suppose it's only fair for that what I've done to you in past. But I think I made it pretty clear that I am willing to leave all that for you."
Hermione picked herself up and sat in his lap again. He didn't resist.
"You're right. I'm sorry. What are we going to do about Dumbledore then? I mean, we can always run away together if it comes to the worst." She gave him a dazzling smile.
"Yes. I like the sound of that." He grinned at her mischievously. Then he kissed her forehead and promptly disappeared.
Hermione woke up on her bed. Her tea was already cold by then and she tipped it out of the window before taking her cup downstairs. She bounced off the kitchen door when she tried to open it. Meeting.
And judging by the security an important one. She sat on the stairs opposite the door and waited for it to finish.
Remus was the first to leave. He smiled kindly as he passed. Almost all of the Order that Hermione knew was there. Finally Snape followed by Dumbledore walked by.
"Excuse me, Professor. Could I have a word?"
Snape started at her with distaste before he nodded curtly.
"No I meant Professor Dumbledore, sir." She blushed at her vagueness at which Snape sneered before striding through the hallway door.
"I am quite busy Hermione."
"I'm sure you are sir but this is important. Please." She gestured towards the kitchen. Her reluctantly strolled back into the room.
Hermione swiftly locked the door and placed her own charm on it before turning to the old wizard.
"Sir, what is happening with Draco. He says that there is very little to report and you refuse to trust him?" She went straight to the point.
He looked slightly taken aback at first. He rearranged his expression into an understanding one before he spoke.
"Hermione, the Order of Phoenix is devoted to fighting Voldemort and it is crucial that we can trust all our members hundred percent. I cannot just take Draco's word for it."
"But sir, you were the one who suggested that he becomes a member in order to have protection."
"You said that he wants to be on our side. This is what he has to do. He has past."
"Yes I did say that but that doesn't mean that he must be in the Order sir. Is it Order of Phoenix or Voldemort then sir? Isn't the fact that he doesn't want to take the Mark enough? What past? He is a 17-year-old boy! He has grown up in a pureblood family but he is old enough to think for himself now! Is that not enough proof that he is trustworthy? I will vouch for him if you wish sir."
Dumbledore took off his half moon spectacles and rubbed his eyes tiredly.
"Very well. If you wish to do this, it is your decision but I'm afraid that it will have to be a magically binding contract."
Hermione blinked several times. She had certainly not expected Dumbledore to be so frigid and harsh towards Draco but she was willing to do this. For him.
When Draco arrived at Grimmauld Place it was mostly deserted save for Hermione, Harry and few Weasleys. They were sitting around the fireplace playing Exploding Snap and reading (in Hermione's case) when he stumbled out of it.
"Draco Malfoy." Molly Weasley curtly nodded at him before anyone else could react.
"Good afternoon Mrs. Weasley. Dumbledore said it will be easiest for me to floo."
Harry was gaping at him with his mouth hanging. Ron looked confusedly from his mother to his enemy. What is he doing here?
Hermione jumped up before anyone else could speak.
"I'll show him his room Mrs. Weasley." She said before (to the utter horror of everyone around) she grabbed his hand and dragged him away.
"What..?" Ron couldn't even voice his shock properly.
"Dumbledore said that he is to stay here and that is that." Said Molly before stalking off to the kitchen. She wasn't particularly pleased about this visitor. All dealings that her family had with Malfoys was trouble. And whatever Hermione was on… Well that was her business.
The moment Hermione and Draco were out of sight, her arms flew around his neck in a passionate embrace.
"Oh, Draco I thought that Dumbledore will never change his mind."
"What the bloody hell did you do that for woman?"
Hermione looked at him in a surprise.
"Consent to a magically binding contract. I don't think that Dumbledore has any right to ask that of you. You can't do that for me. You do realize what could happen to you if it was broken!"
"Yes. But I was hoping you weren't intending on betraying us, so whether Dumbledore has any right or not is beside the point. Come. I'll take you to your room."
She winked at him before walking up the stairs in front of him, giving him a chance to appreciate the invention of snug muggle jeans.
The best thing about Draco's room was that Hermione was in it most of the time.
For the first time in a long time he felt content simply lying on the bed with his head in her lap, blissfully unaware of the several fights that she had with her two best friends over her 'sudden' association with him.
In fact this was the second time Ron accused her of 'fraternizing with the enemy' as he did few years ago during her brief relationship with Victor. Thankfully for Draco, she wasn't having any of it. She told Ronald to keep his large nose out of her business if he doesn't like it.
Harry was more diplomatic. He voiced some of his concerns but after seeing Hermione's response to Ron's reaction (to Draco) he chose to keep the rest to himself. He still hated Draco. But for sake of his friendship with Hermione he chose to keep his mouth shut and eyes open for any fishy business.
Which was why he checked on them every half an hour or so, to see whether Hermione is still alive with all limbs intact. And preferably not too preoccupied with snogging the ferret.
This Draco didn't mind so much. Because finally they were together in reality.