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A/N: The fourth story in the MITP universe. This is set well before Sirius' return and toward the beginning of Draco and Hermione's partnership, and is one of their first missions together. Thanks to those of you who have reviewed the previous stories in this series, you really do inspire me to write more.
"I swear I will kill Kingsley when we get back," Hermione's teeth chattered as she clutched the barrel of a magically enhanced rifle.
"It could be worse."
Hermione raised a frosty eyebrow and turned her head stiffly toward her companion on the steeply pitched roof.
"We could be dead," Draco Malfoy replied to the silent question.
"Gee, thanks Malfoy, it's always comforting to know you're going to be here with unhelpful and pointless words of comfort." She shifted a little to alleviate the pressure on her lower back, stiff from half an hour of tilting thirty degrees in the wrong direction. "I swear if we have to come back to this hellhole I will kill myself first."
"Fair enough. I have to admit, I am a bit chilly."
Hermione huffed. "With all that cold blood in your veins I would have thought this was rather pleasant for you."
"Oh piss off Granger." He rolled his eyes and went back to peering at the window of the small flat they were watching. "There's our man. Take the shot."
"Wait a minute..." Hermione squinted through the scope of the rifle and chewed worriedly at her bottom lip. "Tricky bastard. He's got a dummy."
Draco put the binoculars back to his eyes and chuckled. "Shame they didn't count on our special friend you've got there."
Hermione wrinkled her nose and gave him an uncertain look. "I'm not sure if it can differentiate between the real person and the effects of polyjuice potion. I was concentrating more on taking out a person in a crowd, not picking between two identical bodies."
"So what kind of deviation are we looking at here?"
"Three degrees max," She put her eye back to the scope and pursed her lips.
"Wait until they're standing side by side and aim directly between them." He put the binoculars down and blinked a few times before raising them up again. "At this range I reckon you're only looking at two degrees between the empty space and the kill shot. Fuck I think my eyelashes are freezing to my eyelids."
Hermione chuckled, "Serves you right for having pretty girlie curly eyelashes doesn't it?"
"Oh so you admit my eyelashes are pretty? I knew you would come around eventually."
"Shut it Malfoy. We'll give your idea a shot. I suppose it's bound to hit at least one of them. The only other outcome I can think of is the bullet exploding mid air in total confusion, which will probably give us even more time to get the hell out of here."
"How do you figure?"
"What would you do if a bang went off in the middle of a room, everyone was still standing and there was a nice neat bullet hole in the window?" She shuffled again and blew a stray lock of hair out of her eyes.
"I get your point," he replied after a few moments of looking rather baffled. "Although I really do wish bloody Tonks could have got more than the one hair of the wanker's head. One bullet does not an arsenal make."
"Oh quit your whining," she snapped, and did her best to ignore him, instead waiting patiently for the two look alikes to converge. "Here's hoping it doesn't just head for the one closest to us in a straight line."
"Typical Granger, always thinking of every way a situation can go wrong. Can we please just take this as a win if we hit one of them and get the hell out of here, my more important extremities are starting to go numb." He made a half-hearted attempt at raising his groin away from the blanket of snow on the roof but gave up after a few moments, apparently taking the chill over the back pain.
Hermione let out a long breath and closed her left eye, "I'm taking the shot. Turn on the camera will you?"
Draco tapped the side of the binoculars, "Go ahead."
A quiet whoosh came from the gun, to Hermione's surprise the man who was slightly further away dropped to the ground. She immediately lifted her head from the scope and turned to her companion. "Okay, mission presumed successful, let's get the hell out of Magadan." She began dismantling the rifle, putting it back into it's case piece by piece. "Come on Malfoy, what the hell are you waiting for?"
"Three degrees, you say?" He was still peering through the binoculars, his expression one of bewilderment.
"Yes, that's what I said. Now move it," she hissed. He passed her the binoculars.
"Take a closer look."
She snatched the binoculars from him and lifted them to her eyes, jaw dropping as she took in the scene before her. "But how..."
"The bullet entered his forehead, then exited through the side of his skull, taking out the duplicate in the process. And you said three degrees," he gave out a small whoop and waved his wand at the binoculars, shrinking them down to a size small enough to fit in one of his zippered jacket pockets, removing his shrunken broomstick in the process. Hermione continued to stare at the window across the street in bafflement and was not snapped out of her daze until Draco began to continue dismantling her weapon.
"Fuck me. I guess this DNA bullet idea needs a bit more testing. Merlin knows who the polyjuiced person was," she turned to Draco, eyes going wide in realisation. "What if it was one of ours? We're fucked then."
"If it was one of ours then it's probably the same traitor who tipped them off that we're watching. Why else do you think Eschalov was paranoid enough to duplicate himself?" He snapped the white gun case closed and performed the same shrinking spell he had used on the binoculars, handing it to Hermione to stuff in her jacket.
"Merlin, I am way to young for this shit. It's my Saturday afternoon, I should be getting ready to go out in London looking get wasted and demolish a kebab." She rolled over and tucked behind Draco on his broom, trying to take her mind off the tricky manoeuvre they were about to perform.
As they slid off the roof Hermione closed her eyes and waited for the impact she knew wasn't going to come. He might be an asshole, but she had to admit her partner was pretty damn good on a broom. After a few moments of the wind whipping in her hair she dared to open her eyes.
"Just remember to keep low, all the white accessories will be pointless if you can see us against the sky."
"I know Granger. I did my time at MI-5 too, you know. And as for that Saturday night thing, I can help you with the getting wasted but you'll have to go without the kebab, I'm afraid."
"Draco Malfoy, if you weren't you, I would kiss you right now."
The flight to the island of Nedorozumeniya was relatively short when compared with the expanse that is the Russian Federation, but at fourteen miles from their precarious position on a rooftop in Magadan and in the middle of winter, Draco was beginning to wonder if the journey would ever end. Thankfully, the distance had remained at fourteen miles, with the proximity trackers Hermione had been dropping along the way remaining silent.
One thing Draco was grateful for, however, was the thick jackets both himself and Hermione were wearing. The last time they had been in this position on a broom they were both dressed in the obligatory tight black jumpsuits, and he was decidedly unhappy with exactly how tight the offending item of clothing had been when they had landed.
As the small land mass of the island approached he heard Hermione's sigh of relief and couldn't help but breathe one of his own. He circled around a small hill and landed on a reasonably flat area on the north western side.
"Your castle awaits, milady. Betula Pendula." A small door appeared in the side of the hill and Hermione shuffled forward to open it, pausing briefly to mutter the unlocking charm. They both tentatively peered through the small opening and after a brief inspection and a couple of sneakoscope checks deemed it safe to enter.
"What's the time?" Hermione removed her gloves and unzipped her puffy white arctic jacket, Draco checked his watch.
"Eleven fifteen. Six more hours until the extraction team shows up." He cast a few warming charms on the room and lit some mock flames in the fireplace in the corner. The safe house was little more than a room, only being designed for short term stays. At around twenty feet square the only furniture it held was a pile of mattresses against one of the windowless walls.
"Where's this boozy Saturday night you promised me?" The pants were being shimmied off now and Draco found himself pondering whether it would be a good idea to do the same, as the revelation of her rather sexy black cotton boyshorts were causing him a small - or rather large - situation in his own boxer briefs. He settled for removing his jacket.
"Care for some cheap Russian vodka?" He asked in his most ridiculous Eastern European accent. She giggled and smacked him over the head.
"I knew you didn't go into that liquor store for information."
"Hey! I will have you know that the clerk was particularly helpful, he suggested I try the cheapest brand as it apparently has a higher alcohol percentage than the others. Now that's service, you don't hear of the British trying to downsell you." He pulled a bottle from the inside pocket of his jacket, which now sat discarded on the floor.
"You've been carrying that around full size all night?" She looked at him like he was mental and he briefly wondered if he was. Getting drunk with Hermione Granger was not an experience he was sure he should have.
"I didn't want to ruin the flavour...or the booze content." She rolled her eyes and headed for the mattresses. Dropping two down on the dusty floor she shoved them toward the corner with the fake fireplace and flopped down dramatically, snatching the bottle from his hands before he had even had a chance to open it.
"I got the kill shot, I get the first drink."
"I'll give you that. I'll even give you two thanks to the amazing miracle shot of double death." He cast a sidelong glance at her and winked.
"Sounds like I'm going to have my first fun night since Ron and I got married."
Draco made a face. "Need you remind me that I am working with a Weasley?"
"I'm still Granger, Malfoy."
"You say that now, wait until you catch the ginger." The face turned into a mock retch and he got another smack over the head. He snatched the bottle from her and took a swig.
"You can't catch ginger, Malfoy."
"Just go ahead and ruin my witticisms, why don't you?" He grumbled.
"That is not wit. It's just stupid." She had another drink. "Why do you hate them so much anyway?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about." He sniffed haughtily and raised his nose in the air. This was not a conversation he was in the mood for.
She stuck her tongue out at him. "Have it your way."
They continued to pass the bottle between themselves in silence, watching the cool flames crackle in the small grate. Draco wasn't feeling particularly chatty but after twenty minutes the silence began to get to him. He looked over at his companion and groaned.
"Trust you to bring a bloody book."
"What, you didn't expect me to rely on your scintillating conversation to keep me entertained did you?" She casually turned a page and grabbed the bottle from it's resting place between their mattresses, taking a large gulp. "You know, that is really cheap vodka."
"Yeah, I think it's just diluted meths and kero." He snorted and leaned over her shoulder. "Watcha reading?"
She tilted her head up at him and batted her eyelids. "The latest in the Mills and Boon sexy series. It's called The Playboy's Innocent Mistress. You wanna read?" She lifted the arm holding the book and waved it under his nose.
"I'm not that stupid, Granger. I'm sure you're reading the latest recipient of some prize or other. Believe it or not I actually quite like Muggle fiction too," he retorted indignantly. She made a dubious face and returned the book to her jacket pocket. Draco caught a glimpse of the cover and filed The Lacuna under books he needed to check out. Hermione never told him what she was reading, but he was beginning to find that sneaking a peak at her current paperback distraction was quite good for his own literary enlightenment.
"If you're quite done with attempting to convince me of your good intentions then we should probably go to sleep. Big day tomorrow." She unrolled one of the sleeping bags she had engorged earlier and threw him the other.
"What, a portkey and a debriefing? Gee, really stressful." He unrolled his own bag a little more forcefully than was necessary and shuffled into it, forgetting to take off his snow pants and then grumbling as he struggled to remove them while still wrapped in the puffy nylon sack. Hermione giggled.
"You look like a butterfly stuck in a chrysalis."
Draco extracted his pants from the sleeping bag triumphantly and threw them at her. "I knew you would admit to my beauty one of these days."
"On the contrary, have you ever seen a butterfly's face close up? Evil looking blighters."
Draco huffed and turned away from her, flopping down on the mattress rather violently.
"Oooh, someone's all mister touchy touchy about his precious widdle face," she was doing her best baby voice and tut tutted at the end of her sentence. He kicked out behind him and hit her square in the shin with his foot. "Ow! That hurt!"
He could hear her rubbing her leg through the sleeping bag and ignored her. While he waited for sleep to come he found his thoughts rife with images of those tiny little black shorts. And how badly he wished they didn't belong to a Weasley.