Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Anything you recognize...that ain't mine. :)
This story is currently being beta'd. My amazing beta Rusty Weasley is hard at work going through this 100k+ story. I'm currently updating that chapters as of 11/6/2012 and will let you know when it is finished, via an author's note. Thank you so much for your support, and please enjoy!
"Excuse me, sir. What?" Hermione asked, looking from the Headmaster to Draco Malfoy who was scowling in the corner of the room. He hadn't even bothered to look at her, but he did have a familiar look of disgust on his face.
"I understand this is a lot to take in, Miss Granger," Dumbledore answered patiently. "I'm asking a great deal. And you know, I only ask because I have the deepest faith in your ability to keep this professional."
Hermione wanted to roll her eyes. Of course, Dumbledore was trying to flatter or guilt her into submission. She heard Draco snort from the periphery and remembered why Dumbledore's request sounded so absurd.
"But, sir," Hermione reasoned, lowering her voice slightly, "can we even trust him? I mean, how can we be sure this isn't some sort of ploy?" she asked, eying the blonde boy suspiciously. His scowl deepened and he looked away, clearly finding Hermione's presence unnecessary at this meeting. You and me both, buddy, Hermione thought.
"I can assure you, Mister Malfoy can be trusted," Dumbledore said, eyes twinkling at the boy who'd seen fit to ignore the two of them. Hermione did trust Dumbledore completely, but how could it be true? How could this arrogant prat actually be coming to Dumbledore for cover?
"Of course, I trust you, sir," Hermione explained. "But he..." before she could finish her sentence, Draco hauled himself out of the chair he'd been sitting in and sighed heavily.
"I am still here, Granger," he snapped. "Instead of talking about me like I'm not here, perhaps I should simply go back to my common room so you can continue to talk about me while I'm not here." Hermione couldn't have thought of a more fantastic idea.
"Of course, you must be very tired, Mister Malfoy," Dumbledore allowed. "Please, go on ahead. I'm sure Miss Granger will inform you of a good time to meet." His smile was warm and Draco wanted to be warmed by it, but the conflicting emotions running through his system would not allow him to feel anything but an odd mixture of relieved, annoyed, and terrified.
When he was gone, Hermione turned her attention back to Professor Dumbledore. "Sir, you know I'll do anything for the Order, and I do trust you, but I really don't understand why you need me. Surely, you or Professor Snape would be better qualified for something like this. I mean, I'm not a spy," Hermione explained.
"True enough, Miss Granger." Dumbledore smiled over his half moon spectacles at her. "However, as I'm sure Harry has told you, I am currently busy with the Order, running the school, and helping Harry prepare for a stand-off with Voldemort. Professor Snape will be most helpful in getting Draco to where he needs to be as far as being a spy is concerned. But you, Miss Granger, are the only one who can help him with everything else," Dumbledore explained.
"What does that mean?" Hermione asked, getting irritated. "Why am I best for this job? He hates me, and I'm not all that fond of him either," she admitted.
"Draco will need a liaison with the Order. A handler if you will. The only members of the Order currently living at Hogwarts are all professors. They are each very busy with classes and other business important to the Order. That leaves you, Harry, and Ron. Can you see why you are the only option?"
Hermione slumped her shoulders in defeat. Harry and Ron would certainly not be able to help Draco with anything except directions to the tallest tower and help flinging himself from it.
"Miss Granger, I understand that you and Mister Malfoy have a dark past," Dumbledore said earnestly. "I don't pretend to believe this will be easy for either of you, but he does want to help. Imagine how hard it must have been for him to turn his back on his family to help fight for our side. If we turn our backs on him, what does that say about us?"
"Of course, you are right," Hermione admitted, "but I don't know what to do with him. He won't listen to me. I promise you that."
"I only ask that you do your best," Dumbledore assured her. "All his orders will come through you. He will need to trust you."
"But surely you'd be better..." Hermione countered.
"Given his mission for Voldemort, too many meetings with me would be unwise," Dumbledore explained. "In fact, all of this must be kept under the strictest secrecy."
"What about Ron and Harry?" Hermione asked immediately. The thought of doing something so big...so important, and not telling her two best friends made her throat close up.
"Of course you may tell Mister Weasley, and I'll be informing Harry myself. Although, you may break the news to him if you wish, but, Miss Granger, that is it. Many of the Order will not even know of Draco's courageous change of heart," Dumbledore explained. "This is, of course, for his own safety."
"One more thing," Hermione boldly started, "what is his mission from Voldemort?"
Dumbledore looked down at his feet for just a second, but it was long enough for her to realize that whatever it was, it was not good. "I believe that is Mister Malfoy's story to tell you. If it becomes necessary for you to know, I assure you, I'll explain everything if he has not," Dumbledore said. Hermione nodded, disappointed, but did not press the matter further.
She got up to leave, but turned around one last time. "Professor," she said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, "are you certain I'm the right person to do this? I'm only sixteen. I'm not a master spy or a military strategist, or anything. If he is to play such an important role, shouldn't it be more important that he has an older, more experienced handler?"
Dumbledore's features softened as he smiled fondly at her. "Age does not bring understanding anymore than it brings wisdom. You might be young, but you are wise beyond your years, and I assure you, you are the only person for this job."
"Thank you, Headmaster," Hermione said, willing herself to smile, even if she felt like her throat had fallen into the pit of her stomach. With that, she turned on her heel and exited his office with two things on her mind: how was she going to spend time with Draco Malfoy and not kill him, and how was she going to tell Ron and Harry?
Draco sighed and collected himself about ten paces from the Slytherin Common Room. There was no going back now. His fucking conscience had gotten the better of him in a moment of weakness and now he was trapped. Not that he really wanted to, but dealing with Granger was enough to make him wonder if he'd picked the right side.
He couldn't leave the Death Eaters. Their mark was burned into his flesh. He couldn't change his mind because Dumbledore had trusted him, and he'd never make it out alive if he turned back now. He had only one choice. Place himself at the mercy of Dumbledore and his do-gooders or end up dead or worse in the world the Dark Lord envisioned. He was a Slytherin after all, he knew what he had to do.
"Oi, Malfoy," Crabbe greeted from an overstuffed couch in the center of the room. Ever the wordsmith, aren't we, Crabbe?Draco thought before joining him and his other lackey, Goyle in the common room. Ever since he'd been given the Mark, the Slytherins had treated him as royalty, even more than before. The only other Slytherin who had actually taken the Mark besides him was Theodore Nott. He was one he'd really have to watch out for.
"Where were you?" Pansy asked, inspecting the tips of her hair from her bored position on the armchair next to them.
"Detention," Draco lied with a sneer. "Professor Flitwick caught me messing with Longbottom's wand casting." It was an easy and believable lie. It was something he'd do, and if he was going to have more of these clandestine meetings with members of the "Order", as it was known, he'd have to get used to coming up with excuses.
Pansy, Goyle, and Crabbe all laughed. "Longbottom," Pansy snorted, "now that's a kid who is barely more than a Squib."
"Right," Draco said with a nod. He was only paying half of his attention to the conversation around him which descended into traditional Gryffindor bashing, and half trying to come up with a list of about ten good excuses why he was going to be gone some nights. He tried not to think about that fact that most of those nights he'd be spending with Hermione-fucking-Granger. Damn Albus Dumbledore!
"Guys, can we talk?" Hermione asked, motioning for Harry and Ron to follow her to a secluded section of the Gryffindor common room.
"What is it, Hermione?" Harry asked, a little concerned as she cast the Muffliato. There were very few people in the common room as it was. Besides, she hated using spells from The Half-Blood Prince.
"I've got to tell you guys something," Hermione said, nervously eyeing them both, "and before I do, I want you to swear you are not going to flip out, run off and do something stupid, or cause a commotion."
"Blimey, Hermione, why would we do any of that?" Ron asked, eyes wide in concern.
Hermione gave him a pointed look and he conceded with a blush.
"Go on, Hermione, we will remain calm," Harry said. At that point, he'd have said anything to get her to spit out the news.
"I've just come from a meeting with Dumbledore...and..." she swallowed before finishing, "Draco Malfoy."
Harry's fingers curled into a fist and Ron scowled. "What did he do to you, Hermione?" Harry asked, his voice dangerously low.
"Nothing!" Hermione exclaimed. "Dumbledore called the meeting. It wasn't a disciplinary thing," she assured. When Harry calmed down and Ron's scowl remained unchanged she continued. "You were right, Harry. Malfoy is a Death Eater."
"I knew it!" Harry shouted, moving to do what, Hermione didn't know.
"Will you sit down," she snapped impatiently, waiting for both of them to listen to her again. "He came to Dumbledore and told him everything. He wants to change sides, but Dumbledore feels, as a spy, he's very valuable."
"What about Snape," Ron said, his tone disgusted. "Isn't one sneaky Slytherin enough?"
"You know that it isn't," Hermione sighed impatiently. "If anything ever happened to Snape we'd be blind. Besides, according to Dumbledore, Draco has already moved up in the ranks of the Death Eaters. He's got an impeccable cover story and, given his father, no one will question him. It's great really." Hermione couldn't believe she actually heard those words escape her mouth, but they were true.
"And you just believe all this?" Harry asked, his voice dripping with skepticism.
"I trust Dumbledore," Hermione countered. Of course, she had her own doubts, but she'd never be able to convince Harry and Ron to remain rational if she mentioned them.
"But he's Malfoy. He's never done anything that doesn't serve himself," Ron said, his rationale sound from her perspective.
"True, but we have little choice," Hermione said. "Dumbledore trusts him, and so, must we, at least on this."
"I don't trust him at all," Ron countered, "but what does any of this have to do with you?"
Harry nodded, curious about the reason for the meeting as well. It seemed like this was an issue for Dumbledore to deal with.
Hermione sighed and took a second before explaining. "Dumbledore wants me to be the liaison between the Order and Draco. I'll be working with Snape as much as possible and Dumbledore when I can, but it will be my responsibility," Hermione said, the magnitude of the situation weighing heavily on her.
"What!" Ron shouted. "'Mione, be serious! How can he expect you to do this?"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Hermione asked, her voice shrill. It mattered little that she'd asked herself the same exact question.
"I think what he means," Harry said, kicking Ron with the side of his shoe, "is, why would you be his liaison? Why not Lupin, or Kingsley or someone who's been with the Order longer?" Harry tried to mediate. However, the idea was awfully strange to him as well.
"He picked me because I'm the only one here who has the time to do it," Hermione explained. "Unless you two think youcould behave long enough to do it."
"I don't like this, Hermione," Harry said. "What if he tries something?"
"Then I guess it's a good thing I have Harry Potter as a best friend, and he can kick his arse," Hermione said, with a grin. She had to defuse the tension somehow.
"Hey!" Ron said, clearly offended at being left out.
"And of course, Ron can help," she added with a laugh.
"Just be careful," Harry warned.
"I will. Now you two cannot tell anyone. No matter what is going on here, Malfoy's cover must remain intact. You can't blow it. Either of you!" Hermione said, pointing at both of them as she made her point clear.
"Fine. But if he tries anything..." Ron said.
"Then you will be the first to know," she lied. No way in hell was she going to tell either of them how much of a prat Malfoy would undoubtedly be. She didn't want to be at the center of World War III.
She hugged them both before retreating to her room to send Malfoy a note. If they were going to do this, then they might at least get together and talk about the best way to make it come together.
Draco paced back and forth in front of the familiar corridor on the seventh floor. It was perfect really. Everyone in his house already knew he was spending hours on end in the Room of Requirement, so they wouldn't question it.
He held the charmed note Granger had sent him. He did have to hand it to the Muggle, she had figured out how to send him a note that only he could read. If anyone else had seen it, it would have looked like a bit of parchment that someone had taken random notes on.
Meet me tomorrow night in the Room of Requirement.
Think 'I need a place to meet Hermione where no one will find us'.
He smirked at the intimacy of the note. If one didn't know better they might think it was a note between lovers about a place to meet for a sexual rendezvous. Of course, the idea was absolutely preposterous when paired with the Gryffindor Princess. She was absolutely the least sexual person on the planet.
It wasn't that she wasn't attractive. When she cleaned herself up, she was actually damn good to look at. But her snotty, know-it-all, I-have-a-stick-up-my-ass attitude was enough to make a sane man crazy...and not in a good way.
He walked back and forth in front of the bare wall three times, following her instructions and a small door, no bigger than that of a broom cupboard appeared. He quickly entered the room and watched the door disappear behind him. Of course, she was already there.
Hermione sat at a large desk writing something down on parchment. He eyed her for a long moment as she furiously wrote and wrote. "Granger, are we going to actually talk about something, or did you invite me here to watch you scribble in your diary?" he drawled, twirling his wand between his fingers at his side as he had a tendency to do.
"Oh, Malfoy!" she jumped, pulling her bushy head out of her notes. She's managed to pick up some taming mechanisms for her hair over the years, but when she became stressed, the fuzz ball always returned. He didn't know why it irritated him so much.
"Here," she said, moving the parchment she was writing on to the side and indicating at the chair in front of the desk.
"If you think, for one minute, that I'm going to sit at your desk like you're my fucking professor, Granger, you are far more stupid than I thought," Draco said. He concentrated and a desk of equal size appeared, facing hers.
"Fine," she huffed, already growing weary of his attitude, "by all means, make yours even bigger if you feel you have something to prove, Malfoy," she quipped.
"What is it that you wanted, Granger? I don't have all day, and I cannot imagine that Dumbledore has already got an assignment for me, especially since I've yet to start Occlumency with Snape," Draco drawled, ignoring the attack on his manhood. "Unless of course this is a social visit, in which case I must say, I'm flattered but uninterested." He couldn't help but smirk at the way his words affected her. In fact, her face turned a lovely shade of red as she huffed and sputtered.
"No, this is most certainly not a social call, Malfoy!" she snapped, finally finding her voice. "I have better things to do with my time than babysit a complete arse, I can assure you."
"Like what? Practice making little redheaded babies with the Weasel? That sounds like a night worth missing," Draco said, chuckling at his own joke. Hermione wasn't laughing though.
She took this opportunity to stand where she was and try to stare him down. It proved impossible at her 5'4'' stature. He was quite tall, and menacing, even when he wasn't calling her a 'filthy little Mudblood'.
"Listen to me, Malfoy," she said, her voice as calm as she could manage, "I am doing you the favor here. Any time you want to run on back to the Dark Lord, and get out of my hair is fine with me. But while you are working of the Order, you will listen to me."
Draco wanted to retort, but held his tongue. He slipped gracefully into the chair at his desk and motioned for her to continue. When she was satisfied, she sat as well.
"I called you here, because I wanted to go over a few procedures for getting into contact with each other. Obviously, I cannot 'owl' you at a moment's notice. It would be inefficient and suspicious," Hermione explained.
"So, what do you suggest?" Draco asked, trying to sound bored again, but she had a valid point. It was one he'd already considered. Hermione smiled slightly and pulled out two gold coins...Galleons. "What do I do with this?" he asked, a sneer once again on his face.
"I made these last year for meetings with Dumbledore's Army." Hermione explained. "They can communicate with each other. Keep it on you at all times. When I contact you, it will become hot to the touch. I'll inform you of a time and place to meet. I'll show you." Hermione took out her coin, and pointing her wand sent him a message.
The gold coin in his hand warmed immediately and he read it.
You're an unimaginable prat.
She smirked as he read it. "And if I want to send something back. Let's say the time you suggest will not work," Draco asked, his voice curious.
"All you do it tap it with your wand, thinking what you want it to read," Hermione said. She watched him follow her instructions and felt the coin in her own hand grow hot. She looked down and read it.
And you are a stick-in-the-arse swot.
She scowled but said, "Good. Now, next item of business," Hermione said picking up her notes, "we must come up with a good cover story as to why you cannot go to Voldemort..." Hermione saw him shutter as she said the name but continued, "you will not be ready to spy for possibly months."
"I can always chalk it up to the mission," Draco said, shivering as he thought of what he's be 'drafted' to do.
"Good," Hermione said, nodding to herself. "Write to your mother. Tell her you are worried that someone suspects you and you must be more cautious. That sort of thing," Hermione said.
"I have written a letter before, thank you very much," Draco sneered. He absolutely hated taking orders. Especially from her.
"Fine," Hermione snapped in frustration. She needed to take a few deep breaths before she continued. "That is about all I have for now," Hermione said. "Unless you want to tell me what this mission was to begin with," she reached. The curiosity was actually killing her, but she didn't want to seem too eager.
"I don't see how it is any of your business," Draco snapped standing up. "Now, if that is all, I'll be going. It's been terrible seeing you as always, Granger." She didn't even have a chance to retort before he was out the door.
She growled in frustration and kicked the desk leg. "That total arse!" she cried. It was going to be a long year.