Chapter 1: You are not Prepared

"Have a biscuit, Granger," Professor Minerva McGonagall shot at Hermione as she sat fidgeting in her seat looking nervous. "And don't look so worried, this is nothing to do with your recent essay titled 'Under the Veela's Thumb: A Concise Argument for the Extermination of the Veela Race on Account of their Misuse of Mind Control'. I rather enjoyed it, though I can see why Professor Binns has his robes in a twist over it!"

Hermione looked even more uncomfortable. Professor McGonagall sighed, rolled up the parchment she had been marking and studied Hermione over the rim of her spectacles.

"Miss Granger," she began, "Have you failed to turn in some homework?"

Hermione looked taken aback. "No, Professor!" she exclaimed resolutely,

"Is there some deed that you have committed which makes you believe you have been summoned to your head of house for a punishment that you deserved far more than the other culprits, say Mr Potter or Mr Weasley?"

Hermione looked at Professor McGonagall as she shook her head, wondering if this was a trap. Professor McGonagall's face softened, though only very slightly.

"Miss Granger, I have brought you here to discuss a mission for the Order. One I wholeheartedly disagree with, I might add." For a second, the Professors face contorted from sour to pity before she wrestled it back to neutral. Only her eyes betrayed her agitation. "However, we must wait for another member of the Order before I can explain fully what will be expected of you."

Hermione nodded and sat quietly, looking anywhere but at Professor McGonagall, who was openly staring at her as though studying her closely. Finally, the Professor broke the silence, "Miss Granger, I... I will be here for you throughout the year, in spite of the meddling of Dolores Umbridge, But I do not need to impress upon you the importance of keeping this mission hidden from all others. Now, that said, I want you to know that you may at any point approach me and say enough is enough and I will see to it that you are removed from the mission. I don't mean to upset you Miss Granger, but I know that this will be difficult for you indeed."

At this Hermione looked up at the Professor in puzzlement. The older woman was clearly experiencing some inner turmoil. "Thank you Professor, I am prepared for any task the Order sends my way," she replied. Minerva studied the young girl (who by muggle standards was in adulthood and that was apparently good enough for Dumbledore) and saw so much of herself in Hermione., She permitted her mind to wander for a moment. How would she have felt if at 16 years old the Order had bestowed such a task on her? At the very thought of it Minerva McGonagall's face reddened. Yes, highly embarrassed. That's about right, she thought to herself as she brought herself back to the student sitting in front of her.

"Hermione," she spoke softly, using the young girl's first name in an attempt to put her at ease, "I do not doubt your academic ability. You are as I have always stated, one of the brightest young witches these many years have seen. But if there is one thing of which I am certain, it is that you are most certainly not prepared for this task." Hermione's eyes widened and she glared at the Professor as though trying to determine exactly what the Head of House meant. She was met by a sad expression, and knew at once that she needed to prepare herself for some outrageous task. Perhaps she was being moved to Slytherin house to spy; that would be awful but doable. Perhaps she was going to be removed from school so that she could complete some research for the Order? Being separated from her friends would be almost unbearable, yet Hermione knew that she would shoulder any burden for the greater good.

As though Minerva could read the thoughts passing through Hermione's mind, she sighed and in a hushed voice, as if whispering would soften the blow of the words, she again stated "You are not prepared."