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"You seem to have forgotten to put my parents on the invitation list."

Draco supposed that he was should be helping to plan the wedding, but he preferred staying out of the line of fire. His mother and Hermione stared at each other from across the table in the guest common room like two strange cats that had discovered they were trapped in the same room. Their words were perfectly polite, but the way they said them suggested that the planning of this wedding was some sort of a duel.

"Uh, dear," his mother said, "that would be a little difficult, considering that they've passed away."

"Fine," Hermione said, "my foster parents then."

"But dear, weren't you raised by Muggles?" The way his mother said that made it sound like Hermione had been raised by wolves.

'Come to think of it, though, that's how the upper part of wizarding society sees things,' Draco thought.

"Yes I was," Hermione said with a smile. Well, maybe it wasn't quite a smile, it was closer to baring her teeth. "And they are coming to the wedding."

His mother mirrored Hermione's smile. "Well, I suppose if you insist there's no reason not to let them come."

"I do insist," Hermione said rolling up the parchment of names of people his mother intended to invite. "And there's too many people listed here. What are there, five hundred names?"

"Six hundred."

Hermione nodded, and gave the list to him. "Draco, will you please cross out the names that you can't put a face to? We can cut down further and add a few names of my own after that."

"Exactly," his mother asked, "how far are you planning on cutting the guest list down? All the way down to three hundred? And just who are you planning on inviting dear?"

"I was thinking more like thirty," Hermione deadpanned. "And I was planning on inviting some friends of my like, oh say, the Weasleys."

His mother looked like she had just swallowed her tongue. When she got her voice back, she said, "Thirty?! And you want to invite the Weasleys! Having muggles there will be bad enough, even if they did raise you, but the Weasleys just aren't fit for polite society, even if they are Purebloods!"

"In case you haven't noticed Narcissa," Hermione said, "I prefer the society of people that are polite to the company of 'polite society.' There is quite a difference between the two groups."

Draco had to admit that that was the truth, as far as Hermione saw things anyway. Hermione would treat other Purebloods, half-bloods, Mudbloods--even Muggles and near-intelligent creatures!--as equals even though she was the superior by a several rungs at least. It was something that, try as he might, he couldn't understand. A superior should act like a superior, that's just the way things were supposed to work. Maybe her habits that she had formed when she had thought that she was a Mudblood just died hard. Maybe she was modest.

Modesty. The only definition of that word Draco recognized said that modesty was a trait to assume when it was profitable to do so. But he could not see how Hermione being modest could work towards her benefit. Maybe he was just missing something. If nothing else, that girl confused him. What he really couldn't understand, though, was why she also fascinated him.

'Merlin, who are most of these people?' Draco thought crossing out yet another name. Come to think of it, his mother did keep files of people she considered fit for invitations to social gatherings. She had probably just pulled that folder out for this list. His suspicions were confirmed when he noticed a few names of people that he knew would not be attending, given that they were known Death Eaters and on the run at the moment. As it was, he knew that this would be one wedding where the enemies of the bride sat on one side, with the enemies of the groom on the other side. Literally.

"…but Pansy Parkinson would make a lovely maid-of-honor! She's quite well-bred and…"

Hermione interrupted, "While that may be, it doesn't change the fact that I will be asking Ginny Weasley. Besides, I don't want a maid-of-honor that will be blubbering throughout the entire ceremony."

Draco just sat back and continued to mark names off the list, quite content that he wasn't being called on for anything, while Hermione and his mother continued to bicker. He did, however, make a mental note that they needed to go house shopping before the wedding so they'd have a place to stay. Draco had the feeling that if he and Hermione had to live in the Malfoy Manor with his mother for any length of time, his wife and his mother just might kill each other. And that could be bad for several reasons.
………………….

And then, after graduation, I joined the Order of the Phoenix and your father joined the Voldemort and his Death Eaters. Yes, at one time your father was a Death Eater, and there's no denying that.

…………………………


Hermione held her hands out before the fireplace, warming them. It wasn't cold exactly, not in June, but she was chilly anyway. She stood with other candidates in Grimmauld Place; there were inductions to the Order of the Phoenix tonight, the night before her wedding.

She could hardly believe that it had come so quickly. Hermione knew that she probably was the only seventh-year in Hogwarts that had enjoyed the arrival of N.E.W.T.s; they had distracted her from thinking about her upcoming wedding. Everything was in place for the wedding now. She had managed to shrink the guest list to fifty, with half being guests of her own. The small chapel she had chosen was ready, waiting for tomorrow.

Tomorrow.

"Hermione, are you all right?"

Hermione turned around to see Angelina Johnson there. Angelina had come straight from work, St. Mungo's where she was an apprentice Healer, and was still wearing her green robes.

"Yes Angelina, I'm just thinking," she said, removing her hands from the fire to smooth a wrinkle out of her dress. Her dress was goose-gray, but of fine, comfortable cloth. It was more expensive than it looked. Mr. Schmidt had taken care of the legalities of her inheritance, and Hermione was now in possession of her bank accounts and properties, though she had yet to see the estate in Bulgaria--which had turned out to be located rather close to Viktor Krum's estate. Even the purchase of a house, a furnished estate really, had not even put a noticeable dent in her bank account at Gringotts. The house was a little dark, but Hermione thought a little redecorating would make it more livable; at least until she found out, after the purchase, that Professor Snape lived next door. Well, she would redecorate anyway, and Snape only lived in his house during the summer. As for the summer, well, as she had told Draco, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

"Aren't we all," Harry said from beside her, shutting his book while keeping his finger in it as a bookmark so he could talk to her. Hermione noticed that the title of the book was "Legilimency and Occlumency: The Theories of and Commentaries on." She remembered him telling her about that book before; it was the one Dumbledore had given him to study in preparation and supplementation for his Occlumency lessons. It looked like Harry was practically on the last page. "Even Fred and George look serious tonight!" Harry continued.

Hermione had to smile at that; the Weasley twins did look serious. After all this time, they had finally managed to convince Dumbledore that they had 'grown up' enough to join and, despite the eagerness they had shown to get into the Order, they now looked as serious as a mortician. Hermione lost her smile, thinking that the gravity of what they were doing was finally sinking in.

They weren't the only ones there, waiting to be initiated into the Order. Ron was sitting on the couch with Neville beside him, Katie Bell was standing beside Angelina, and Lee Jordan and Alicia Spinnet, who had started dating, sat on the other couch quietly talking. Hermione knew that there were others being approached, or who would be approached at a later time, but that was all there was for right now.

Current Order members filed into the dining room, and Dumbledore came over to address them before going in himself. "I am very happy to see that you all have chosen to be here tonight," he started, "however, there is a chance that a few of you may not yet be ready. For your initiation, after a few current members have declared it appropriate that you be candidates, you will be given Veritaserum--a truth serum--and be asked a few questions to help determine your readiness to join. Assuming all goes well, as it probably will, you will be asked to take a seat beside your new mentor. And no, Mr. Weasley, no one will be assigned to anyone they are closely related too. Should someone not make it, their memories of this event will be erased, and they will go back to life as normal."

After Dumbledore had left, Fred spoke. "I wonder which one of us he was referring too."

"Whichever works," Lee said with a small grin.

"Just as long as I don't get stuck with Snape," Harry said, "I'll be happy."

Neville's mouth dropped open. "Snape is a member of the Order?"

"Oh yes," Hermione deadpanned, "he's our Death Eater spy in residence. And I wouldn't worry about getting stuck with him if I were you Harry. If anyone does, considering the circumstances, it'll be me." The advice of a former Death Eater would be an asset to what she had to accomplish. For the other initiates, it would be easier; they wouldn't be in the almost constant company of a servant of Voldemort. They wouldn't have to hide everything they were up to from someone that lived, ate, and slept with them. Snape could help her figure out how to do that probably better than any other Order member could.

That comment squelched conversation. Aside from a few audible gulps and the crackling fire, it was silent. They all knew that she was marrying a Death Eater tomorrow. Some of them were even invited. Hermione was grateful that they were coming, too. She needed to be reminded, as she walked down the isle, of what she and others with her were fighting for. Their faces would remind her of the people that, if she carried things off right, would no longer be in almost constant danger.

Finally, the door to the dining room opened, and Lupin stepped out. "Mr. Harry James Potter," he called. Harry nodded, and walked into the dining room, shutting the door behind him.

After some minutes had passed, Lupin came and called out again. "Lady Annora Hermione Alys."

'Well, that's me.' Hermione sighed, thinking that this was the last night the "Malfoy" wouldn't be tacked onto the end of all of that. She took deep breath, and walked into the dining room.

The room was decently lit, magically Hermione suspected, and Order members sat around the long table. Here and there was an empty seat, beside people Hermione suspected were future mentors. Harry sat by Dumbledore's side, which was not surprising, and there were two empty chairs in a row beside him.

Dumbledore beckoned, and Hermione walked up and sat down at a stool by the chair the aged headmaster sat in at the head of the table. This whole thing felt something like the sorting her first year, but she was given a cup instead of a hat this time.

"Is there any established member here that will affirm that this applicant to the Order of the Phoenix opposes Voldemort and is of good character?" Dumbledore asked. After Mrs. Weasley and Lupin spoke for her, Hermione drank the Veritaserum. She felt somewhat dazed when Dumbledore asked, "Do you oppose Voldemort, and why?"

"I do oppose him. He's…wrong, evil," she answered, "and any person that does not stand in the way of evil, especially when given the opportunity to do so, is committing evil as well. I am willing to do whatever I can to see that he is stopped."

“What is your greatest desire?” Dumbledore asked next.

She still felt dizzy, but she answered, "For me, my friends, and everyone else, or as many of us as humanly possible, to live in freedom from any evil person."

“What is your greatest fear, and why?”

"Failure, especially failure in my tasks here. In my life I have had little but success, and every success seems right and natural. Failure is something foreign, ghastly, to me. The reason I am more afraid of failure in this venture is because I have realized that I am not the only one affected by my mistakes now. Here, if I make a mistake, others may be hurt or even die if I do something wrong."

“What is the greatest power you pursue?”

"I would settle for being the mistress of my own house. However, resources I have recently acquired might help me to help others. I desire influence only for what I could do for others, and I desire absolute power not at all. No one can rule absolutely without disregarding the rights of others; absolute power is not something any mortal should ever have."

“What is your greatest regret?”

"The price I know I must pay for my duty to be accomplished. I may never know what it is like to love and be loved in a marriage relationship, and I may never have the home that some of you are fighting for. I won't even be able to ever completely relax in the home that I will have. I may have gold, yes, but gold is lifeless and cold." The mental fogginess lifted, and Hermione blinked a few times and looked around the room.

"Is there anyone," Dumbledore asked, "that wishes to dispute this applicant's admission into the Order?"

No one said a word. Mrs. Weasley was crying openly, and a few of the other women looked like they might follow her example. Most of the others had their eyes glued to the table, or stared at nothing. But no one said anything.

"Then, Lady Alys," Dumbledore said, "I declare you a member of the Order of the Phoenix; you are sealed to us now. Take a seat, the one by Harry please. Professor Snape will be your mentor, but he is unable to attend tonight given that the Death Eaters are holding a similar ceremony right now."

Hermione nodded and sat down, only half surprised by the icy fingers of dread that had clamped around her heart. Well, she knew what her fiancé was doing tonight. And she shivered.
………………..

He did not scream. Draco had heard some of the others scream, during the mental searching or when they received the dark mark. But he did not scream. He had endured the mental searching while the Dark Lord rummaged around in his head; Draco knew that he could hide nothing from him and didn't even try. Now….

Now Draco kneeled, prostrate before Lord Voldemort in a room lit only enough that only the silhouettes of figures dressed in black robes were visible. Now the sleeve of the robe on his right arm was pushed up to his elbow, and on his forearm where there had once been only unblemished skin stood the Dark Mark, black and painful. But he had not screamed.

"You are sealed to us now," Lord Voldemort's voice rasped as he motioned for Draco to take a place among the other Death Eaters.

He did not scream, but Draco still shivered.

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