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George Weasley's death was not the only death in that period of time. Scarcely three days had gone by after your father went to see Dumbledore, Dumbledore died in his sleep by natural causes, age namely.

Hermione dipped her quill into the ink again, and continued to write.

It was a great blow to the Order. Dumbledore had been the only leader they had ever known, and even though he had trained Harry to fill his place, the transition of new leadership with not exactly smooth as far as a few people were concerned….

…………………………….

Hermione sighed. She had had just about enough of this. Fortunately Snape and Harry had kept enough decorum not to start arguing in the middle of the meeting with everyone else there. Now though, with everyone but the three of them out of the dining room, they were both keeping their tempers on a leash only a thread thick.

"And what makes you so certain about this Potter? If you are wrong about something of this magnitude, it could doom the whole Order," Snape said ominously.

"We have to do what is necessary; optimal does not exist in this situation," Harry started. "The first reason I think we should send Hermione and Draco to Bulgaria as soon as possible is because with Dumbledore gone, Voldemort will be stepping up his war efforts. If his concentration is on Bulgaria, less people will die. Secondly it's better that this be dealt with sooner rather than later considering Hermione's condition…."

Hermione sat straight up in her chair. "What condition Harry?" she asked suspiciously.

"Well, you know…" he trailed off noticing her blank expression. "Oh, I suppose you don't know then. Well…um…." Harry looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Then it hit her. Hurriedly, Hermione turned over her hand so she could get a look at her ring. The spot was not gray like normal, or even green. It was blue; there were two blue spots. "Oh…I see what you mean," she said weakly. 'Two boys. Twin boys. Merlin, I'm pregnant! Wait a minute….' "Harry, how in the world did you know before I did?"

"Um…" Harry said, looking quite awkward. "Hermione, I won't ask any questions if you don't."

Snape, who had obviously figured out what was going on, looked at least mildly surprised, and amused. "Well," he said, "no one can say that your husband wastes any time."

Hermione glared at him.

"Uh, well, back to the topic," Harry said, "if we wait until the baby is born, you'd probably have to leave him here while you went to Bulgaria and hope Voldemort didn't find a way to kidnap him so he could force you do what he wanted. If we don't wait for the baby to be born, it won't be long before you'll find moving around…difficult Hermione."

Hermione nodded duly. "Oh, there's twins by the way," she said. This could really complicate things, and that worried her. She didn't particularly mind putting herself in a dangerous position, but now she would be putting her children's lives at risk as well as her own life. And she felt like dancing around the dining room. The babies would be beautiful; she knew they would be. Hermione didn't know if she would be laughing or crying when the shock faded.

"Well, it's settled then," Harry said. "As soon as you can manage, you'll be going to Bulgaria. The only clue Dumbledore gave me about what your father was working on was that it involved time, and maybe something that would affect or bring about immortality. You just have to get to it before Voldemort does so you can harness or destroy it. We just have to find a place in Bulgaria to stage from, I'm sure your place will be watched."

"Viktor Krum lives near my estate," Hermione said, "and he'll probably let you use his place."

Harry nodded. "Well, if there's no more objections, that's settled then," he said, getting up and leaving the room.

There were no objections. Snape still looked too amused to offer any. "Stop that," Hermione said, "if you go out there with a half-smile on your face, everyone will assume that you've gone mad."

"Oh, I was just considering what your husband will say when he finds out about what he's done to his lady."

Hermione snorted. "And just what did you do to your lady?" popped out of her mouth. She didn't know where that had come from, but from the way Snape's expression immediately sobered, she knew that she had touched a nerve.

"Who told you about that? Why would your remind me about…" Snape said, trailing off.

"No one did…I don't know where that came from. I'm sorry, I didn't know that anything had happened…and don't feel that you have to tell me either. I doubt it involved me," Hermione said, getting up to leave.

Snape's expression relaxed a little. "Well, you're wrong about that. It did involve you," he started.

Hermione frowned, confused, but didn't say anything instead sitting back down.

After a few moments, Snape started speaking again. "Her name was Dorcas, Dorcas Meadowes. She wasn't a Pureblood, though, so we had to keep things hidden. If my father had found out…. Actually, my father was the reason I learned Occlumency in the first place. I knew from the time I was a teenager that I would have to learn to hide my thoughts, any weakness from the man, so I taught myself Occlumency. At any rate, I joined the Death Eaters after graduation, and she joined the Order. Neither of us told the other about it, though.

"One day, she told me that she would be going to Bulgaria for a while. She had a job there. I later found out that she had been assigned to be your nanny. When your father was murdered…we still don't know exactly what happened…she took you and the contract, and got to England. The Death Eaters, however, were close on her tail and were keeping a spell that prevented her from disapparating. Dorcas hid you in a train station, though she did set spells ensuring you would be found and taken in by someone, and ran far away as she could manage. Then she Obliviated her own memory, so she couldn't lead us to you. She didn't remember anything, anything at all.

Snape was silent for a few moments before he continued. "I was a part of the group that captured her. And I knew that I couldn't do anything to save her. The dark lord killed her himself when it was clear that there was no information left for her to give him. The only thing that kept me from deciding to die with her was the fact that I knew the only way I could honor her memory was to betray my current master, and continue her fight for her."

And he had done exactly that. "I see," Hermione said softly. Things made a little more sense now. It was no wonder Dumbledore had never told them why he trusted Snape, the story behind that was a private matter. It also explained why Snape had seemed to take a…personal interest…in what she was dealing with. He was going to see whatever quest Dorcas had saved her for completed. And he probably saw Draco as a younger version of himself, someone that had severely messed up but unlike him had corrected the mistake soon enough that he might still have a chance of saving the woman he loved.

"Thank you for telling me, things are…clearer…now," Hermione said, getting out of her chair. She exchanged a look with the potions professor, both of them understanding that she would never tell anyone about this.
…………………

'One of first things a spy must learn how to do is reinterpret the facts to his best advantage,' Draco thought to himself. And that was exactly what he was busy doing.

"You got your lady wife to agree to go to Bulgaria, so soon? First that old fool dies, and now this happens. It's has been a fortunate week, in spite of the way it started," Voldemort was saying. "This news pleases me. Exactly how did you manage it so soon?"

Draco allowed himself a small smile, his head bowed as he knelt before Voldemort. "When she came back home after the attack, she was vulnerable," Draco said, adding the mental image of Hermione crying should Voldemort decide to bore into his head. "I also noticed that she was fertile at that time--her wedding band turns green in a spot when she is--and I took advantage of the situation." He had noticed no such thing, but Hermione had shown him her ring when she had told him that she was pregnant, so he decided to use it in his fabrication. He had been shocked by the news; it was wonderful, but the twins had a bad sense of timing. Still, with luck, maybe he and his wife could raise their children in a world free of Voldemort. "I knew that a pregnancy would at the least make her more careful about putting herself into potentially dangerous situations; that it would keep her out of the way. At best, she would decide to get this Bulgaria business over with before the twins arrive so you can't arrange for a kidnapping and then hold that over her head."

After a few moments, Voldemort ordered him to stand. "If only my other servants showed the problem solving and…initiative…that you do. You are much like your father in that concern. The only thing that troubles me about your solution is that your loyalty to me could be…compromised by the production of your sons."

"My loyalty to you remains as strong as it always was, my lord, and it will continue that way," Draco answered. "While I will admit that I would prefer her to live long enough to give birth to my heirs, I recognize that that isn't my decision. I can't even be a part of that decision, due to the nature of that contract. It is possible, though, that Lord Alys sealed his secrets to his blood rather than just his daughter. Should reentry to his laboratory, or wherever he did his work, be desired his grandsons might be able to perform that task as well as his daughter could. This could be useful if his work was something that had to be renewed every so often. I do recognize, however, that speculation of this type is probably worthless until we know the complete nature of the project."

Voldemort nodded, "Yes my servant, and finding about that is now your task." After a few moments of considering, he added, "And should you complete this task successfully, I will allow your lady wife to live long enough to give birth to your heirs, provided of course that she is able to behave herself during the time she is under our care. And you will be promoted to the position directly behind your father, third-in-command in effect."

"Thank you my lord," Draco said, only partially faking the stunned sound in his voice. That kind of advancement in the ranks was rare at his age.

After the dark lord left the laboratory, Draco turned around to see Snape standing there.

"Well, you aren't third in command yet," Snape said, "so go check on the venom we have brewing." His tone lacked disgruntlement, and the look Snape gave him was congratulatory.

Draco had overheard Voldemort telling his father that he had only instructed Snape to teach him enough Occlumency that Hermione would be unable to penetrate his mind, still leaving it open enough that he could still get in himself. But Snape had done better than that, Draco knew he could hide his thoughts from even Voldemort, and he knew that Snape would not do something like this by mistake. The only conclusion Draco could come up with was that Snape had done this on purpose, and he had done it in order to make it possible for Draco to betray the dark lord. Snape had to be a spy for the Order of the Phoenix too, nothing else made sense.

Snape had been with him when that was overheard, so he knew that Draco knew. Neither of them ever said anything about it, but Draco knew that he was Snape's apprentice in truth.

And that wasn't a bad thing.

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