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The next morning, Hermione was happily eating her breakfast, and reading a defense book. She had found the perfect spell to try in Defense Class, and she was reading the finer details about it’s execution.

Ginny appeared at the table, and served herself some eggs. “How was the library last night?”

“It was great!” Hermione grinned.

“Must have been.” Ginny smirked, “You’ve got the cheesiest grin ever on your face this morning.”

Hermione just grinned again, and went back to her book.

“Incoming!” Neville called, as owls began to fill the hall.

Hermione wasn’t expecting any letters, as she had just had some from both Harry and Ron as well as her parents, so she was quite surprised when a large owl dropped a black box in front of her.

“What on earth?!” Hermione gasped, dropping her book.

“Looks like that mystery designer sent you something new.” Ginny said, with a wink.

“Well what would he… they, send me now?” Hermione wondered aloud. “The celebration is over.”

“You’d better open it and see.” Ginny said. “Because I’m curious too!”

Hermione was stunned, she was sure the box was from Draco, but she couldn’t imagine why he would buy her something else. When she lifted the lid off the black box, sitting inside on top of black tissue, was a sliver card.

She opened it and inside, written in the same perfect script as the Christmas card, were the words, “Just in case you ever foolishly forget; I'm never not thinking of you”.

“No signature again? Just a random quote?” Ginny asked, peeking at the card.

“Not so random.” Hermione grinned. “It’s from the Selected Diaries.

“This person has a thing for literature, doesn’t he?” Ginny asked, prodding Hermione with her elbow.

“It appears so.” Hermione said, tucking the card in her bag, and delving into the sheets of black tissue. “Oh wow!”

She lifted a beautiful coat from the box, it was rich black, with an asymmetrical row of silver buckles closing the front up to a high collar, and a deep hood. She turned the coat over to see that the back was long, and gathered almost like a bustle. The whole coat was lined with deep red silk, and when she opened it, there was a large dragon embroidered on the back of the lining.

“This might be the most beautiful coat I’ve ever seen!” Hermione gasped.

“It’s dragon hide.” Ginny said, touching the collar. “It must have cost a fortune!”

“He shouldn’t have spent so much on me.” Hermione whispered.

“I think he’ll manage.” Ginny laughed.

Hermione carefully tucked the coat back into the box, and hurried to put it away in her dorm before her first class of the day. As she left, Draco followed her out and they made their way up the stairs, as though by coincidence.

After checking that they were out of earshot of anyone else, Hermione whispered, “This coat is gorgeous! You shouldn’t have spent so much on me!”

“I told you I wanted to buy you a whole new wardrobe, and anything else you deserve.” Draco said softly. “I meant it.”

“I remember,” Hermione said. “I also remember saying I don’t need anything from you. I’m not with you to try and pressure you to buy me gifts!”

“I know.” Draco grinned. “That’s why it’s fun!”

“You shouldn’t spend your whole trust fund on me!” Hermione hissed.

“Hermione, I could buy you a gift every day for the rest of the year, and it wouldn’t dent my trust fund.” Draco winked at her. “You are seriously misunderstanding the perks of dating a Malfoy.”

Hermione rolled her eyes, and said, “Well I just want to go on the record as having said that you don’t need to buy my affection.”

“Noted.” Draco said with a grin. “And I want to go on record as saying that I’m going to buy you a gift every day for the rest of the year.”

They had paused at the top of the stairs, and Hermione hugged the box to her chest and looked out over the balcony. “Draco, I don’t need…”

“Everything in order here Miss Granger?” A voice interrupted her. She whirled around and saw Bill standing behind them.

She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing.” Draco snapped, and stormed off.

Hermione held in a grin, she knew the rest of the quote, “Holding the universe together.

“What’s that Hermione?” Bill asked.

“Nothing Bill, just on my way to Arithmancy.” Hermione sighed.

“Malfoy wasn’t bothering you was he?” Bill asked. “He’s on probation, he knows he can’t harass students.”

“No, we just bumped into each other.” Hermione explained.

“Ok, well you let me know if he gives you any trouble.” Bill said, in a brotherly way. “I’d love to have a little conversation with him Man to Man.”

“I doubt it’ll be an issue Bill.” Hermione said. “I only have your class with him.”

“Well good, at least I can keep an eye on him there.” Bill said, and then resumed his Professor attitude with a wink. “Get to class Miss Granger.”

Hermione sighed, and hurried up to her dorm. So many people ready to try and knock Draco down. She thought.

She tucked the box into her trunk, next to the dress and her Order of Merlin. Her trunk was already full of gifts from Draco, but she thought back to their brief conversation: "I want to go on record as saying that I’m going to buy you a gift every day for the rest of the year.”

He can’t really buy me a gift every day. Hermione thought, as she hurried back down from the tower.

She suffered through Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Herbology (which she was only still taking to make Neville happy) before she made it to Defense class.

She smiled discreetly at Draco, who was standing on the Slytherin side of the room leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, as though it were beneath him to be there. His winked back at her.

Bill paired the class up for their first round of duels. Hermione wanted to fight Draco, but she got paired up against Daphne instead.

They were only allowed to use spells that had been covered in class for the first round, as Bill wanted to correct their stances and technique as they went, so the going was quite slow.

Hermione quickly got frustrated, and when it was her turn, she hurled a stinking jinx at Daphne a bit harder than she intended.

“Ouch!” Daphne cried. “You stupid mud blood bitch!”

“Oh calm down you hag,” Hermione rolled her eyes. “It was just a little stinging jinx, we covered it on our second day here.”

“Ladies!” Bill called, trying to settle the situation.

“I’ll show you a stinging jinx!” Daphne screamed, “Bombarda!”

Hermione casually put up a shield charm, blocking the blasting spell which deflected against the blackboard, shattering it. “Don’t use spells you don’t understand sweetheart.”

“Enough!” Bill shouted, stepping in between them. “Both of you, to the Headmistresses office right now!”

Hermione rolled her eyes again. “So does that make it a draw?”

“Now Hermione.” Bill snapped, pointing to the door.

Hermione summoned her bag, and headed out the door behind Daphne. She truthfully didn’t know why she had gotten so frustrated. Daphne hadn’t ever done anything to her, not really.

When they reached McGonagall’s office, she looked particularly disappointed that Hermione was being sent up for arguing in class.

“Ladies, this behavior is particularly unbecoming of Seventh years.” McGonagall said, referring to the note that Bill had sent up detailing the argument.

“Miss Granger, you were instructed to use only known spells for this round of dueling.” McGonagall pointed out.

“It was a stinging jinx Professor.” Hermione explained. “We learnt it in second year.”

“Ok, well perhaps not so much force next time?” McGonagall said, trying to hide her smirk. “And Miss Greengrass, you know that the language you used is completely unacceptable.”

“She started it.” Daphne pouted.

“Next time bring the problem to the attention of the professor.” McGonagall said. “Both of you will serve detention, in place of the next Hogsmede outing this weekend.”

“Fine.” Hermione said, honestly glad to have an excuse to skip the journey.

“Whatever.” Daphne grumbled.

“In addition, Miss Greengrass, fifty points will be taken from Slytherin house for your use of appalling language.” McGonagall held up a hand to silence Daphne’s upcoming argument. “If I hear of you uttering such a word in this school again, you will be expelled immediately.”

Hermione smirked.

“You may return to class Miss Greengrass.” McGonagall said. “Miss Granger, please remain here.”

After Daphne left, Professor McGonagall summoned a tea service that had been sitting near the fire place, and poured them each a steaming cup.

“Now, Miss Granger.” McGonagall said, “I must say, I’m a bit surprised to see you up here. Usually when you get in trouble it is in the company of Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley. I assumed, that without their rather… enthusiastic… disregard for the rules I wouldn’t see much of you this year.”

“Well, I did last until Spring Term.” Hermione quipped.

“Indeed.” Minerva said, smiling into her tea. “And this sudden change in personality wouldn’t have anything to do with a certain Slytherin student, currently on probation for crimes committed during the war?”

“What?! No!” Hermione gasped, “Er, I don’t know what you’re… how did you know?”

“The paintings are rather fond of gossip dear.” McGonagall said with a smile.

Hermione flushed, and fiddled with her teacup. She hadn’t considered the paintings. They probably reported back every time she and Draco were together. “I didn’t think of the paintings.” She finally said, lamely.

“Miss Granger, I’m not going to tell you to tell you to end your relationship; in all my years as an educator, I have never seen that work.” McGonagall said, honestly.

“Well… thank you?” Hermione said, confused.

“The purpose of this little chat, is to ensure your motives are in the right place.” McGonagall said. “When one goes through a traumatic experience, there are often lingering psychological effects.”

Hermione blushed, and finally struggled to get out, “I’m doing ok Professor.”

“Oh my dear, I don’t think any of us is ‘ok’.” McGonagall said with a smile. “I just wanted to make sure that you’re not spending time with Mr. Malfoy because you see him as dangerous.”

“I don’t think he’s dangerous at all Professor.” Hermione exclaimed, getting angry. “He got caught up in the war as much as the rest of us, he just got caught on the wrong side!”

“You might be correct dear.” McGongall said gently, “And all the reports I’ve gotten suggest that Mr. Malfoy is treating you appropriately. I just want to make sure you fully understand the ramifications of your choices.”

“I’m well aware of what my choices mean.” Hermione grumbled.

“Well then let me be blunt.” McGonagall exclaimed. “While you might see Mr. Malfoy to be a reformed individual, many in this school—most in fact—do not. I’d imagine the reaction of the student body finding out about your relationship would be less that positive. This would have particularly negative consequences for you; as an Order of Merlin recipient, you are held to a higher standard than that of the rest of the wizarding world. Whereas Mr. Malfoy is a Death Eater on probation, this type of behavior is expected of him.”

“What type of behavior?!” Hermione shouted. “Having a relationship with someone who has similar interests? Someone you can talk to without them bringing up your Bloody Order of Merlin!”

McGonagall seemed a bit surprised by Hermione’s outburst, but she wasn’t finished, “Professor, I didn't’ ask for any of this. For heavens sake, I was just trying to help Neville find his bloody toad! I didn’t want to fight a war, and I don’t want to be a public figure, and I don’t want to sign my name as ‘Hermione Granger, Order of Merlin First Class’ for the rest of my life!”

“I’m sorry my dear, but you lost me on that comment about the toad… what are you talking about?” McGonagall asked, calmly.

“Oh, first year.” Hermione explained, bursting out laughing from the insanity of it all. “I was helping Neville find his toad on the Hogwarts Express when I met Harry and Ron. If Neville hadn’t lost Trevor, I probably wouldn’t have ever talked to them.”

Hermione laughed until tears ran down her face, McGonagall didn’t say anything, just conjured a handkerchief and handed it over.

When Hermione had stopped laughing, and dried her eyes, she said, “I’m sorry Professor, I don’t know what came over me.”

“What came over you is that you fought a war last year, and you’ve tried to come back to school and treat it as though nothing has changed.” Minerva pointed out. “You’ve had an extremely stressful few weeks, with a lot of attention focused on you. I want you to take the rest of the day off from your classes. Spend some time considering what I have said.”

“But professor, my defense class just started, and it’s a double period!” Hermione argued.

“And I frequently must hear from Professor Weasley about how everyone in his class could already pass the Newt. I’m sure your grades will not suffer from one afternoon off.” McGonagall said with a sly smile.

“But Professor…” Hermione started to object, but there was a knock at the door.

“Come in Mr. Malfoy.” McGonagall called, and Draco slipped in wearing his usual sneer, until he saw Hermione and his face softened.

“You sent for me, Headmistress?” He said, his voice devoid of any emotion.

“Yes, Mr. Malfoy,” McGonagall said, indicating that Draco should take the chair next to Hermione. “I just wanted to go over a few things with you, of which I feel Miss Granger should be aware.”

“Ok.” Draco said, looking nervous. "What does Granger need to know?"

"Draco, she knows." Hermione said gently.

Shock registered on Draco's face, and then he quickly rearranged his features.

“First of all,” McGonagall said, “How much have you told Miss Granger about your probation?”

“Well, we didn’t exactly get out the parchment and read the fine print, but she’s aware of the situation.” Draco said, cooly.

“Excellent.” McGonagall said. “Well, the two of you should know, that several members of the Auror department will be here on Friday to conduct a Probationary Assessment.”

“What’s that?” Hermione asked.

“It’s an interrogation.” Draco said, quietly. “They give me Veritaserum and check to make sure I’m not getting around their dark magic detectors.”

“Precisely.” McGonagall said. “However, unlike your previous assessments, the Aurors will be considering downgrading your Probation type from First to Second.”

“Really?” Draco said, sounding hopeful.

“What does that mean?” Hermione asked, feeling out of the loop.

“What it means Miss Granger, is that the Auror Department feels as though Mr. Malfoy has been performing admirably on his probation, and they are considering taking him off of location arrest.” Minerva explained.

“It means I could go to Hogsmede weekends, or home for the Easter break.” Draco explained, and then turned back to McGonagall. “What does this have to do with Hermione?”

“She has been summoned to testify on your behalf as to your behavior over the past term.” Minerva said. “I thought you might like a bit of forewarning?”

“Oh… why are they asking me to testify?” Hermione asked nervously.

“Well Miss Granger,” McGonagall said with a smirk, “I would guess it is because the Auror department assumes you are not fond of Mr. Malfoy, and would be the most likely to be honest about his actions since September.”

Draco and Hermione looked at each other nervously.

“I do not intend on informing the department of your relationship, as I do not see how it pertains to Mr. Malfoy’s case.” Minerva said. “However, you should be aware that the questioning may unintentionally reveal more than you intend.”

“Well, that would be the point of the Veritaserum.” Draco said dryly.

"Quite." McGonagall said. "Mr. Malfoy, I have informed Professor Weasley that you will not be returning to class today. Please use this time to prepare yourself for Friday."

"Thanks Professor." Hermione said, standing to leave.

"Oh, one more thing Miss Granger. Mr. Malfoy you are excused." McGonagall said.

After Draco had left the office, Minerva passed Hermione a small box. "I assume, that you desire to remain involved with the Order of the Phoenix?"

"Yes, of course." Hermione exclaimed.

"Excellent. In that box is a pendant with a Protean Charm." McGongall said, with a smirk. "I assume you are aware of the properties of the Protean Charm?"

Hermione nodded again.

"Excellent. Please wear the pendant at all times, you may transfigure it into any shape you prefer, and it will alert you if you are called up or there is a meeting." McGonagall said.

"Thanks professor." Hermione said, pulling a plain silver pendant out of the box.

"Hermione, when we are discussing Order business, I think it would be appropriate for you to refer to me as Minerva." McGonagall said with a smile. "After all, I won't be your Professor for much longer."

"Are we having a meeting soon?" Hermione asked, quickly transfiguring the pendant into a silver bracelet with a dragon that matched the pin Draco had given her.

"I know Kingsley wants to have one, and discuss structure for the future." McGonagall said. "The Aurors are having trouble locating all of the remaining Death Eaters, so I think he wants to stay ahead of any potential reprisals and maintain the Mad Eye standard."

"That makes sense." Hermione said, standing to leave. "Thanks."

As she left she realized what McGonagall meant, and poked her head back in the door and called, "Constant Vigilance Minerva!"

"Quite, Hermione." McGonagall said with a smile. "Quite.

As Hermione turned to head down the stairs, she ran right smack into Draco. "Whoa!"

"Easy there Little Dragon," Draco said softly, catching her.

"I figured you'd already be upstairs!" Hermione said with a smile.

"I wasn't sure how long you would be." Draco said, taking Hermione's hand.

They made their way to the room of requirement, carefully listening for anyone that might be in the halls.

Once they were tucked away in relative privacy, Hermione pulled Draco down for a kiss, but she could feel that he was distracted.

"Worried about this assessment?" Hermione asked.

Draco nodded. "I honestly didn't expect this until graduation. I figured they'd want me kept where it was easy to keep an eye on me."

"Well, you've not broken any of the terms of your probation." Hermione pointed out. "Maybe this is normal procedure?"

"I don't know." Draco said, looking worried. "It feels more like they're trying to give me the opportunity to mess it up."

"Well, just because they say you can leave, doesn't mean you have to do it." Hermione pointed out. "If you're not comfortable going somewhere for the break, then don't."

"Good point." Draco said, looking slightly less concerned. "What did McGonagall want? Did you get in trouble?"

Hermione laughed, "Yes, detention next Hogsmede weekend."

"Really?" Draco asked. "I didn't think you really did anything to warrant detention!?

"Oh, it wouldn't be a proper year at Hogwarts without at least one detention." Hermione chuckled. "Besides, Daphne got fifty points taken for calling me a mud blood."

"Well, you can see why I was perfectly happy to let her father back out of that deal." Draco laughed.

"I completely forgot about that!" Hermione laughed. "Gosh, what would she think if she knew about us?"

"She would be appalled, as any snobbish pure blood would." Draco said, sticking his nose in the air, before breaking out laughing again.

"I'm sure." Hermione giggled.

"So... what did McGonagall want after I left?" Draco asked curiously. "Was she warning you off seeing me?"

"No, she did that before you got there." Hermione said, fingering the new bracelet. "She actually had Order business to discuss."

"Order or Merlin or Order of the Phoenix?" Draco teased.

"Order of the Phoenix." Hermione said, rolling her eyes. "I've got to limit the number of Orders I join."

"Are you doing something for the Order?" Draco asked, sounding surprised and concerned.

"No, not at the moment." Hermione explained. "We're just going to be meeting soon, and she wanted to let me know that I could get called up."

"Called up for what?" Draco asked, panicking. "The war is over!"

"Nothing specific." Hermione said vaguely. "We just want to be prepared. Constant Vigilance, and all that."

"You're not meant to discuss this with me are you?" Draco asked

"Not you specifically," Hermione said. "We don't share information with anyone who isn't an Order member."

"The war isn't really over. Is it?" Draco asked.

"Well, Draco... you tell me." Hermione said, softly. "Are all of Riddle's followers in Azkaban?"

Draco shook his head.

"And are the ones that haven't been caught willing to just walk away from their agenda?" Hermione continued.

"Probably not." Draco sighed.

"Ok, so you see why we can't just pretend everything is ok." Hermione said, resting a hand on Draco's knee.

"Do you have to stay in the Order?" Draco asked, taking her hand. "Is it a lifetime commitment?"

"No, that's what Minerva was asking." Hermione explained. "We're not like the Death Eaters, Draco. Anyone can walk away at any time."

"So you just voluntarily agreed to let them call you up for Merlin knows what, and put your life on the line?" Draco demanded. "Did 'Minerva', say what they would expect you to do?"

"No, it's early days." Hermione said. "It might be nothing. I just have to wait for their signal."

"Why do you have to do anything?" Draco asked. "I think you've done enough!"

"I know you do." Hermione said quietly.

"So then why are you doing it!" Draco demanded. "You hate all the hero worship, I know you hate it!"

If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.” Hermione replied.

"Damn it, Hermione!" Draco cried. "I don't want to have some high handed, intellectual conversation about War and Peace. I want to know why you are volunteering to put your life on the line!"

"Because that's who I am Draco!" Hermione said, refusing to raise her voice. "You know that. I haven't changed, just because Riddle is gone, and we have a moment of peace. I don't do it for power or fame, I do it because it's what's right!"

Draco dropped his head into his hands. "Hermione, you don't understand!"

"What don't I understand, Draco?" Hermione asked.

"They'll kill you!" Draco cried.

"Who will kill me?" Hermione asked.

"The Death Eaters." Draco practically sobbed, "There was a plan, for if the Dark Lord lost. They're going to kill as many of you as they can!"

"Ok, well that's not really surprising." Hermione said calmly.

"How is that not surprising?" Draco demanded. "How are you not reacting to this. I just told you people want to kill you. Not hypothetically want to kill you, but actually have a plan to kill you."

"Draco, that's not new." Hermione said gently. "And I can take care of myself."

"But suppose you can't." Draco sighed. "Suppose they catch you off guard, Hermione, they're not going to kill you quickly. It will be drawn out, and horrible. I've seen it all before."

Hermione reach over and hugged Draco tightly. "Draco, this isn't the manor. No one can get to me here. It's just me and you."

"So, what if they get into Hogwarts?!" Draco said. "It's happened before!"

"Well, not to pour salt in the wound, but the last time the Death Eaters got into the castle, you let them in." Hermione pointed out. "Were you planning on doing that again?"

"Of course not!" Draco snapped. "I told them..."

"You told them what?!" Hermione demanded. "Have you been talking to them?"

"They've been sending me owls." Draco admitted, after a long pause.

"Have you told anyone about this?" Hermione hissed.

"No, I didn't want anyone to find out." Draco whispered. "I only answered to try and get them to stop contacting me."

"How long has this been happening?" Hermione asked.

"Since the announcement of your Order of Merlin." Draco admitted, his hands shaking.

"Ok, so... when is this supposed to happen?" Hermione asked, fumbling in her pocket and pulling out her DA Galleon.

"Um, they're going to try it on the next Hogsmede weekend." Draco said. "They're going to try and get in through the tunnels."

"Ok." Hermione said, tapping her Galleon with her wand.

"What are you doing?" Draco asked her.

"I'm calling up the DA." Hermione said, and fired off a Patronus to Ginny.

"You're what?" Draco asked, looking confused and nervous.

"You remember that secret defense class from fifth year?" Hermione asked.

Draco nodded.

"Well, we called it Dumbledore's Army." Hermione explained. "And the members all still carry a galleon like this, so they can be called up if needed."

"You have your own army?" Draco asked, in disbelief.

"It's not my army." Hermione said, shaking her head.

"Wait, is that a Protean Charm?" Draco asked, agog.

"Yes." Hermione said shrugging.

Draco shook his head, and at that moment, there was a knock on the door.

"That'll be Ginny." Hermione said. Come on, we need to leave so we can re-set the room."

"Should I even be here?" Draco asked, skeptically.

"Yes, you have to tell us what the plan is." Hermione explained. "I've only called up the senior officers, and we're going to say that you were concerned about your upcoming Assessment and asked me for advice."

They stepped out of the Room of Requirement, and Ginny was standing outside panting.

"Did you bring it?" Hermione asked.

"Yes, and Neville is getting Luna and they're on their way." She said.

"Doesn't she have her Galleon?" Hermione asked, pacing back and forth three times to re-set the room.

"Nargles." Ginny said, as if that explained everything.

"Hold up," Draco said. "Your response to this is to ask Longbottom and Loony for help?"

"Yes." Hermione said. "And here they are."

The five students ducked into the Room of Requirement, which now was set up as the DA practice space.

"What in the world is this?!" Draco asked.

"Better question: what in the world is he doing here?" Neville demanded.

"Draco has information for us." Hermione explained.

"Ok, well he may have information for us, but I'm not super comfortable with him seeing everything we have up here." Neville said, walking over to the mirror and taking down the picture of the Original Order and the list of DA members.

"Draco, tell them what you told me." Hermione said gently.

Draco filled the rest of the group in on what the Death Eaters had asked him.

"Ok, let's check the passages." Ginny said, pulling out the Maunders Map.

"I'll tell Ab." Neville said, heading for the ladder next to Arianna's portrait.

"Everything looks the same as it did at the end of last term." Ginny said. "There's no new passages, just the one to Ab's."

"We ought to re-enchant the suits of armor for detection." Luna said. "I remember the spell that Professor McGonagall used in the battle."

"Do it Luna." Hermione said, still pouring over the map with Ginny.

Luna nodded, and slipped out the door.

"I'm going to alert the Order," Hermione said, "I just wanted to make sure we had everything covered before they come in."

"Wait, you're telling the Order of the Phoenix?" Draco said, looking panicked.

"Yes, Draco... this is a credible threat, isn't it?" Hermione said gently.

"Well yes, but..." Draco started in.

"Look Malfoy, you have to pick sides right now." Ginny said. "No one knows about you two, so unless you want to tell people, Hermione can't vouch for you. You'll have to convince everyone you've changed."

"Ok." Draco said quietly.

"I'll be here the whole time." Hermione said into his ear, and she tapped her Dragon bracelet with her wand.

"You lot enjoy the Protean charm, don't you?" Draco asked, sarcastically.

"Hey, it beats an ugly tattoo." Ginny snapped, and pulled her necklace out of her shirt. "It worked 'Mione."

"Ok, Aberforth is all set." Neville said, as he climbed back down the ladder.

"So that's how you messed up your ankle." Draco said, watching Nevill make his way down.

"Is he going to lock down the back room?" Hermione asked.

"Ab? No." Neville laughed. "He's going to keep standing behind the bar yelling at customers."

Hermione rolled her eyes. There was a knock on the door, and Luna reappeared with McGonagall, Kingsley, Harry, and Ron in tow.

"What's up 'Mione?" Harry asked as they came into the room.

"Ok, Draco... one more time." Hermione gently prodded.

Draco filled the group in on the Death Eaters who had tried to contact him. Hermione could see him getting stressed trying to keep his temper each time someone asked him a question. She discreetly placed her hand on his back when the group had all gathered around the Map to strategize. She felt him relax almost immediately.

After a long conversation, they had decided upon a course of action for the impending attack, and started to go back to their appropriate dorms and offices to prepare.

"You're sure George will be up for this?" Hermione asked Ron.

"He'll have to be." Ron said honestly, "It's the only way we'll be able to keep the students inside without attracting suspicion."

"Yeah, and we can't risk anyone leaking that we're aware of the plan." Harry pointed out. "Malfoy may be the only Death Eater here, but there's loads of sympathizers in Slytherin."

"Yeah, because a trio of uniformed Aurors suddenly descending on the school is a model of subtlety Potter." Draco snapped. "You could have at least worn civilian clothes."

"Actually, we considered that." Kingsley said. "But I put on the books that we did your Assessment today, rather than Friday. If there's any leaks in the department, it'll just look like we were doing a routine probation assessment."

"So what happens to me then?" Draco snapped.

"Well, that'll depend on whether or not your tip is credible." Kingsley said. "If we nab a few Death Eaters out of this, then consider yourself a Level Two probationer.

"Great." Draco said dryly.

"Consider it incentive to not tip off the rest of your housemates about the plan." Harry said, crossing his arms.

"Not a problem." Draco said, glaring at Harry. "The people in my house aren't exactly my biggest fans since the battle."

"I think we should make him take Veritaserum anyway." Ron said, "What if he's setting us up?"

"Whatever you need to help you sleep at night Weasley." Draco snapped.

"All of you, knock it off." Hermione said, putting herself in the middle of the three boys. "We're allies now!"

"Hermione, you know what Sirius said." Harry said, glaring at Draco.

"And you know what Dumbledore believed." Hermione glared. "We're done here, so get back to the Ministry before it becomes suspicious. We've got things under control."

"She's right gentlemen." Kingsley's deep voice boomed. "He's not going anywhere, and you have a law class you're missing."

Hermione watched as the trio of Aurors followed McGonagall back to her office. She frowned at the sight of Harry and Ron looking like ministry officials, their black Aurors robes intentionally intimidating, with bars marking them as Order of Merlin holders.

"Don't worry." Draco said, gently. "They haven't changed, they're still your friends."






Authors Note:

The books quoted in this chapter are the Selected Diaries by Virginia Woolf, and A Girl I Knew, a short story by J.D. Salinger.

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