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Hermione was very caught up the next few days preparing for the impending attack. Draco had responded to the Death Eaters and tried to put them off the scent by explaining that the previous methods of entry into the castle were destroyed during the battle. He confirmed to Rodolphus that it was in fact a Hogsmede weekend.

From that point, Hermione was simply studying trapping spells and other potentially useful tricks.

"I don't like this plan." Draco said, as Hermione was gathering her supplies in the DA room the evening before they were to spring the trap.

"So you've said." Hermione sighed. "Multiple times."

"Well why do you need to be at the gate?" Draco asked. "Let the Aurors do it!"

"Because I'll be on the school side of the gates." Hermione explained, for what felt like the hundredth time. "If there are spies in the forest, it won't be unusual for students to be seen walking towards the gate on a Hogsmede weekend."

"Ok, but isn't the point for them not to see you?" Draco pressed.

"Yes Draco, we're just hedging our bets." Hermione sighed. "I wish you would stop worrying!"

"I always worry about you!" Draco said, hugging Hermione from behind, he whispered into her ear, "I'm sure I could tempt you with something more interesting to do!"

Hermione sighed involuntarily, and leaned into his embrace. "You could, but you wouldn't." She said.

"Ugh, you're right." Draco said, pressing a kiss into Hermione's hair. "You realize this is all very impressive, right?"

"What, this pile of books?" Hermione asked, distracted.

"No, Hermione... you!" Draco exclaimed. "I warn you that there's someone plotting to kill you, and expect you to show at least a little fear. But no, you just summon your army and come up with a genius plan to take them out."

"For the last time, it's not my army!" Hermione said.

"Dragon dung." Draco said, matter-of-factly. "I asked Ginny, and she said the whole DA was your idea. You know they all listen to you."

"Yes, me and my army of petulant teenagers." Hermione rolled her eyes.

"Seriously Hermione," Draco insisted. "You know most people would have just told the Aurors and gone to hide under their bed. How do you do it?"

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. "Someone has to do it. 'Blow, wind! Come, wrack, At least we’ll die with harness on our back.'."

"MacBeth?" Draco asked, skeptically.

"Yes." Hermione said with a smile.

"Hermione?" Draco asked softly.

He sounded so nervous, that Hermione turned around to face him, and asked, "What Draco?"

"Please don't let them catch you." He said, pulling her close, as though his life depended on it. "I can't lose you."

"I'm not going to get caught Draco." Hermione said with a smile.

"I know you believe that, but just promise me you'll get yourself out of there if it all goes wrong!" He said, still holding Hermione.

"Hey, Draco... it's going to be fine!" Hermione said. "I promise to get out of there if it gets bad, but honestly, I don't think we're going to have any trouble. If your estimate is correct, we've got them outnumbered."

"Yeah, but it's just an estimate Hermione." Draco said, "I could be way off."

"Ok, well if you're off we'll reevaluate." Hermione promised, taking his hand. "Come on, I want to show you something."

She led Draco out the door, and up to the astronomy tower. "Ok, I want you to wait here at the bottom of the stairs. Give me 30 seconds, and I want you to come find me."

"What?" Draco asked, confused.

"Just trust me." Hermione said.

Climbing the stairs, she found a place that was out of the way enough that Draco wouldn't run into her, and applied the enchantments she had used to hide from Voldemort the previous year, as well as a few new ones.

After a moment, she watched Draco come up the stairs, and look around confused. He searched a bit, and finally pulled out his want and whispered the Homenum Revelio charm.

He looked even more confused for a moment, and then Hermione took pity on him and canceled her charms, appearing suddenly.

"What did you do?" Draco asked.

"I just put up my usual protective enchantments." Hermione said with a smile.

"I couldn't even find you with a charm!" Draco said, surprised.

"I know." Hermione said. "Why do you think I chose those wards?"

"Is that how you hid from the Dark Lord?" Draco asked.

"Yes." Hermione nodded. "It worked until Harry tripped that jinx."

Draco fingered Hermione's order bracelet. "Why did they give you a dragon bracelet?"

"Oh, they didn't." Hermione blushed, "They gave me a plain pendant and I transfigured it."

"You picked a Dragon?" Draco asked.

"Well, it's meant to look like the pin you gave me." Hermione admitted, blushing darker. "I'm too scared to wear that one around and knock the diamonds out of it or something."

"Hermione, I think it's a bit more sturdy than that." Draco laughed. "But I'm glad you like it, even if it isn't 'casual wear'."

"I like everything you've given me." Hermione smiled. True to his promise, Draco had sent her a gift every morning at breakfast. There were more beautiful clothes, chocolates, and books starting to fill her school trunk. "I feel bad that I haven't been able to give you anything in return."

"Hermione, you've given me more than I've ever dreamed possible." Draco said. "I never dared hope you'd even lower yourself to spend time with me."

"You know I hate it when you talk like that." Hermione said. "Come on, lets relax a little. Tomorrow is going to be long."

She conjured a blanket at the edge of the balcony so they could see the stars, and lay down on her back. "Come on!"

Draco sat down next to her and watched her scan the stars. "Looking for anything in particular?"

"Are you named for the constellation?” Hermione asked, pointing to the stars that formed Draco the dragon.

“I don’t know.” Draco said honestly. “When I was younger I used to tell myself I was.”

“Not anymore?” Hermione asked curiously.

“I haven’t had much time for stargazing the past few years.” Draco said, looking away.

“You haven’t been up here since he died.” Hermione realized.

“No. I didn't take astronomy after I got my Owl.” Draco said, trying to avoid the question.

“Draco…” Hermione pressed gently.

“No.” De said shaking his head. “I couldn’t face it.”

“Did…” Hermione started to ask, and then stopped. “Never mind.”

“Did what?” Draco asked.

“I don’t know if I want to know the answer.” Hermione admitted.

“Go on.” Draco said. “This conversation is overdue.”

“Did you want to kill him?” Hermione asked, after a long pause.

“Yes.” Draco said, he didn’t elaborate, he just waited for Hermione to respond.

Hermione gathered her thoughts, and then asked, “why?”

’His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem; you wonder... if he was really evil at heart.’” Draco said in response.

“Tolkein.” Hermione whispered.

Draco smiled bitterly. “I wanted to kill him, because I thought he stood between myself and what I wanted most. You know I didn’t have, well let’s just say, a ‘normal’ childhood. The first time I ever saw my father look proud of me was when I took the mark. And the second time was when the Dark Lord gave me the mission to kill Dumbledore.”

Hermione realized she’d been holding her breath, and she let it out in a rush as she said, “But Harry said you weren’t going to do it. You were lowering your wand. Even before Snape arrived.”

“In the end I couldn’t do it.” Draco agreed, “I’d tried several times, and I kept failing. And with each failure I could see my happy ending slipping away, so I got more desperate. I’d like to say that I lowered my wand because I saw the error of my ways, but it wasn’t that. I was just too much of a coward.”

“I don’t think sparing a life could ever be considered cowardice Draco.” Hermione said softly.

“Of course, I spent the next year struggling with the fact that Snape had done my dirty work.” Draco sighed. “My father was so sure he’d cheated my family out of some great honor. His position was so elevated after; that’s why the Dark Lord put him in charge of Hogwarts.”

“Don’t call him that.” Hermione said. “It makes me uncomfortable.”

“Of all the pieces of this conversation that could make you uncomfortable, it’s the fact that I call him the Dark Lord?” Draco asked, surprised.

“Only Death Eaters call him that.” Hermione said. “Are you a Death Eater?”

“You know I’m a Death Eater Hermione.” Draco said softly.

“No, I know you were a Death Eater.” Hermione said. “Are you still?”

“I don’t know.” Draco said; after a long while, he continued, “I don’t think I believe the same things anymore. I don’t know if I ever really did.”

“Then what are you holding on to?” Hermione prodded.

“If I’m not a Death Eater, then I’m just a horrible person.” Draco admitted. “It’s easier to keep the mask, than admit who I am underneath it.”

“Figuratively or literally.” Hermione asked quietly.

“Ha, well I guess in this case, both.” Draco said, with a hard laugh. “Although the Death Eater masks are an enchantment.”

“They are?” Hermione asked, curiosity overcoming the seriousness of the topic.

“Yeah, trade secret.” Draco said. “They’re kind of a big deal, only the innermost circle were allowed to wear the masks. Just one of the terrifying bonuses to getting marked.”

“Ok, well…” Hermione took Draco’s hand. “If you want to give up the mask, what if I modify your memory so you don’t remember the enchantment?”

“I never thought of that.” Draco said. “But wouldn’t I have to do the charm for you to know what to remove.”

“Well, yes.” Hermione said, uncertainly. “Is it a dark spell?”

“No, it’s actually not.” Draco said. “I can do the charm, I just… I wasn’t sure if you’d want to see me like that.”

“Oh.” Hermione said, realizing what Draco was saying.

“Yeah, oh.” Draco said. “I appreciate the offer, but you don’t need to see that Hermione.”

“But would it help?” Hermione asked, “I don’t mind.”

“Are you sure?” Draco said gently, “I really don’t want you to do anything that you’d be uncomfortable with.”

“No, it’s fine.” Hermione said. “Do the charm, and I’ll watch.”

“Ok… you’re really sure?” Draco asked again.

“Yes, just do it.” Hermione said, pulling out her wand.

“Ok,” Draco said, still sounding uncertain as he spoke the incantation, “tenebrisumbra.”

Hermione sucked in her breath as Draco’s face was obscured by his Death Eater mask. Even though she knew it was coming, as the mask was designed to do, it still made her blood run cold with terror.

She forced herself to meet his eyes behind the mask, and waited until she was sure her voice would be steady and said, “ok… you can take it off.”

Draco cancelled the charm, and as the mask disappeared it revealed the concern on his face. “I’m so sorry Hermione!”

“It’s fine.” Hermione said, relived that the mask was gone. “Ok, are you ready?”

Draco nodded.

“Ok, think of the charm.” Hermione instructed, and raised her wand. “Obliviate.”

“I… I can’t remember it!” Draco said, relief flooding his voice. “Thanks Hermione!”

“You’re welcome.” Hermione said, with a small smile.

“And you just helped me realize something.” Draco said, pulling Hermione into a hug.

“What?” Hermione asked.

“I realized that I never want to see fear like that in anyone eyes, ever again.” Draco said, pressing a kiss into Hermione’s hair.

“I’m not afraid of you Draco!” Hermione insisted.

“Well you may not be afraid of me, but you were definitely afraid of my mask.” Draco pointed out. “It’s a conditioned response, Little Dragon.”

“I can’t believe they were just enchantments.” Hermione said, trying to change the subject. “Why were they all different?”

“They reflect something of the caster in their appearance.” Draco explained. “I can’t prove it, but I think the more detailed the mask, the more evil the person.”

“Your’s was quite plain.” Hermione pointed out.

“Was it?” Draco asked, curiously. “I never saw my own.”

“No?” Hermione asked. “Well it was silver, with just a small amount of detail around the eyes.”

“Hermione…” Draco whispered.

“Yes?” Hermione asked, pulling back from Draco’s embrace so she could see his face.

“Thank you.” Draco said, his voice thick. “Thank you for believing I could change when I didn’t believe it myself.”

“So, are you finally admitting that you’re not evil?” Hermione asked

“No,” Draco said, quietly. “I’m admitting that I might not always be, and that is only because I love you.”

Hermione grinned, and Draco captured her lips in a searing kiss.

When Draco broke the kiss, “’You could draw me to fire, you could draw me to water, you could draw me to the gallows, you could draw me to any death’.

Hermione smiled at him again, and replied, “Charles Dickens.”

“I’ll never stump you with a quote from a book.” Draco said, pretending to be exacerbated.

“Probably not.” Hermione teased.

“How am I to truly woo you, if I can’t steal lines from better men?” Draco joked.

“Perhaps you should consider stealing from better women?” Hermione laughed.

Draco didn’t respond, but instead looked deep in thought. “Hermione, I want to help tomorrow.”

“You are helping,” Hermione said, “You gave us all those names, and descriptions, and potential numbers. Without you we’d be going in blind.”

“No, I mean I actually want to help you bring them in.” Draco said.

“Ok, but if you do that, we lose our inside source.” Hermione pointed out. “You’re more valuable to us as a double agent.”

“Wouldn’t I actually need to be a member of the Order of the Phoenix to be a double agent?” Draco asked. “I doubt they’d trust me enough to let me do anything.”

“Not necessarily.” Hermione said. “Snape was a Death Eater before he joined the order.”

“He was?” Draco asked curiously. “When you said he was a double agent, I assumed Dumbledore sent him to infiltrate.”

Hermione shook her head. “No, Dumbledore wouldn’t have asked anyone to take the Dark Mark.”

“So how did he get the Order to trust him?” Draco asked.

“A lot of us didn’t.” Hermione said. “Dumbledore was the only one who knew the whole story, back then anyway.”

“Is that part of the story I can’t hear?” Draco asked.

Hermione had forgotten about that conversation, “Well, it all ties together in the end, but no… Snape didn’t have anything to do with Riddle’s dark magic.”

“So what convinced Dumbledore?” Draco pressed, sounding honestly curious.

“Well, he was in love with a girl who Riddle was planning to kill.” Hermione explained. “When he found out Tom’s plan, he ran straight to Dumbledore, and begged him to protect her.”

“Really?” Draco was quite interested, “I thought I knew Snape pretty well, and he never mentioned having any sort of family or anything.”

“Well, he didn’t.” Hermione said sadly. “He was in love with Harry’s mum. He always had been.”

“Merlin, you’re serious?!” Draco cried. “But after she died, why was he still working for the Order?”

“Because he wanted to protect Harry for her.” Hermione shrugged. “Harry has his mum’s eyes, Snape saw her every time he looked at him.”

“So that’s why he never got married or anything.” Draco said absently. “How did you find all this out?”

“He gave Harry his memories, just before he died.” Hermione said sadly. “He’d been helping us all along. He even sent his patronus to show us where the Sword of Gryffindor was when we needed it. His patronus was a Doe, just like Harry’s mum.”

“Wow.” Draco said quietly. “I don’t know if that’s beautiful or tragic.”

“Well, can’t it be both?” Hermione whispered.

“It’s history repeating itself.” Draco said softly.

“What do you mean?” Hermione asked.

“A Death Eater turning his back on evil because he’s in love with a girl.” Draco said.

“I don’t think that’s the only reason you’ve changed Draco.” Hermione pointed out.

“You can think that.” Draco said, “But I know what’s in my heart.”

“Ok, is that such a bad thing?” Hermione asked. “Who cares what your motivation is?”

“You might.” Draco said. “I’ve been working on something, and I wanted to show you, but I’ve been too nervous of what you might think.”

“You don’t have to be afraid of what I think Draco.” Hermione said.

“You might change your mind when I show you this.” Draco said, and he took out his wand. He concentrated for a moment, and then said in a clear voice, “Expecto Patronum.” A silver vapor burst out from his wand, and organized itself into a shape.

“Oh Draco!” Hermione gushed, and then she took a closer look at the small animal in front of her.

It was an otter.

Authors Note:

The books quoted in this chapter are Macbeth by William Shakespeare, The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien, and Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.

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