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A/N: I know I said this chapter would most likely be late, but clearly I lied - whoops. I chose to procrastinate all of my homework by writing this instead, but unfortunately I don't have that option for the upcoming chapter - so that one might actually be late. Hope you enjoy!

 

Betawork done by firstlovelatespring and LeilahMoon!

xoxoxo, carmen

 

-

 

The sound of Snape’s heavy door as it swung shut was ominous and foreboding and set Draco immediately on edge as it echoed through the room. As Snape cast a Silencio and Muffliato over the room, he settled uncomfortably into a seat in front of his godfather, who stood behind his desk, silent.

 

Clearing his throat nervously, Draco spoke. “I’m making progress. I was able to....seduce her.” He looked away, taking a sudden interest in reading the titles of books on the shelf next to him. Talking about shagging a girl with Snape was not something he was exactly comfortable with, regardless of the circumstances.

 

Snape wore a slightly incredulous look. “And?” He said, prompting Draco to elaborate.

 

“We haven’t spoken since. I need more time. It’s only been a few days. At least now I have an excuse to speak with her again, maybe try to...woo her, get on her good side.” His face slipped into a grimace at the prospect looming ahead. “It would be more beneficial if I knew exactly what I was getting close to her for,” he muttered.

 

“Well, I expect that the Dark Lord will be happy with your progress.” Snape’s face changed, showing a twinge of uncertainty paired with concern. “I am hesitant to inform you that should you fail in your endeavors, he has other plans. Involving your mother, none of which are pleasant.”

 

Draco froze, his eyes snapping to meet Snape, blood draining from his face. “What?” he rasped out. “What do you mean?” He stood abruptly, hands clutching the desk so hard his knuckles went white. “I’m…I’m making progress already, there’s no need for that,” he rushed out, his eyes wide and pleading. “You’ll tell him, right? That it’s going well so far?” His mother meant more to him than anything else, and the threat of harm to her shook him to his core.

 

Snape nodded once solemnly. “I will. He requested that I give you some... extrinsic motivation, so to speak. I also called you here to further inform you of what the Dark Lord needs from you so you can more adequately prepare.”

 

Draco bristled, knowing he would dread whatever words came from Snape’s mouth next. He wanted this to be a painless task, quick and easy, and somehow he had a feeling it would be exactly the opposite - especially since it involved Granger.

 

Snape started to pace slowly behind his desk. Draco never took his eyes off him. “The Dark Lord would like the Granger girl to serve him, whether it be willing or not. You are to have her smitten with you by Easter at the very latest, and bring her to the Manor over the break. It does not matter how you achieve it, as long as you do.”

 

Draco waited with bated breath. This was not at all what he’d expected.

 

“He will then forcibly administer the Mark to the girl. The Dark Lord is aware that she is the main reason for Potter’s success thus far. He wants her out of the picture. If you can successfully get her to the Manor, he will take care of the rest.”

 

“That’s it? Just get her to the Manor? That’s what I’m supposed to be doing? I could simply do that by force, Professor. It’s not like that would be difficult.” Draco relaxed, sinking into his chair. His curiosity got the better of him. “What does he want her for?”

 

“The Dark Lord is counting on the fact that Potter will be unable to leave her knowing that she is in danger. It is obvious that Potter has a savior complex and will do whatever is necessary to save his friends. The Granger girl is just an additional bonus. Ideally, she’ll be so smitten with you by then that she’ll take the Mark willingly to avoid you getting hurt or killed. The Dark Lord will phrase it as a failure on your part if she does not go willingly. It will be better for the both of you if she goes to him of her own accord.”

 

Snape looked remarkably unperturbed by what he was telling him. “Clearly, the Dark Lord enjoys the long game.” He paused, seeming hesitant to divulge this information. “If you are able to succeed in this, the sins of your father will be forgiven and you will rise quickly within his ranks. This is a very coveted position he is offering you, Draco - if you can succeed in getting her to trust you.”

 

Draco’s mind was whirling. As much as he hated Potter and his merry band of insufferable twats he called friends, it didn’t necessarily mean that he wanted them dead. He knew that if he were to succeed at this, it would escalate into something much bigger and darker than the schoolyard rivalry they’d successfully maintained for the past five years, and that was a leap he wasn’t really sure he was ready for. His Occlumency walls went up quickly, before he could overthink too much. He had a feeling he was going to be doing that a lot this term in order to keep himself sane as well as halt his internal back-and-forth before it started.

 

As if sensing his uneasiness with the weight he was carrying, Snape added, “You’ve done well Draco. Don’t worry about Granger. She is only a means to an end.” It was clearly meant to be a comforting sentiment, but it didn’t do much.

 

And as much as he wanted to believe it, something didn’t sit right with him.

 

-

 

Although Hermione had said she’d had enough of Quidditch, she knew she would be back sooner or later. Her two best friends were on the team after all; of course she would go and watch them.

 

She found herself in the common room after the match, celebrating with Butterbeer and Firewhisky for their win. As much as she didn’t care for Quidditch, she was always happy to revel in her friends’ excitement simply because they cared about it so deeply.

 

Hermione was sitting deep into an armchair by the fire, dressed in her comfiest pajamas, quietly nursing her drink while observing the scene around her. She liked to stay out of the way during Quidditch parties. Harry and Ron were the center of attention, as usual. They had performed some type of impressive maneuver that she simply didn’t understand, but it had saved the match and secured their pseudo-victory over Ravenclaw.

 

It was so typical of Gryffindor to celebrate a mere scrimmage win in such an all-out fashion. Their game against Slytherin had only been a week ago, and they were still celebrating like they had just won the Quidditch cup. She supposed, during times like these, you took happiness wherever you could get it. There was nothing wrong with that. Hermione smiled, raising the glass to her lips. She felt warm and fuzzy all over, and her vision was blurry around the edges as her eyes darted around the room.

 

Dean and Seamus were deep in animated conversation by the window, as were Parvati and Neville. Harry and Ron were, naturally, reliving their crowning moments again for a small circle of avid Quidditch lovers.

 

Taking another sip, Hermione caught a flash of movement towards the center of the room. And then she was watching Lavender Brown snog Ron with everything she had.

 

Suddenly, Hermione thought she might be sick - she had clearly surpassed her limit of how much alcohol she could handle in one night.

 

Setting her near-empty glass down on the mantle, she rose, quietly slipping through the portrait hole. She knew it was after curfew and she had no business wandering the corridors this late, but there was no chance she was going to subject herself to watching that. She wanted to avoid her bed for the time being - she wasn’t tired enough, and she knew a walk would wear her out enough to shut her brain up.

 

Sure, she and Ron had never expressed mutual affection for each other beyond the realm of their friendship, but Hermione hadn’t realized it needed expressing. She had stupidly assumed that her blooming interest was at least understood and implied, but a fat lot of good that had done her if he had gone and made such a public display in front of her. Clearly he was more oblivious than she had anticipated.

 

Hermione choked back tears, doing her best to ignore the prominent sting in her eyes and the fact that her vision was significantly more blurry than it had been five minutes ago. Before she knew it, she found herself at the top of the staircase that led down to the dungeons.

 

She paused. What? How had she wound up here?

 

Huffing out a frustrated breath, Hermione turned around and went back the way she had come, heading for the kitchens. She had only been once with the Weasley twins, but she remembered well enough where it was and how to access it.

 

She tickled the pear on the portrait, and it swung open and let her through. There were a few house-elves at work, and she greeted them and asked for a pumpkin pasty. She stared at it, picking it apart, and she heard footsteps walk in and come to an abrupt stop. Groaning, Hermione said, “Harry, please, I’m really not in the mood to-”

 

Glancing up, she cut herself off as she realized that it was very much not Harry. “Malfoy? What are you doing here?” Hermione couldn’t keep the incredulity from her voice

 

He took a swig from the flask in his left hand as he leaned against the doorway, and drawled, “Same as you, Granger. I’m hungry and looking for a midnight snack.” His eyes were slightly glassy as he took her in, drinking again. She watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed.

 

Fighting a blush, Hermione realized very suddenly that she looked very much less than decent. She was in an oversized, worn jumper that hit her at mid-thigh, pajama shorts, and slippers. Her hair was piled into a bun on the top of her head, and she knew she looked a mess - especially following her crying jag.

 

“What’s with you, Granger? Why do you look,” he waved over her, gesturing broadly, “like...that?”

 

Hermione scoffed. “Shove off, Malfoy. I’m seriously not in the mood to deal with you right now.” She bit off a piece of pasty roughly, avoiding his eyes. She was going to do her damndest to skirt around the very obvious, very enormous Hippogriff in the room.

 

“Well, it seems you are dealing with me, whether you like it or not. I have as much a right to be in the kitchens as you do.” He was being snarky on purpose, and even through her drunken stupor, it still irked her.

 

She rolled her eyes, conceding with a sigh that he wouldn't be playing nice tonight. “Why can’t you just bloody listen to me for once, Malfoy? You’re seriously pissing me off. ” There was no way to hide the resentment from her voice, nor did she want to.

 

“Good.” He walked over and sat next to her on the bench, so close she could smell him. Cinnamon, peppermint...and was that a hint of pine?

 

Shaking it off, she rose from her seat and went across the kitchen to grab another pasty the elves had left out for her. She heard Malfoy’s shoes hitting the floor, following her.

 

Turning, Hermione yelled, “Gods, Malfoy, why can’t you just leave me alone?” Much to her chagrin, her voice broke on the last word.

 

“Because, Granger, getting you going is one of my favorite hobbies.” Despite his word choice, his voice was alluding to something she wasn't sure she was quite ready to acknowledge.

 

She watched Malfoy’s eyes grow dark as he continued walking over to her slowly, very clearly relishing her irritation. Emotionally exhausted and still very much intoxicated, she shrunk into herself, curling away from him. He got so close she could feel his breath tickle her ear as he moved the fallen strands of her hair just so. Her heart was pounding.

 

“Can’t you tell?”

 

Malfoy turned and walked towards the door, but not before Hermione said coolly, “If the other night was any indication of just how much you like to 'get me going' then I’d have to say it’s pretty obvious.”

 

He turned slowly back to face her and met her eyes, her façade wilting slightly under his hard gaze.

 

“Ah, there’s your ever-irritating Gryffindor courage. I was wondering how long it would take you to acknowledge our little romp between the sheets. Embarrassed to have lowered yourself enough to shag me, Granger?” His tone was mocking. “Imagine, what would the Gryffindors say?”

 

Hermione felt blood rush to her face at his blatant indecency. “Come off it Malfoy. That was a one-time thing, a mistake. It was just because I was…” She sighed. “Stressed. Needed a distraction. It can’t happen again.” Her tone was biting and sarcastic as she regarded him. “And the Gryffindors wouldn’t say anything because they won’t. Ever. Find. Out,” she punctuated each word as a hard stop to further emphasize her point. “But you...you seemed to enjoy it just fine.” Hermione’s voice lost its hard, bitter edge as quickly as it had come.

 

“If I were none the wiser, I would say you sound almost disappointed, Granger.” He drew closer to her, cocking his head to the side, her breath just barely hitching. She watched as something minuscule that she couldn't quite place shifted in his expression. “The other night hardly scratched the surface of all of the things I would do to you were I given the chance.” His eyes were molten silver as they drank in her disheveled figure, her breath coming slightly quicker now. “There are so many positions and places I would take you in, should you let me.” His fingertips just barely ghosted over her thigh, leaving goosebumps in their wake. She felt like she was on fire.

 

He glanced up at the ceiling, and a smirk grew on his face as he nonchalantly took another sip from his flask, withdrawing his hand. “The Great Hall is right above here, yeah? What would you say if I told you that shagging you over the Gryffindor table is a fantasy of mine? Make sure you’d be reminded of all the dirty things you know I’d say to you every single time you sat down to eat.” Malfoy’s hot breath fanned her face, and if she just leaned in, she knew she would be able to taste the Firewhisky on it. “You’ll find that I’m very well versed in the art of stress relief.”

 

Her eyes were wide, and she forced herself not to press her thighs together, a hard battle that was just barely won. Hermione knew Malfoy would notice, and she was unwilling to give him the satisfaction.

 

But he wasn’t done having his fun with her yet. “One word from you, Granger, and I’ll make you scream so loud, I think I’d have to make good use of the silencing charm to ensure some privacy. Now wouldn’t that be...fun?” His voice was dangerously soft, a caress. She shivered, lost to his words, so tempted to just lean in...

 

Hermione opened her mouth to answer, but she didn’t get the chance.

 

“Malfoy, get away from her.” Harry stood in the doorway, wand raised in Malfoy’s direction, Marauder’s Map in hand. She snapped out of her trance as quickly as he had brought her under it. The alcohol certainly hadn’t helped.

 

Hermione watched Malfoy’s expression close off abruptly as he turned to face Harry. “Potter. How extraordinarily unpleasant it is to see you here. I wish I could say it was somehow unexpected.” His tone was cold, hard, taunting, a sneer plastered on his face. "Saint Potter, here to save the day."

 

“Don’t play games with me, Malfoy. I heard what you said to Hermione. Get away from her before I make you.” Harry’s wand stayed pointed in his direction.

 

Malfoy chuckled, raising his hands in surrender. “You caught me, Potter. She took the last Pumpkin Pasty, and I was about to coerce her into giving it to me. Alas, my evil schemes have been thwarted.” He rolled his eyes, turning back to face her, the ghost of a secret smile playing on his lips. “Granger refused to give it up, but I have a feeling she will next time.”

 

He turned and left the room and Harry rushed over to her, examining her for any damage, hands awkwardly fluttering. “Hermione, are you okay? I’m sorry it took so long to find you - you just left and I didn’t realize till late and I couldn’t find you on the map and- he didn’t hurt you did he? What did he say?” He sounded slightly frantic. He really did assume the worst when it came to Malfoy.

 

Coming back to her senses, Hermione shook herself out of her daze, “I’m fine Harry. He didn’t lay a finger on me.” Although a dark part of her she kept hidden wished he would have. “He was just drunk and irritating, that’s all. The only thing he damaged was my appetite.”

 

“Alright. That’s good.”

 

Harry seemed to breathe easier now that he knew she was okay. Hermione’s eyes subtly flickered towards the door, and she willed him not to notice her slip. Harry opened his mouth to speak again, and she could tell by the look in his eyes that it would be about Ron. Holding her hand up in the air to stop him, she said, “Harry, please don’t. I’m really not in the mood to talk about it.”

 

Conceding quickly, with evident relief that he wouldn’t have to be in the middle of his two best friends, he relaxed. “Okay. If you ever want to talk about it…” He trailed off, letting her come to an obvious conclusion. She nodded gratefully.

 

Hermione was quickly realizing that she couldn’t afford to have Harry walk in on something like that again. Steeling herself to lie to her best friend for the second time tonight, she said, “Harry...there’s something I need to tell you. About the other night.” The plan had formed in her mind and it was perfect - she didn't know how she hadn't thought of it before.

 

He looked at her expectantly, and Hermione hesitated before speaking. “Malfoy... made a pass at me. During rounds. It wasn’t a big deal, so please don’t go storming after him, but it gave me an idea.”

 

Hermione could see his anger rising quickly. “I know how convinced you are that he’s up to something, and while I have no idea what that might be, I think I can use his... interest in me to get close to him. I think we can use this to our advantage if we play our cards right.”

 

She could see Harry’s inner turmoil - his common sense warring with his anger. She kept going. “I don’t want Ron to know, because he’ll take it too far. We can give it a trial run, see if it even works. It’s just an idea - but, if you’re right, and Malfoy is up to something, this is the perfect way in. We’re paired for rounds often anyway, and it would be easy to assimilate myself.”

 

Hermione continued, hammering the final nail into her own coffin against her better judgement. “Come on, Harry, it’s the perfect in,” she pleaded. “I’m more than capable of gaining his trust. Just...tell me you’re okay with this. The last thing I want is to go behind your back.” Her voice quieted as she continued.

 

Her stomach sank as he met her eyes and nodded once, effectively locking her in.

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