Life Debt

Plans of Redemption

Hermione's POV

I woke up to darkness, yet again, but this time I wasn't as unnerved as before. I was able to rest enough over the last couple of days. Besides, sleeping kept me away from the prying eyes of the rest of the Order. I knew they suspected something was wrong with me, yet most of them knew me well enough to trust my judgment. As I got dressed, I overheard a few voices floating up to the third floor from the kitchen. I sneaked out of my room, being careful of the creaking boards.

"…sure she's ok?" Harry's voice was distinctly suspicious, yet concerned for me at the same time. This wasn't the first time I'd overheard them speaking of me. Ginny and Luna had tried again a few times, to get me to talk, but I never relented.

"I told you, Harry, she doesn't remember. If she thought it was important, you know she would tell us." I felt a pang in my heart at the remembrance of my lie. Ginny's voice was completely confident, defending me against my best friend. They wouldn't be so trusting if they knew the truth.

"Yeah, Harry, Hermione's a smart girl. If there's some danger or something wrong, you know she'd be the first to tell. And if she is keeping something, then let her keep it. We're all entitled to our secrets, aren't we? If it were crucial for the rest of us to know, she would tell us." So Tonks knew I was hiding something. I could tell by the certainty in her voice that there wasn't a doubt in her mind I was lying about something. Perhaps she would understand best? After all, she and Malfoy were blood, if only just cousins.

I played with the idea of telling her, I really did. I knew Tonks was trustworthy. She wouldn't tell Ron or Harry if I asked her not to. Besides, the secret was eating away at me, and I needed to tell someone who would understand. Ginny might, but her dislike for Malfoy runs as deep as Ron's and Harry's. As for Luna, she's trustworthy, but I don't know her well enough to judge whether she'll let it slip to Ron or Harry. Over the past few days I'd seen her grow very close to Ron, and the risk of her telling him was too great.

I'm glad to see Ron getting closer to Luna in return, though. It's nice for him to finally have someone. That kiss we shared was impulsive, in the heat of the moment. Neither one of us brought it up again, but there were no regrets either. I guess that kiss was just what we needed to show us that being together would never really work. We were too close as friends to risk it, and it was like kissing my brother. We came to a silent agreement shortly after I returned. I saw him with Luna and smiled my encouragement, giving him the go-ahead. Besides, I don't think I could handle a relationship like that under the stress of war. I'll never understand how Harry and Ginny manage it.

So now I'm debating on whether or not I should let myself discuss it with Tonks. She was high enough in the Order that it would be like telling someone of authority, but young enough that she could understand me, I think. With that resolve, I listened intently, waiting for the end of the conversation. When Harry and Ginny walked away, I leaned over the railing to see where Tonks was headed. She came up the stairs, and I dashed into my room. With the door cracked open a sliver, I watched as she made her way towards her room, which was three doors down from mine.

After waiting a few moments, I set my decision in stone, walking to her door before I could change my mind. With a deep breath, I knocked on her door.

"Come in!" Her cheerful voice floated through the wood, and I did my best to control my nerves. "Wotcher 'Mione! How are you feeling?"

"Good, I guess…Tonks, can I talk to you about something?" She looked at me knowingly, like an older sister who knew I'd been getting into trouble.

"Sure." I sat beside her, watching for a bit as she quickly scribbled something onto a piece of parchment. I recognized it to be her signature at the end of a letter. She folded the parchment, sealed it with wax, and gave it to the owl that was perched silently by her desk. He flew out the window she opened for him. "So what did you want to talk about? I heard from the other girls that you've been mumbling in your sleep…is everything ok?" Not even I knew the extent of my stress.

"Sort of…I don't really know how to say it without anyone reacting badly."

"It's about how you made it back, isn't it?" All I could do was nod. I was breaking what little of Malfoy's trust I had, but this seemed like a better way to help him. If I truly wanted to pay him back for saving my life, I had to attempt to save him. Besides, since when did I care if I was breaking a Slytherin's trust? "What happened? If you don't want me to tell, I won't. I promise."

The sincerity in her eyes and voice was difficult to miss. She might say that now, but what's to say when she knew the truth she wouldn't immediately tell? "I…I didn't get out on my own. I had help." She quirked her eyebrow, clearly interested. "I did have an invisibility cloak, but it isn't here anymore. I retuned it to…"

"Who? Who's cloak was it?" She seemed shocked, but it was nothing compared to what would come next.

"Draco Malfoy." The name came out like a whisper, and I was both reluctant and relieved to let it finally escape my lips. Her shock was evident; of course she wouldn't have expected that name, of all people.

"Draco? How? More important, why?"

"I don't know!" Her eyes had widened at my revelation. I got up, beginning to pace. "I was running from a group of Death Eaters when one of them shot an Avada at me and-" My heart was frantic, words coming out of me in a hurried rush.

"Is he dead?!" This stopped my frantic speaking, shell-shocking me. Draco Malfoy, dead? I don't know why the idea bothered me so much.

"No! Of course not! I wouldn't be able to live with myself…he pulled me out of the way. The curse hit a tree. He was hiding under the cloak and hid me too! For a minute we were under the cloak together, then he pulled away and told me to run."

"And you did."

"No. I didn't. I drew my wand against him, expecting a trick. But he didn't do anything. He just stood there, Tonks! Stood there and let me go. I took the cloak from him, thinking he'd taken Harry's."

"He didn't put up a fight to keep it?"

"No…he just gave it to me and told me to run away." By now I was sitting again, my voice considerably lower than before. She didn't seem shocked anymore, simply slightly surprised. "I froze, though, completely unable to move. I just stood there. He could have easily killed me, but he didn't. And then the Death Eaters that were chasing me doubled back. He reacted faster than I did. He hid me under the cloak and pretended to be searching, until the others left."

"So he saved and protected you? Why?"

"I don't know… I even asked him and he said he didn't know why either. After they left he simply turned back to me and told me to leave again. This time he told me I owed him, though, and it's true. I owe Draco Malfoy my life…" I didn't intend for my voice to soften when I spoke his name, or for my voice to trail off the way it did. I was just glad to finally get that off my chest.

"So how did you give the cloak back?"

"Dobby took it for me. He sent Dobby with a message for me, and I sent the cloak back. He told me not to tell anyone of what he did." She didn't seem surprised that I'd used the friendly elf to help me. She didn't even seem surprised that he had used him.

"Alright. I understand why you didn't tell Harry or Ron. What do you plan on doing about it? Life debts are serious…"

"I know…and I couldn't even do the one thing he asked in return. He told me not to tell, but I did!" I couldn't help but cover my face in shame. She made no move to comfort me, simply looking at me.

"Hermione, it's alright. There really isn't anything you can do."

"But what if we encounter him in a fight? What then? I owe him my life. I have to protect him, keep him from getting hurt. What if that forces me to protect him from Ron? From Harry?" She hadn't seemed to take that into account, and again her eyes widened in surprise. After a moment she went back to her passive face.

"You'll handle that when it comes, Hermione. There really isn't anything you can do, except tell Harry."

"The more people that know the better the chance that You-Know-Who will find out…I can't risk it…Especially with Harry. We don't know if he still has that connection with him or not…" Tonks nodded in agreement. "Thank you…for listening and not jumping to conclusions…" She smiled easily at me.

"Draco's family…he can't be all bad, can he?" In that moment I swore her eyes momentarily shifted to become his silver ones. It was scary seeing his eyes look up at me, however brief, from a different face. As quickly as she had morphed her eyes to match his, the color was gone. It was back to normal Tonks. I tried to smile back, but I think it came off as more of a grimace than anything else. "Just relax, 'Mione, alright? You're a smart witch. I'm sure you'll figure it all out."

"I hope so…" I said this more to myself than aloud. I knew I could trust Tonks, but I couldn't help the nervous feeling that arose in me at the thought that I'd broken my word. Going back into my room, I grabbed a book on combat spells and then made my way to the living room again. I curled up in an armchair, opening the book to where I last left off.

I don't know how long I sat there, reading, only that I was taken from my book-induced daze by a small popping noise.

"Miss? Miss Hermione?" I lowered the book onto my lap, noticing that the fire had died considerably.

"Yes, Dobby? Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Actually, miss, there is. You see, Dobby has been watching the young Malfoy…" Needless to say, I was surprised at this revelation.

"Watching him? Why?"

"Dobby was afraid he was planning to hurt Miss Hermione! Miss Hermione has been so good to Dobby…Dobby could not let anyone hurt her!" I was touched by Dobby's concern for me, smiling faintly at the small elf. He smiled back, clearly glad I wasn't upset at his over protectiveness.

"Thank you, Dobby. I really appreciate it, but I don't think Draco Malfoy is going to hurt me." He nodded in agreement with me, something I had not been expecting.

"Yes, I am sure of that now. See, Miss Hermione, Dobby has seen the young Malfoy look very troubled. Troubled indeed!" This piqued my interest. Maybe there was a way I could help him more directly after all.

"Troubled how?"

"He does not sleep well, miss! The only time Dobby remembers him being like this was the time before Professor Dumbledore died…" Dobby still became teary eyed at the mention of the late headmaster. He took a moment before continuing. "He seems to be struggling with something, miss, and Dobby fears it has to do with Miss Hermione!" My heart stopped at that. Had he been given some kind of order? Had he been found out? What had to do with me that was troubling him?

"What is it, Dobby? Why do you think it involves me?"

"He rarely sleeps, but when he does, he mumbles your name! Then sometimes he will mumble the names of Professor Snape and Dumbledore as well… He seems very troubled… Dobby would like to try to help, Miss Hermione! Dobby believes maybe Master Malfoy can help Harry Potter!" It would seem Dobby had been developing a plan of his own for some time. I couldn't deny that the idea of having Malfoy spy for us was severely tempting. After all, we needed someone to succeed Snape. Was I willing to endanger him like that, though, after he saved me?

"My name, Dobby? Are you sure?" The other two names I could understand. He must have found out about Snape's death by now. The man was his mentor and godfather, of course he would be affected by his death, despite his seemingly emotionless heart. As for Dumbledore, according to Harry, the suffering had been plan on Malfoy's face up in the tower. I'd have nightmares after going through that as well. Not only that, but I had seen what Malfoy looked like all of sixth year. It was a miracle he hadn't lost his mind yet. Merlin knows I would have by now.

"Yes Miss! Dobby is positive! Miss Hermione is the only Hermione Granger Dobby knows!" He jumped onto the couch with me, so we were eye level. "Dobby believes Master Draco is having second thoughts. Perhaps Miss Hermione should send him a note? Some sign to say the Light Side is still a choice?" As much as the idea appealed to me, I wasn't sure if I could go through with it. What if contact from me was the breaking point? Would he somehow capture Dobby and torture him for information?

"Dobby…if I do this, you could be hurt very badly… I don't want you to get hurt." Dobby puffed his chest out proudly.

"It would be Dobby's honor, miss, to serve such a noble cause! Master Draco will not hurt Dobby. Dobby remembers, when Master Draco was quite young, he was not always bad. Dobby took care of Master Draco for a long time… Master Draco's father is who turned Master Draco into who he is… Sometimes, when Dobby sees him sleeping, mumbling Miss Hermione's name, Dobby can see some of that little boy on Master Draco's face. There is still hope!" His speech was honorable, but I couldn't help the guilt that overwhelmed me at assigning Dobby such a task. I wasn't even going to run it by the other Order members, I couldn't. Besides, I had just as much authority as the others. I could make decisions, and Dobby seemed to have made the decision long before approaching me.

He provided me with some parchment and a quill. Placing the sheet on my book, I leaned over and began to write.

Malfoy,

We need to talk. I know this is sudden, but I want to help you with whatever is bothering you. Clearly you can't be all bad, if you saved me, and I know that is part of what troubles you. Please, respond to this note, even if you reject my offer.

-Hermione

I folded the paper carefully into a small square. Dobby took it and tucked it into a pocket.

"Dobby, no matter what he decides, burn it like you did with the other one, alright?"

"Yes miss! I will be back as soon as I can." And with a snap of his fingers he was gone. I couldn't help the feeling in the pit of my stomach, weighing me down, but I also couldn't ignore the hope rising in my chest. Maybe I would be able to make a significant difference. Like I said in the letter, if he saved me, he couldn't be all bad. Maybe, just maybe, there existed redemption for Draco Malfoy. Maybe.

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