Life Debt

Enigmas and Plans

~Hermione~

Instinct? Since when did a Malfoy's instinct compel him to save a Mudblood? I had been about to ask him this when I realized it wouldn't be the best idea. Doubting him now wouldn't benefit us in any way. Now I just had to figure out a way to tell Harry and Ron we had someone on the inside. If I waited too long, they might do something rash, plan something to get into Hogwarts. I had no choice but to tell them as soon as possible.

That night, I was riddled with nightmares. Every worst case scenario went through me. Draco could be found out, tortured, and killed. I couldn't be sure if my discomfort at the idea came from the debt I owed him or somewhere else. Before I woke up, the final image was that of him lying in a bloodied heap at my feet, dead for having tried to save me again. A sob escaped my lips the second my eyes opened. I was grateful for Ginny and Luna's absence. I shot upright in my bed, alert at the noises I heard downstairs. Were they strategizing again? Taking a few deep breaths to clear my mind, I got up, pulling on my robes.

"We can't just barge in there, wands blazing! That's stupid, and rash." I couldn't believe the words coming out of Ron's mouth. It must have been the smartest thing I've ever heard him say. Luna was rubbing off on him.

"What choice do we have? Should we just wait for them to attack again?" The heated debate continued as I made my way downstairs. No one noticed when I walked into the room. Again, Harry asked if all we could do was just sit around and wait. I felt a pang of guilt, knowing how badly he wanted to bring Voldemort down. This was his fight, and we were keeping him from it.

"No, we don't have to wait." Tonks looked at me expectantly. Did she suspect what I'd done? "But there are more ways than attacking head-on, Harry." Now everyone was looking at me, gazes ranging from suspicion to intrigue.

"And what is that, Hermione? What little advantage we had died with Snape." His look was one of suspicion. I knew he thought I'd been hiding something, and I was about to admit to it. I didn't let his angered tone get to me.

"I haven't been entirely honest with you all." I turned to face the majority before continuing. This was harder than I'd imagined. Something inside me kept me from saying his name. How would I explain without arousing suspicion? "There is another spy among the Death Eaters." I let them take this all in. Surprised looks fell on all their faces, except for Tonks. She looked pleased.

"Another spy? How come no one else knows of this?" And by that, Harry meant, how come he didn't know about it.

"Let her finish, Harry." Tonks surprised everyone by coming to my defense. She usually kept quite when it came to bickering among the Golden Trio.

"Yes. He's decided to help us."

"A Death Eater has turned coat?" Ron was surprised, but none of the suspicion Harry had came through.

"Yes."

"How do we know he is genuine?" Luna's voice seemed to float above our heads, not a hint of wartime urgency in it.

"He saved me. Twice. He's the only reason I came back from Hogwarts, and why I wasn't crushed in Diagon Alley." Everyone's eyes widened in shock at my revelation. I wasn't sure what was more shocking, the fact that I'd needed help to survive, or that a Death Eater would have helped a muggleborn.

"Who is he?" Something in me wouldn't let me speak his name. I couldn't tell them. What if someone was captured? What if his cover was blown because we couldn't block our minds? More people knowing about him would only endanger him further. No. I couldn't let that happen. I still owed him, after all.

"I can't tell you, for his safety." Harry was furious at this. I'd never seen his green eyes blazing that way before. It frightened me some, but I held my ground.

"Why not?!"

"I owe him my life. It's bad enough everyone here knows there's a spy! If You-Know-Who captures any of us, he's dead. He could pick out the information from our heads all too easily. It's better he remain anonymous." No one seemed to be accepting my explanation, but Harry was the only one visibly shaking in frustration. Tonks nodded reassuringly in my direction. "Please. Trust me, ok?"

"Fine." The way he said it sounded anything but fine. He shot me a glare, something I'd never received from him. He walked out immediately, signaling the end of the meeting. Ron gave me a comforting pat on the shoulder, Luna and Ginny following suit. With a sigh I waited as everyone left, until it was just Tonks looking at me.

"It was Draco, wasn't it?" I nodded. "You're making the right decision, Hermione. I'll back you up, no matter what." I gave her a grateful look. At least one person trusted me. The truth was, I knew Harry and Ron would be even more suspicious if they knew it was Malfoy.

~Draco~

I couldn't even look any of the Death Eaters in the eye after I came back from seeing Hermione. Hermione…The name felt strange, even if it was just in my thoughts. She'd had such a look of relief, even a trace of happiness, on her face. I'd almost gone back when I heard the fear in her voice. Her acceptance meant the world, however, and as soon as she sat down on the bed, relief washed through me. I almost let myself lose it when she spoke of my mother. Even I was surprised at how well I could control myself around her.

Had it been anyone else, Potter or Weasley, I would have snapped when they called me 'Malfoy.' They could never say the name with anything but contempt and disgust. Hermione, however, said my name with compassion, with such a tone that I was able to keep myself under control. When she switched to my first name, I couldn't deny that the sound of it coming from her was comforting. The idea that someone other than my mother could say my name with more than just contempt was enough to keep me from going under at the thought of her again. I was doing right by her, I knew I was.

But why did I still feel so confused?

I was brought from my musings by a knock at my door. Looking up, I watched as my father let himself into the room. Without so much as a greeting, he relayed his message.

"The Dark Lord wants to speak to you." He didn't even look at me like I was his son anymore. My mother was the only connection we had. Now that she was gone, I was just another Death Eater to him. I wondered if he even spared his wife a passing thought.

"Alright." I stood, shrugging my cloak and grabbing my mask. I followed him to the old Headmaster's office, disgust bubbling in me at the thought that I would see him in Dumbledore's old chair. Once I was inside, my father left, leaving me to kneel before our 'master.' Holding my mask against my heart, I lowered my head. Guards firmly in place, I spoke, "You sent for me, my Lord?"

"Yes, young Malfoy. I understand you have buried your mother?" There was a trace of mocking in his voice. He was trying to get a reaction out of me. I wouldn't give him the pleasure. One slip up, and I was dead.

"Yes, my Lord. She is buried on the grounds of the Manor, beside Severus Snape." He made a noise of affirmation, and I swore it sounded something like disappointment. After what seemed like an eternity of kneeling, he spoke again.

"Rise, Draco Malfoy." Last time Voldemort gave me a task, it caused the death of the greatest wizard after Merlin. I was loathe to find out what his next one would be, for surely that's what he wanted.

"Anything you ask, my Lord." I cringed at how similar I sounded to my father. I looked up at him, knowing he demanded eye contact, so no one could hide from him.

"It has come to my attention, young Malfoy, that there may be a traitor in our midst." I carefully constructed a surprised look on my face, the appropriate response. My father had already mentioned this to me before. I tried to keep my heartbeat under control. He couldn't possibly know it was me, could he? I hadn't even done anything yet, other than save Hermione. "In order to weed the traitor out, I must have all my newest recruits prove their loyalties to me. You were unable to harm Dumbledore, so I wonder if the old man somehow got through to you."

"Never, my Lord. I serve only you." I could tell he was trying to dissect my mind. He gave me what I suppose mimicked a satisfied smile, yet looked more like a grimace on his inhuman face.

"Yes, Draco, as it should be. However, everyone's loyalties must be tested." He turned to the door. "Bring him in Lucius!" I had to keep myself from being surprised at the sight before me. My father walked back into the office, dragging the arm of a boy a few years younger than me. I recognized him as an annoying kid from Gryffindor who's older brother had an obsession with picture taking. He was a muggleborn, like Hermione. I hoped against hope that he wouldn't have me kill him. My father threw Creevey on the floor between us. Voldemort continued to speak. "I understand you have yet to cast an Unforgivable?"

"Yes, my Lord."

"Torture him." He threw the word torture at me as if he were talking of the weather. I couldn't let myself hesitate, it was either this or kill him, and I'd much rather have him alive. Maybe then I'd be able to at least save him. I looked to the boy on the ground, hating myself at the look of disgust he shot me. Thinking my apology, I had no choice but to comply.

"Crucio." I masked my wince with a sneer as the boy writhed at my feet. His screams were suffocating in the small office. I couldn't let it faze me, I had to stay focused. It was all I could to keep my arm poised lazily, as if torturing him wasn't difficult. When I looked in his eyes, I didn't see him, but Hermione. All I could see was Hermione being tortured by my aunt all those months ago. His screams became her screams, and it was the biggest relief in the world when Voldemort ordered me to stop.

It was only then that I realized this hadn't been the first Crucio that Creevey had been subjected to today. How many others had Voldemort ordered to torture him? I had a feeling I was the last one. His body slumped to the floor. Keeping any and all emotion from my face, I turned back to my 'master.'

"Very good, Draco." I hated how my name sounded coming from him. He was pleased, however, and I was glad it wasn't with the death of a child. "Take him back into the dungeons, Lucius." If Creevey was being kept in the dungeons, how many others were still down there? Apparently not everyone had escaped with the Order. Once my father left, Voldemort dismissed me.

"It is an honor to serve you, my Lord." I made my voice as reverent as I could, hoping it masked enough of my disgust. After one last bow, I walked out. This was information I should pass on to Hermione. Would I be able to see her in person again? I'd give anything to escape from Hogwarts, if only just for a short amount of time.

When I returned to my rooms, however, I felt strange, as if I were being watched. Staying on alert, I walked to the bedroom, dumping my cloak and mask on the bed. I was exhausted, and whoever was in my rooms was going to pay if they didn't show themselves. I removed my shirt, deciding that I would at least be comfortable, if anything else. I was too tired to think. Casting the Cruciatus drained me, and I wasn't eager to ever perform that curse again.

"Show yourself. I know you're there." At the sound of footsteps I turned to meet Hermione's curious look. I couldn't help but smirk, letting some of the old me come to the surface.

"Never took you for the peeping tom type, Gr-Hermione." She looked away from me, and I noticed Dobby was standing by outside.

"Don't be stupid."

"Forgive me for trying to lighten up. We have enough to deal with, don't you think?" She looked surprised at what I said, but I simply shrugged it off, getting back to business. "So what brings you here? Even you're not rash enough to want to go into enemy territory."

"It's no different from how you appeared in my room, Draco." She crossed her arms in front of her, clearly annoyed.

~Hermione~

"Yes, but anyone who could have found me would not have killed me on the spot. You, on the other hand, face a lot more danger here." He had a point, but I wasn't willing to admit to it. I was still in a slight bit of shock at his attempt to lighten the mood earlier.

"I told the others we have a spy. Just thought I'd let you know." It seemed only fair that he knew the full details of his position as spy.

"And you couldn't write this down because…?" To say the truth, I wasn't entirely sure. I told myself it was because someone could easily intercept a note. Writing something down seemed incriminating. But the way my heart reacted at seeing him shirtless told a different story.

"Because this was safer. Word of mouth is better for secrecy than passing notes." He raised an eyebrow skeptically. I knew he didn't believe me, but he nodded anyway.

"So what did you tell them?"

"I didn't say your name, if that's what you're asking. I thought it'd be safer that way. The fewer that know it's you, the better. Harry is already having enough trouble trusting me as it is, ever since I came back from Hogwarts. If I told him it was you, he'd draw all sorts of nasty conclusions. Besides, I thought you would like the anonymity." He smirked at me, but that soon turned into a smile. It was the first genuine smile I'd ever seen on his face.

"Thanks, Hermione." I couldn't help but smile back. What he continued on to say, however, wiped the smile right off my face. "I was actually about to go see you, too, or send Dobby with a message. We have prisoners in the lower dungeons. Voldemort suspects disloyalty and he had me torture one of the Creevey brothers." He looked away as he said this, something akin to shame etched on his features.

"We have to save them."

"I know. But I have no idea how. I don't know how many there are, either. Voldemort's become unpredictable, as well. He's been acting strangely lately, but I think I know why." Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued. Any insight into what Voldemort was thinking was welcomed in my book.

~Draco~

I made a foolhardy decision at that point. I had to take her to Dumbledore and Snape, so she could get the information first hand. She had to know about the Elder Wand, but it wasn't my right to say it. If Potter hadn't told her, or hadn't figured it out yet, then Dumbledore and Snape would relay the message. Any trace of exhaustion in me was gone, and I pulled my shirt back on.

"Come with me, I want to show you something." By the look of curiosity on her face, I knew she would comply. I grabbed the invisibility cloak, draping it over her. "Stay close and be quiet. We're going to the Room of Requirement." She nodded and followed silently after me. We were lucky enough that we didn't run into any Death Eaters. Once we were inside the room, I couldn't help but chuckle at her look of amazement and surprise.

"Professors…"

"Ah, Miss Granger, I wondered how long it would be before Draco brought you here." Dumbledore looked at her fondly, as any professors, save for Snape, would look at her.

~Hermione~

It was utterly amazing, standing before Professor Dumbledore and Snape. They were both dead, I knew that, but thoughts of them being gone were wiped from my mind the second I laid eyes on their portrait. By the sound of what Dumbledore said, Draco had been visiting them quite often. This was even more of a guarantee that Draco was genuine in his desire to change. Too many questions whirled in my mind. Draco must have sensed this, because he began to speak.

"Voldemort destroyed all the portraits in the office. I stumbled upon this one here. They're part of why I decided to turn coat. They told me everything, and I thought it'd be best for you to hear it as well. Then you could pass it on to Potter and the rest of the Order." It was difficult to hide the awe on my face. Draco had been receiving help from Snape and Dumbledore, had decided to follow Snape's footsteps instead of Lucius because Snape told him everything. I never thought I would admire a Slytherin as much as I admired Snape, and now Draco too.

"Draco has also told us of what has been happening outside the walls of this room. He told us of your agreement, Miss Granger, and I must thank you for helping him." Snape had never spoken to me with anything but contempt, so it was difficult to mask my shock at his gratitude. He simply smirked in return.

I don't know how long I sat in the room with Draco, only that Dumbledore and Snape wasted no time in diving into their story. Harry hadn't told me any of what Snape had said, mainly because we'd spent so little time together since he'd found out. Again, masking shock became very difficult. I could only imagine how hard it must be to remain stoic, like Draco. Hiding from Voldemort the way he was must have been more challenging than anything I'd ever attempted.

The explained about the Elder Wand, how, even though Voldemort possessed it, it wasn't working as well for him as it had for Dumbledore. Harry was its master. I wondered if Harry knew all of this? It shocked me again to hear that the master it had between Dumbledore and Harry had been Draco. He was still alive, though, and I didn't think simply disarming him could manipulate magic as strong as that of the Elder Wand. I didn't raise any objections, though, not wanting to stop the flow of what they were saying. Once they finished speaking, we told them of the prisoners in the lower levels.

"We have to save them, professors, but we don't know how to go about it."

"I'm sorry to say this, my dear, but for now all you can do is relay all this information to Harry. Risking a project as big as a rescue with simply Draco and yourself is not a wise decision. Get all of this information back to the Order, then they will help you with an extraction plan. I have every confidence in the both of you. We couldn't have asked for a better pair." Snape nodded in agreement, and I felt myself grow scarlet. Dumbledore didn't usually shower praise on me, not mention that Snape never did anything but insult me. To be praised for working together was slightly nerve-wrecking. I snuck a glance at Draco, realizing he had a similar reaction.

"Thank you Professors. We won't let you down." I saw Draco give me a skeptic look, as if the confidence in my voice had no basis to lean on. We were dismissed, and I was once again back under the cloak. The walk back to his rooms seemed shorter than the walk to the Room of Requirement.

"Thank you…for taking me to them. It was great to see Professor Dumbledore again." I couldn't help the emotion that bubbled in my voice. He nodded at me.

"It was better for you to get the information straight from them. Potter will believe you more easily." He was right, and I couldn't help but think that he was born to be this, Snape's protégé. Dobby appeared again, but before I left I walked up to Draco, placing my hand on his arm again, the one with the Dark Mark. He'd stripped his cloak off by now, and the contact of our skin sent a small shock through me. He gave me a surprised look, apparently feeling the same thing I did.

"I don't think I'll ever be able to thank you enough for what you're doing, Draco. Even if my life debt to you didn't bind us together, I'd still be working to pay you back for everything. Thanks to you, we're going to win this war. I know it." He looked at me as I said this, his eyes softening. I'd give anything to decipher his thoughts, the enigma that was Draco Malfoy.

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