A Strange Engagement

An Unusual Request, An Unusual Response

Everyone who was in the kitchen fell silent after Dumbledore's words. Finally, Harry picked the letter up off the table and read it over again.

"I sort of get what you're saying about history repeating itself sir, but I don't quite know what you're getting at."

"Harry," said Dumbledore gently, looking at him and Ron, "I'm sure you've heard about the many spies I have in numerous places. One of them is a witch named Phoebe Hopkirk and she is currently in the position of hostess at an inn near the location of the Clan castle."

"Then sir" asked Tonks hesitantly, "are you saying that you know where the Clan hideout is?"

He nodded. "Yes Nymphadora, I do. But I'm not sure it's advisable for us to go at this point, but to wait instead until nearer the day of the ceremony because," he said, noticing the look of surprise on Ron and Harry's faces, "that will mean that we have less of a chance of getting detected. But I've gotten distracted. Phoebe sent me an owl a few days after you received this letter from Miss Granger telling me that someone matching her description was brought by Arion to the Inn. She was unconscious, but otherwise unharmed. I have a feeling that Arion brought her there to keep an eye on her before the ceremony."

"Why would they need to keep an eye on her?" Ron asked.

Dumbledore gazed around the table with a twinkle in his eye. "I have a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Malfoy has become fond of her in all the time they've spent together, and does not wish to see her be used in such a manner."

Harry felt his eyes widen. "Excuse me sir, but what got you to that suspicion? You've watched us at Hogwarts, and you know full well what people like the Malfoys think of Muggleborns. I bet he found out what was going to happen to her and then laughed as she was sent to her fate."

Dumbledore put a hand on Harry's shoulder. "Is it not possible Harry, that there is someone in Mr. Malfoy's acquaintance whose motives are not so much petty as truly dark? Mr. Malfoy has at least some type of conscience that he's learned, but his cousin Fallon hasn't any. So if Miss Granger were to be in his hands, it could be perilous for her. Don't let a dislike for Mr. Malfoy blind you to the true enemy. He could be the greatest asset we have."

"But what could he do?" Ron asked.

Dumbledore just grinned mysteriously. "We must pay him a little visit to find out."

Draco was in his room, thinking. After telling his parents about what Fallon and Arion were going to do with Hermione, he had come here to ponder about what he could do next. He and his parents couldn't do anything on their own. They would be easily outnumbered if they tried. Could he---no, he couldn't think about doing that. It would be a betrayal of everything he'd ever been taught, everything he believed. But still, so had the last month. He never thought that he would need Granger for anything, and yet here he was, trying to save her life.

It was just as he was thinking this that he heard the tapping on the window. He got up off his bed and went to open it, seeing the school owl on the other side of the pane. He let the animal in, quickly taking the letter off its leg, then letting it rest for a bit before it headed off.

As soon as he opened the letter, he felt a chill, as if someone had dropped an ice cube down his spine. It was from Dumbledore. He couldn't believe the old man was writing to him, and his tone was downright friendly. The letter was saying that he and the rest of the Order of the Phoenix were thinking up a plan to help save Hermione, but that they needed information from him before it could commence. If it was all right with him, Dumbledore and some of the other Order members would meet him at a location chosen by Draco himself where information could be divulged in private.

Malfoy quickly folded up the letter after he finished reading it and went to talk to his parents who were doing some thinking of their own in the dining room.

"Hello, Draco," Narcissa said, smiling at the sight of him. "Your father and I were thinking of heading to Arion's and seeing whether or not we can get any information out of him that way. Do you have any ideas?"

They were both staring at him and his mother was smiling. Draco was sure that they could see the color rising in his cheeks and were going to ask him about it any moment. Finally, he decided just to tell them about the letter.

"Mother, Father, a few minutes ago, I received an owl from Dumbledore a few moments ago. Apparently, he has received word about Hermione, and he and the Order of the Phoenix are going to conduct a rescue mission. But in order for this to occur, they need me to give them information about Fallon and Arion and the Clan hideout." It came out in a rush and he doubted that they'd heard a word he'd said. But it would be too much work to say it all again, so he left the dining room and went back up to his room to write a reply back to Dumbledore, ignoring his mother calling after him.

He grabbed the paper out from underneath his bed and after finding a quill, wrote the reply quickly without much thought.

Sir,

I will tell you what you need to know if you and whoever you plan to bring with you meet me in Hogsmeade at the Three Broomsticks at two o'clock tomorrow.

Draco Malfoy

He then grabbed the owl and sent the letter off, wondering as the letter flew away, what he was going to tell his parents when they finally asked for the truth.

Dumbledore remained at the Burrow overnight once he got the letter from Draco saying that he would be more then willing to share what he knew.

"I thought you already knew all that was necessary about Arion and Fallon, so what do we need Draco Malfoy for again?" Tonks asked curiously.

"I need him to convince Arion to let us watch Miss Granger until the ceremony. I also need the two of them to do something that will change matters significantly, thus thwarting Voldemort's plans.

"And what is that?" asked Harry.

Dumbledore cleared his throat. "It isn't something that is talked about often in polite conversation, but let's just say that it will make Miss Granger ineligible to be a sacrifice."

Ron and Harry looked at each other, finally picking up on his meaning, but wondering how it would be carried out, and at the same time, shuddering to themselves.

Hermione woke up on the clean white sheets and the first thing she saw was Arion watching her from the armchair beside her bed. Her eyes widened. "Where am I, and…what are you? After what I saw back at the hideout, I have to wonder."

Arion gazed at her for a moment before answering. "I was hoping the little bump to your head would make you forget everything you saw at the hideout. You weren't supposed to see anything before the ceremony you know. But since it seems that you haven't forgotten, I guess I have no choice but to answer your questions. Like Fallon, I am a vampire. I was married to Lucius Malfoy's mother and after the two of us parted, Fallon and I became wanderers, and then she let us back into her life, letting me trick Lucius's father into thinking I was a missing son and Fallon was his nephew. Lucius was ordered to go along with it of course." He looked around. "This is an inn that is located not far from the hideout. I brought you here to rest last night because of the cold. Fallon is coming in a few moments, and then we will go on to our castle together."

As if on cue, the door opened the next moment and Fallon walked into the room. "Speak of the devil," Hermione muttered to herself.

Fallon shot her a dirty look, but said nothing and turned his attention completely on his father. "Is she ready to go yet? I checked you out downstairs."

Arion nodded. "Yes, we probably should get going back home before the situation can get any worse." And with that, Fallon pulled Hermione up from the bed and led her out of the inn with Arion following behind them.

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