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CHAPTER ONE

As Hermione Granger ascended the stone steps leading up to Dumbledore's office, she felt an anxious ache bubbling in her chest, propelling forward her mounting trepidation. Her footsteps echoed in the quiet stairwell, and the ascent felt longer than it had the previous times she'd been up there. She had, after all, never been summoned at this time of night, and never with a letter as mysterious as the one she'd received. It was true that Dumbledore himself was a man of mystery, but even this stretched beyond the bounds of actions she'd come to expect from him.

When she finally reached the top of the steps, she swallowed nervously and raised a hand to give the door a tentative knock. Before she could touch it, however, it swung open of its own accord.

"Come in, Miss Granger," Dumbledore sat at his large, ornate desk across from her. "We've been expecting you."

At that, she stepped into the large, circular room, looking about nervously as she observed the fact that they were very much indeed not alone. The room was all the more imposing at night, a mass of sprawling bookshelves and stern-looking portraits that followed her every movement. On this night, however, the room was made all the more imposing by its occupants. Professor McGonagall flanked Dumbledore on one side, her mouth twisted downward in a slight frown, although she gave Hermione a small smile when she met her eyes. On Dumbledore's other side stood Kingsley Shacklebolt, looking as imposing as ever in his Auror robes. He gave her a small nod, and she gave him a tentative smile back. Professor Severus Snape stood behind them, his expression as dark and brooding as ever.

"Do have a seat, Miss Granger," Dumbledore said, gesturing toward one of the high-backed chairs in front of his desk. As she moved to sit, she started, realizing that the other two seats in front of Dumbledore's desk were already occupied.

None other than Draco Malfoy sat in one of the plush armchairs, his ever-present scowl twisting his features. Moonlight drifted through the tall windows around them, giving his blond hair an almost ethereal glow, a direct contrast to what she knew of his brooding personality. In the chair next to him sat a middle-aged woman with platinum hair in the same shade as Draco's. She was not scowling as deeply as him, but a slight frown lingered on her features as she quietly appraised Hermione.

"You are familiar with Mr. Shacklebolt, I'm certain," Dumbledore said, and she nodded at Kingsley, who gave her a small smile in return. "And allow me to introduce our other guest, Mrs. Narcissa Malfoy," he added, gesturing at the woman.

Hermione turned to give the woman a stiff nod, avoiding looking at Malfoy. "Hello," she said, her voice feeling overly loud in the room.

The woman did not answer, but instead gave her a sharp nod in return.

"You may be quite confused as to why I've requested your presence here this evening," Dumbledore asked.

Hermione nodded, again taking in the expressions on the faces of those that stood behind him. Whatever it was, she knew that it was serious.

"As you are aware, those who stand behind me are all esteemed members of the Order," Dumbledore continued, giving her a gentle smile. "As you are now of age, it is my hope that you still have an interest in officially joining the Order as well," he said.

"Of course," she said, the words coming out instantly.

Dumbledore nodded, an emotion passing through his eyes that she couldn't quite establish. "Then you are also aware that there are many sacrifices that have made over the years, to great difficulty in our personal lives."

Hermione nodded again, feeling a coil of trepidation begin to curl around her heart, clenching it softly. "I am," she answered carefully.

He nodded before steepling his fingers in front of him and peering over his spectacles at her. "And how far would you be willing to go in the name of the Order, Miss Granger?"

Later, she would ask herself what would have happened if she'd paused for a moment, taken time to let the words sink in and answered with a tremble of uncertainty in her voice. Would they have stopped to reconsider their request, re-convened and picked someone, anyone else that could have stepped in in her place?

But instead, her answer was simple: "I would do anything," she replied, her voice unwaveringly honest.

Dumbledore sighed, eyes sliding to where the Malfoys sat for a moment before landing back on her own. "You understand, then, that what I am about to ask of you may test those boundaries." He waited patiently for her to respond, and she stared back, steeling her resolve even as the growing tendrils of trepidation within her continued to clench her heart.

"With all due respect, sir, I am certain that you would not have summoned me here if you did not believe I would be capable of taking on whatever task you have decided to present me with," she said, meeting his eyes and forcing herself not to peek over at the Malfoys once more.

Dumbledore searched her eyes for a moment before nodding nearly imperceptibly. "What do you know, Miss Granger, of ancient marriage bonding ceremonies?"

She blinked at him for a moment before responding. "There were many kinds, most of which involved binding the life forces of the couple involved," she answered, her voice laced with confusion. "They fell out of practice centuries ago when couples kept dying after the untimely death of one spouse, leaving many orphaned children behind," she trailed off as she saw the frown on Professor McGonagall's face deepen. "But what does that have to do-"

"You do recall, I presume, Professor Snape's current position as a double agent for the Order?" Dumbledore asked, cutting her off.

She nodded, looking up briefly at the brooding man. He had barely moved since she'd entered and appeared to be in a particularly dark mood on this evening.

"Yes," she answered, her throat feeling dry as she peeked up at the dark-haired man again, her head swirling with the potential implications of the Headmaster's words. Surely he couldn't expect her to-

"His position with the Death Eaters is very precarious, as you may imagine," Dumbledore continued. "Should Voldemort suspect his being too close with the Order, his position could be terminated at any time." The implications of his words hung thick in the air, and she looked up at the man again as her heart clenched for him, wondering how he had managed to take on such a precarious task.

"I presume that you are also, aware, then, of the Malfoys'...entanglements with Lord Voldemort," he asked, peering over at her once more. At this, Hermione stole a glance over at the Malfoys once again. Malfoy's eyes were firmly trained on his lap, while his mother's icy blue eyes were trained on her. Hermione felt trapped in the woman's probing gaze and only tore away from them when Dumbledore continued speaking.

"Mrs. Malfoy has asked Severus to take an Unbreakable Vow to ensure the protection of her son in the future as Voldemort attempts to bring his plans to fruition. As you may imagine, however, given the precarious nature of Severus' position within the Death Eater ranks, his ability to guarantee that he can uphold such a Vow may not be feasible in the long term. After discussing the options at length with Mrs. Malfoy, she has agreed to take a Vow to bind herself as a spy for the Order, provided that we provide a substitution that demonstrates our commitment to Draco's safety," he explained. "And this is where you may be of assistance," he said, pausing to watch her carefully.

His words swirled in her head for a moment as she took them in. Snape, Mrs. Malfoy... Malfoy. Her eyes widened as she turned to look at him. She swung her eyes back to Dumbledore, then again to Malfoy, whose eyes remained trained on his lap, studiously avoiding the gazes of all the people in the room.

Her heart thundered in her chest as the implication of Dumbledore's words sank deeper into her conscious, weighing down upon her chest. She lifted a hand to grasp her chest, feeling a swell of panic rising within her as the realization of what she'd been called to do swirled within her. Draco Malfoy. Ancient marriage bonding ceremonies. Herself.

Dumbledore started speaking again, but his words were lost to her as her world was reduced to little more than the whooshing sound of her rapidly pumping blood in her ears as panic rose within her. For the Order, she was being asked to inextricably bind herself to Draco Malfoy. She looked at him again, taking in the rigid set of his stance, the muscles of his exposed forearms straining as he gripped hard at the armrests of his chair. It was true that they'd barely interacted this school year so far, and she'd spent most of it trying to dissuade Harry from accusing him of nefarious behavior. Nonetheless, the Draco Malfoy she knew was cold and cruel, often resorting to underhanded tactics to ridicule his classmates.

Her eyes strayed to Mrs. Malfoy, who's own icy blue eyes were once again upon her. They were hard, but not unkind, and an unreadable emotion passed through them as she watched Hermione. She had come to the Order out of desperation to secure the safety of her son, and she was doing it at her own peril by offering intel to the Order throughout the duration of the impending war. She searched the woman's eyes, probing deeper until she saw the inkling of fear and desperation that lingered there.

What could she do to protect the Order? Could she give up her life for them? The second the question passed through her mind, however, she knew the answer. If she did not fight with the Order - for the Order - there was a slim chance that she would have a life past the impending war. Even now, each day she woke with fear clenching in her heart as she realized that the war was looming closer with each minute that passed, and there was no guarantee that she would survive it. Her life was already bound to the cause, whether they won or lost.

"I'll do it," she whispered.

The room was dead silent following her words, an eerie stillness in the air as her words cemented the life-altering agreement.

Eventually, Dumbledore broke the silence. "You may, in time, be able to pursue a relationship outside of what you will have with Mr. Malfoy-"

"I won't," she said tonelessly. "I'll be bound to him, and unable to truly be intimate with anyone but him. You do not have to sugarcoat it for me."

He searched her eyes for a moment. "Very well then," he said finally. "Once you are bound, the Trace will effectively be removed from Mr. Malfoy and he will be considered an adult in the eyes of the law. You and Mr. Malfoy will need to go into hiding once the school year terminates, of course," he explained, still watching her expression. She kept her face carefully blank, knowing that their union was inextricable and that this was one of the many consequences she would carry.

"You understand that the terms of this union cannot be revealed to any of your classmates," he added, his voice gentler. "Nor your parents. It may place them in a potentially hazardous position if they know. You can ensure the knowledge of this arrangement will not leave the ears of this room's occupants."

Her heart thumped painfully as she thought of Ron and Harry, but she quickly shoved the emotions down and nodded. "I understand," she said, hoping that no one else had detected the tremble in her voice.

"We will do it now, then, should you have no objections," Dumbledore said.

She had many, but remained silent, knowing that her objections mattered little in the face of the daunting tasks which lay in front of the Order - and Harry - in the very near future. No, this she could do, her fleeting desires for her own future be damned.

Snape crossed around the desk, stepping over to where Hermione saw that a bonding circle had already been drawn on the floor. He began muttering a series of enchantments, and she watched as the circle began glowing a deep, ominous black.

She stood straight, ardently ignoring where Malfoy stood beside her, watching Snape. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned, surprised to see McGonagall behind her, squeezing her shoulder gently. She met the older woman's eyes, and saw melancholy reflected in them. At that, she felt tears spring to her eyes, knowing that she would be losing the innocence that she hadn't known she'd been clinging so desperately to until this night.

"You may enter the circle, child," McGonagall said gently, urging her forward. She forced herself to tear her eyes away from the woman's gaze, and stepped into the circle.

She looked up to meet Malfoy's stormy grey eyes, and immediately shrank back at the resentment that shone within them. It was nearly overwhelming in its force. She felt so trapped in his gaze that she barely registered Snape speaking to her until he repeated his words.

When she looked at him, he too was glaring at her, but the force of his glare that she'd always thought was so terrifying felt inconsequential under Malfoy's. "Yes?" she said, her voice little more than a squeak.

"Your hand," Snape clipped. She handed him her left hand, then let out a small cry as he immediately drew a sharp-edged knife across it, leaving a dark trail of blood in its wake. He lifted her hand and squeezed it over a chalice in his hand, and watched as he repeated the same for Malfoy. He muttered more low words in Latin, and she watched as the chalice bubbled until it became a swirling dark liquid.

"Drink," he commanded, pressing it to her lips. She wanted to mash her lips shut and run screaming from the room, but instead she swallowed obediently.

After Malfoy swallowed as well, the ceremony passed relatively quickly. Snape told them a series of phrases to repeat, all while twisting his wand around them in sharp, intricate movements.

"You may now seal the bond," Snape said eventually, stepping back.

She'd turned to look at him in question when Malfoy suddenly grabbed her by the chin, dragging his lips across hers in a mockery of a kiss. For that split second of a moment, the circle ignited in flames around them. By the time Malfoy stepped back, both the flames and the circle had disappeared.

"It is finished," Snape said, turning and quickly exiting the room.

She turned to see that Mrs. Malfoy had approached them. She handed Hermione a thick ring made of platinum that was a snake eating its own tail. It was studded with diamonds, save for the snake's eyes that were made of emeralds.

"You must place it on his finger," she explained, gesturing to Draco. Hermione turned to him, swallowing as she picked up his hand wordlessly. When she made to slide the ring down his finger, she jumped back slightly as the snake unfurled itself and slithered down his finger, re-forming once it reached the base.

He grabbed her hand then, brandishing a similarly snake-like ring, but this one was more clearly designed to be worn by a woman. It unfurled itself, leaving a cool trail behind as it slithered down her finger, re-forming its snakehead as a large diamond flanked by two emerald eyes.

"They are the Malfoy family rings," Narcissa explained when Hermione met her eyes. "I had replicas made, so Lucius will not notice." She appraised Hermione for a moment longer, silent and calculating. Eventually, she gave her a sharp nod, turning to Dumbledore.

"We must do the Vow now. I need to return to the Manor and glamour the family tapestry before Lucius' spies take notice."

Dumbledore nodded, then turned to them. "The union must now be consummated," he said, his voice gentler than before. "The Room of Requirement is best suited to your needs on this night," he finished.

Hermione nodded, knowing she would have been unable to speak over the lump that had risen in her throat at his words.

"Mr. and Mrs. Malfoy," Dumbledore called again, and she froze at the sound of her new name. "Do practice your Occlumency," he said finally. "You will need strong shields to endure what is to come."

She looked beyond him, nodding at Kingsley and McGonagall, who nodded back solemnly. The last thing she saw as she stepped through the door was Mrs. Malfoy stepping up beside Kingsley as Dumbledore began reciting the oaths of their vow, sealing their collective fate.

X

The trip to the Room of Requirement was near silent, and Malfoy strode quickly ahead of her as she trailed behind him, her heart thumping loudly in her chest as they rapidly approached their destination. All too soon, Malfoy was pacing quickly in front of the large stone wall, his form as rigid as ever as he made the calculated steps. A door appeared, and he stepped through, not bothering to check if she was following. It was simply decorated inside, containing only a simply made bed, a small fireplace, and a door on the far end of the room that presumably contained a loo. It was dim, lit only by a few candles, seeming as keen to hide her shame as she was. The door snapped shut behind her, plunging them into near-silence, save for the crackle of the fire.

She crossed quickly to the bed and sat on the edge, twirling her fingers nervously as she waited for Malfoy to approach. When she felt his shadow looming over her, she looked up to see him unbuttoning his shirt, defined muscle peeking through where he'd already unbuttoned. Even she could admit that he'd grown to be strikingly handsome, his features sharp with masculine beauty as opposed to the pointiness of his childhood. He no longer wore his hair slicked back, and it fell loosely around his face, its length tickling his ears. It was a cruel beauty, she decided, and in this moment of vulnerability, it terrified her.

He froze when she placed a hand over his, stilling his movements. "Don't," she gestured at his shirt. "Just...only what is necessary," she explained quietly.

He nodded, moving to undo his trousers. "Have you…before?" his voice was hard and gruff, and she realized that they were the first words she'd heard him speak this evening outside of their vows.

"Yes," she answered softly, raising her hips so that she could shimmy off her knickers. She slid back on the bed until her head rested on a pillow, keeping her eyes firmly trained on the ceiling.

A few moments later, she felt the bed dip under his weight. He moved until he was settled over her, bracing on his elbows. She bunched up her skirt to her waist, shivering at the feeling of her cunt being exposed to the warmth of the room, which contrasted sharply against how cold her interactions with Malfoy felt. He shoved two lubrication charm-slickened fingers inside her in a stuttered movement, and all too soon she felt the head of his cock tickling her entrance. He shoved inside in one hard thrust and began pumping steadily over her. He was thick, enough so that she could not help the small gasp that tumbled from her mouth even as she tried to focus on anything but the man that moved above her.

Within minutes, she felt his movements begin to stutter as he pumped himself into her, letting out a small grunt as he finished. He rolled off of her, panting softly as he lay beside her. Without looking at him, she stood, pulling on her knickers. She tore out of the room, leaving her new husband sated and alone while she fought back the tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks as she all but flew back to Gryffindor Tower.