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Chapter 2: Why me?
Hermione was standing in front of her muggle microwave waiting for the timer to go off when the fireplace flared green. Hermione knew someone from her safe list had entered her house, as only specific people could enter her house by magical means simply as a precaution. Regardless, she could not help but finger her wand handle as she walked from the kitchen to see who had arrived. It was exactly who she was expecting.
"Harry, could you have picked a more foul and loathsome being for me to work with?" she asked in a condescending voice. She knew her annoyance was etched clearly in her features.
"One moment and I'll explain everything." Harry swept his wand around the room and she saw the familiar tinge of the silencing spell as it was cast. Hermione stood with her arms crossed and her foot tapping out the beat of impatience. Harry gave her one sympathetic look before he started talking again.
?First, I want to let you know that this was the Minister's decision. I did not know about this operation before today. I was brought in to his office shortly before we spoke and was briefed shortly before Malfoy arrived." Harry paused for a moment to let the information sink in, but Hermione remained true to form by rolling out the questions.
"How could the Head of the Auror department not know about an undercover operation?" Hermione asked.
"The Minister has been handling this alone due to the sensitivity." Harry's face appeared as though he had just eaten something unpleasant. "Hermione, have you heard of the Venators?"
"I've heard whispers throughout the department. I thought it was more of a rumor with no actual fact." she explained.
"Unfortuantely, I discovered today, that they are a very real group. The Ministry of Magic in Italy has been keeping most of the Venators' discretions under wraps. They dont want to cause the public to panic." Harry told her.
"How long has Malfoy been under cover?" she asked her best friend sitting on her couch in front of her.
"Apparently, since we graduated," Harry said, his tone portraying his apparent dislike.
"Why now? Why have they decided that its time to bring in an Auror?" she questioned.
"They seem to think that the Venators have decided to globalize. When they started in Italy four years ago, no one really took them seriously. Everyone thought they were just trying to fill in the opening that was created by the downfall of the Dark Lord. Now Kingsley has reason to believe the Ministry of Magic in Italy has been infiltrated."
"Why me?" she asked, attempting to understand what was happening.
"Hermione, don't pretend you dont deserve this opportunity. We have been waiting for the right time to put you under cover. Kingsley feels that you have what it takes to complete this mission. He is the one that put you on this case. Personally, Id rather you weren't the one assigned in this case but we need new blood and someone with the courage to withstand this group. Hermione it's going to be hard but you must do whatever they ask of you. You can't get in your head about this," he explained.
She sat back for a moment and ran her hands through her hair as she thought about what Harry had just revealed. She could not believe that the Venators were real group and the Italian Ministry of Magic had been infiltrated. As much as she wanted this, she still didn't understand why they would put a newbie on such an important case. If the Venators' reputation was true, then they were trying to give the Death Eaters a run for their money. They were the remaining pureblood supremacy after the last wizarding war. She had heard years ago that Malfoy had fled to Italy after his father had received the Dementors' kiss. She always thought he was a bit of a cowardly weasel, and his actions didn't surprise her. If what Harry said was true, he had fled for completely different reasons. This information still did not make Hermione like him nor did she want to work with him, but she had to keep reminding herself that this was her chance and she wasnt going to let that ferret stand in her way.
"So whats the plan from here?" she asked.
"Take this." He held out his hand and she could see a small slip of parchment between his fingers. Just as she was about to retrieve the slip of parchment, he pull back. "If you take this there'll be no turning back."
"I understand." She reassured him. With a grim nod he handed her the piece of parchment. She quickly read and memorized the address written on the parchment. Then, Harry muttered the same words that Kingsley had spoken to Malfoy earlier that day.
"Do you have it memorized?" She nodded and the slip of parchment burst into flames, disintegrating before her eyes.
"Good. Make sure youre at this address at 0900 hours on Friday," he informed her quickly. He took a deep sigh and continued. "Hermione, please be safe. This will be extremely dangerous but I know you can handle it. You are the brightest witch of our age for a reason."
"Harry, you ought to know that I have been through worse. You were there for it," she told him with a sad smile. The Venators will never be worse than the Dark Lord no matter how hard they tried.
"I hope you're right," he said. Hermione was unsure what to say to reassure him.
"So, how is this going to work? Somebody is bound to notice if I go missing for a few months," she asked to change the subject.
"That is the easy part. That is what we use magic for. We will assign you a new job where you will have no interaction with the other Aurors. Then, well use an apparition to show you coming and going to work and occasionally going out with friends. No one will be any wiser unless they suspect you. If that happens, then well have other things to worry about. That is one of the reasons Kingsley chose you because you are not an undercover agent," he explained fairly quickly. "Unfortunately, that means Crookshanks is coming to live with me. Ginny will be thrilled," he joked with an exaggerated eye roll.
"Poor Crookshanks. I hope Ginny is nice to him," she continued with the joke. Ginny was not fond of cats. " Anyway, that all seems fairly easy. What do I need to do between now and Friday?"
"Well, finish your files, memorize your alias, and take a few pureblood lessons."
"Are you serious?" she asked incredulously. "You've got to be bloody kidding me."
"I wish I were. Apparently, there are a lot of old time traditions and behaviors that you'll need to learn. You're about to learn that purebloods live by a different set of rules," he said as the disgust showed clearly on his face.
"And how exactly is it that you know what rules they live by?" she questioned him with a stern look on her face. She knew it wasnt his fault but that didn't mean that she liked what he had said. She could tell the topic made him uncomfortable.
"Unfortunately I was once in a situation where I had to learn the same thing you are about to learn." He told her. "Not many people know that I went undercover during my first year as an Auror. It was part of my training. Kingsley had put me on the fast track to becoming the head of the department." He confided.
Hermione relaxed a little after his confession. The recent turn of the conversation had her back to guessing why they would choose a Muggleborn to go on this mission where she was clearly at a disadvantage.
"Get some sleep. There is a lot that needs to be done in the next few days. Ill see you at work tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," she said just before he stepped in to the fireplace.
A/N: I want to thank my lovely beta Voldy Needs a Hug for her awesome help with this chapter. I hope you enjoyed and please R&R. I love hearing from you.