Hermione stepped into Lupin’s office and shut the door to the conference room. She dropped into a leather chair in front of his desk. She sat in silence and listened to him shuffling papers, and her fellow Aurors leaving the meeting room. She could make out Harry yelling at Ron and smiled to herself.
Lupin sat down with a heavy sigh and looked at Hermione.
“I’m sorry to put this on you, Hermione. You don’t have to do it. I’m sure we can find someone else, I can talk it over with Kingsley,” he said; he looked teary-eyed and sounded heartbroken.
“No. No one else will be as good as an Auror.” She smiled at him reassuringly.
“No one will be as good as you.”
“Yeah…” she quietly trailed off.
“Are you positive you want to do this? You understand that… this is marriage. This is wizarding marriage, Hermione.” He looked at her imploringly.
“I’m sure, Remus. And I know, there’s no way out once I say ‘I do’. I’ll do it anyway. I have no one else now.”
“You know Ron still loves you-"
“He’s getting married, Remus.”
“Ginny let it slip about two weeks ago. He’s engaged to Lavender,” she said sadly. She didn’t want him, but it still hurt. He never asked her to marry him and she had loved him more than anything in the world.
“I’m sorry, Hermione. I really am. Honest, I don’t want you to feel forced into this.”
“Remus. Enough. I’m doing it, end of discussion. I’ll either die in the process or at the very least live a life of luxury,” her tone was nonchalant, light, and playful; she smiled at him.
Remus shook his head and put his face in his hands. He sighed again.
“What do I need to know? Give me the details. This is just a job.”
“That’s just it, Hermione! It’s not just a job. This is the rest of your life. This is serious. You have to be convincing as… the Lady of the Manor and as a loyal wife and hide the fact that you’re an Auror and transferring information to us. He has to trust you; your life will be forfeited if he finds you out. This is very serious. This is possibly the most dangerous assignment I’ve ever given out.”
“I know, Remus. Let me deal with it how I need to… please.”
“Ok. I’m done arguing. Lucius and Draco were here this morning. They had a meeting with Kingsley. I don’t know how they knew the details of the Act so fast but… you know the Malfoys, they have connections everywhere. They told Kingsley they wanted to do it and in exchange they asked he clear the family name: Drop the War Criminal charges, restore them to good faith with the Ministry-”
“What! Kingsley agreed to all of that?”
“Yes, well, he told them ‘yes’ but he told me he wanted you to do it. The only way he will… well… restore the Malfoy name is if we have an Auror in there.”
“I see.” She had never really had a choice in the matter.
“Anyway, they wanted it set up fast. Surely they aren’t hurting for money already, there has to be another reason…they’re up to something. I know it,” he said, almost to himself. “They asked by the end of the week, so we still have two days before we have to notify them. I think it’s best to wait until Friday and…uhm… get you some training in.”
“Training? What are you talking about, Remus? I’ve been fully trained by the Aurors already and I have a mediwitch degree. How much more training can I possibly need?” Hermione smiled at him, curious.
“Oh, no, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s more along the lines of… etiquette.”
“Oh, I see. Well… you know me, always eager to learn.”
“Yes, well, Lucius resigned his title, passing it on to his son. Draco is now Earl Malfoy of Wiltshire.”
Hermione raised her eyebrows in response and snorted.
“Yes…anyway, he holds a title and consequently any wife of his would have to well… know how to act in that type of society. Not only do the Malfoys consort with suspected Death Eaters and dark wizards, they have been known to play host to other wizarding ‘nobility’ from throughout Europe. They don’t act high and mighty for no reason. It’s just… how they live; it’s what they do. They have parties, balls, and dinners, regularly. If you want to have a chance at this at all, if you want to live through this, you need to know how a … lady… acts.”
Hermione guffawed and bent over in giggles.
“I’m sorry… it’s just how a lady acts, that’s rich,” she said through restrained chuckles. She had tears of laughter glistening under her eyes.
Remus shook his head at her somberly.
“I know, I know, ‘It’s serious’,” she said, mocking his previous tone and statement.
“Right, well, we will be going over etiquette with you. I’m sure most of it is common sense, even if it’s not habit. You’ll just have to be very aware of your actions until it becomes habit. You have to put forth some effort. Merlin knows what they’d do to you if you went in there acting like…well…like Ron, who I doubt has any idea how to act in that type of company.”
“Don’t you think he’ll suspect something if I’m acting completely different? I only went to school with him for seven years, Remus. He knows I’m no lady. Hell, I punched him in third year, if that's not unladylike I don't know what is.”
“I don’t expect you to become Narcissa. Just… you need to know how to act or I hate to think what Draco might do or say if you embarrass him. I don’t know what they’re up to, but if he’s anything like Lucius…”
Hermione nodded seriously. She didn’t really want to find out either. He wasn’t a killer as a scared boy, but she didn’t know the man she was agreeing to marry. It was possible he was every bit his father’s son now; the rumors would have one believe he was. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Hermione thought as she gazed at the floor.
“Oh, that’s another thing, you’ll be going to the Manor to live, obviously. As far as I know, the wedding is being arranged for a month from now, around the end of October. And Narcissa and Lucius still live there.”
Hermione lifted her right eyebrow and nodded slowly, a little disappointed by that news.
“I can’t wait,” was all she muttered.
“You’re sure about this?”
She looked at him with a sweet smile.
“I am, Remus. I have nothing left in this life. I’d gladly sacrifice whatever future I may have had for what good I may do in this situation. The only man I’ve ever really loved is marrying another woman; Harry and Ginny are married and expecting; my parents are dead… I have nothing left. This is for… the greater good, in the words of a very wise wizard,” she said sadly.
“That’s not true and you know it. You have all of us, me and Tonks and all the Weasleys love you like a child or sibling. And you will always be like a sister to Harry. I think Harry and Ginny will both be devastated by this.”
“They will be, I’m sure. But they have their life. I won’t try to force myself into their lives because I’m lonely. I go home to an empty apartment. I have Crookshanks and he’s not a very good flat-mate. I’ve taken to eating microwave meals, going only to work, the gym and occasionally Flourish and Blotts, and I’ve thrown myself into my work. Nothing else exists outside of my little world. I don’t go out, I don’t have dates…” She sighed and rubbed her face with her hands.
“Alright." He sighed heavily. "Normal time tomorrow, I’ll tell Kingsley you’re in and get your training started tomorrow a.m. Think about it tonight, Hermione. Make sure you’re ok with this. It’s not final until they show up and take you.”
She snorted and sneered at that.
“Yes, Malfoy property.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I know what you meant, Remus. It’s just ironic, I’m giving my life, my future, to the boy I grew up hating- and I still do for that matter- almost entirely for his benefit. Do you think he’ll appreciate it?”
She stood and shrugged on her pea coat and scarf. She looked at Remus amusedly.
“We both know the answer to that,” she replied to his silence and walked out the door. She was going home to pack, cry, get drunk, and sleep, most likely not in that order. After all, tomorrow was another day.
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