“You have five minutes to pack, Pamela, and even that’s stretching it. They might send more.” Hermione said, as soon as her wand gently laid her best friend on the floor.
Pamela froze. “You want me to leave?”
Hermione swiveled her head to Pamela. “What do you expect?” she snapped. “You have trained hit wizards after you. Of course we need to go somewhere safe.”
“And where’s that?” Pamela asked shakily. “What about my life? How can you say what do I expect? Maybe some sympathy! I don’t know what just happened, Hermione. They came to my home.” Pamela’s eyes glistened with tears, and her voice was choked. “And my brain, I couldn’t control it. Harry appeared, and I felt – I felt…”
“I can’t explain it,” Hermione said bluntly. “It probably has to do with all the magic that he couldn’t control. I could feel it too, but it was different for me. We don’t have time for this!” Hermione shrieked. She felt like she was imploding. Everything was happening so quickly. Ron had broken up with her that morning, yet here she was at sunset, running like Voldemort had taken over the Ministry again.
When Hermione looked back up at Pamela, the young woman was heading up the stairs. She felt a rush of relief, and she followed Pamela.
They worked quietly in tandem, barely managing to stuff the essentials into a duffle before they heard pops of Apparition from outside.
“Harry’s downstairs!” Hermione yelled, grabbing Pamela’s bag and rushing down the stairs. She grabbed hold of Harry’s shoulder and Pamela’s sweaty hand.
“You picked a terrible time to pass out,” Hermione muttered angrily.
As the creaky door opened to reveal two very angry hit wizards, Hermione Apparated everyone to the first safe house her frenzied mind came up with: Number 12, Grimmauld Place.
When they arrived in the entryway, a weight had been lifted off Hermione’s shoulders. She stared across the hall, expecting Sirius’s mother to start yelling at them, but there was a blank space on the wall where her portrait used to be.
She sighed, pulling her wand out of her pocket.
Pamela was covered head-to-toe in cuts and bruises. Dried blood was caked in her dark hair, and Hermione noticed that Pamela seemed to be favoring her right side. Hermione wished she knew some good healing charms, but they’d have to wait until she could use her potions kit.
“What are you doing?” Pamela asked.
Hermione put a finger to her lips.
“Ennervate,” she whispered, watching as Harry’s lids flickered. Hermione really didn’t want to have to deal with Kreacher on her own. Harry needed to wake up, but he barely responded to her spell.
Hermione bit her lip, wondering whether or not she should really be doing this. She’d heard a story once of how unhealthy it was, but… she heard the sound of footsteps down stairs.
“Ennervate,” Hermione said, this time swishing her wand sharper than before.
Harry gasped, waking with a start. “Where are we?” His voice was hoarse and tired.
“Grimmauld Place,” Hermione replied, helping him stand. He steadied himself on Pamela’s shoulder.
“Why are we here?”
“It’s the first safe house that came to mind. We were in a hurry. There were more hit wizards at the house – I think they were after us.”
Harry paused as if something had suddenly occurred to him. “Uh, Hermione, someone else is living here now.”
Hermione’s brow furrowed. “What? Who would be living here? And why wouldn’t you tell me about it?”
A voice cleared behind her, and Hermione nearly jumped out of her skin when she turned towards the source. Narcissa Malfoy said callously, “I was under the impression that you would not be visiting again, Mr. Potter and… Ms. Granger. I’m afraid you’ll have to introduce me to your other friend.”
Hermione nearly exploded in her disbelief. “You’re letting Narcissa Malfoy stay here!” The Pureblood woman was neatly attired, with no outward indication of her family’s loss of influence. She looked just as cold and arrogant as Hermione remembered.
Harry shrugged sheepishly at Hermione’s annoyance. He explained, “She saved my life in the final battle, remember? I owed her a life debt, and after the ministry took everything from the Malfoys, I felt like it was the right thing to do. She grew up a Black, anyway. It belongs to her more than it does to me.”
Hermione could barely contain her contempt. Sometimes Harry just didn’t understand anything. Narcissa Malfoy couldn’t be trusted, not if she used to kneel before the same megalomaniac that had wanted to kill Harry and take over the world. Besides, you don’t give someone a mansion in London in exchange for a life debt.
Mrs. Malfoy broke the tension with her cold voice, “This is quite a sight, Potter. No, don’t tell me,” she said abruptly when Harry opened his mouth to explain. “I don’t want to know that. Though….” Narcissa paused, studying Pamela from over Hermione’s shoulder. “Who’s your friend?”
It suddenly occurred to Hermione that Mrs. Malfoy might have known Pamela before she was sent away for being a Squib. That seemed to occur to Harry too. They shared a glance, agreeing simultaneously to avoid anything unpredictable, like Narcissa Malfoy’s reaction towards having a Squib in her house.
“This is Gertrude,” Harry said finally, weathering the very skeptical look from the Malfoy matriarch. “She’s my neighbor,” he added pathetically.
Hermione glanced back at Pamela, who looked a bit like a deer caught in headlights.
Mrs. Malfoy’s lips pursed. “Don’t lie to me,” she said finally. “I know I’ve seen you before somewhere, and it’s not as a Gertrude.”
Pamela sighed. “You know who I am, Mrs. Malfoy.”
At the sound of Pamela’s voice, Narcissa’s mouth broke into a tight smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Pamela Parkinson,” she said. “You look just like your mother at that age.” She turned to Harry. "Potter, what are you thinking bringiing a Squib into a magical home?"
Hermione gasped. This was Pansy’s sister? She stared at Pamela in shock, finally making the connection. They did look very similar, with the same upturned nose, petite frame, and thick, dark hair.
Before Harry could reply, Hermione said, "There's no reason to be so nasty."
Narcissa sighed impatiently. “If you want a favor from me, this isn’t the way to go about it.”
A heavy silence hung in the air for what felt like ages until Harry finally said, “Alright, well, do you have some extra rooms, Mrs. Malfoy? We’re running from a few people out for blood, and we really need a safe place to stay. It will just be until we can get some protection from the Aurors, set up wards around my flat and all that - tomorrow morning at the latest...” Harry trailed off, his head falling forward. Hermione and Pamela caught him and struggled to keep him standing.
He regained footing, though he kept leaning on Hermione.
“You three look desperate,” Mrs. Malfoy said with a grimace.
“We need a place that’s safe, and Grimmauld is Unplottable,” Hermione said promptly, when Harry looked too tired to respond. “We can find somewhere else, though, if we have to – ”
“I don’t want to know why you’re in trouble, Potter, and don’t you dare involve me in your nonsense.” Mrs. Malfoy interrupted Hermione’s rambling. She glanced at Pamela and Hermione in distaste, and then looked away quickly. “All right,” she said finally, and Hermione let out a breath she hadn’t known she’d been holding. “Take any room on the second floor. Don’t go up to the third floor – that’s where my rooms are.”
Hermione felt a spark of irritation at the last order. This is Harry’s house, you old hag, she thought mutinously.
“Thank you,” Harry said weakly, when neither Pamela nor Hermione said anything. Hermione noticed that Pamela’s face was rather pale looking, and it seemed like her adrenaline was wearing off. Nevertheless, Pamela assisted Hermione with the arduous task of helping Harry up the stairs.
It seemed that life had a few more adventures in store for Hermione – because apparently helping Harry Potter defeat a Dark Lord isn’t enough.
“You shit-eating idiots!” Blaise’s words ripped through the office, and Draco was sure that if words could kill, the four ‘idiots’ seated in front of Blaise’s desk would all be dead.
Draco, at the moment, was seated to the side, watching this unfold with the sort of satisfaction that only comes from seeing an old enemy flounder. He’d never seen Blaise look so angry.
“Sir,” said the man wearing a St. Mungo’s uniform, “we didn’t realize you had a hit planned. We were on our own mission.”
Blaise’s face became red, and Draco felt a shameless thrill of satisfaction. “And, what, pray tell, was your special mission?” demanded Blaise.
“Wouldn’t that be against protocol – ”
“It’s in your flipping file,” interrupted Blaise, standing from his seat. “Now, tell me about your mission, Healer White, so I don’t have to look it up, thereby wasting another precious thirty seconds of my life!”
The healer nervously clenched his hands in his lap. “We were to follow a Sleeper. We received an alert that he was breaking his Unbreakable Vow.”
“What’s a Sleeper?” Draco asked, pausing when he realized he’d spoken aloud. The five heads swiveled towards him in surprise, as if just then realizing that he existed.
“He doesn’t know?” asked a woman beside the healer.
“No, he’s a new Domestic Agent, just promoted yesterday.” Blaise smiled condescendingly at him, though Draco realized it didn’t bother him as much as it might’ve if Blaise hadn’t completely lost his composure minutes ago.
Blaise explained, “A Sleeper is an agent who was coerced into the joining The Department. They are an extra set of eyes, and they are helpful if they’re in powerful positions. However, they aren’t an actual agent. Not like us.”
Draco digested that information, but he was still adjusting to the idea that The Department had so much control over Magical Britain. This whole experience was changing everything he thought was true – just how much of the last war had The Department controlled?
“When we arrived at the scene,” the healer continued, “our sensors picked up an Anti-Apparition Ward. We immediately became curious, so we scanned the crowd for potential threats.”
Blaise groaned. “Please tell me you didn’t think of eliminating the threat without consulting The Department.”
“There was no time,” the healer snapped. “What would you do? How was I supposed to know that we’d be interfering with another mission? It didn’t matter anyway. We didn’t have a chance to help out. There was a killing curse, aimed at Hermione Granger, if I’m not mistaken.”
“You’re not,” agreed Blaise, causing the healer to flush a bit.
“What did the young woman do to deserve that curse, from her own ministry, no less?” demanded the healer.
The middle-aged woman beside him with sharp blue eyes, a sharp nose and stiff expression said, “Don’t make such comments, Sir.”
The healer shifted uncomfortably. “Look, I joined this part of the ministry because you offered me a paycheck I couldn't possibly refuse, and you promised that I’d be helping people! I didn’t realize that you’d be killing innocent – ”
“She’s not innocent,” Blaise said, his composure returned. His expression was hidden behind an impermeable mask. “You don’t need to know our mission, but we would like to hear the rest of your story. Keep in mind that you are being watched, and your position as an Agent is in jeopardy, Healer White.”
Draco felt his heart skip a beat at the look of pure fear that came over the healer. What did that mean? What was so terrifying about being fired?
The healer took a deep breath, gathering his trembling hands in his lap. “She dodged the curse. Of course, what do you expect from the woman who helped defeat Voldemort?”
Draco could detect the faintest admission of admiration from the healer, making him nervous himself. Of course Hermione Granger was known well in Magical Britain, even if she wasn’t especially popular in proper society. She’d been instrumental in saving the world from the Dark Lord, and here the ministry was, ready to kill her with a snap of their fingers.
Draco really hoped that they’d tell him why they were after Granger, if only to calm his nerves. He didn’t want to be a part of anything remotely like the Dark Lord. That part of his life was over now. He wished he could return to his job as an International Agent. Everything had been so much simpler back then.
The healer continued, “We immediately rushed to the scene to control the crowd, which was becoming wildly out of control. Attacking in the middle of Diagon Alley! I don’t know what those hit wizards were thinking…” he sighed when he saw no response from Blaise. “We managed to get people out of the way, and we approached Ms. Granger. It was only then that we noticed who she was with – Harry Potter.”
Blaise cursed. “You didn’t notice him? He’s Harry freakin' Potter! He’s bloody obvious to spot in a crowd!”
“We believe he was under a Notice-Me-Not charm,” another man said. “It broke when the curse drew the crowd’s attention to him.”
Blaise calmed again, his expression simmering. “And what happened next?”
“We approached Granger and Potter,” said the woman with a tinge of hesitance.
The other man chimed in, saying, “Healer White ordered us to do it, though we thought it would be wiser to avoid any involvement, since we hadn’t received orders from The Department about this.”
“And your real mission?” demanded Blaise, his eyes snapping to the healer. “What became of this man and his Unbreakable Vow?”
The healer continued, “They told us to keep control of the crowds, assuring us they could handle it. We left them, and they battled it out. Granger was hit by a curse.” The healer hesitated, but he seemed to gain some resolve. He finished, “It was Dark.”
“Potter went bonkers,” said the other man. “And I mean bat-shit crazy bonkers. I’ve never seen a wizard lose control of his magic like that.”
“It was like he was possessed,” said the woman. “The power just radiated off of him, and everything he cast was silent. All five hit wizards were dead before they’d even cast more than a handful of curses.”
“It wasn’t just that,” said the other man. “Potter was casting spells, while holding a shield over Granger. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Blaise was silent. He returned to his seat, and placed his hands on his desk. “What are they feeding those Auror Trainees these days?” he murmured under his breath. Finally, he turned back to the healer, who looked scared out his mind. “The Aurors said that Potter and Granger left before they could get a statement, but you said Granger was injured. How badly?”
“Well, the battle was over obviously, and I’m a healer.”
The woman swore. “Healer White, what were you thinking?”
“I have another Oath, one that I took well before my Vow to the Department,” the healer snapped. “I can’t break it, or I’ll lose my ability to practice medicine! Besides, she was dying. I couldn’t just watch her die – I don’t think very many decent men could.” The healer’s eyes were watery now, as if he were aware that his time at The Department was coming to a close. “Even if I had known about your own mission, then I still would have healed her.”
Blaise’s lip turned up. “You, what’s your name?” he demanded of the woman.
“Martha Scott, Sir,” she replied promptly.
Blaise pulled out a file from the pile and shifted through some of the papers. “Take him to the third floor. Tell them I want him cleaned. Make him a Sleeper, without the memories of an Agent.”
The woman’s face flickered for a moment, and Draco could detect her own fear. The healer, though, had lost all composure and was shaking in his chair.
“You can’t do this! You have no right! You don’t know what I’ve done for your Department! Everything I’ve risked to be here… I’ve given up pieces of myself – you can’t just take it all away!”
Blaise grinned, but it wasn’t a very nice grin. It sent chills down Draco’s spine. “You’ll find that the Department can do whatever the hell it wants. Take him away.” Martha Scott stood, taking Healer White along with her.
Blaise turned back to the remaining agents. “You two will leave, and you’ll be called when you have a new contact. You’re lucky I’m busy, or I’d look into your stories a bit closer.”
“We didn’t have any choice in the matter, sir,” said one man, but Blaise just brushed him off.
“Go, before I change my mind.”
The two rushed out of the room, leaving just Draco and Blaise.
After that display of power, Draco was suddenly feeling much less confident in Blaise’s presence.
Blaise took a deep breath of air and then smiled widely. It was a frightening smile because it held no emotions in it. For a moment, Draco wondered if Blaise had actually gone round the bend.
“Well, let’s get you that reputation, now. Does four Death Eaters sound like enough?”
Draco blinked, trying to understand what Blaise meant. “Four what?”
“Nah, let’s just give you them all. A whole crowd of them, that’ll give you what you need. Your name is really in the dirt these days. No helping that, after the war. Even the best PR would have failed. I suppose that’s why they waited for things to die down.” Blaise paused pensively.
“What about Granger?” Draco asked hesitantly. He figured he learn soon enough about what Blaise meant.
“Don’t worry a bit about her. My bosses will decide what to do now,” replied Blaise. “It wasn’t my fault that the hit wizards failed to check for Granger’s travelling companions or an overlapping mission.”
Blaise clapped his hands once, his gaze zeroing in on Draco, “Now, Mr. Hero, back to what we were doing before this whole mess started. How do you feel about turning in some old comrades?”
Hermione grinned in triumph as she started adding the finishing touches to her healing potion. By some rare stroke of luck, she’d been carrying many of her belongings in a shrunken old school trunk in her pocket. Her Potions set was among them.
“When do I go home?” Pamela asked, interrupting Hermione’s concentration. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, with Harry sound asleep behind her.
Hermione had a sudden urge to cover Harry with a blanket, but she suppressed it, turning back to her potion. “I don’t know,” she told Pamela. “As you can imagine, there are many more important things to worry about right now, like your life.”
Pamela didn’t reply to that, and Hermione was too focused on her potion to turn back and check. She knew she should be more sensitive to Pamela, but she had so many things to be worrying about – it was hard to pity Pamela, who had her whole life completely mapped out – a solid job, a home, and no ignorance to contend with. “Will I ever go home?” Pamela asked through sniffles. “Or will I die in this God-forsaken place?”
Hermione finished up the Potion with a flick of her wand. “You aren’t going to die,” she said. “I’ll make sure of that. Here, I’ve finished a healing potion. It will hopefully take care of most of your scrapes and bruises.”
Hermione poured out a healthy portion of the thick, globby substance, handing it Pamela.
“Charming,” Pamela said with a grimace. “I had almost managed to forgot about these things.”
“Drink up,” said Hermione.
Pamela tipped it into her mouth, grimacing, but taking it all down in one big gulp nonetheless. “You know,” she said, watching her bruises and scrapes disappear, “there’s a good reason why Squibs leave the Wizarding World.”
Hermione held her snide comment about Pureblood families.
“It’s not what you think,” Pamela said, with a far-away look in her eyes. “Sure, my parents were ashamed. At the time, though, everyone was more surprised than ashamed when I didn’t get my letter. We thought – I thought –" Pamela’s eyes glistened, “I thought I had performed accidental magic. A few years before my eleventh birthday there was this incident, but, oh, that must’ve been Pansy. She’d saved me with her accidental magic, but everyone thought it was mine.”
Hermione was listening now, eyes intent on Pamela.
Pamela continued shakily. “We found out on my birthday. Do you know how hard that was? I still remember – my mum did my hair, instead of the house elf. She said it was a tradition. My sister tied the bow at the back of my gown, and my father walked me into the ballroom. Everyone was there – all the big Pureblood families, all the children. We were going to cut the cake and have dinner after my letter came. My letter hadn’t come yet, you see, and we all thought it would be more special if I received it at my party.” Pamela was shaking now, holding back her emotions behind red-rimmed eyes. “It never came. We waited hours, until the stroke of midnight.”
Hermione sat down beside Pamela on the bed, placing a hand on her shoulder. She felt her eyes misting, remembering when she’d been thinking of leaving the Wizarding world altogether. She’d had that option, but Pamela didn’t. Pamela could only belong to the Muggle world, even if she did grown up in the Wizarding world.
“After midnight, well, it was – hard to explain, really. The room was nearly silent in a mixture of shock, fear, anxiety, grief and, yeah, maybe a bit of shame. A few wizards took the Floo to Hogwarts, certain that there had been an error in the post. My parents, well, they seemed to know, right at midnight, that I was a – Squib.”
Pamela shuddered. “Everything after that is blur,” she whispered. “The whole day of my birthday, I’d been ecstatic, looking forward to shopping in Diagon Alley after I got my list. I could wait to get a wand and new robes and books and what-not. But then, all of a sudden, my whole life was snatched from me. I found myself suddenly nothing more than a Muggle girl, something my parents had always scorned. Within hours, I found myself living in a plain old house, daughter to a Muggle couple in Wales.”
“Did you ever see your family again? Your sister?”
Pamela shrugged. “The first few years, my parents would visit occasionally with my sister, but it was hard on all of us. Hermione, they didn’t put me in the Muggle world because they were ashamed of me, they did it for my own well-being. What would I have done at home in the Wizarding World, without magic?”
Hermione suppressed the wave of repulsion she felt at what Pamela's parents had done to her. You could have been together, she thought angrily. They should have loved you. They abandoned you because you weren’t their ideal Pureblood daughter.
Pamela took a deep breath of air. “They took me away, hid me from my old friends. I turned my back on the Wizarding World, and I started another life away from it. You should know, Hermione, that living like a Muggle isn’t as tragic as a Pureblood may think. I learned that, soon enough. I took up gymnastics. Something about the gravity-defying stunts thrilled me, made me feel magic. My adopted parents were always so loving and understanding – one of them was a Squib, from the Nott line.” Pamela paused.
“And then in college, I learned about genetics. That’s when I really started to gain a new purpose. I don’t want families like mine to experience these things, Hermione,” said Pamela. “I’m glad you came to see me because I could give you my research to help try to decrease the amount of Purebloods born as Squibs. However, I don’t want to be involved in this battle. I did my research. Now, return me to the Muggle world. It’s where I belong, and living in this house is only a painful reminder of what I’ve lost. Do you understand me now, Hermione?”
Hermione nodded, her throat constricted with emotions. She was so angry, but she didn’t know who to blame. Was it really Pamela’s parents’ fault for abandoning their Squib daughter? Or were they really thinking about Pamela’s own good. She was so used to being able to blame one thing for her problems, like Voldemort or some great evil, but this was different.
She cleared her head, staring at the broken woman in front of her. It didn’t matter if she agreed with everything Pamela’s family had decided. She needed to help Pamela. “I understand, Pamela,” she said, even though she didn’t, “and I’ll do everything I can to safely return you to your life.”
In an abandoned warehouse, a woman dressed in tight-fitting combat-ready clothes was waiting. A black mask molded seamlessly to her face, leaving only her chapped lips for view, and her hair was hidden beneath a tight black cap.
Her sharp brown eyes flitted from one corner of the warehouse to another, and her hands were out, wand in one and newspaper in another.
Three loud taps echoed through the large, empty warehouse. In reply, the woman sent a spark of magic careening towards the door. It impacted softly, barely making more noise than a soft ping.
Several seconds passed, and the woman readied her wand again, gaze staring fixatedly at that spot.
The door opened to reveal another woman with long brown hair, cold blue eyes and an eagle-sharp nose. She didn’t wear the same expert disguise, and she looked nervous, her own wand drawn in shaking hands.
“Hello Martha,” the woman in the mask greeted as she threw the visitor a special evening edition of the Daily Prophet. “Tell me what happened today.”
Martha stared at the paper for several moments, taking time to read the article before she answered. “Hermione Granger was attacked in the Alley. It was the Department’s doing. Their mission overlapped with ours.” Martha looked away, her posture relaxing. She sighed. “Healer White saved Granger’s life, unaware that he was interfering with another mission.”
“He was axed?” guessed the woman in the mask.
“He’s a Sleeper now - mind retro-wiped, and he’s probably under an Unbreakable Vow, too. I wanted to recruit him before… but it’s too late.”
The disguised woman looked all the more frightening in her mask, which served to hide any and all emotion. It didn’t help that her eyes were constantly flitting around, as if expecting to be attacked at any moment.
“Maybe not,” said the masked woman. “I can save your Healer White.”
Martha blushed. “It’s not – it’s not like that. It could never have worked – I didn’t feel that way about him.”
“You could have fooled me.”
Martha blushed, caught off guard by the teasing tone of the woman in front of her. “That’s impossible. There’s no reversing Sleepers – that sort of magic is unheard of...”
The woman in the mask tilted her head to the side, as if considering the woman in front of her. “I was once a Sleeper,” she said after a moment, “and as far as they are concerned, I still am. They’re always undoing and redoing their Obliviates, every time I meet with them. Half of it is acting, the other half is learning the protective spells needed to prevent it. They are clumsy,” the masked woman said bitterly. “If not for those protective spells, I would be half-insane by now with all the fiddling they’re doing.”
Martha hesitated. “Were you coerced into being a Sleeper, or were you kicked out of the Department?”
The masked woman’s lips quirked. “Oh, you cannot imagine how masterfully they set me up…” she trailed off. “If I hadn’t joined, I’d have lost all my friends and family, and the Ministry itself would probably have ordered the Kiss on me.”
Martha was silent for several minutes, eyes wide in curiosity. “You’ve never told me much about yourself.”
“It’s better that way,” answered the woman in the mask. “Do you know why they were after Hermione?”
“No idea,” said Martha. “Though I’d guess it has something to do with what this article says. I have another piece of information though. I saw Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zambini in the ministry. I believe Malfoy is working under Zambini, and I think they were the ones that ordered the attack on Granger. Also, Malfoy's a new Domestic Agent - just promoted today.”
“Malfoy’s working for The Department? I should have guessed,” said the masked woman. “You’d best be going. The shorter these meetings are, the less chance we’ll be ambushed.”
Martha nodded. “Alright. Apparition on three?”
The masked woman gripped her wand tighter. “One…Two…Three…”
Both vanished, leaving behind only the sound of their matching pops. Seconds later, wizards were flooding the place, looking for who had caused that sudden fluctation of magic in such a Muggle area. The Department had agents everywhere.
Please review! Your comments mean everything to me, and they make my day. Thanks to megthechef43 and granger_ who reviewed the last chapter!
Of course, thanks also goes to all those lovely readers who gave me very helpful requested reviews from the forums.
Virtual cookies go to those who picked up on the AVPM reference in this chapter. ;)