Hermione gazed steadily into the mirror. Unwaveringly she assessed herself. She was proud of the warrior looking back at her. She hadn’t dreamt this might be who she became, when they snuck into Hogwarts to begin what they had hoped would be the final battle. Like so much they planned in those early days, it hadn’t ended the war. Instead it marked the true beginning of it.
But Hermione Granger was above all adaptable and brilliant. With the unexpected mentorship of Severus and Andromeda, she blossomed as a strategist. Over a bottle of fire whiskey, they had been bemoaning the lack of use of military tactics and organization, when Remus walked through the room and casually mentioned that Kingsley could get her into basic training.
It led her to a collaborative exchange via the ministry with the British Army. She left the magical world for nearly a year to attend officer training at RMA Sandhurst. Looking back, the very human struggle and challenge of that program grounded her confidence in herself that the magical world couldn’t offer her. A part of her was grieved at her deception that she would not have the opportunity to serve at her classmates’ sides. But she knew from the beginning that her war was elsewhere. She and the other members of the Order of the Phoenix quickly realized that unless they wanted to lose as they had the first time, they would have to fight the Second Wizarding War differently.
For Hermione differently meant muggle military training, hand to hand combat, and dark magic. In the time where the war moved neither backward to forwards, she had explored the breadth of magic with Severus and Andy. She learned that balance in magic was more important than “light” or “dark.”
Her experiences through the war made her able to grasp dark magic in ways she couldn’t have before she was laid bare on the floor of Malfoy Manor. The blood curse inflicted on her that day taught her the power of a magic she didn’t even know existed. She was lucky that the blood that created that magic was shared by Andromeda. It hadn’t been easy to unwind, but the youngest Black sister had taken great pride in picking apart and destroying her older sister’s spell work.
She did not mention it at the time, but in Hermione’s core she knew that magic lingered. The witch’s crooked wand bonded to her in a way even a fairly won wand should not. There had been sparks the moment it hit her palm after a well timed expelliarmus that Bellatrix never saw coming. Not unlike the avada that came after it.
The wand recognized she had the soul of a warrior long before she did. With it, she learned how to mimic the magical signature of its original owner. A magic that shouldn’t have really been possible. It seemed just this side of resurrecting the dead. But her connection to Bellatrix, though undeniably fraught with pain, was written in blood. And there was no stronger magic.
The first time Hermione glamorized herself and cloaked herself in the dark witch’s magic, Andromeda sobbed, grieving the sister lost to her decades before. Hermione hadn’t really known what she was doing then. She was pulling and pushing the magic in and around the wand, experimenting and attempting to keep her too noisy brain quiet. At Andromeda’s insistence, they had practiced until she perfected it. It was exactly the type of unexpected edge that might tip the war in their favor.
Hermione looked over her attire with a critical eye that was required only by her. The crisp black suit and flashy gryffindor red shirt were meant to draw attention. And if the mission went to plan, her appearance would matter.
“Hermione, it’s time,” Severus’ voice boomed through the door.
Hermione touched her neat bun one more time before turning to go. She dropped her wand into her palm and pulled her magic around her. She had been preparing for months for this mission and she was confident that it would turn the tide of the war. They could not stay at their six year stalemate forever and she could see the exhaustion of the resistance.
Tonight she would take, in a single magical act, the bulk of the financing away from Voldemort’s forces. Finally the Order’s spies had found something solidly actionable. Naturally, it was a bold and risky mission. She would either come back victorious or she would be dead. There would be no in between for her. The ancient magics they would be pulling upon would demand a life and she hoped against hope that it would not be her’s.
“Are you ready,” Andromeda asked, ushering her through the door once she opened it.
“Yes, Andy. I know the layout of the manor. I know where he will be. And I will eliminate the target.”
Even to her own ears, her voice was the cool detached professionalism that had been drilled into her.
“Good,” the witch sounded not entirely relieved. “Come and let’s execute the spell. You’ll only have one chance.”
“I won’t fail,” Hermione said firmly.
She had no doubt that she would succeed. She had been over the scenario time and time again. They had rehearsed and trained for weeks. Both the physical and magical tasks were well within her abilities. It came down to timing. And her gut simply said it would go her way.
Andromeda didn’t say anything further for which Hermione was grateful. She took a deep breath and looked up to see Severus.
“It’s time,” he said in his resonate deep voice.
“It is. Do you have the portkey for me?”
He handed it over. Hermione flipped it over in her left hand. With a final affectionate look at the pair of them, she held the portkey tightly and waited for the pull of the magic.
She landed as gracefully as she could manage, quickly ducking behind a hedge. She landed in the back garden of the large manor home as had been promised. She paused to listen, holding her own breath. After half a minute, it was clear that there would be no immediate response. She was unsure if they had become lax in their defenses or if her magical cloaking in another’s magical signature had subverted the wards more successfully than she had hoped. They had assumed that Bellatrix’s magic would still be recognized by the wards, for who had time to alter them every time someone died during a war. Not to mention the magic Hermione was doing shouldn’t have been possible.
She would hold the dark witch’s magic around her until the last moment.
The final spell she would execute in her own magical signature. It was the spell that would change everything. She would not risk it going wrong.
She moved slowly and silently around the edges of the garden, working her way towards the back of the house. She was making her way to the third floor, fourth window from the left. The intelligence for this raid was incredibly specific. Almost too specific, the thought of which made Hermione pull the magic more tightly around her.
She paused at the edge of the hedge as two distracted guards passed within feet of her. They were too engrossed in their conversation to be of much use. She crept stealthily to the back of the house and plastered herself to it. When she finally reached the spot below the 4th window. She looked up to find the third story window was indeed illuminated. She cast the spell that revealed the “Sticky Trainers” substance on both her gloves and shoes. It would allow her to scale the vertical surface with relative ease. She has been practicing climbing in preparation. It was harder to use the magical substance than climbing a simple rock wall, but she could take the shoes and gloves anywhere with her.
Before starting the climb, she stowed her dagger back in the side of her boot and clinched the wand between her teeth. She could easily overpower a wizard at hand to hand combat if it came to that as she was climbing. Particularly with the goblin forged dagger she carried. She knew first hand the kind of damage it could inflict. It was the perfect and very personal reminder of how she had become the soldier she was.
The silence remained unbroken as she crept up the side of the building. She slowed her pace as she approached the muted light spilling from the window frame.
She could see that as promised the window was cracked and drapes drawn partially. It would give her some cover to enter the room without detection. Her mission would only take her a matter of seconds. With a deep breath she crawled up to the level of the window and retrieved a magical flash-bang grenade from her pocket. She balanced precariously pulling the pin and tossing it in the open window. She waited for it to detonate and then breached the window, wand in hand.
In three strides she was at her target. In one motion she dropped her magical cloaking and drew the dagger across his bare neck and whispered.
Et sanguis sanguinem. Quae tua fuit quondam, nunc meae.
She didn’t need to look down to see the life drain out of his eyes, she felt it. The magic racing through her was changing her permanently even as the wizard at her feet died. She clasped the crooked wand and raised her eyes waiting for the rest of the room to recover. She would fight anyone who didn’t surrender.
Somewhat surprisingly, it was the blonde witch who found her eyes first. She made a note to question how the witch recovered so much faster than the others.
“My Lord,” she said in a reverent tone that zipped down Hermione’s spine.
Hermione felt the tug of the marriage bond she had inherited. It begged for closeness and completeness that she couldn’t afford to be distracted by just yet.
“Wife,” Hermione responded simply and offered the witch her hand. She used the contact to move the blonde behind her, where she could keep her safe. With Narcissa secured, she refocused on the wizards now regaining their faculties.
“The house of Malfoy has fallen,” she pronounced slowly and clearly. “And Granger has risen in its place. All that once belonged to him,” she paused and pointed at the body below her, “is now mine.”
She dramatically let the murmurs travel through the crowd. “All who wish to remain loyal may stay. All others have 30 seconds before my wards forcibly remove them.”
She enjoyed the stunned looks on the Death Eater’s faces. She knew she had a mixed reputation among them and she had just killed one of their most senior leaders with her bare hands. A short stodgy wizard was the first to attempt to disarm her, but she reversed and amplified his spell on him without a sound. At the sight of his failure, the others disapperated without firing a single spell.
Hermione didn’t move until she felt her wards fall in place and the wizard before her vanished to outside the grounds. She relaxed a fraction.
“Do you know how many others there are?”
She looked over her shoulder at the blonde who seemed rather nonplussed at what had just occurred.
“25 or so, I believe. Though I very much doubt they are still here. That ward was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”
The blonde’s eyes were sparkling with something so close to affection that Hermione had to intentionally remind herself to breathe.
“I will search the house for any that remain, if you would assist me.”
“Of course, my Lord.”
Narcissa sounded subservient and playful, which caused Hermione to pause. She had known that this spell would essentially make the witch a pawn in a larger game. And it was at Hermione’s magic it was done. Along with Lucius’ businesses and titles, she had inherited his spouse and heir.
“Not now,” the blonde interrupted gently. “We will have time to discuss what has happened later. Secure the house and finish your plans first.”
Hermione swallowed hard and nodded. She felt compelled to listen to the blonde. She didn’t have time to think about that or fight it. Instead she picked up her dagger and cast a cleansing spell on it. She could feel the blonde’s questioning gaze, but did not meet it. She was not surprised that the blonde witch recognized it on sight. She tensed and relaxed her neck finding her center again.
Dagger in her left hand and wand in her right, she systematically searched each room, with Narcissa wand drawn behind her. They worked seamlessly as a team, she noticed. They quickly cleared the third floor. Only elves remained and they were bonded to her by magic.
Before Hermione made it to the bottom of the stairs between the 3rd and 2nd floors, she heard movement. She raised her wand, but a slender hand grasped her wrist. Narcissa was plastered to her back.
“It’s only Draco,” she whispered. “Feel his magic. You will know it.”
Hermione closed her eyes at the gentle tone and did as the witch asked. She let Narcissa slip around her for the first time since she had taken the marriage bond (and her previous husband’s life). She waited and let the blonde go down alone.
“Draco, dear,” Narcissa said just out of eyesight.
Hermione couldn’t help noticing that it was hollow and defeated sounding.
“Where is she?”
“Just behind me.”
Hermione took her time walking down the last few stairs. She knew she looked formidable.
“Draco,” she said calmly.
“My Lord,” he answered, meeting her eyes. “Welcome home.”
She raised an eyebrow at his acquiescence. She expected it from Narcissa somehow, but it was a surprise from Draco.
“Help us search. Have you heard anyone else on this level?”
“Not since they all literally disappeared in front of my eyes. It was freaky, if not impressive,” he snarked lightly.
Hermione chuckled. “We will still clear it room by room all the same. I don’t want any surprises tonight.”
He nodded and drew his wand to follow her.
With their help the second and first levels cleared quickly. They finished ironically in a phenomenal library. Hermione would have liked the luxury of looking through the stacks carefully, but that would have to wait.
Hermione pulled her old well worn DA coin out of her pocket. She cast the spell with her coordinates.
“If you would both put your wands away for a few minutes, please,” she said over her shoulder. “I have some business to finish tonight before we can sit down and have the drink the three of us deserve.”
The blonde heads nodded in tandem, stowing their wands and looking uncertain.
“Just stay behind me. I will make introductions,” Hermione said as the first crack of apparition was heard.
She was happy to have gotten the instruction out, because she nearly tackled the moment Andromeda appeared.
“Hermione, are you alright,” the youngest Black sister said, patting her down.
“I’m perfectly fine, Andy.”
Hermione was a little shorter with the witch than she usually would have been, but she could feel Narcissa’s displeasure at the witch’s hands on her body. The rolling anger from the blonde was more than a little disconcerting, in part because she wasn’t sure who was in the line of fire. Andy, however, was not going to be dissuaded. She clasped Hermione’s face between her hands to look into her eyes. Hermione felt the tension rising, until it went deathly cold.
Narcissa’s voice was velvet. And her hand was warm and solid at the base of Hermione’s spine. Hermione held still, neither giving nor taking space. She knew she could not give into the shudder the contact wanted to shake loose.
“It’s good to see you, Narcissa. And bonded to a mudblood. How ironic. ”
“Don’t use that word,” the blonde witch hissed and looked with considerable concern at Hermione.
“Oh, don’t worry, baby sister. I removed Bellatrix’s spell from her. The word cannot injure her, physically at least.” She looked around the blonde witch. “And don’t be shy. Draco is it?”
Draco nodded and stepped forward slightly.
“I’m your Aunt Andromeda. It is nice to meet you,” she said and offered her hand.
He took it uncertainly.
“It’s very good to meet you,” he answered quietly.
“I assume others are coming,” Hermione said looking at Severus.
“They are. These two will need to be debriefed. I have convinced them to let me lead it.”
Hermione’s face went stoney.
“I will also be present,” she said firmly.
“Of course,” he acquiesced easily. “It’s your mission. Have you secured the house?”
“I have. Did you feel my wards?”
“Yes. I simply wanted to ensure we didn’t have any… hangers on.”
“We searched room by room. It’s just Narcissa, Draco and the elves,” Hermione said while stealing a glance at Narcissa and Andromeda talking to one another.
“How are you feeling,” Snape said low enough no one else would hear.
“There was certainly an odd sensation with the spell and then there is the bond… But my magic feels normal and stable.”
“Good. That’s good. Let me know immediately if that changes.”
Hermione nodded absently. Her attention was back on the blonde witch. She realized she could feel an echo of Narcissa’s emotions. Andromeda was good and truly already under her skin.
“Narcissa,” Hermione interjected, “is there a room suitable for a small meeting? We need to get as much information as possible from you and Draco.”
The blonde blinked at her before answering.
“Yes, of course,” she said stiffening. “Shall the elves serve dinner as well. I assume those attending will not have eaten?”
Hermione looked to Andy, who shrugged and nodded.
“Food is always welcome. I think the Order is perpetually hungry.”
Narcissa snapped and bent down to talk to the elf that appeared.
“What kind of venue would you prefer for a small meeting? A place where the group can gather around a table or something else,” she asked Hermione.
“A table would be nice, I think.”
Narcissa finished instructing the elf.
“It will be ready as soon as you have need of it.”
Hermione felt the need to touch the witch. To affirm something that she didn’t quite understand. But the roaring of the crack of landing apparition interrupted anything she might have said or done. Hermione drew her wand and again put herself physically between the blondes and everyone else.
“Hermione Fucking Granger. You are unbelievable,” Ginny Potter said as she re-oriented herself.
Hermione smiled at her boisterous friend.
“I can’t believe you doubted me. I’ve never failed at a mission,” Hermione said easily.
“I’m not surprised, but glad you aren’t dead all the same.”
“Thanks. Was everyone briefed while I was away?”
“Yep. I think everyone will largely be cool. Ron won’t be here, but he is still….”
The redhead trailed off remembering that the blondes were present.
“The same place as before,” Hermione asked.
“Yes. It will be easier without him. It will still take some time for them to accept your… family.”
Ginny sounded uncertain about what to call them.
Hermione felt Narcissa run a hand lightly down her back and smiled.
“We will figure it out in time. My family won’t be going anywhere,” Hermione said confidently. She rationally knew that the magical bond was guiding her, but she had never felt anything that felt more true. Narcissa’s joy seeped into her. It was intoxicating.
Ginny smirked and Hermione did her best to wipe whatever look must have been on her face.
“No doubt,” the red head snarked.
“Lord Granger,” Snape interrupted gently. “We are ready to debrief if you are.”
“Yes. Let’s get this over with.” She took two steps before pausing. “Actually, I want 2 minutes with Narcissa and Draco before we begin.”
“Of course,” the wizard said easily. He knew her loyalty was beyond reproach and that there were magical compulsions pulling at her.
“Thanks. Narcissa, would you lead the way?”
The blonde nodded and stepped ahead. Hermione watched appreciatively at the shape of the witch. She was well aware that she preferred the female form, but she hadn’t ever been so drawn to someone on sight. When they arrived in the room where they would be meeting, Hermione was not entirely certain that she would be able to walk back to the library. She slowly raised her eyes to Narcissa’s face and it was quite obvious that she had been caught. The blue eyes glimmered with amusement and warmth, which caught Hermione off guard. She cleared her throat in an attempt to regain her composure.
“We don’t have much time. I don’t think that I have to tell either of you how important it is that you are as forthcoming as you can be in the next few minutes. Tell us everything you can, magic compulsions aside. I would do anything in my power to protect you, but if you willingly join the Order you won’t need my protection. And I think it is clear after tonight which way this war will go.”
“We are prepared to fully cooperate,” Narcissa said shortly. “I don’t have the mark and took few vows. With Lucius dead, there are only a handful that endure. Draco, however, took the mark.”
Hermione nodded and looked at the young man sympathetically.
“Severus has found ways to lessen the effect until the urges disappear entirely. I am sure he will be happy to work with you.”
Draco let out a tense breath.
“That would be ideal. I had wondered how I would be of any use or resist his call.”
“We will help you.” Hermione’s tone had warmed slightly. “There is a lot we can teach you. I’m going to invite them in. Be yourselves and be honest. It will be fine.”
As soon as she opened the door, she was met with familiar green eyes.
“Hello, Harry. It’s good to see you.”
“And you, Hermione. Well done as usual.”
He hugged her tightly before stepping into the room. Severus and Andy followed him. Andy in particular looked far too happy and that never boded well for Hermione. Andy preferred when Hermione didn’t behave like the well trained soldier she was. She indulged the witch occasionally, but wasn’t amused with so much feeling new and uncertain.
“Sirius,” Narcissa whispered over her shoulder before Hermione could greet him. “I thought… Bellatrix said…”
“Hello cousin. You’ll find the rumors of my demise to be greatly exaggerated. Welcome to the right side of the war after all these years.”
The blonde looked torn between embracing him and slapping him. In the end, she kissed his cheek and let him pass.
“It’s good to see you, Draco,” Remus said close on Sirius’ heels.
“Thank you, professor. You too,” Draco said looking startled.
Hermione made eye contact with Severus. It was clear their intelligence network lived up very much to their expectations. They had deceived Voldemort and the Death Eaters significantly if they didn’t know which original members of the Order were still living.
After the others were seated, she guided Narcissa and Draco to the remaining chairs. She slid into the chair between Narcissa and Andromeda.
“Congratulations, Hermione. It seems like another perfect mission,” Sirius said, looking suitably impressed. “Being a Lord looks damn good on you.”
Hermione rolled her eyes and shrugged at him. She hadn’t really cared about the title. The only thing that mattered was ending the funding machine keeping Voldemort afloat. The other things were unexpected benefits.
“That’s enough,” Snape said, ever annoyed with the living Marauders. “Remus, will you please begin with the oath keepers? Narcissa and Draco, your… Hermione won’t be pleased with this request, but would you be willing to take veritaserum? It will make this much quicker.”
Hermione felt rage bubble up in her. The idea that they would lie in front of her was beyond insulting. A warm hand on her knee stopped her from opening her mouth and soothed her anger.
“Of course, Severus. There will be a few compulsions we may not be able to get around with only that,” the blonde witch said smoothly. “We are more than willing to cooperate.”
Draco nodded emphatically and hastily took the potion as soon as it was handed to him.