"Narcissa! I must ask if you are going to be in my laboratory that you focus."
The blonde head snapped up and in his direction. Her hands froze above the cauldron.
"And furthermore if you drop the rose thorns in that potion, your son will have two fathers instead of one."
Narcissa withdrew her hand quickly, shaking her head as though doing so could clear her thoughts.
“I apologize, Severus. My mind was elsewhere.”
“Obviously.” He paused dramatically, much in the way he did when teaching 1st and 2nd years. “You must stop worrying so much. Things are well in hand. I know it is difficult, but you must attempt to remember what a formidable witch your sister has married. She is the brightest witch of her age and perhaps a few others.” He held up his hand to prevent her from interrupting. “Her progress has been unprecedented. By the time term starts she will be nearly as powerful as Bella. And we’ve made certain changes for the school year. There will be no repeat of last year.”
“How can you be so certain?” The blonde sighed the words in clear frustration.
Before the potion’s master could reply, the door to the room banged open and the flushed faced teens rushed in.
“Mister Malfoy, Madame Black. I expect you have a good reason for interrupting in such a fashion.”
“We do. We’ve both received owls from Hogwarts?”
“And?” Narcissa inquired impatiently.
“Well, Mum. I’m a Prefect again.”
The blonde witch embraced her son warmly closing her eyes to savor the moment. When she finally opened them again, she caught Hermione shuffling her feet and looking a bit lost. It was clear that the girl now regretted running into the room on Draco’s heels. She released the boy allowing him to make his way to his godfather for a handshake and pat on the back. She approached the girl slowly, as she would a frightened animal.
“And what did your’s say, little witch?” She watched the girl slowly raise her eyes to search for rejection on the blonde’s face. Narcissa reached out and brushed a hand down the girl’s arm gently. It was clear that the young woman was once again feeling the sting of her adoptive parent’s absence. She knew that her family’s bond with the girl was increasing, but it hardly replaced the people who raised her.
Hermione gripped the comforting hand as a lifeline as she attempted to regain both her composure and her former enthusiasm.
“I’m a prefect as well.”
“Oh Hermione thats wonderful. Ravenclaw is so lucky to have you.”
“I’m not a Ravenclaw prefect, Cissa. I’m a Slytherin.”
The blonde immediately enveloped the young witch in a tight embrace. “I am so very proud of you,” she said, pulling back to look into the light brown eyes. “You will bring honor to the Black name.” She was pleased when some of the tension left the girl’s body. She reluctantly released her, having enjoyed the embrace rather more than she should have.
“Madame Black,” Severus said slowly with a hint of teasing in his normally serious tone.
“Welcome to my house, Madame Black,” he said, allowing a rare smile to slip past his usual icy facade and he opened his arms. Hermione rushed into them without delay. Since he had given Hermione away at her wedding he noticed that they’d begun to develop what felt like a familial bond.
“Thank you, Severus. I know you had a hand in this. I cannot tell you how grateful I am. I will have so much less to worry about."
"Was your old house really so terrible?" Narcissa asked gently.
"Not at first. There are many reasons why I fit with the character of Ravenclaw. And as a muggleborn I was largely able to go unnoticed and live in peace, but once my heritage was uncovered it got uncomfortable. Many became cruel. And those that weren't, insisted on invading the little privacy the rooms afforded. I didn't sleep much even after learning advanced wards."
"Bella mentioned in passing how impressed she was with the wards you put on your bed during the time when she was leaving you notes. At the time I couldn't have imagined why you needed to be so cautious. You are an incredible witch, Hermione."
"Thank you," she answered quietly. The doors once again swung open, interrupting the conversation, for which she was grateful. Living through those months was bad enough. She was glad to be past them and had no desire to relive them. She found herself grinning broadly as her wife strutted into the room. As usual the dark witch wore a tight black leather corset and flowing skirts. Her curls were wildly piled on top of her head. And the dark red lips were begging for attention. She nearly acted on her instincts, but held herself back from kissing her at the entrance of Lucius. Bella shared no such restraint. Playfully she scooped the young witch in her arms, kissing her deeply. Hermione broke away, batting at her wife for the public display.
“I do so hate to interrupt such a joyous reunion after a dramatically long separation… of nearly 3/4’s of an hour,” Lucius said snidely. “But I, personally, would like to know what all of the smiles are about.”
“Aren’t we always so cheerful, Luc?”
“We aren’t all newlyweds, Bella.”
Bella tightened her arms around Hermione and pressed her nose into the fragrant curls, savoring the feeling. While she had been teasing, at the same time she knew he was right.
“Fine, fine. You two, what is going on?”
“You are looking at two 6th year Slytherin prefects.”
The dark witch congratulated and fawned over her wife. Lucius had of course informed her it would be happening as he took the appropriate political steps to get what he wanted. But the reality of knowing Hermione would be safe within the walls of the Slytherin dungeon did more to soothe her than she cared to admit. And the girl was positively glowing. It was time for her to be in the limelight if even only a little. She’d spent a lifetime hiding in the shadows, which was nearly criminal considering how prodigious of a talent she was. The Malfoy patriarch smiled at them knowingly. Tentatively Hermione stepped towards the blonde wizard.
“Lucius, thank you. I know that you must have worked tremendously hard for this. Being in my family’s house would have been more than enough.”
He pulled her into an embrace, much like he had Draco only moments before.
“Consider it a late wedding present. I had hoped to have it done by then, but it just didn’t quite work out. And I thought you and Draco would have much more fun doing it together. Not to mention it gives Severus even greater opportunity to keep an eye on you.”
“Thank you,” she mumbled against his robes.
“You are very welcome,” he said quietly so only she could hear. As they broke away, he clapped his hands once in genuine excitement. “We’ve an important task to carry out this afternoon. Our Lord asked the Minister to kindly step down. He unfortunately refused. So it has been put upon us to publicly warn him against defying those that have power. And, son this will earn you your mark.”
Hermione returned to Bella’s side, seeking reassurance. A strong hand pressed into her lower back, seeping calm into her bloodstream.
“We will be leading two separate missions. Bellatrix and Fenrir will lead two small groups and take out key muggle bridges. This should destabilize the political relationships with the muggle Prime Minister and possibly cause them to force him to step down. And I will lead a third group into a muggle suburb to create a bit of mayhem. Draco you will be with me tonight. And Hermione, of course you will be your wife’s responsibility. Your uniforms are waiting in your rooms I suggest you go prepare.”
The group of four said their goodbyes to Narciss and Severus, promising to be home in time for dessert and to be safe. Throughout the exchange Hermione attempted to avoid the anxious gaze of the blonde, not wanting to feel any less secure. In the end, she received a knowing look and brief kiss when no one, save Bella, were paying attention.
“Don’t be so nervous, darling,” Bellatrix purred while lifting the solid black robes onto her lover’s shoulders. “You will be brilliant and with me. I will keep you safe.”
“I know you will, it’s just everything will change tonight.”
“Every decision we make changes the course of everything, but I promise you this is the right path for us.”
“What if I can’t do it?”
“Oh my love, I assure you that you can. And if you falter, I will access your magic and do it for you.”
The young witch breathed deeply, taking in the assurances offered to her. She gazed into the floor length mirror in front of her, taking in her own appearance. Even without the traditional mask, she noted that she looked exponentially grown up. She watched her lover wrap around her from behind. They were a striking and beautiful couple. She gazed into the dark stormy eyes of her lover as familiar hands mapped her body.
“I like you this way. You are as fierce outside as you are inside.”
Hermione could think of nothing to say in response, so she turned her head to kiss Bella.
“What specifically is our plan?”
“We will destroy the supports for the bridge mid-apparition. We will go in a 2 formation. Of course, as this is your first mission, we will apparate together. My plan to do so is much like we are now. This will leave your wand free to cast. After we bring it down, we will go to check on the other team’s bridge and then proceed to the neighborhood where the Malfoy men will be.”
“I thought most couldn’t manage to apparate like that with another person.”
“Well I am not most people,” she replied with mock offense. “And as you well know, I can also tap into your magical supply if I feel I need to. We will be fine. Do you think you will be able to fire the spells?”
“I should be able to manage. What of Draco? Is he…”
“Going to kill muggles? It’s a possibility, though the goal is really only to burn a few structures and create chaos. But if a muggle sees the face of a Death Eater, the options will be limited. Either tortured into insanity or killed. I dare say an Avada is a kinder option.”
Hermione nods in response to the logic. She knew that the reality of a life in the ranks of the Dark Lord’s elite would be difficult. She struggled with the thought of taking another life, but in truth doubted she would even think about it if her lover or family was threatened with deadly harm.
“Turn around, love. I want to put on your mask for the first time.”
The dark witch ran her wand across the younger woman’s face leaving in its wake a silver mask with delicate incised lines matching her own exactly. They would look identical with their hoods up, only adding to their intimidation. Satisfied with their appearance, she took Hermione by the hand and strode out to their meeting place.