The walk back to the castle seemed an unusually long journey. Hermione was grateful for the solid strength of the dark wizard who had become like family to her. As they traced familiar steps she reassembled her armour step by step. By the time they reached the castle gate, she let go of his arm with a wink. She realized it was time to embody the strength of the last name she carried. She held her chin just a little bit higher and walked with clear purpose back towards her dormitory.
Safely inside the common room she found a paler than normal blonde waiting for her.
“Draco? What happened? Are you ok?”
“Calm down, ‘Mione. Everything went mostly as it was planned.”
“Obviously you could not tell me before it happened. Are you allowed to tell me now?”
“I am. And I can’t bother you with everything I do. Honestly, you have quite a bit on your plate without having to worry about my more minor tasks.”
Hermione nodded in agreement. She could not be everywhere and involved in everything.
“After I dropped you off at your wife, where you failed to say goodbye, I took a package to the Three Broomsticks. It was a particularly dark piece of jewelry that was delivered to me covertly last week. I waited in the girl’s loo long enough to imperius a student. I left her with instructions to wait several hours before retrieving the object and bringing it back towards the castle.”
“Which gave you enough time to get back and safely in the company of the head of Gryffindor house, so that you could not be blamed.”
“Well, I am a Slytherin after all. No way I was going down for a plan made to fail.”
“What do you mean?” the brunette asked in clear confusion.
“We wanted the Order to think that I am making lame attempts against the Headmaster’s life.”
“So that the larger plan remains concealed,” she answered smirking.
“Precisely. They want to make me out to be a bumbling villain, so I am giving them something to work with. So that when we achieve our goal, they won’t have had time to prepare.”
“That is painfully brilliant, you know.” She was truly in awe of the plan. It was a simple diversion and it would work.
“Yes, I am quite aware it is. Naturally your wife came up with it. And don’t get that glowly lovely look. It's gross. You are aware she is my aunt, right?”
“And you are aware that I am as well?”
Draco groaned and rolled his eyes. “Thanks for the reminder.”
“Be nice or I will start calling you nephew in front of the others.”
The weeks of November flew blissfully quickly. In between the times she got to see her wife, the young witch busied herself with staying 6 weeks ahead of most of her course work. She spent much of her free time in the room of requirement. She and Draco oscillated between working diligently on the cabinet and brushing up on his dueling skills. He was steadily improving with the constant work, but remained susceptible to his emotions. In the evenings after her busy days, she would curl up in a large arm chair in the common room to read a book or write a letter. She was ensconced in the friendship of the Slytherins.
The only bump in the road was naturally in Transfiguration Class. Anytime Hermione was in her presence, her green eyes never seemed to fall elsewhere. She felt them attempting to undress her. It was intrusive, but she kept the shields around her memories pulled tight at all time. There had been a couple of ineffective attempts to get past her walls, but it seemed the older witch quickly gave up. Bellatrix and Narcissa trained her in well in occlumency for this sort of situation. They built upon her natural privacy. She practiced all summer and had even been able to thwart her Lord a handful of times, much to his pleasure. As a result of the failed attempts and Hermione’s uncanny ability to avoid being caught alone, McGonagall resorted to pairing her with Lavender Brown. It wasn’t just that Lavender was a Gryffindor. Hermione found her to be an insufferable know it all. Annoyingly she had to admit that the witch had some skill. She was decent enough at transfiguration, though Hermione did her best to ignore her existence. This was clearly the Order’s latest ploy to win her affections. In accordance with her orders, she was polite and engaging enough to encourage them to continue their pursuit. It was an awkward sort of courtship, it seemed that no one quite knew the steps to the dance.
So she was truly grateful that the holidays were quickly approaching. Much to her delight, Slughorn decided to throw a Christmas party. While most of the “Slugclub” was rushing around in an attempt to choose an appropriate date, Hermione easily identified who would accompany her. In spite of his skill at potions, the Malfoy name did not have the same draw as some of the older and more interesting family names. Conveniently, her wife would not be upset with her selection, nor would there be any confusion on her date's part about where they stood. With a bit of luck they might even be able to tempt the elderly professor into accepting an invitation to the Malfoy New Year's Ball where he would be formally recruited.
Draco was happy to go with her, as there were few in their circle invited. He would be guarding her all alone. The only drawback was that he would have to act morose and brooding in front of the Order brats. Hermione promised that she would help him stir the pot with them a bit if that was what it would take to get his agreement to attend with her.
The night of the Christmas party, Hermione wore one of the many dresses Narcissa picked out for her. She was waiting in the common room for half an hour before Draco was ready to leave. She stared into the fire knowing that in a little more than a week she would be with her wife. They were still in the middle of negotiations about Christmas with the blondes. They would certainly spend the day at Malfoy Manor, but Hermione longed for some alone time that only her castle would supply. The break would also mark a number of much more solemn occasions for the young witch. It had been nearly a full year since she had erased the Granger’s memories and sent them away. While she gained understanding and kindness from the Malfoys, it didn’t erase the trauma she experienced a year ago. Marrying Bella and becoming a Black had given her a new source of identity, but she wondered if she would ever feel normal again.
When Draco arrived wearing his best dress robes, she was struck with how much he resembled his parents. She married into a rather good looking family. He smirked.
“Please tell me you weren’t just thinking about my mum, Madame Black.”
“Not as specifically as I could have been. I was just noting that my family is painfully good looking.”
“Now that we are. Are you ready to go charm Slughorn and piss off the Order brats?”
“I think I might have been born ready for that. Do you have the invitation to the ball from your mother? She told me you would have it.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yes, of course I have it.” He drew the elegant black envelope out of an inner pocket of his robe, handing it over to her.
“Thank you,” she said taking it and magically stowing it in her handbag. “I think it will go better if I make the request personally. After all I have little family and would consider it an honor if he would attend in their stead.”
“And I will be a little grey raincloud.”
“Have you been practicing your scowl?”
“I have.” He demonstrated enthusiastically. She was uncertain if he had really been practicing, but it gave her a bit of insight into what he would have been like as a toddler. She would have to be extra kind to Narcissa for having survived years of that face.
“Very good. Shall we go? I would like to be one of the first ones there so that we might have a bit more privacy.”
He offered his arm formally, stiffening his posture and stifling a giggle at his own joke. She smiled and took it.
“Thank you for going with me, Draco. I don’t know what I would have said if you could not go.”
“It is both my pleasure and my duty. My aunt would hardly allow anyone else to accompany you. You know she had petitioned the Dark Lord a number of times for permission to assassinate the head of Gryffindor house for the audacity to touch what is hers.”
Hermione couldn’t help the affectionate look that broke across her features. For Bellatrix, such a threat was rather romantic. Though the young witch had never imagined that she would have allowed herself to be spoken about in such terms, the dark witch’s possessiveness made her feel safe. Not to mention how painfully attractive it was on her wife.
As they walked out of the dungeons, Hermione knew that this night would be another one of the most significant. Though it was not exactly a life or death situation, she wanted to prove her worth. The task had been given specifically to her by her Lord and she did not want to harm the Black reputation in any way. It seemed each day they drew closer to the inevitable war. She at once felt protected and uninformed. Setting her shoulders, she prepared to be every bit of the pureblood heiress she was. She would succeed.