Hermione found the rhythm of school again as winter let way to spring. It was a delicate balance of keeping her guard up, pretending to do school work, and letting Narcissa help when she needed it. The nature of her relationship with the blonde witch was so different within the castle walls, or perhaps it was without Bella. Hermione found every bit of the comfort she sought and was provided with advice as to how to approach everyday situations. The underlying physical attraction hummed in the far distance as both witches were far too focused on surviving until the end of the school year.
The young witch was feeling the strain of her responsibility less. The act of doing was incredibly soothing. The last time she had seen her wife in Hogsmeade she had been provided with a memory of what each remaining horcrux looked like. After Bella transferred them into her mind, the dark witch refused to give her time to evaluate them until she returned to the castle. Not that Hermione minded. Her wife’s particular distraction techniques were predictably delicious. The desire to have a child was only intensifying, which resulted in the witches not being able to keep their hands off one another. The physical relief was deeply gratifying even though the school’s schedule did not allow them to spend Valentine’s Day together. It was a splendid way to close out the generally droll month of February.
Upon returning to the castle, Hermione forewent the usual evening gathering in the common room in favor of her private chambers. The memories given by Bellatrix were precious. She wanted to drown herself in them in the absence of the dark witch. It didn’t matter that she could practically feel the woman’s lips and fingers all over her body. From the little her wife had told her, Hermione would be able to access the memories as if they were her own. Bella had sworn up and down that she had thoroughly captured each of the horcruxes that were now safely in their possession. Ideally, the young witch would have preferred to have handled each one herself, but it was too big of a risk to have them anywhere near the castle. And they didn’t have the time to wait for Easter break to roll around.
Hermione closed and warded the large door to her room. Draco seemed to have read her body language well enough to know that she wasn’t to be disturbed. She would meet him early in the morning in the common room to walk to breakfast together. She stripped off her outer robes and loosened and removed her tie. The cool air was welcome on her skin and caused her to relax. She laid down on her bed in just a simple tank top and panties. Closing her eyes she focused on the memories gifted to her. She was surrounded by Bella’s voice,
“Hello, my love. I know this is supposed to be business, but I couldn’t resist. I love you, little witch. Take good care of yourself and guard these memories carefully. I cannot tell you how much some would like to obtain them. I daresay they will stop at nothing. Before I show you the horcruxes we have, I want you to also know about the ones we do not. Tom’s diary was destroyed by the Potter brat several years ago. We do not know the means of destruction, though we do know the location. The Chamber of Secrets. The second is Marvolo Gaunt’s ring. Our latest intelligence tells us that Dumbledore destroyed it earlier this year. We believe that it was not without cost. The old man may be injured, but do not underestimate him. The remaining are Salazar Slytherin’s locket, Helga Hufflepuff’s cup, Rowena Ravenclaw’s diadem, and Nagini.
I will now show you the four objects one at a time. Close your mind to everything else. You should be able to feel the weight of the objects as though they are in your own hands. I have tried to show you what I believe you will need to know. The first three you will need to duplicate in order to make them false horcruxes. The Dark Lord hopes that you will find a way to extract the Horcrux from Nagini without doing her harm. He is uncommonly fond of that snake.
I know you are up to the task, my love. But do not under any circumstance do anything that will jeopardize your safety. If the magic is beyond your reserves, please call for help. We will find a way to get you what you need.”
Hermione watched in awe as Bella handled each object slowly showing every detail and flaw. She lingered over each memory twice, memorizing as much as she could and cherishing the presence of her wife. As she loosed her focus on the memories, she felt warm hands on her cheeks brushing tears away. She blinked her eyes open to take in the form of the youngest Black sister.
“There you are,” the blonde cooed.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” she whispered through the tears.
"You were rather concentrated. And we both know the only reason I can get through your warding is because you allow it." The blonde said stroking the soft face affectionately.
"I'm surprised to see you," Hermione said in mild confusion.
"When Bella came back from Hogsmeade, she was rather worried about what state you might be in. Each time you separate it seems to be getting worse. And after implanting memories in you, I can’t imagine anything that is any more intimate.”
The young witch nodded and sat up into the offered embrace. “Having her in my head, when we are so far apart is hard. It's a reminder of what I am missing when I am here,” she said honestly. Even a year ago, she never would have spoken such things out loud even to her lover. But now, Narcissa was her confidant, keeping her from losing her sanity.
The blonde hummed in recognition of her words and ran her fingers rhythmically through her hair. Hermione relaxed into the touch allowing it to carry her away for a few minutes.
“I’m not going to be able to convince you to get any sleep tonight, am I?” Narcissa asked tenderly.
“I don’t think my brain will let me, even if I wanted to. I need to start working on transfigurations to duplicate the objects. It will be the easiest part, I think. And I will feel like I have accomplished something.”
“That makes sense. Do you think that you’ve identified the spells to replicate what happens when one is destroyed?"
“Yes. Based on the memory the Dark Lord shared with me, I should be able to make unique variations on them that play on the fears of whomever is attempting to destroy it. The protections on the items will be more difficult. Draco has been making a list of ways to destroy something. Perhaps next week we will send an object through the cabinet. We should be able to send something small. And the crew can try everything they can think of to destroy it. And if they succeed, we will make changes and go again.”
“Why do I have the feeling that you are still only sharing the easy parts?”
Hermione chuckled. “Because you know me too well, Cissy. The rebinding of the soul will be the most difficult part. I already know that it needs to be at a location of extreme magical energy and I will need the participation of the entire inner circle. And a complex potion. It's a bit overwhelming.”
“What can I help with?” the blonde pled. She could already see the strain on the young witch’s face from the past two months. While she knew it would be erased by time at her sister's side, she couldn't resist the urge to alleviate the witch's suffering.
Hermione sighed, not moving from the embrace trying to think. "A location. If you could find that and arrange it, perhaps we could take a first run at Easter. I think I can be ready by then," she rushed out.
"The moorland attached to your castle is a likely place to start. I will take care of it, little witch."
"Thank you, Cissy." Hermione sifted her hands through the long blonde hair. "I don't know what I would do without you."
"I hope that you never have to find out."
"Nor I," Hermione said immediately pulling back enough to see the chilling blue eyes. She pressed a warm chaste kiss to her lips wanting her to know exactly how much she cared for her.
Narcissa smiled in the sly way that only she could and beamed with pride at the newest addition to the Black family. "I will find what you need, Hermione. And we will be waiting for you to come home. We will love you no less in a few months. You must let go of that fear. It will only slow you down." She fingered the necklace that hung around the witch's neck. "The bonding cannot be undone. You are ours. You have Black magic running through your veins."
"Thank you, Cissy." Hermione rested one final time against Narcissa's neck. She could tell that the woman would be leaving soon.
"You are very welcome, dear one. Now, I am going to send you dinner and a potion. They will keep you going. But you will have to sleep at some point. Do you understand me?"
"Yes. I will make a successful transfigured object and then I will rest. I promise."
"That's a good witch. I will see you soon."
Hermione let the woman rise and leave as much as she wanted to keep her. She would have enjoyed very little more than to keep the brilliant woman with her. She enjoyed their intellectual exchanges more than she could express. Narcissa had been the first to see her as a person. And for that they would always have a special relationship.
As Narcissa had predicted, Hermione did not finish until the sun was rising over the quidditch field. Not that she could see it from the Slytherin dungeons. She had begun to hear the sounds from the other girls waking up and realized that she needed to get ready for the day. She considered bathing, but decided that it sounded like far too much work and she was so very tired. Instead she performed a few quick cleansing spells, pulled up her hair, and put on a clean uniform. She stepped in front of her small mirror to straighten her tie stolen from Bella so many years ago by her younger sister. She stared into her own eyes for a moment to remind herself of who she was now. Over the last 18 months she had been transformed from a timid wallflower into a truly formidable witch. In private moments, she could see the influence of her soulmate in her body language.
Pulling on her outer robes, she tucked her very creepy looking locket into a hidden pocket. It was much like the one she used the year before in the Department of Mysteries. She would feel better if the complex piece of magic stayed on her person until they were able to send it to the Manor. She stepped from her room attempting to look and feel as normal as possible. She had enough make up on to hide the circles under her eyes.
“Well, good morning, Madame Black,” Draco said leaning casually against the stone next to her door. “It is lovely to see you looking so… unrefreshed. You do know how much I hate being forced to think about you and my auntie.” He finished the sentence as though her actions were specifically to inconvenience him.
She smirked. “For what it is worth, my darling nephew. It was not my wife who kept me awake all night last night. It was a different Black sister.” She breezed past him as his jaw dropped.
“But.. but..” he stammered chasing after her.
She walked faster, forcing him to jog to catch up to her. “She brought me a potion, that’s all. But the look on your face, Draco. It was priceless.”
“Oh you are an evil witch indeed, Hermione Black. I will get you back, you know.”
“I very much look forward to you trying. We need to look into your semester project this afternoon.”
“Busy busy. I was just working on the other one yesterday.”
“And how did it go?”
“Oh quite successful,” he said darkly. “You know, the wrong bottle of wine will really make you ill.”
“Good. Quite good. Do you think it will be successful?”
“I doubt it, honestly. But hopefully it will cause a bit of an uproar.” He placed a hand on her arm as they walked, causing her to look directly at him. “But truthfully, are you ok?”
“I’m tired, but ok. I will be better after we take our final exams and finish this year.” Her response was guarded but honest.
“You will be careful, won’t you?”
“Draco,” she answered grinning broadly. “When am I not careful?”
“Oh no no no. Don’t you dare imitate the mistress of darkness you call your wife. I have no need for her brand of mayhem today. Some of us still have to complete homework.”
“Very well. I will try to contain myself. Some quality time in the place where things are hidden would likely sate my need.”
“Then we will have to go. I don’t think Hogwarts would survive the second coming of Bellatrix Black,” he said with more than a little pride in his voice.