A/N: Hello, old friends. I cannot believe how long it has been since updated this story. Thank you for your steadfast support and kindness. It is greatly appreciated.
Morning dawned softly over a new era. With Dumbledore dead, the Order would have to be severely wounded. Hermione woke snuggled warmly between her favorite blonde and brunette. It was the first time that Narcissa had not disappeared in the middle of the night, as they had finally collapsed in the blonde's bed a few hours earlier. Hermione took in the luxury of watching the older witches sleep. They were deceptively angelic in such a relaxed state. She considered climbing from the bed and starting the day alone as had been her custom at school. Instead she kissed a bare shoulder underneath a curtain of blonde hair. Narcissa stirred and a sleepy smile stretched across her face.
"You are up with the birds, little witch," Narcissa said in a sleep rough voice.
The young witch sighed and snuggled closer to the blonde's warm body. "I've always loved dawn."
Narcissa started slowly leaning up over Hermione's nude prone form. "But why exactly do you look so nervous?"
Hermione weighed her words before speaking. "I don't have any idea what happens now. Even today."
"I suppose that makes you rather reliant on us to tell you what to do and where to go," Narcissa answered slowly.
"It looks that way." Hermione's breath caught in her throat as Narcissa kissed from her ear down her neck.
"Don't worry, love," the darker voice of her wife sounded gently behind her. "Nothing is set until noon. The raid was quite successful last night."
"I wasn't worried," the young witch managed to gasp out.
"You were, I suspect," Narcissa joined back in. "But, your wife is correct. We are not needed until lunch. So relax and let us have our way."
Seeing no other way around it, Hermione sunk into the comfort of the bed and allowed them to do as they wished.
Mid-Morning descending the staircase on the arm of her wife, Hermione found the day just as beautiful as it might have been at dawn. The house below them was already buzzing. The sheer presence of the death eaters was more than she had ever seen at once.
"They always come out of the woodwork after a good bit of publicity, love," Bellatrix said leaning close. "And the fall of Dumbledore was the biggest thing that has happened in decades. Public opinion is turning our way. These may be fair weather friends, but numbers are numbers."
Hermione took a deep breath as the reality of the coming fight settled in her stomach. The blonde behind her touched her shoulder briefly as if reading her mind. She turned her head just enough to see the smirk that suggested that perhaps Cissy was.
"Get your walls up, little witch," Narcissa hissed in her ear.
With a deep breath, Hermione focused her energy and pulled her protections as tightly around her as she did on a normal day at Hogwarts. She felt it take only a fraction of the energy. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught the smirk on her wife's face.
"You'll never be alone again, my darling," Bellatrix said. Her tone bellied every bit of her remorse over their separation.
The young witch nodded and intertwined their fingers.
"I'm so glad to be home," she said finally.
"As we are glad to have you," Narcissa sounded behind them.
They entered the dining room to find the inner circle chatting before they took their seats. As soon as they crossed the threshold, Hermione was surrounded by her 3 favorite slytherin men. Lucius was the first to sweep her into a warm embrace.
"Welcome home, Hermione. And very well done last night. Flawlessly executed as usual," he said proudly.
Draco was right behind him. "We were rather brilliant. I couldn't have done it without you." His voice broke at the end with the sort of emotion they never really spoke of.
"You are my best mate, Draco. I would do anything for you," she answered earnestly.
Severus offered her a wordless hug. It was his way of acknowledging her success and the burden on her conscience. Aside from Cissy, he was the only one who seemed to see the weight on her soul. She suspected Bellatrix was aware, but such things were unwieldy emotionally. And they had been so desperate for each other's love that many things were left unsaid. She supposed that she had a lifetime to discuss such things with her wife.
"Madame Black, it is very good to see you again," Voldemort hissed walking up behind them.
"And you, my Lord," she said turning to greet him. He embraced her awkwardly, which she instantly forgave. After all he barely had any soul left as a result of his use of horcruxes. Something with a bit of luck and a lot of magic that she might be able to change. Hermione was shocked at the figure standing just behind his right shoulder.
She had known that Andromeda would be in the manor somewhere. Narcissa had been good enough to warn her of that. It was still shocking to actually see her present. She was in many ways like her sisters. She had the same royal bearing and wild curls so often associated with Bellatrix. But her eyes had a warmth neither of her siblings openly showed outside of a bedroom. As their Lord drifted to make small talk with the others, Andromeda took as step towards her. At the moment that she thought to perhaps take a step back, Bella's hand made contact with her lower back.
"Hello, Hermione. I'm afraid we didn't get a proper introduction before. I'm Andromeda, your wife's younger and significantly less sapphically inclined sister."
"I'm glad to meet you," Hermione answered quietly.
Andromeda smiled in response and moved behind Voldemort. Seeing Hermione's confusion, Bella moved close sliding her arm around her wife so that she could whisper in her ear.
"It seems my darling sister has captured our Lord's attention twice in one lifetime. Many years ago, before she left us they were quite close. She has more than proven herself to him and to our cause. I have not yet forgiven her advances." Bella tightened her arms almost painfully around her wife. "And you are mine. She had no right."
"I am your's in every way," Hermione answered eyes fluttering in relief. The wolfish grin, she got in response was clear enough. She settled at the table between her wife and Narcissa feeling more at home than she had imagined she might.
The meal was pleasant, as it always was beneath Narcissa's roof. She floated between conversations with the Black sisters, her best friend and favorite professor. Throughout the meal she couldn't help but feel like she was being thoroughly studied by the third and much less familiar Black sister. It wasn't the heated stare that made her want to peel her clothes off like Bellatrix (and occasionally Narcissa) gave her. She kept her walls pulled tight, the others were certainly convinced she could be trusted. After all in their last encounter, the woman had invaded her private space and tried to deceive her. It felt uncomfortably like any given meal at Hogwarts in the last year, though the others seemed to be oblivious to her discomfort. As the meal drew to a close, the Dark Lord drew their attention.
"I am most pleased to have the Black and Malfoy families back under a single roof. With your return, Hermione and Draco, we should be able to move forward quickly in our endeavors." He turned to face Hermione alone. "I believe that you still require more research before we consider any soul rebinding."
"Yes, my Lord. The Hogwarts library's dark arts section was not sufficient. I may yet need to return to my castle, but I can certainly begin my work here," she answered once again refocused on the task in front of her.
"Good. I know that in the past you have relied on Narcissa to assist you with research, but I have need of her elsewhere," he continued.
Hermione worked very hard not to let her disappointment show, she did genuinely enjoy working alongside the blonde. Not to mention her significant attachment to the woman.
"But I know you are in need of an extra set of hands and knowledge. Andromeda has already volunteered to help you."
"Thank you, my Lord," she said before she could even emotionally react to the information. She waited until the conversation had turned away from her before she made eye contact with her wife. Bella subtly shrugged her shoulders as though either she didn't think it was a big deal or that there was nothing she could do about it. The group broke apart to go about their separate tasks. Hermione tried to think up reasons to not hurry to the library, but the blonde witch approached her as though she knew.
"I will miss you, little witch. I do so enjoy our time together," Narcissa husked causing goosebumps to erupt along Hermione's arms. "But it will be fine. None of us would leave you alone with her were we even slightly concerned about her sincerity."
"Yes, of course, Narcissa. I know," Hermione replied attempting to convince herself of the same.
"We will see you later," the blonde said with a wink, clearly not buying Hermione's response.
Hermione turned to make her way to the Malfoy library alone. Andromeda was already in the room when she opened the door.
"Hermione, please don't over react. I am well aware that we started off on the wrong foot, but I can be of help. Other wise the Dark Lord would not have placed us here together," Andromeda said earnestly.
"Yes, of course you are right. I apologize, Andromeda. This last year at Hogwarts has left me even less trusting," Hermione answered honestly.
"I have no doubt that is true, Hermione. Let me apologize as well for the Order and how they have treated you. Know that I sheltered you from everything that I could until I could find my way back to the Dark Lord. You have in no way deserved how they have treated you."
"Thank you," Hermione answered quietly.
"Good. Now let's get the research done for the biggest bait and switch the wizarding world has ever known," Andromeda said sounding a great deal like her older sister.
"Well," Hermione said attempting to organizing her thoughts again on the subject. "I have managed to mastering the fake horcruxes. Do you know if the Death Eaters have managed to actually destroy any of them?"
Andromeda chuckled darkly. "Not even one of them. I wish you could have seen the looks when they failed. There were a few among their ranks that still believed that they could best you. I do believe that they have now been disillusioned."
"However, I really couldn't make any progress with the rebinding portion. Getting to the restricted section became nearly impossible and from what I limitedly saw the information just wasn't there."
"That doesn't surprise me," Andromeda answered cooly. "While I did not have the dedication to the library that you do, I did use that section a few times. I cannot imagine that a text containing that information would have ever been made available to the average Hogwarts student."
"Well obviously that was wise of them," Hermione grinned mischievously. "After all the brightest students seem to find the most dangerous information and use it for their own devices."
"That they do, Hermione. Now follow me, I think I know where the books we need are."