Summary: Revenir: To Come Back, To Return. The death of a prominent Ministry official drags Hermione into Hades, from where she will change the world. Dark!Hermione. Extremely Dark Themes. Polyfic.

Disclaimer: I do not own the works made use of herein, none of the Harry Potter features or characters belong to me. I make no money from this work. (Basically, if you recognise it, it's not mine.)

Warnings: Rated M for situations, swearing, violence, sexual scenes, minor character death, graphic descriptions of murder victims, references to cannibalism, torture, abuse.


Part One: Chapter Seven


The Headquarters of the War Widows was an impressive place, nobody could deny that fact. Several storeys tall, and thin as a needle, it didn't look as though it belonged on Knockturn Alley but more comfortably on Welburn, or even Diagon. The Widows had insisted that Knockturn was where they were needed, however, and so the Ministry had reluctantly released Fenox House into their safekeeping.

Formed of sandstone so rough that it had taken two weeks of continuous cleaning to scour off the dirt, smog and dust and restore its natural colour, the place now glittered orange and red in the sunlight, the natural pigment of the rock catching the eye if passers-by in all of the best ways. Five levels rose upwards, two windows peering out of each; of the ten, three were stained glass in shades of blue and green. When they'd first been put in, Hermione had been unable to decipher the tales behind them - it had taken Ginny to explain them, and now that she knew, just looking at them had a suspicious part of her mind clanging danger bells.

By example, the first, on the first floor, depicted the Goddess Circe in her Palace on Aeaea, with frolicking nymphs about her, virginal acolytes serving her, and animals of all types resting at her feet. In the foreground was a male petitioner, bending the knee. It was mostly still, but as Malfoy passed underneath it, Circe came to life, smirking and pointing her staff forward; the male bent his head back in a silent, bone-wracking scream as his back arched and fur sprouted over his flesh. Acolytes and nymph alike giggled, sneered and outright laughed at the man's pain, and as Malfoy reached the door, the man completed his transition into a beautiful, white-furred mountain lion and curled up on the dais, docile and transformed.

Malfoy didn't give it a single look, but Hermione watched the whole thing, her skin crawling. She could have sworn that the last time she'd visited, the man had turned into a lion.

The door was locked, as it always was. Hermione was forced to use the brass knocker, shaped into the sleek head of a fox. It landed with a soft thud that was barely audible from inches away, and Hermione was considering trying again when it dissolved into the door.

"Neat," Malfoy said tonelessly. It was just the two of them today; Harry had called in sick in order to take Ginny to the doctor for a scan. Her friend was ludicrously excited about the upcoming arrival of his first-born. Normally, Hermione would avoid working with Malfoy on his own, which tended to be an awkward and uncomfortable experience all around, but the man refused to postpone his plans to interview the Widow leader and that was not something Hermione could miss.

A second passed before the door creaked open inwardly, and they were greeted by an anonymous figure shrouded in black. "Good morning," the woman greeted them pleasantly. "Names?"

"I'm Auror Malfoy, and this is Doctor Granger." Malfoy flashed his warrant card, his face scowling out of it. Hermione showed her own Ministry ID, keeping a carefully neutral face, even though she wanted to snicker at how Malfoy's tongue tripped over her title. "We need to speak to whomever is in charge."

"Of course," the woman said in the same neutral tone. "Please, follow me. I shall see if she can fit you in."

Stepping back, she turned and led them down a prettily papered hall to a narrow staircase that they were forced to climb in single file. The walls were unadorned, but this was made up for in the grandeur of the bannister itself; vines and flowers interspersed with feathers draped themselves over it, their colour and detail so well defined that they looked real, so real that when Hermione lay her hand delicately upon one she was shocked to realise they were nought but engravings. The woman leading them turned her head slightly, the motion given away by a ripple in her shroud. "Beautiful, aren't they?" she asked, her voice level.

Hermione had the impression that she was smiling.

"Impressive craftsmanship," Hermione conceded as they climbed upwards. The woman faced forward once more, taking them up past the first floor, and then the second, and the third. On the landing of the fourth, however, she veered off abruptly.

They were led into a small, comfortable room furnished simply, the walls washed white, the carpet a pink so delicate that to sully it seemed a crime. The woman indicated two chairs whose colours would be best described as 'storm cloud', before disappearing through yet another door. This one closed soundly behind her, leaving the investigators alone with their thoughts.

Malfoy was the first to break the silence. "Nice place," he said, his voice laced with genuine admiration. "'Dromeda did a good job."

"Expensive, you mean," Hermione muttered nastily in reply, then checked herself. This was a charity, after all. A few creepy windows didn't take away from their good work - just as the voyeuristic mermaid in the Prefect's bath at Hogwarts didn't stop one from taking a nice bath. "Sorry. That was rude."

"No," Malfoy frowned, straightening his spine as he looked around with new eyes. "You're right - this is expensive stuff. How could they afford it? I know that a lot of people donate, but this much?" He met her eyes, his lips twisting wryly as he followed the thoughts to their conclusions. "With all of the other projects they fund? The orphanage alone must cost hundreds of thousands of galleons a year to keep running, and even 'Dromeda didn't invest that much into the Widows."

"Maybe it came like this." Hardly likely, but possible. It could have been a brothel or a gambling hall in its previous life - one could never be sure when it came to Knockturn. She had a sick feeling in her stomach and wasn't overly pleased with herself that she could be so suspicious of an institution that brought about so much good, but…

Her thought was cut short by a woman emerging from the next room. At first glance, Hermione assumed that it must have been the same woman as had met them at the door, but then something made her take a second look.

This one was taller, slimmer, and moved with a sinuous twist to her hips that Hermione wouldn't be able to emulate with a decade of practise. Until then, Hermione couldn't have said how the other woman walked, but now it seemed to her that the first one had been hunched self-consciously under her layers, not as arrogant as she had appeared.

"Welcome, friends," this new one said, her hands spread wide to punctuate her words. "Welcome to Fenox House. How may I help our allies at the Ministry, today?"


"Good morning," Malfoy said pleasantly, standing up. He made an aborted movement, as if he'd gone to shake her hand before remembering that golden rule of the Widows: don't touch them. His hands dangled awkwardly by his side. "If it's no trouble, we'd like to ask some questions pertaining to one of our investigations."

"Of course," she answered, most obligingly. Smiling, she glided over to a free chair and perched delicately on the edge as if she feared it may swallow her whole should she lean back. "I can always spare a few minutes for our brave Aurors. How can I help?"

Draco reseated himself, crossing his legs at the ankle. Hermione could almost believe they were at a tea party. "I'm sure you know that we're investigating the circumstances of the late Madam Umbridge's death?"

"I've been made aware of this, yes," the Widow said. "An unfortunate circumstance, to be sure, though I am not sure what it has to do with us..?" she let the question taper off into silence, and Hermione had the unnerving feeling that she was being closely observed by the woman.

"Neighbours of Madam Umbridge have witnessed Widows visiting her home on multiple occasions," Draco continued. The Widow nodded sagely.

"We visit many women in need of guidance."

Hermione tried to ignore the creepy religious vibe to those words.

"Do you recall exactly what it was that Madam needed guidance with?" Malfoy's voice was silky and charming.

The Widow tilted her head back and forth thoughtfully. "You understand, Auror Malfoy, that I cannot possibly share the details of our conversations with you. Our friends have a reasonable expectation of privacy."

"I understand that, indeed, I celebrate it. Everyone should have a place to turn when things get bad." He gave a self-deprecating smile. "When I imagine my life, if the Widows hadn't stepped in…"

Hermione forced back a disbelieving snort. Was he really going to play this card? It was preposterous!

The Widow seemed swayed, her posture bending forward in sympathy. "Ah, yes, I remember that. You poor child. What were they going to do, again? Azkaban?"

"Lord Greengrass was pushing for the Kiss," Malfoy confided, subdued. Hermione viciously stomped down her nausea.

After the War and during the rebuilding of the Wizarding World, the Aurors rounded up all Death Eaters, Snatchers and suspected sympathisers for trial. This, to Hermione's fury, had included all of the Slytherins from their year. Indeed, they had been locked in the dungeon for the Battle, and the first they knew of the War ending was a contingent of Aurors busting down the doors and shooting binding charms across the room.

Several third and fourth years were caught in the crossfire, including Astoria Greengrass, Malfoy's betrothed. Poor Astoria had suffocated from a mix of the ropes cinching too tight and her asthmatic condition while her classmates were unlawfully arrested. None of the Aurors had noticed, taking the frantic cries and running of the older Slytherins as attacks, rather than the attempts to save her that they were.

The Auror responsible for the death had been brought up on charges and Kissed, but many amongst the Wiz, including her father, blamed Voldemort and his followers, going on a judicial rampage thereafter. It came to a head when Malfoy, beaten and half-starved, was dragged before them on the fourth day of trials.

His trial was the first of the children's, and a farce; it was clear from the beginning that no matter who testified, no matter the truth, Lord Greengrass and his allies were going for the Kiss. His words were twisted, allegations both inflated and entirely made up laid against him, and he was denied the use of Veritaserum due to 'supply shortages'. Bribes were paid out like sweets and complete strangers condemned him on the stands.

Until Andromeda stepped in. She wasn't going to let her nephew be taken down by a corrupt institution, she declared one night at Grimmauld. He was but a child, and she would free him, and take down any of those who stood against her.

Hermione, to this day, was not certain exactly how it had gone down, but the second night of the trial, after Malfoy had been remanded back to Azkaban to await his verdict, a group of Andromeda's friends and allies - including Hermione, Harry and Ron - signed a letter she would not allow them to read. Alone, she Flooed to Kingsley Shacklebolt's office.

The next morning, when the court re-opened, Shacklebolt stood behind the podium of the Head of the Wizengamot and declared Draco Malfoy not only innocent, but absolved of the charges laid against him. The only crimes he had committed had been done as a juvenile, and he would serve Community Service for his use of the Imperius curse. He was given into his Aunt's care until such time as he had completed his sentence.

This laid the framework for the following trials, as well as establishing a hither-to unheard of juvenile system.

This did not prevent the Wizarding World from seeing Draco Malfoy as one step down from the Dark Lord, but it was a start.

But that had not been the work of the Widows, or rather, not this widow. Not this new incarnation of Widows that seemed to be more sinister than the last.

"Then you do understand. I cannot say precisely what Dolores required of us. I have an obligation to her." She raised her hands apologetically, a supplicant looking for forgiveness.

"Might I ask - was Madam Umbridge a member, then?" Malfoy queried, his voice innocent as a child. "I'm sorry to pry, but it really is vital to our investigation that we find out as much as we can…"

There was a heavy pause, in which Hermione tried to come to terms with the sheer audacity of the question - even for an Auror, that question was a faux pas above all others, especially given their previous words. The Widow seemed not to be insulted however; Hermione had the impression that she was smiling.

"Indeed, not. Dolores never joined our organisation, in sure you can understand why. After her actions during the War… Well. She did show her true colours." Her fingers tapped consideringly on the arm of her chair. "That is not to say…"

She fluttered a hand around her, at the subdued opulence of the room, at the organisation she now ran, successful and revered. "Dolores was the sort of woman to covet power, wherever she could find it. Senior Undersecretary, High Inquisitor, Head of the Muggle-born…" she trailed off. "She was obsessed with us. Desperately wanted a place here, always asking how she could redeem herself, if she must. As if she could," she pinned on the end, palpable disgust in her voice.

"If you disapprove so vehemently, then why did Widows visit her?" Malfoy was quick to throw his hands up, preemptively warding off her displeasure at the question. "Please, be as vague as you like."

The Widow did that thing again, tipping her head, only it was more langorous than that, more of a feline tilt than a tip. Hermione immediately categorised it in her head as a tell, then scratched it out - this woman was too calculating to have one so obvious.

"Difficult as Dolores was, she was as lost as anyone after the war ended. The Ministry had been her life, you see, and without it… She found herself at loose ends. We provided her with guidance. I am afraid I cannot say anything more on the matter, except to say that it was quite harmless - charity work and so on."

Malfoy looked satisfied with this, and shot her a look that in universal Auror language meant 'we're done'. But Hermione was not quite done, not yet, and the Widow had unwittingly provided her with the perfect opening to follow up on her real business. "You do a lot of charity work here, don't you?" she smiled warmly. "It's truly, very impressive what this institution has done over the years. The Muggle-Born support programme is a particular favourite of mine; I follow its progress closely."

The Widow seemed to brighten at the praise, her shoulders straightening. "Why, thank you, Doctor Granger. We are most proud of it. Last year alone, we managed to retrieve four of the poor things from the Muggle world, having dropped through the gaps over the past few years. One of them was a particularly skilled gardener-at the Palace, you know- who believed themself a completely average person with an affinity for plants! It's amazing how Muggles can rationalise the extraordinary so well."

Hermione's smile was more genuine this time. She had actually met the gardener, Malcolm, as he'd been brought in for Magical Aptitude Testing back in August. He'd been astonished, but not overly shocked, to find out that Magic was real after all. Hermione had liked him a great deal, and cried that night for all of the potential that had been lost when no one had looked closely enough to find him as a child. Now over thirty, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the man to learn any more magic than he could currently wield.

When first the report on Muggle-born children came out, Hermione had been shocked to learn how many fell through the gaps each year. The Ministry had an arithmantic algorithm to detect Muggle-borns, of course, but it was not always effective. Those who came late to their magic or who mastered it early were only rarely investigated thoroughly; in fact, in reading it Hermione had learned that she, herself, would have slipped through the gaps except for that one unfortunate incident…

But she must not let herself be distracted. "Truly fantastic work. Also in the medical field, I know. You assisted in the development of a Dragon Pox vaccine for teenagers?"

"A simple potion, once you understand the mechanics of vaccination. Anyone could do it," she demurred, while preening in a way as to suggest that she didn't believe her words at all, and only she could have.

"Anyway," Hermione smiled bashfully. "I just wanted to make sure you know just how appreciated you are. I'm in utter awe at your accomplishments, truly. How on earth do you accomplish it?"

There - the tell, again. She was about to lie. Hermione was going to have to revisit her opinion of the woman's intelligence.

"We outsource, mostly; our work is mostly charitable, and we donate to many organisations…"

"But the vaccine in particular - it was kept so quiet for so long. The only way I can imagine you managed it was to have a lab here." Hermione ploughed on, a vindictive pleasure filling her chest as the Widow fished for a response. As her head started to tip, Hermione knew she had her.

"Only a small space, for tinkering." The Widow gave a laugh. "Not a 'lab' really, more of a cauldron-in-the-kitchen situation.."

Liar. Opening the clasp of her bag, Hermione summoned the sheet of paper she needed. "How strange. Someone certainly thinks you do, because they registered a potions lab at number 86 Knockturn Alley a few months back. For 'experimental purposes'." Hermione gave a smile she knew was shark-like. "That's here. What I would like to know is, if you outsource your work, why do you need an experimental potions lab?"

The Widow froze, but Hermione was on a roll, now. She had friends in high places, and unlike Malfoy, who believed today to be about a routine interview, Hermione knew exactly what she wanted from today and came prepared for it. The Widow lashed back. "We do much work here… as a charitable organization, our privacy is paramount. Our members and clients have a certain expectation-"

"Of privacy, yes, I know." Hermione heard her customary briskness re-enter her voice, and revelled in it. Things were going her way. "Except that I have an order of inspection from the Wizengamot here, giving us the right to act as Inspector on behalf of the Department of Magical Misuse."

The air cooled considerably. "Only a Potions Master may inspect our premises," she clipped out. "You are a Muggle doctor." Disgust wrapped around the word Muggle, a typical Magical distaste for those 'lesser beings'. Hermione was reminded of the way she'd cooed 'poor things' about the lost Muggleborns. If this woman wasn't a pureblood, Hermione would eat her shoes.

Hermione felt her eyes go frosty. "Auror Malfoy, remind me, how did you spend those long months of probation? Completing an apprenticeship began under Severus Snape, wasn't it?"

To give him credit, he recovered quickly from the shock of this turn of events. With one glare at Hermione, he turned back to the Widow with an apologetic look. "Quite. Do not worry, Madam, it's only a formality, while we're here."

The Widow's fists clenched, and she held out a hand for the paper.



"I hope you know what you're doing," Malfoy hissed as the door closed behind them. They were alone in the lab on the first floor, the place having cleared just moments before with a sharp word from the head Widow. The room was thin but long, spanning the building from back to front, bar the space for the stairs. It was well sealed, the walls washed white and floors marble - a stone that was theorised to be best for Potion laboratories, as it is loathe to absorb liquid and repels magic. Four stations, like kitchens, were set up in each quadrant of the room, with storage lining the walls and a cupboard for sensitive ingredients warded off by the door. One of the stained glass windows faces in here, though it was blacked from the inside to ensure the quality of light was not compromised by colour.

"Hardly a cauldron-in-the-kitchen situation," Hermione sneered half-heartedly. In truth, her fingers itched to chop, slice, crush and stir. There was something about a good potions lab that touched her very soul.

Hermione waved Malfoy further in impatiently. "Calm down, Malfoy, it's all quite above board." She tugged at a string dangling from a gap in the ceiling and, meeting resistance, scowled. "Health hazard," she said, offhandly, and severed it with a charm. A thump from above sounded. The string disintegrated into dust.

Malfoy watched this scene with narrowed eyes. "All right, then," he drawled. "What are we looking for?"

"What are they brewing?" Hermione asked, gesturing to the half-full, lightly bubbling cauldron in the second area, effectively ducking the question. "What have they brewed? If you check that, I'll look at the ingredients."

Without waiting for an answer, she pulled her wand and headed over to the shelves. Malfoy did the same with the cauldrons, and without further ado, pulled his own wand, using a spell he'd learned during his apprenticeship to identify the potions that laid around the room. With a complicated wand movement over each Cauldon, his wand released a stream of type-paper that he studied attentively.

The ingredients on the wall were run of the mill, the common stuff you could find in any hedge-witch's garden shed. Eye of newt, shredded toad, tiny snail eyes pickling in brine, still spinning gently on their antennae. The shelves were clean and new, the jars and their contents fresh. Hermione found common beetle carapace, but that in itself was no proof; even Sleekeazys utilised them in their higher-end products.

Noting each one down, she methodically worked her way across until she came to the end, and then moved to the opposite side. She was disappointed to note that this was simply a double of the first, though she inspected it closely for aberrations all the same.

When she came to the store cupboard, she checked in on Malfoy, who had performed a cursory inspection of the lab areas and now sat on an unoccupied brewer's bench, frowning at his notes. When he sensed her eyes on him, he didn't look up, but he did ask, "you don't happen to have a copy of Moste Potente Potions on you, do you?"

He looked not at all surprised when she supplied him with the palm-sized book.

Leaving him to it, she pushed through into the store cupboard, the ambient tingle in the air telling her that these ingredients were well protected. She forced her way through the wards, coming out the other side face-to-face with a pair of floating, peeled eyes.

Okay. Breathe, Hermione. They were icy blue in the iris with deep black holes for pupils. They stared, glassily, endlessly.

Hermione, with a firm grip on her tongue by her teeth, took a note of the label beneath with a swish of her wand and moved on.

She had chosen to move to magical note taking due to the presumably delicate nature of the ingredients housed here, something that she came to be glad of as she turned and found herself in a space only a few feet square, each wall lined with jars of every size and description. No repeats here, each jar was unique to itself, as were the ingredients; uncommon mixed with common and the odd rare thrown in, carelessly, so as not to attract attention.

Hermione scoffed at this meager attempt to throw her off. She'd been nicking potions ingredients since she was twelve; as if they could hide the good stuff from her! Ignoring how this organisation was not, in fact, anything to do with her, she took it as a challenge and searched more intensely.

She found Boomslang skin and Erumpant tail hidden amongst snowdrops and exploding ginger, Acromantula venom stuffed behind an enormous jug of Armadillo bile, and one whole Ashwinder, pickled, behind a case of Frost Pixie fingers.

In the back, she found remnants of Scarab in an empty vial, clinging to the lip from which it had been poured. Recently. Frowning at it, she made a note to call Katya.

Malfoy was waiting for her outside. He was not alone.

"I do believe we were promised privacy?" she said, tartly, upon spotting the woman stood in the centre of the room. "Was I mistaken?"

Malfoy grimaced as this new Widow - tall, lean and graceful - turned her head to Hermione. "Ah, Miss Granger," she greeted her in a familiar voice. "Forgive me, but I couldn't resist popping in. I see so little of Draco, nowadays."

Hermione felt her eyes pop in surprise. "Lady Malfoy?"

Behind the veil, she clucked in disapproval. "I do believe the Ministry has stripped me of that title. Let us keep it to 'Mrs', shall we?"

Hermione snorted at her tone. Textbook aristocrat. "That is you, isn't it?"

Gloves hands obligingly lifted the veil to reveal those familiar, aristocratic features. Her doleful eyes matched those of her son. "I trust you won't tell my secret," she said, calmly.

Hermione gave a nod. "Are you finished, Malfoy?" she asked, turning away from his mother. "We'll need to be heading back soon."

She wrapped up her things and shoved the book containing her notes to the bottom of her bag while the Malfoys talked quietly. She wasn't surprised, per se, to find that Narcissa Malfoy had joined the Widows. It seemed to confirm something within her, an unflattering assumption - that the organisation couldn't possibly be as good as it claimed to be if Narcissa had volunteered. Or, perhaps she had simply been after power, like many others.

Either way, whether Lady Malfoy was involved or not, there was definitely something fishy going on with the Widows. And, Hermione resolved, looking into the murky depths of one of the cauldrons, she was going to figure it out.

"Oh, Miss Granger?" Came Mrs Malfoy's voice. She approached, stalking across the floor accompanied by an obnoxious clicking of heels. She stopped a half a foot away, bringing something out of her pocket. "While I have you - here." She pressed the thing into Hermione's hand; it was small, hard and cold. "The first repayment of my extensive debt to you. Keep it close, dear. One never knows when one will need protection."

Their eyes met and held for a long, hard moment, Mrs. Malfoy's shining with warning. Hermione just didn't know what she was being warned of.

"Stay safe," Mrs Malfoy said, finally, patting Hermione's hands with her own porcelain perfect one. Spinning on one foot, she swept from the room.