Bellatrix began her Sunday in what she could best sum up as a ‘gray’ mood. She wasn’t happy, she wasn’t angry, she was just… Floating on a sea of flat emotion. Ever since she returned from her tutoring on Thursday she’d had almost no enthusiasm. It was a mood that her sisters didn’t miss. Narcissa could tell something was bothering her older sister but not pinpoint a cause. Andromeda however knew something was up, and the approximate reason for why. Knowing her sister could tell led Bellatrix towards attempting something of a chipper attitude and even went out of her way to terrorize some Gryffindor first years as a way of throwing Andromeda off.
The result was mediocre at best. If anything Andromeda was more agitated at her forced attitude than her lack of one at all. She’d always been able to sense and work around her moods more than Narcissa. Narcissa was liable to get frustrated at her sister and wander off until she calmed down, whereas Andromeda would glue herself to her sisters side. Generally it led to her stepping in before Bellatrix could blow her top at someone who didn’t deserve it, though now it was just making her feel smothered.
Throughout breakfast in the Great Hall Andromeda had been no more than a few feet away and had taken it upon herself to guard her sister, fending off the Lestrange brothers and other Slytherin’s who seemed to want her attention.
Bellatrix could feel her mood souring further when Emelia never showed up for breakfast. She’d been looking forward to conversing with the witch and explaining her actions. Maybe even apologize if she felt generous enough. But no one had seen her except in classes on Friday. She hadn’t shown up for meals and had seemed to disappear as soon as they were released. Saturday had droned on the same, no sight and no word. Bellatrix felt loathe to lower herself to knocking on the girl's door to get her attention but at this rate it didn’t seem like she would have a choice.
While her sister was engrossed in a hushed discussion a boy from Ravenclaw, Bellatrix took her leave. Pushing her cold plate of eggs and toast away from herself she left the Hall and headed up one of the main staircases. Her mood had soured enough to the point where she felt like blowing off steam and the only safe location to do so in the castle was the Come and Go Room. Ever since she’d been made aware of its existence in her fifth year she’d used it as a safe haven for venting frustrations or spending time studying without the incessant distractions of other students. Even her sisters were unaware of its location and had learned that she would only be found when she wanted to be.
Her time with the room had aided her when studying for exams and OWL's, giving her a large open space work. It would pull up a near copy of the library whenever she needed time and space to leave, well-built laboratories for potions experiments containing beautiful brand-new equipment, and practice targets for when spellwork was on her mind. It had even come in handy whenever she was feeling worn down or numb to her existence by offering her a replica of the Forbidden Forest to exhaust and recuperate in.
She understood most of the logistics of the room. The seventh year who showed it to her made explicit mention that she’d need to be specific when requesting space. However over time it had been made apparent that whatever entity or consciousness controlled the room had become somewhat familiar to her. Now it seemed all she needed was a vague notion of what she needed it for and it would furnish out the rest. It had come in handy more often than not, and she hoped it would serve that purpose today. She wasn’t sure if anyone could find the room when she was inside of it but it had kept Andromeda and Narcissa away from her enough that she felt safe going to it now. If anything they would admonish her later when she reappeared. A worry for later.
After what felt like ages she reached the seventh floor. As she rounded a corner to the hallway she wanted her feet fell flat and her body stood rigid. There in front her was the door to the room, already standing stock still against the wall. It was… Unusual to put it mildly. As far as she was aware the presence of the door meant someone else was already inside. But who? Her feet carried her forward slowly until she stood right before the tall oaken door. Turning her head to the side she placed her ear against it and focused her hearing. Nothing. No sounds whatsoever to indicate it was in use. Regardless of who the occupant was the room hadn’t thought it necessary enough to close the entrance.
Placing a palm flat against the doorknob she wrapped her fingers around it and gently twisted. The knob turned easily in her grip and the door swung upon on silent hinges. Looking back to check she was alone Bellatrix opened it fully and strode quietly into the room, pulling the door shut behind her. When it closed with an audible click she winced and held her breath. When no sound met her ears she walked forward into the eerily lit space.
It was… Huge. Her eyes opened wide in wonder at the vastness of it all. Space stretched out in almost every direction. She was awed at the massive extension charm that must have allowed it to spawn a room this massive. All up and around her were piles and piles of curios and junk. Dressers, vanities, mirror and bookshelves. Piles and piles of books, jewelry, paper, chandeliers and chairs. Even a bed frame or two peaked out from the bottom of the walls of junk. A thin pathway existed between it all that led further into the space while twisting out of sight a few feet beyond her.
Stepping forward she observed the area for signs of whoever had conjured this version of the room. For minutes she continued silently with no noise except her own breathing to accompany her. Slowly however she could pick something up in the distance. It was far away and it only seemed to come to her if she held her head just right. Drawing her wand from the hidden sheathe against her forearm she continued cautiously.
Eventually the path led to a ‘Y’ shaped fork, and she chose this spot to wait and see if she could pinpoint the far off sound. As she stood craning her neck back and forth and turning in circles a thin green item at the bottom of a pile of books caught her attention. It was thin but moving ever so slightly. Ignoring the far off sound and stepping forward slowly she kept her wand aimed at the item and steeled herself to use force on whatever it was. As she got close enough her breath caught in her throat.
Memories flashed back as she recognized the item for what it was. Sitting only feet from her while curling itself around a stack of notebooks was a small toy fashioned in the shape of the Slytherin mascot, a green snake. It had been enchanted to move and act like a real one. Beady little eyes and a felt serpents tongue regarded her warily before it suddenly surged forward to wrap softly around her leg.
Heedless to the other occupant of the room she laughed loudly in open delight as the snake wound its way up to her proffered palm. She hadn’t seen the toy in the interim since she’d enchanted it to perform a prank on a Hufflepuff student. For five years she had been wondering about what had happened to it. The Hufflepuff in question never retaliated against her and eventually she had assumed the student had destroyed it in distress.
Pulling up the wriggling toy to wrap around her neck she froze as her ears acclimated to the new silence. The sound she’d heard in the distance was gone. Her reckless laughing had alerted the other occupant to her presence. She began to continue up the right side of the fork and brought her wand to bear, her footfalls the only sound echoing around her. Continuing on she came to a break in the path that opened into a large semicircle cleared of junk and detritus.
Without realizing it she had found the subject of her poor mood. The girl was outfitted in muggle style clothes. She wore a large gray sweater swamping her by a size or two and a pair of tight-fitting muggle style jeans that were black as night. Black boots with a short heel completed her ensemble. She was sat upon a large high backed chair with her head in her hands while her fingers scratched patterns idly into her short hair. At the sound of Bellatrix’s footfalls entering the open space she looked up and brought her arm forward swiftly to brandish her wand.
"Bellatrix. Of course it’s you," Emelia spoke in a tight voice as she wiped away obvious tears from her eyes. "What do you want?"
This was... different, she finally decided on. She hadn't come here to cause any issues with Emelia and hadn’t expected to find the witch crying all alone. It unsettled her in a way she wasn't sure she was comfortable with.
"Didn't mean to interrupt," she finally settled on, "I didn't know anyone else knew about this place."
She walked towards her Housemate while Jörmun wiggled around her neck to peak out through her hair. The silence settled in as Emelia's eyes tracked Jörmun. When his fake tongue lifted back and forth in obvious interest a small smile came to her lips.
"Bellatrix, uh, what is... That ?"
The question broke Bellatrix out of her self-imposed silence as a warm grin rose up. Settling down onto the cold wooden floor next to Emelia’s feet she held out her arm towards the witch. Jörmun began to slide from her neck and across her shoulder to stretch over on to Emelia’s open palm.
"His name is Jörmun, for the World Serpent. I made him for a prank five years ago but lost him after it. Honestly never thought I'd find him again but he was just sliding around some books as I was walking up."
"Uh huh," Emelia replied, a light giggle starting up her as Jörmun flicked his soft felt tongue against her finger.
‘This is... Nice,’ she thought to herself. Her morning was no longer numb or dreary, regardless of the awkwardness still lurking between Emelia and herself.
"I'm sorry," Emelia spoke up suddenly. "About... About what I called you last week. I didn't say it to upset you. I didn’t even know it was a secret. But I shouldn’t have responded to you like that."
Bellatrix could feel her breath freeze.
Bellatrix almost couldn't remember the last time someone who wasn't one of her sisters had apologized to her in an honest manner. Whenever her peers apologized it was almost always at the end of a threat. And her immediate family never apologized. She had a strong suspicion that her parents were physically incapable of apologizing in any manner. They always had sought to instill in her and her sisters that to apologize was to allow weakness. And weakness was something that just couldn't be afforded for those of her station. You said what you meant and you meant what you said, damn the consequences.
She was pulled from being lost in her head when the short hair witch in front of her sat back in her chair and sighed.
"Oh, uh...," she brought a hand to rifle through the black locks of hair laying in front of her face. "Thank you. I forgive you. I took the whole thing out of proportion. I kind of have that issue sometimes. And I'm sorry for retaliating like that. It wasn't deserved. I treated you like a common mudblood. That was wrong of me." Bellatrix failed to see the slight wince as she finished as Emelia reached down to rub at her arm.
"Thank you for saying that Bellatrix. I appreciate it. And while we're on the subject of apologies, I'm also sorry for attacking you in class. That was just-"
"Awesome!" Bellatrix broke in, her face etched in amusement and excitement in equal measure.
"No one's beaten me yet except some dueling teachers. No one's ever been fast enough, whether I was looking at em’ or not. Where'd you learn to move so bloody quick?"
Emelia stretched out her arm to pass back Jörmun and looked off into the distant piles of random items.
"I was taught a few years ago. I Had to learn quick and It just kind of... Stuck."
"Well, that’s pretty cool. We should spar sometime," Bella stood up and brushed off her robes. What were you doing in here anyways? I've never been in this version of the room before. Plenty of other versions I’d needed but not this junk pile."
Emelia stood and stretched her body, gazing briefly around them before responding.
"I heard about the room from a friend before coming here. Heard about an item in it as well. Just wanted to see if I could find it. I got kind of… Emotional, when I couldn’t."
It only took Bellatrix a second to decide to help her rival.
"Well, what was it? I can help you look if you'd like. Certainly have an easier time exploring it all with two people at it, yeah?”
Emelie held herself rigid for a moment, crossing her arms and biting her lip before replying.
Unbidden a thought rushed through Bellatrix’s mind.
‘She's quite... Pretty.'
As the moment dragged on Bellatrix was about to wave the offer off and leave when Emelia finally replied.
"Sure. It's a tall mirror that arches at the top. The frame is made from bright gold. It should be as tall as us if not more. Trust me, you'll know it when you see it. There’s nothing else like it in here."
With the description given and a warmth flooding her cheeks, Bellatrix set off in search of the mysterious mirror. Jörmun coiled himself around her bicep and held on tightly as she raced around the available pathways. The room truly was a maze. Every so often she would need to double back when her current route would terminate in an insurmountable pile of junk. Once or twice she was sure she'd located the mirror only to find it was part of a vanity or cracked and broken. Nothing stood out in a way that said it was special .
After wandering for what felt like forever but must have been only an hour or two at most she came across another dead end. When she went to turn around her eyes caught on a sliver of gold against the far wall. Halting her turn she walked forwards and approached the item side on. Looking on it side to side she realized it was mostly buried beneath a pile of moth-eaten robes that stood almost twice as tall as she was. Grasping the side of the object she held it steady while pulling out her wand and beginning to levitate the piles of robes into a far corner.
When the robes had finally been pulled away she placed her wand back into its holster and began to drag the item into the middle of the clearing. Once it was fully in place she let go and stepped around to what she assumed was it’s front. The sight of it all led her to know it was definitely what Emelia was looking for. It was just different from the rest of the junk in this place. A bright gold frame buttressed a flat perfect mirror that shone with the intensity only silver backing could give it.
As she viewed her reflection she came to a stop and gasped at the new sight in the mirror. Her reflection was being wrapped up in black and gray mist that only seemed to exist within the mirror space. It built up until she couldn’t even see herself reflected back before it slowly began to recede. When it had gone fully she was left staring at an oddly heartbreaking sight. The room was no longer reflected back along with her and instead it appeared she stood on a grassy field, flanked on both sides by two women. Slowly she came to realize it was her sisters that stood there. Taller and older it was still recognizably Andy and Cissa.
Cissa was taller and her hair was pinned up in regal elegance. She was dressed in a thin black dress and mourning veil. In contrast to the outfit she was smiling broadly. Andy was also taller, nearly a half foot more than Bellatrix. She was dressed in much the same as Narcissa. The only color to her was a bright gold ring hanging from a similarly colored chain around her neck. In the background of the trio were two gravestones hidden by their bodies so that she couldn't read the names engraved upon them. As she stared at the older versions of her sisters the mist swept back in and dissolved them both.
When it retreated again she was left staring back at herself in a floor length black dress and a black leather corset combination. She was wearing a ring on her left hand and if she squinted enough she could make out the Black family crest upon the face of it. In her other hand she held her wand with a white knuckled grip. A smaller ring that she guessed to be an engagement ring of some sort was sitting upon the floor by her feet. Behind her and to the right stood a man almost a foot taller than her, turned away from the mirror. His head was hanging in some emotion she couldn’t decipher while greasy black hair whipped back and forth from unfelt wind.
The more she looked the more she was sure that it was Rodolphus. Intrigued by the sight she walked forward and brought her fingertips to the mirror surface. She could see someone else standing in the distance behind them with a hood up but they remained far enough away that she couldn’t make out who it was. As she stared the gray mist swirled in again. It pulled the scene away and left the scene with her sisters behind. Mind racing and heart pounding Bellatrix stood entranced as the scene presented by the mirror switched back and forth.
After a few minutes where she began to feel lightheaded she caught herself and raised her wand in the air to wordlessly send out her patronus to find Emelia and lead her over. The small blue white crow flew from her wand tip and out over the walls of the aisle. While waiting she shifted from foot to foot while observing the mirror shift back and forth. The sound of shoes slapping against the floor finally alerted her to the arrival of Emelia.
As Hermione rounded the corner she came upon Bellatrix shifting awkwardly. Bellatrix barely spared her a glance as she came to a stop beside her. The little crow patronus had led most of the way and the warmth of her scar had led the rest. Bellatrix still stood quietly entranced by the mirror and paid her no mind. It was as she'd last seen it, tall and imposing, arched at the head while twin golden spikes flanked the top. Even the engraving along the curving top was the same as the last time she'd found it. The mirror finish was clear and the gold surround it spotless and polished. She couldn’t help but wonder if Dumbledore had yet to ‘find’ the mirror back here or had placed it here himself.
"Bellatrix? What do you see?" That seemed to catch the witch from her stupor as she jerked to the side and threw a glance at Hermione.
"I see my sisters and I. And a pair of graves in the background. They're... Happy. Seeing this makes me happy. Em', what is this thing?" Bellatrix stepped backwards and turned with some reluctance to look at Hermione.
"The Mirror of Erised. It's enchanted to show you what your heart most desires, even if you don't know what that is before you see it. I'd heard it was here but wasn't really sure. Thank you for finding it Bella."
If Bellatrix was displeased by the nickname and tone of familiarity she didn't show it.
"So... What do you see Em'?"
Hermione watched as gray mist swaddled her mirrored form. As it withdrew it left behind Hermione standing in a patch of sunlight with her Father and Mother standing to her side, each with a warm smile upon their face.
Bellatrix seemed appeased with that answer and took a few more steps backwards until she was at the far edge of the little dead-end they were ensconced in.
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Don't know," Hermione replied, "Hadn’t really thought I’d find it. I suppose I'll leave it. Let someone else find it in time. Maybe come back in a few months and see if its changed."
"Come on, we should get out of here. Slughorn will have our heads if no one can find us. And I'm starving. Want to grab lunch? Or I guess an early dinner at this point."
With that Hermione turned and led the dark haired witch down the path they'd arrived from. The silence as they walked was a strange comfort, as was the warm pain emanating from her scar. It had settled into a pulsing heat that beat in time with her heart. The only sounds were their feet upon the floor and the quiet sound of breathing.
"Hey Em," Bellatrix broke the quietude, "How'd you get that scar?"
Hermione's feet failed her and her body came to an graceless halt.
"What scar?" Her voice broke as she replied and her eyes widened painfully in shock.
"The one on your neck. It's peaking out your sweater. If you don't want to talk about it that's alright. I didn't mean to upset you."
Hermione's breath released in a rush as her heart slowed its breakneck pace.
‘She hasn't seen it, thank Merlin. ’
‘For now,’ the voice in the back of her head replied.
Beginning to walk again Hermione threw Bellatrix a soft look and shrugged her shoulders.
"I had a necklace on. I had an accident a few weeks ago. A piece of accidental magic heated it up until it burned me." Bellatrix gave her a sympathetic frown.
"Yeah. But apparently I passed out, so I didn't even have to experience the worst of it. It's stiff sometimes and... Unsightly. But other than that it's just a mark."
Bellatrix nodded in affirmation as they continued the rest of the walk in silence. During the walk they took turns passing off Jörmun between them as the imitation snake wandered and explored. When they reached the entrance Hermione looked back towards the massive room scanned the piles of junk. Sitting far away but high enough to be seen upon a pile of old wooden chairs was a gleaming crown, a jewel among the detritus. Her heart panged in her chest and her breath quickened.
‘I'll deal with it later. I know where it is now.’
Walking into the great hall with Emelia in tow was an interesting experience to say the least. Students of different houses gave them both a wide berth and questioning looks as they strode past while hushed whispers followed behind them. Whatever animosity the pair had shown towards one another was fueling the new speculation about why they were being seen together. For her part Emelia seemed to bare it well. Her head was held high and she spared nothing but disdainful gazes for those around them.
Bellatrix couldn't help but admire the regal manner in which she held herself. She didn't know much about the short haired witch's backstory and their shared time in the come and go room had left more questions than answers. Still she was more than content to wait and learn what she could. It didn’t help that the witch was beautiful. She wouldn't deny that. The close-cropped masculine hairstyle blended seamlessly into her facial features and choice of clothes in a way that brought a warm heat to Bellatrix's core.
As she shook her head loose of those thoughts they entered the Great Hall and picked a spot on a bench nearest the entryway. Their shared lunch was quiet and only interspersed every so often with vague personal small-talk and discussion over class work.
As they were preparing to leave the table Harmonia came swooping in above their heads while taking a swipe at a ragged looking owl before she landed.
Laughing quietly to herself at Harmonia's antics Bellatrix plucked the small scroll attached to her leg while Harmonia tapped at Emelia's fingers with her beak.
‘Her smile is beautiful ,’ thought Bellatrix as she worked to open the wax seal on the scroll, catching glimpses of Emelia as she fed strips of meat from her leftovers to Harmonia.
‘Your tutoring session has been moved to Sunday, 5pm. Your Head of House has been made aware of the time change. Do NOT be late.
Her heart dropped down into her stomach and she cursed lowly beneath her breath as she reread the scroll. Pocketing the parchment she stood from the table after scratching Harmonia on her neck and excused herself.
As she left she almost managed to convince herself that Emelia wasn’t wearing a crestfallen face at her departure.