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The Mysterious Department

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"Because of what happened detective, you're being relocated to the Department of Mysteries."

Her chief's words echoed in her head dreadfully as Hermione carried a box full of her stuff, her feet numbly bringing her to the elevator.

What even was the Department of Mysteries? She didn't know such a thing existed but her boss had given her clear instructions on where to go. To the dead end alley corner at Diagon Alley where someone would pick her up. She was nervous. What if she was going to get whacked? After all, she had seen something no other human had. Was it some secret governmental ploy that she had inadvertently gotten involved in?

Still, her never ending curiosity and need for knowing everything, out weighed any worry she might have. So, she left the police station she had called her job for the past five years and followed her boss's instructions.

The spring air was cool around her, treading fingers through her curly hair as she stood by the designated spot. It was empty here for Diagon Alley was not in a savory part of town. She settled the box down by her feet and rubbed her hands together to keep warm. She wished she'd worn a heavier jacket- she wished she'd done a lot of things differently for then maybe she could keep her job- but it was too late for such regrets. She cast furtive glances this way and that, eyes and ears open to the slightest hint of a threat while she kept in mind the exact positioning of her service pistol.

When nothing happened for thirty minutes, she started to let her guard down. Maybe it was all a joke? A badly placed one? She knew how the officers liked to joke with her. Though it was never funny when they left tacks on her seat, or hacked her computer, or put hot sauce into her tea, she had grinned and bared it for what else could she do. They were just jealous she was a better detective than them and she wasn't going to purposefully fail in order to appease their egos.

She had learned to brush off their pranks and ignore them, and to just focus on her work. She had closed more unsolved cases than any detective before and it had to do with being able to notice details no one else could. It was her greatest skill as a detective. And it was why she was promoted so easily and quickly.

A sliding sound like something being scrapped across the ground drew her attention to the wall at the end of the alley. She jerked her head around and noticed that the brick wall was sliding apart, revealing the entrance to an otherwise hidden stone path. And standing there, was a woman with blonde hair and the most peculiar clothing. Her hair was shoulder length, hidden by a pointy witches hat, a pair of swirly glasses perched on her face, big enough to hide almost all of her face. She had galoshes with whimsical designs on her feet despite there being no rain. She had a pair of overalls on top of a polka dot shirt and around her shoulder hung a hemp tote bag decorated with beads and with what looked like several branches poking out from inside it.

She was pale like she had never seen the light of day and her features marked her being younger than Hermione's 28 years.

"Uh, hello?" Hermione inquired into the cold air.

The blonde woman tipped her head, her expression hidden behind the oversized pair of glasses. "Ah, a muggleborn," she said at last in a wispy and ethereal voice. "You will do nicely." And then she turned around and started walking down the path.

"Hey, wait up! I have questions for you!" Hermione called out, grabbed her box, and giving one last look to the world she was leaving, she followed the blonde down the mysterious path. The bricks slid closed behind her once she entered and she wondered how that was done. She didn't see any mechanics there. Must be secret governmental technology.

"Do you know what's going on? On why I was relocated here?" Hermione asked of the blonde's back as she strode ahead quickly down the winding unchanging path. The blonde woman must have been sent to fetch her. But to fetch her where exactly? She knew it was a place called the Department of Mysteries...but that title in itself was a mystery.

"You'll be debriefed once we reach the Department of Mysteries."

Hermione hated being denied answers right away but she bit her tongue. At the end of the large gray tunnel, they got to a large black door with a lion knocker on it.

"Password," it snarled out and Hermione blinked once, then twice. Had that just talked? What?

"Goobersnaps," the blonde said and the door swung open, the light momentarily blinding Hermione. She squeezed her eyes against the glare and walked through, blindly following the blonde woman. They stepped out into a whole other town that Hermione had never seen before. A town bustling with people. People in strange garbs- robes and hats, and carrying brooms or animals or other strange objects.

"What-what is this?" she gasped out, her sharp scientific brain trying to process everything-trying to categorize it, and failing horribly at doing so.

But her companion did not answer anything, just pressed on in her silent but hurried manner. Hermione followed after her, craning her head left and right and taking as much of everything in as she could.

It looked like she had stepped into some fantasy world. The road was cobblestone and the buildings looked like they had been built in the medieval ages. The store fronts contained marvelous objects. Cages of owls, bubbling cauldrons, floating books...the list went on. Hermione's eyes were wide and her jaw was slack. She had never heard of such a place before. Was this a governmental base where they experimented with insane technology that seemed almost magical? And who were all these people here? Volunteers? She had more questions now than ever.

Hermione almost lost track of the blonde woman through the crush of the crowd. She sped up to catch her, the crowd thinning out as they stepped to a less visited part of town. They stopped right in front of an inn called Hogshead. "In through here," the blonde informed and they entered a dingy bar smelling of smoke and alcohol. It was dark and only had two people inside- the bartender and one customer snoring loudly on a table in the back. Given the multiple bottles of drink by him, it wasn't hard to guess why he was knocked out.

"The usual, Arnold," the blonde said to the bartender who nodded his head and put down the dirty glass he was cleaning with a dirty rag. He turned to rifle through his drink cabinet.

"I don't mean to be rude- but I didn't come all this way for drinks," Hermione spoke up, unable to bear the suspense any longer. She had too many questions to drink. So many she didn't even know where to start.

The woman continued on as if she hadn't heard Hermione. Arnold turned around with a key and a shot. The blonde tipped the shot back easily and pocketed the key. "New recruit?" he asked, rubbing his grizzled chin and not looking at Hermione even as he spoke about her.

"Yes. She has a reputation for being really good at what she does so we have high hopes," the blonde answered.

"I can speak for myself, you know," Hermione pointed out, getting a bit peeved. When they ignored her at that too, she let out a blustery sigh and shifted the box in her hands. They were getting a bit tired from carrying the weight around for so long.

"I hope she can solve that case. We're all counting on it," Arnold said and that signaled the end of the conversation for the blonde moved on again and Hermione, still pissed, followed after her. They went to the room on the first floor and unlocking the door, they stepped into a cheaply furnished room that looked like it hadn't been dusted in a while. Hermione sneezed at the dust that the blonde woman's actions brought up as she opened up the bathroom. A couple of roaches skittered past and Hermione shivered in disgust.

"Step in the toilet please," the woman instructed and Hermione did a double take.

"Excuse me?" she raised her voice a pitch or two, incredulous eyes on the blonde next to her.

"In the toilet." Was the nonchalant reply.

"Why?"

"Just trust me."

"I have no need to! You haven't given me any reason for it." Was this blonde woman daft? Hermione was starting to become convinced this was some elaborate prank where the officers behind it were trying to see how far they could go with this until Hermione exploded with anger.

The woman tipped her head as if not understanding why Hermione would refuse. "If you do so, I can start answering your questions. I know you are brimming with many."

Hermione tried to fight the offer, she did, but truly there was no bounds to her curiosity. She had done many stupid things to quench it and today certainly wouldn't be the day she would stop. Thinking on how anserine this was, she closed the lid with one hand, tucking the box of her things under her other hand as she got ready to stand on the toilet.

"In the bowl."

Hermione paused at that and looked at the other. Was this woman crazy?

"You want me, to stand in the water?" she said slowly, so that the blonde could hear how insane the demand was.

"Yes. It's the only way this will work."

Hermione took a deep cleansing breath here, deciding if she would still do this for answers, and realizing she would, she muttered out, "I can't believe I'm doing this," before stepping into the water.

"Excellent!" the blonde clapped her hands and instructed, "hold your breath," as she tugged on the toilet handle.

"Hold my breath, what do you mean-" but Hermione's question was cut off as impossibly the toilet roared loudly and she began to twirl as it sucked her in.

Hermione didn't know how to discuss or explain what happened next except that she was flushed down the toilet like a piece of paper and when the screams coming from her throat died out and she opened her eyes she found herself, dry, standing in an open stall, in an entirely different bathroom with another woman there, drying her hands on some towels.

"You sure pick the screamers, Luna," said the vaguely amused woman with her back to Hermione.

The stall next to Hermione's flushed and a second later the blonde woman stepped out. "It's my fault. I did not explain anything to her."

"Luna, we went over this-you need to give them some warning."

"I'd rather not risk others overhearing valuable secrets," the blonde- Luna- explained.

The other woman in the bathroom turned around, and if Hermione's heart wasn't beating so hard from a mind bending journey of 'what the fuck', she would have been taken with the other woman's appearance. Dark curls as thick as midnight pulled into a messy ponytail, heavily lidded eyelids over black eyes, pouty lips colored a deep red, and a toned and lean body that was adorned in tight black slacks, a white pressed shirt rolled up to the sleeves, and suspenders.

"Well then, I suppose we own Miss Granger some answers," the dark haired woman said and strode out of the bathroom, Luna and Hermione following her, Hermione with shaking legs and clutching onto her box of possessions as if it was a life line to her sanity.

They entered a giant dimly lit office, the ceiling so high up it became black with distance. And in the air, floating over the disorganized mess that could only be called the office desks, was a full sized ship. The sails moved in a breeze and she could make out shadows moving on it, meaning someone was on it, if the fact there were loud boisterous voices and music playing as it sailed on and out of Hermione's sight was not enough proof.

How-how was that up there? Had they used wires to make it work?

There was a tall mirror in one corner, glass smooth and with no reflection at all. Another corner held a knight in rusted armor, propped up lazily and a bit clunky looking as if someone had hastily remade him. Jars, ancient looking pottery, elaborate bowls, simple vials, and scrolls upon dusty scrolls of paper were lined up against the walls. And in the back of the room was a massive door that was locked with a heavy pad-bolt and had a bar across it like it was keeping others out. But who? What secrets could be in there?

Starting to feel a bit overwhelmed, she looked at things she could make sense of. Like the desks. One was messy, with stacks of paper on it, by it, and surrounding it. How could a person function in such a mess? One of the other desks had weird objects on it, a couple even steaming oddly colored smoke into the air, but none of them objects that Hermione could name. And there was one that was organized but that had some bolts and gears on it in a neat pile. And then there was one that was empty. Hermione reckoned it would hers.

"Welcome to the Department of Mysteries," Luna said as she drew to a stop in the middle of the room and spread her arms out wide. "The place where the magical and mysterious occur in tandem."

"What does that even mean?" blurted out of Hermione's mouth as she stopped a few inches off from Luna and the dark haired woman who plucked a steaming cup of coffee off of the desk with many papers on it.

"We'll get to that Miss Granger," the dark haired woman said as she leaned back against a desk, crossing her legs at the knee and putting her hand in her pocket. Whereas the blonde gave off air head vibes and a mellow demeanor, this woman gave off an almost cocky and intimidating feel. "First off, introductions are in order, as I'm certain you have no clue as to who we are."

She didn't give Hermione time to confirm this before pointing to Luna. "This is Luna Lovegood, our researcher. She's responsible for tracking down our cases and making sure we are aware of what we're going into." Luna smiled at the praise as the dark haired woman continued. "She is highly credited and has a sharp eye for details. She is also well versed in every single curse and mystical object that we could possibly need to recover and takes care of the objects we capture."

Hermione's brows furrows here. Curses? Mystical objects? What?

"I'm Bellatrix Black, the field agent in charge of recovery of the objects and of damage control," Bellatrix said, taking a sip of her coffee, black like her namesake. "I was chosen for this job because of my accuracy with a weapon and my gut instinct. And my nearly impeccable success record rate."

Hermione was becoming more and more frustrated. What the hell was going on? Who were these people? Their introductions only confused Hermione more.

And what did this have to do with her?

If this was a prank, then by hell it was the best one the boys had pulled on her. Seriously, they must have paid a lot of money on the location, the costumes, the special effects, and even the actors. They were super convincing.

But by the extensive nature of this, it was how Hermione knew it wasn't a prank even as her mind told it was because she didn't want to face the other reality of it. That this was, somehow, impossibly real and that Hermione had been thrown into something far larger than she could handle.

"And Nymphadora Tonks is our house keeper. She makes sure we're in top shape, that the place is in top shape, and she handles any small tasks or cataloging that needs to be done," Bellatrix said, but there was no sight of the woman being mentioned. There was an awkward beat before:

"Nymphadora!" Bellatrix called out shrilly. "Our guest is here."

At this there was a loud thud and a hiss that all seemed to come from below ground. A second later, one of the marble panels on the floor slid open to reveal a dirty faced woman rubbing a bump on the top of her head. Her hair was bright pink and spiky and she had goggles over it. She didn't pull herself out of the floor, so Hermione could only see her head and shoulders. "Sorry, I was in the middle of fixing something up. I didn't think it would take this long." She explained to Bellatrix before extending her hand towards Hermione. "Nice to meet you. You can call me Dora." When it became obvious that she was waiting on Hermione to shake her hand, Hermione rushed to do so, taking the glove covered one in hers.

"Nice to meet you," she said with a stiff grin before Dora slid back down into the hole, replacing the tile correctly as she went.

Everyone was so odd here.

"Now, I'm sure you have a lot of questions. We did too when we first joined. But our program director- Kingsley- isn't here yet and so we'll have to do the explaining for now," Bellatrix said, swallowing down the rest of her drink and setting the empty mug on her desk. "I don't like long winded speeches, nor do I have the time for them, so I'll be brief. You, Miss Granger, were selected to be here because you have a special ability that not many muggleborns share."

There it was. That odd phrase again. What did it mean?

"The ability to see things that aren't usually visible to those without magic-"

"Excuse me, did you just say magic?" Hermione incredulously asked.

Bellatrix flashed her an annoyed look at being interrupted. "Don't interrupt me." The look was scary enough that Hermione didn't.

Bellatrix plucked a file off of the top of the stack on her desk and opened it. "During a robbery happening, you were able to spot three green men-Goblins, as you will realize they are rightfully called- behind the attempt. No one else saw them, but you were able to stop them from carrying out the crime. Surveillance footage that had been recovered inexplicably showed you wrestling with invisible forces and while it made no sense to anyone watching it, you were able to stop money from mysteriously moving into the bags being loaded." She snapped the file closed and tossed it haphazardly onto her desk. "Thus, you are here as per your chief's reports to our program director. You are detail oriented, have a long track record of solving cases and are capable on the field as your past files have shown. It was decided you should work here from now on, given your special ability and our other field agent's- and my partner's- untimely death."

Hermione sucked in a huge breath. This was a lot to take in. "So, you honestly don't think I'm crazy?" Hermione herself hadn't known what to make of that incident. She knew those things had been real. She had fought them. Felt their breath on her back, their claws in her skin as she fired at them repeatedly. And even when they died no one could see them.

They had thought her raving mad when they heard her report.

"Looks like Granger's finally lost it. That big head of yours get too big?" Goyle had teased.

"She's asked too many questions and got into someone's business that she shouldn't have and now she's daft!" Crabbe contributed unpleasantly.

She had ignored them as best she could, but the words got to her because she herself wondered what had happened. Was she really losing her mind?

And then when the chief had told her he was letting her go she'd feared she would be fired because she was deemed too mentally unstable. But in fact it had been because another department had wanted her and the chief couldn't keep her here despite her being his best detective.

"I wish we could close this case that you were involved on, but sadly the higher ups told us to let it go and for you to come work with them. I tried to keep you, I did. But I could not. Their order overrides mine." He looked deeply apologetic at this.

And now here she was, with a group of people in a place who knows where, who were treating her like those things- goblins- were real.

Luna chuckled and it was such a sprightly sounding thing. "Don't be silly. You're more sane than the rest of them, because you can see the world for how it is."

"So those things- goblins, they really exist?"

"They're not our department. The Department for Mystical Creatures deals with them. We only focus on magical objects that seek to harm folks. Muggles or wizard kind," Bellatrix said.

"Wizards? Muggles?" Hermione echoed because it seemed her tongue couldn't really work well right now.

"A wizard is someone who has magic. I think that should be fairly clear. Stories of witches and wizards exist in your world. And muggles- are terms used to describe nonmagical folk. You used to be muggle but are actually muggleborn. Because goblins are magical creatures, you need magic in order to be able to see them. So that means you have latent magic inside you that simply hasn't been unlocked yet."

"Me? With magic?" Hermione sputtered and the box dropped out of her hands, crashing to the floor unnoticed by her.

"We'll get to that later," Bellatrix dismissed with a wave of her hand. "We have to get started on our new case as soon as possible. Too many people are at danger if we don't catch the culprit and we've wasted enough time as it is," she said brusquely.

"Madame Black, I bring da last files," a voice with a Jamaican accent interrupted and Hermione glanced at the floor thinking it would be another woman crawling out of the floor but instead she found a shrunken head, complete with no eyes and a bone under the nose, hopping on the floor, a manila file dragged behind it by invisible wire it seemed. "Where do I put eet?"

"You can leave it on my desk with all the others. Thank you, Jasmin," Bellatrix said casually as if this was nothing out of the ordinary. Hermione stood there completely floored, unable to say another word as she watched the shrunken head deliver the file and then hop off to wherever it had come from. Now, Hermione wasn't squeamish but to see a shrunken head, bouncing around and talking? That was enough to make anyone light headed.

Luna followed Hermione's gaze with some amusement while Bellatrix didn't spare it another thought and began the ginger process of sitting down in her desk chair without causing an avalanche of files. "That's our head librarian. She used to have a full body and a normal sized head too, the poor thing, but one mission to Louisiana and she got caught up in some local voodoo magic gone bad."

Hermione opened her mouth not sure what she could even say about this situation, but when only air came out, she closed it again. This was a lot to take in.

She wasn't sure she could.

Maybe she was dreaming?

She pinched herself.

No. This was real. So did this mean there was a whole other layer to the world she hadn't known about? That had been kept hidden? This could destroy society if it ever leaked out.

"Are you going to stand there all day gaping about like a fish or are you going to help me with these files?" Bellatrix asked without picking up her head from the file she had opened. She had lit a cigarette now and the plume of smoke curled up around her lip.

Luna studied Hermione, tipping her head to the side.

"Is this a lot to take in? You look pale." She was sympathetic.

"No, I'm fine," Hermione shook her head, from a long ingrained habit of never wanting others to see her down, or hurt, or upset. "I'm just going to pass out over here," she said, moving a bit to the side and pointing to the couch she intended to reach, before her eyes rolled up to her head and she passed out on the floor instead.

Bellatrix still didn't pick her head up at this. Luna sighed, frowning at Hermione's form. "How do you think she's handling this?"

"Given she's muggleborn unlike the rest of us, I'd say pretty well," Bellatrix grunted out.

"Maybe it wasn't a good idea to bring her down like this. But to ease her in slowly to this new world."

"We don't have time for that, Luna. We need this case solved. We should have had it solved by now!" Bellatrix slammed the desk angrily while Luna took out her wand from her tote bag and casting a silent spell, lifted Hermione's form up and onto the couch before magicking some pillows and blankets in place.

"I know that Tom's death was particularly harsh on you-"

"Shut up, I don't want to talk about it-" Bellatrix growled out in warning, and picked up her eyes to fix one of her murderous glares on Luna who was mainly unaffected by it. Any other person would have backed off but not Luna.

"I promise we'll avenge him, but it won't bring him back."

Bellatrix clenched her jaw stubbornly and looked down at the files. "There's a chance. I know there is. People have been brought back from the darkness before and so can he."

Luna shook her head. "Such thinking can get you killed."

"Then so be it," Bellatrix stood up stiffly, needing to be out of this room. It was suffocating her. She hastily grabbed the file and then her jacket from where it hung off the back of her chair. "I'm going out for fresh air. When Granger awakes, fill her in on the case."

She strode off without another word and Luna sighed heavily. She was worried for Bellatrix. This wouldn't be a healthy path she was going down on. Looking on at Hermione's sleeping form, she only hoped that as Bellatrix's new partner, she would be able to help her look past the path of revenge and keep her on the right track.

Chapter Text

Hermione came to two minutes later, waking up on the couch and eyes blinking up into the endless black void of a ceiling they had. The sweet scent of peach drifted to her nose and she sat up slowly, knowing for a fact that she hadn't been on the couch when she passed out. Someone must have moved her, and her stuff, for her box of meager belongings was on her desk, ready to be unpacked. Luna wasn't at her desk and neither was Bellatrix. The woman with the weird hair, however, was and she was busying with something at her desk. She must have had eyes in the back of her head because she immediately knew when Hermione had awoken and turned to her with a big smile on her face and picked up a silver tray with two steaming mugs on tea on it.

"I thought you could use a little pick me up after all you've been through this morning. Peach and ginger tea?" she held out the tray. "I designed the flavor myself. It helps soothe stresses away."

Hermione took the mug with a soft thank you. It smelled delicious and she took a sip of it, almost immediately feeling the effects. Her body calmed down and she closed her eyes briefly to enjoy the calming sensation spreading through her body.

"I'm sorry we couldn't be more accommodating," Dora said, picking her own mug up and flinging the tray across the room without so much as looking at where it was going. Hermione expected it to crash into something but instead it smoothly landed on the desk, like it had been guided there. Hermione decided to pay it no mind. She'd find out how that had been done later.

"But it's not everyday a muggleborn comes in through our door and frankly, we're so used to this being our normal lives that we didn't think how much of a shock this would be to you," Dora explained, perching herself on the arm of the couch. She'd cleaned up a bit since Hermione had last seen her. Her face was soot free, her gloves were gone, though she still had an apron on that was covered in what looked like to be paint. "But that's why I'm here. To help you adjust before you get to work. Luna told me to take you around the town. What do you say? Up for visiting wizarding London?"

"I think so. As long as there are no heads jumping around," Hermione said in a somewhat weak voice. She was still shaken over that.

Dora let out a rich laugh here. "Oh if you think that's the worst thing you've ever seen you haven't seen anything yet!"

This information did not delight Hermione. "What did I get myself into," she complained to herself, hugging her mug for comfort. The warmth of it helped.

"Nothing that you should regret. There are so many wonders out here, Hermione, and you should be happy to get to see them when no one else can. You're special, whether you want to admit it or not." Dora took a slurp of her tea. "Now let's go before we waste any more of the day." And she tugged Hermione up by the wrist like an excited dog tugs their owner. Hermione placed her mug to the side, while Dora simply threw her unfinished drink over her shoulder. It span in arcs. The cup, with liquid intact, landed on her desk smoothly.

Okay, something was most certainly up with that for no laws of physics had applied when it should.

"Are we arriving by toilet again?" Hermione asked with a disgusted expression.

"Goodness no," Dora laughed, shaking her head. "Luna just wanted to impress you- to show you one of our secretive entrances. But we have many ways of arriving here. Much cleaner ways." She took Hermione to a corridor that she had not come down before and lead her past several rooms, one which was smoking from under the closed door. They went up a pair of marble and gilded stairs that went up to an elevator. It opened automatically at the sight of them and they got in, soft muzak playing.

Instead of the buttons reading third or fourth floor, they read like Merlin's Corner, Tiffany's Dash, etc. Were they representative of other departments here as well?

Dora pondered over the buttons a bit before pressing the one reading Beryls and Botts. The doors closed with a swish and moved on up. "We're going to take a little tour before we get you really settled in. And oh!" she clapped her hands as she remembered. "We'll need to get you some robes. And a wand! You can't possibly go out on the field without a wand."

This felt surreal. Hermione getting a wand.

"I have a perfectly operational service pistol," she reminded because it helped herself to hear that the world wasn't completely gone to magic.

"Well, guns can't help you out of every situation," Dora said. "But I do suppose you wouldn't know how to use a wand without training first. I'm sure Bellatrix will be delighted to train you. She loves to spar and Luna and I could use a break from being her sparing partners."

The elevator dinged to a stop and the doors pulled open to reveal the street. Dora stepped through first and Hermione followed, turning around to see that they had exited out of a red phone booth.

"How-weren't we just-" she blubbered, looking at the phone booth with the inside of an elevator and then back to Dora who was waiting with amusement on her face.

"It's just a simple spell on the elevator. We have entrances all over the place to get to the department easily," she explained as the elevator rode down again and the normal insides of a booth came down to hide it.

"Wow," Hermione could only say.

Dora was even more amused by that. "Don't be so amazed. You haven't seen the good stuff yet." And with those words, they were off to wherever it was Dora would lead them.

"I don't even know where to start. There's so much to show!" she gushed and as she did, her pink hair began to turn lighter into a yellow shade.

"How did your hair do that?" Hermione pointed to it with a shaking finger.

"Oh, that." She patted her hair. "I'm a metamorphmagus, so that means my hair can change with my emotions. I can control the way it morphs. I can even change my facial features. But I won't show you that. It might be a bit too much."

"I want to see it. If I'm going to learn more about this new world, I might as well know all about it," Hermione said bravely and with itching curiosity.

"I like that attitude." Dora smiled and her face quickly morphed into that of a snake. She had slits for a nose and scaly skin and a forked tongue flickering out of her mouth.

"Wow," was all Hermione could think to say as Dora turned into a dog next, than a pig, and finally a bird before reverting back to her human face. It was all done in rapid succession. This was mind blowing!

"How do you do that? Does it hurt?"

Dora shook her head. "It's as easy to me as breathing. It wasn't always that way. When I was younger, I couldn't control it. So when I got angry or sad I would morph and it was a hazard sometimes. But with a bit of training I can make it work to my advantage."

"Wouldn't you be better off as an undercover spy? You could blend so well!" What a talent. It would be a waste to not have it used properly.

"My parents thought it was too dangerous. So they forbade from doing it. This job is as close as I'll ever get to a fight." Dora sighed sadly. Her hair turned blue now before it lightened to her usual pink as her spirits returned. "But it doesn't mean I don't like what I do. I'm good at it and I'd never make much of a spy. I don't have the patience or skill to be quiet. And I'm too friendly to do what it takes to be a spy."

Hermione took that into consideration. "And what will my position be?"

"You'll be replacing one of our lost agents," Dora sobered up at this. "He used to be a halfblood raised in the style of a muggleborn- which is to say, raised in the muggle world. However, because he was raised by his aunt for the most part who was from the magical world, he knew what was happening and wasn't as shocked as you by our department. He was good at what he did, and he was quite charming. Could talk his way out of any situation. Or into it," she added with a cheeky grin. "He was also Bella's partner before his life was taken by one of the cursed items they were chasing. So, you'll be replacing his role and hunting down the very object that took his life."

Hermione gulped audibly at this.

"Don't be nervous," Dora assured when she noticed the brunette's discomfort. "You won't go out on the field without some training. We'll make sure you're safe."

Hermione nodded her head but she didn't feel any less nervous.

"Here, we are," Dora announced as they strode up to a small bar. "You've got to try a butterbeer. I'm sure you don't have anything like that in the muggle world."

They strode in and Dora sat them at the bar, raising her hand. "Two butterbeers," she ordered and the bartender gave it to them within seconds since there weren't many others here.

Hermione looked it over, before taking a tentative and testing sip. It was sweet, and thick. "This is good."

"Knew you'd like it," Dora said and clinked bottles with her. "Here's to you joining our team."

"What else can you tell me about this world?" Hermione said after they had both taken a sip.

"There's so much to fill you in on. I think we'd best get you to buy some books about wizarding history cause it's a bit dry and I don't want to bore you," Dora admitted. "But I can tell you the more interesting parts."

And so over the course of three hours, Dora fills Hermione in. Anything the brunette detective has questions on, Dora answers as best as she can. One butterbeer turns into five and Hermione is feeling a bit buzzed by the end when they tumble out of the bar, the air chill on their warm cheeks. It's gotten dark now and the streetlamps contain little fairies that make an ethereal glow.

Hermione feels more comfortable now that she has a better grasp of the world. She feels more sane, though her curiosity has not been slaked. She wishes to know more so Dora takes her to the bookstore.

The air smells of ink and paper and Hermione takes her time to run her hand down the ageless tomes. She picks up books on wizarding history, government, on finances, and most importantly on law, because if she's going to be a field agent than she needs to know the law explicitly.

When her hand reaches for a book on magical objects, Dora stops her. "Don't use those. We have a more complete collection. These tend to have mistakes in them sometimes."

Hermione checked all the books out, ready to pay when she realizes the monetary systems here was not in pounds.

"Galleons?" she questioned before Dora inserted herself into the situation.

"Let me handle the cost of these books. Think of it as a welcoming gift," she added before Hermione could wave the offer away.

Books paid for, they continue onto their way. "Man, there's still so much I wanna show you, but sadly we don't have enough time. But, we do have enough time for one last stop," Dora said and lead them to a store called Weasley's Candies.

"Candy?"

"Like nothing you've ever seen before," Dora said as they entered the festive store. And the woman was right. Shelves were crammed with all manner of goods. Some of the candy looked normal and others were jumping up and down, spitting fire, or making odd noises. And over their heads little airplanes flew and fireworks and sparkles lingered. Above all it was noisy, filled with the chatter of kids and their families.

"Why don't you take some to try?" Dora asked. "My treat."

"You've already treated me to much-"

"Don't worry Hermione. My family isn't exactly hurting for money. Perks of being a pureblood," she assured and took Hermione by the elbow because the brunette was beginning to look a bit overwhelmed by everything. "Let's get you some harmless candies."

"Harmless? Do they sell candies that can cause harm?"

"Not harm. Just pranks. There are some that help you get out of class by helping you fake sick, which are a favorite with pranksters. But most are just cool flavors and cool effects. Here, let's try these," Dora snatched a handful and the two of them went up to the register where two identical red haired twins were standing.

" 'Ello, Dora," greeted one.

"Come to sate your sweet tooth?" asked the other. They wore matching wizarding hats and robes in shades of ivy green.

"I've come to get my friend to try. She's new in these parts," Dora gestured to Hermione who waved to the boys.

"We hope you like our treats. We personally tasted-"

"-and crafted-"

"-them all."

"I'm sure I will," she gave a small smile while Dora paid and then they left the store, the twins announcing they hoped to see Hermione around again.

Outside the store, Dora unwrapped the first candy and tossed it into her mouth. Upon swallowing it, she opened her mouth and a lion roar came from her lips. "Bloody hell," Hermione whispered. "What was that?"

"This candy gives you the ability to sound like an animal. Try one?" she held the small toffee up and Hermione took it hesitantly.

"And this has no adverse side effects or anything-"

"Don't worry, Hermione. All magical candies are pre-tested and made sure they are safe for consumption. We have laws protecting wizards against malfunctioning candy and potions."

This assuaged Hermione's fears a bit and she popped the treat into her mouth and upon swallowing it, began singing like a bird when she tried talking. She clamped her hands to her mouth. Her eyes went wide. "This is amazing," she gushed when her voice returned to normal. "How-how does it even work?"

Dora shrugged. "I don't know. You'd have to ask the Weasley twins but I doubt they'd tell you their secrets."

As they made their way back to the Department, they kept testing out more of the candies, laughing at the animal noises coming from their mouths. But their humor died when they saw who was waiting for them in the office, glaring angrily.

"Dora," Bellatrix scolded, arms across her chest and foot tapping on the ground. "Can you explain to me why Miss Granger was not briefed on the case and instead she was taken out for a drink by the smell of it?" Bellatrix sniffed the air here, her sense of smell impeccable.

Hermione self consciously sniffed herself. Yup, she smelled like she'd spent intimate time with alcohol.

Dora looked sheepish. "Sorry, Auntie Bella."

Auntie? Hermione did a double take, trying to see if there was any similarity between the two of them. Maybe in the eyes...?

"But she needed to be taken out-"

"It was my idea," Luna interfered. "She couldn't immediately jump into work without a clue as to the world she's living in now."

Bellatrix let out a displeased sigh. "Fine. But I'd really like us to work on this case right away. It's already claimed too many victims."

"I'll get on it right away," Hermione vowed, wanting to impress this dark haired woman in front of her. "I bought some books on this world so I can understand it better. I intend to read them over the weekend so I can understand this new world better."

It was hard to tell if Bellatrix was pleased by this or not. She gathered some documents off of her desk and handed them over to Hermione. They were thick. "This is a copy of the most relevant information on this case. Take this and read it once you're done with the books."

"Thank you," Hermione said and took them, putting them in her bag of books.

"You can retire now for the night," Luna informed Hermione.

"Right. How do I get back home?"

"You're not going back to your apartment," Dora explained. "You'll be staying with me and auntie Bella."

"Stop calling me that," Bellatrix growled out.

"Why not, auntie Bella?" Dora fluttered her lashes innocently at the prickly woman.

Bellatrix grunted in displeasure but pulled her jacket on.

"Why am I staying with the two of you?" Hermione questioned. She had not been informed of this prior. Who had made this arrangement?

"Kingsley decided you should live with us so you can become better accommodated to the wizarding world. Any questions, we can answer. Beside, it was hard to find a spot for you on such short notice so you're living with us until then. But don't worry, the manor is big. You shouldn't have an issue finding a room you like."

"Okay," all Hermione could do was nod her head.

Bellatrix lead the way, as Luna was left to close down the department.

"Are you not going home?" she asked her and the blonde shook her head no.

"Not yet. I need to milk the tree of knowledge before I go."

"What?" burst out of Hermione's lips in pure confusion.

"Don't pay Luna's words all too much mind. She's, uh, a little confused up here," Dora whispered to Hermione, tapping her temple.

"Oh, okay," Hermione breathed out, though in her humble opinion, they were all a bit confused in the head.

"We're going to use something called the Floo network. It's how we travel through fireplaces."

"Excuse me?" Hermione blinked, not sure she had heard right.

"We throw some magical powder, think of the location we want to go to, and then we end up in the corresponding fireplace."

"You'd think if you had magic you could just teleport," Hermione muttered, tired of all these odd and unsafe ways of travel.

"Oh, but we do have that," Dora said with a cheeky grin, amused once more at Hermione's thought process on this new world. "However, it's pointless to do that when we have a perfectly functioning fireplace nearby."

They arrived to one on the other end of the corridor. Bellatrix reached for something from a small open pot on top of it's marble décor and shouted out "Grimmore Manor," before throwing it down. Green flames enveloped her as she stepped through them and then she was gone.

"You go next," Dora prodded Hermione and pushed her closer to the raging fire in the place.

"Are you sure I won't get burned or something?" she asked cautiously and reasonably.

"You won't. And if something happens, though I doubt it will, I'm right behind you to help you out."

Sucking in a courageous breath of air, Hermione took a pinch of the green powder and looked at the grains against her palm, before throwing it down just like Bellatrix had and shouting out, "Grimmore Manor." She closed her eyes as she stepped in and there was a whirl of air around her that nearly sucked the air out of her lungs.

Gasping in panic, she opened her eyes and saw she was standing in an entirely different area. She had made it somehow. Bellatrix was already there, in the middle of a comfy if a bit dark, living room. She had sat herself on one of the cushy armchairs with heavy fleurs de lis on them and was sipping a mug of dark coffee as she read the paper.

"So, uh, do I just-"

"Your room is upstairs third door on the right. If it's not set up the way you like, call out Ginger and she'll fix it up for you." She said this rather brusquely and Hermione figured she shouldn't dawdle if she wasn't welcome.

"Thank you, for letting me stay here," she said awkwardly.

"It wasn't my choice," was the curt reply.

Hermione gave a stiff smile before moving on, just in time to let Dora through the fire place. Hermione went upstairs and to her room. It was a massive thing, almost bigger than her whole apartment back home.

It was a bit dark and the drapes and sheets were all green and silver coded.

She put her bag of books down before sighing out. She didn't have any of her possessions here. Not even a single scrap of clothing other than what she wore.

Figuring that maybe she could ask the housekeeper Ginger for some spare clothing, she opened her door and shouted out into the hall, "Ginger?" questioning because she didn't know where the woman was.

"Lady calls?"

A squeaky voice sounded from inside Hermione's room and she jumped when she turned around and saw that an ugly creature was standing on her plush rug. She would have screamed but she bit down on her lip hard.

It had big dopey eyes, drooping ears, and was hairless all over.

"Uh, who are you?" she asked when her tongue would work.

"Ginger is Mistress Black's house elf."

"House elf? Are you bloody kidding me," Hermione muttered to herself. What other magical creatures existed in this world? She should have gotten a book on them. Curse herself for not thinking of such a thing earlier.

"Ginger is quite serious miss. What can Ginger do for you?"

"Uh, well...I kind of need clothes."

"Ah, mistress Black mentioned you might not have belongings, so Ginger will fetch them right away." And with a sound like the snapping of fingers, she disappeared. Hermione blinked her eyes, wondering if she had perhaps imagined the whole exchange, but she had not, because seconds later, Ginger appeared with all of Hermione's belongings neatly stored in suitcases and materializing around her.

"Ginger hopes she did a good job."

"Err, you did," Hermione said, not quite over her shock. The house elf disappeared with a smile and Hermione was left alone with all her things to unpack.

A soft knock came at her half opened door and Hermione wondered who it was this time. She turned to see Dora coming in.

"I see you've meet the house elf."

"How do you know?"

"You look like you've seen a ghost. Don't faint on us again, yea?" Dora chuckled as she entered the room. She had changed out of her work clothes into soft night wear.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "I won't. I think I'm slowly getting used to this all. The human is after all, perfectly capable of great adaption to various change. It's what lets our species survive for so long."

"Do you have any questions about your stay here? And don't pretend you don't. In the short amount of time we've known each other, you are rather inquisitive."

"I wasn't going to hold back my questions. And I like knowing everything I can so that I can be prepared for any situation. But, yes, I do have questions about my stay here," Hermione began as she unzipped her suitcases one by one and began to pick up her clothes to fill them into the appropriate drawers. "Whose manor is this?"

"It's a place that has been passed down through our generations. Bella's the current owner of it and when she dies it'll pass onto the next heir."

"Heir?"

"Bella's the heir of the house of Black because she's the oldest."

"And where is this manor?" Hermione had noticed through the windows that trees and vast land stretched out far.

"We're in upper Ireland right now."

It was amazing how far they had traveled simply through fireplace.

"And you don't have to worry about over staying your visit here. You're our guest. Take as much time as needed until you get back on your feet. Ginger, our house elf, is at your service. She can provide food, books, anything you might need."

"Do all wizards and witches have elves?"

"Not all. Only the pureblood families."

"Pureblood?"

"Careful," Dora chuckled. "We're getting into dangerous territory."

"How so?" Hermione said as finished up one drawer and started on another.

"Well, let us just say, purebloods are snooty as all hell. They're families that are pure magic. Never married anyone that hasn't had any magic, and that results in their magic being strongest. But that also means a lot of inbreeding. Auntie Bella is pure blood and so am I, which is why we're related but not too closely. All pureblood families are related in one way or another and they also tend to be the social class that owns the most money and land. Half blood witches and wizards are those whose families do not have pure blood lines. For example, who have had a muggle parent and a magical parent, and thus sometimes they are looked down upon but it doesn't mean they are any less than others. They do tend to be a group that doesn't do as well financially for lack of complete knowledge on how the magical world works and how they can use it to their advantage. Even someone whose uncle is muggle but their parents are magical, is still considered half blood, so the rules are quite strict on such an issue.

"The group that does however get discriminated by pureblood fanatics, are the muggleborns. Like you," here Dora chewed her cheek, looking a tad uncomfortable in admitting this.

Hermione had no qualms about hearing such things. Bias and discrimination weren't a new thing to her. "Go on," she urged.

"They are looked down upon because most of the time neither parent is magical, nor is any close relative in their family. Their magic sort of spontaneously arrives in their bodies and no one knows how or why this happens. Or to who it will happen. It sort of does. So they get hated on because why should muggles know the secrets of magic, which are sacred and such," Dora rolled her eyes to show how stupid she found all that.

"There aren't a lot of muggleborns around because they're rare and even more rare are squibs, who are children born to magical folk but without magic at all. They kind of get a shitty end of the stick. Some wizard philosophers think that the magic from squibs are taken by muggleborns unrightfully and that's how come muggles can have magic. But, no one can prove that theory with real evidence, so," Dora shrugged here.

"This is all very fascinating, I must admit," Hermione said, at last done packing. "Will I have issues because of my muggleborn status?"

"No one will have to know unless you want them to. Tom sure was proud of his status as a halfblood raised as a muggleborn and he went out of his way to prove purebloods wrong. He was a good man." A flicker of sadness crossed Dora's features.

"I wish I hadn't come here under such unpleasant circumstances," Hermione admitted because she could see how much they had cared for this man and how much it hurt them he was gone.

"We're glad to have you, and besides, you'll be good for auntie Bella. She's been...a bit unlike herself ever since he died."

"More crabby?"

Dora's lip curled up in humor. "No, that's her normally. She's just been a bit more focused on revenge and Merlin knows that's not healthy."

"I promise to do my best to capture whatever caused him harm."

"Don't worry about that. Don't let Bella drag you into her petty little revenge schemes. We need to let Tom rest in peace."

And then Dora was gone with a soft good night, leaving Hermione finally alone to think over everything she had learned today.

Slipping into her silk pink pjs, she would have stayed up reading her newly purchased books but she knew she needed her sleep for tomorrow would be another exciting day full of surprises and challenges.

Still, it would be a while before her racing mind could calm down and let her slumber.

Chapter Text

After a night of troubled sleep, Hermione dressed, washed up, and went downstairs, following the smell of bacon. Everyone was already at the table. Bellatrix reading a paper and eating breakfast with one hand, Dora shoveling hers down quickly, and Ginger arriving with a plate, setting up a spot for Hermione.

"Good morning miss. Ginger hopes miss enjoys breakfast before her day at work!" Ginger cheered and even pulled out Hermione's chair for her as the brunette sat down. Hermione wasn't used to being waited on so this level of service felt a bit weird for her.

"You're up!" Dora exclaimed when she saw Hermione. "You must try the jam on the toast. Ginger makes it herself and it's something else, truly," she pointed at the jam in the middle of the table. There was so much food Hermione wasn't sure she knew where to start.

She took a bit of everything, wondering if this wizarding food was like human- muggle- food, or if it was enchanted like that candy had been.

Seeing that no smoke or screams were coming from the eggs, or anything of that sort, she figured it was alright to eat it. "Kingsley is at work today," Dora supplied when silence filled the air. It seemed she wasn't one for long pauses. "So he should be able to fill you in on anything else you have questions about. Plus, you should get your wand and robes with him, and as soon as you do you can train with auntie. Isn't that right?" she asked her aunt who only 'mhm-ed' without paying any actual attention.

"And do you promise to do it today?"

Bellatrix 'mhm-ed' again.

"And do you promise to take it easy on Hermione?"

Again that distracted sound. Dora only smiled. "Great. You're the best auntie."

"Yes, of course," Bellatrix muttered half heartedly.

With breakfast finished, they were ready to travel by fireplace again. Hermione still felt weird and wary about this. Perhaps with time it would become more comfortable, like a second nature to her.

They entered the office, Luna already there to greet them. She was tinkering with some odd device on her table. It was like a globe with several rings around making it up the insides on which the outer shell portraying continents and oceans was on. She was shifting the rings around and tapping a finger on her chin each time the globe span, stopped, and then she scribbled something down in her notebook, before setting it up to spin again.

"Good morning, dears. Kingsley is in the office, Hermione. He wants to talk to you," she said distractedly.

"Right," Hermione nodded her head, passing by her desk which was still not unpacked and truly claimed by her, to the door on the right by the rusted knight, that had not been there before.

Magic, she figured, and thought better of questioning her co workers on it. She knocked on the door that had a frosted window on it and the letters spelling out Kingsley's name, which shimmered and moved like they were underwater.

"Come in," invited a deep voice and the door swung open by itself before closing after Hermione when she came in.

A tall, stout man of darker complexion, was sitting at the organized desk there. "Sit down," he indicated to the chair in front of the desk while he finished scribbling some notes with a quill on parchment.

She sat down. She wasn't quite sure who this man was, except that he had orchestrated her switch to this force.

"Miss Granger," he said, putting aside his paperwork for now and giving her his full attention. "Surely, you must have questions, and I will do my best to answer them, though there are certain things in our world that only seeing will help explain."

His voice was deep, and calm, like a running river.

She instantly felt soothed by his presence. This was a man who got results. Who was able to handle anything that came his way.

"I want to know, why me? Why no one else?"

"Frankly, it's rare for a muggle born of your caliber to be discovered. Most of the time muggleborn's do not have potent enough magic, or brush off the weird occurrences around them as explained oddities, and go on with life never knowing they are something more. However, your magic is strong if you were able to clearly see and interact with those goblins in the middle of a bank heist. And you are an asset. Rather than have you continue being mocked by the police force, have them think you've gone daft, we found you would be of better use in our department. I'm sure the force- which properly are called the Cleaners, for they clean up magical mishaps brought by magical objects- filled you in somewhat. With your detective background and your magical ability, you're perfect for this job."

"But I don't have any magical training, or even am aware of how procedures work here," she protested lightly.

He smiled gently. "There is no need to worry about that. Our general procedure is capture the artifact, make sure no one is hurt while it happens, erase anyone's memories of it happening, and then keep it safely locked up here."

"Aren't there laws for that? And erasing people's memories?" Hermione was a bit aghast. Did this department just do whatever they wanted against people's rights?

"Miss Granger, we are the law on these matters. And erasure of memories are a necessity. As you will soon find out some of the artifacts here cause severe damage and trauma and in the case of the victims, it is best if they do not recall what happened. But, I know you are one for sticking to laws and morals and doing what is right, so let us take this time to discuss those procedures."

And that is what they did for several hours, and by the time Hermione had everything in order on how this department functioned, she felt more in control of the situation she was in, and in how she could successfully complete her job. She wasn't one for doing a half assed job.

"Now, let us get you some robes, so you can wear them when you want to blend in. And most importantly, we must get you a wand." He stood up, his midnight blue robes swishing around him.

They took the elevator to the outside world, stopping this time in front of a clothing store that specialized in cloaks and robes.

The fitting was quick, as a man of short stature let a self measuring measure tape take her measurements. It felt vaguely disturbing to see it working by itself like it was something alive, but she didn't complain about it. She was going to have to get used to things like this from now on.

She left with three pairs of robes. One olive colored pair for everyday use. A pink one to switch it out with and one deep blue one that was for more high brow events.

Getting her wand was the fun part.

"The wand chooses the owner," Kingsley explained once in the wand shop, which was a small narrow store, with shelves crammed full of boxes of wands.

"How does that happen?"

"You'll just know it when it does. It's a gut feeling."

Hermione had trouble wrapping her mind around that. She was used to relying heavily on science for drawing to conclusions or explaining certain situations but she had a feeling she would need to stop thinking so logically in this world as a lot of it couldn't be reasoned with physics. And feelings had a surprising amount of input to much of how the world functioned.

A funny looking small man with spectacles upon his face came up to them. "A wand, yes, a wand. You'll need a good sturdy wand. I think I know just the one for you," he said, taking one look at Hermione and waddling to the back room.

"How does he already know what kind I need?"

"He's a wand's expert. He makes most of them himself. Each wood and core of the wand is unique and has it's own properties. For example, Bellatrix's wand is made of walnut tree wood which is stubborn and unwieldy, much as how others might describe her," he chuckled to himself at that and the wand marker came out carrying three thin boxes.

"Try these. One of them should be the perfect match," he urged and Hermione opened up the first box. Truly, wands looked like nothing special to her. Just sanded down sticks. She picked it up and held it. It felt dry in her hand.

"Go on, give it a twirl," the wand maker urged.

She did, but nothing happened and he snatched it out of her hand and replaced it with another wand. "Try this one."

She did, and a small spark erupted from the wand tip, startling her.

"Hmm, no," he said, frowning under his thick mustache. And he snatched that one away too, giving her the last wand. This one was slender and lighter in color.

As soon as it slid into her hand, something about it felt right. She gave it a twirl and a shower of magical sparkles erupted from it, softly dropping around her.

"Ah! Of course, vinewood and dragonheart. That would be the perfect combination for you!"

"How does it feel?" Kingsley asked.

"Good," she said, unable to fathom why she felt a sudden connection to her wand. It was like she could sense it was being friendly to her. Like it was now an extension of her.

"We'll take this one, thank you Ollivander," Kingsley smiled and wand packed away, the two of them left back for the department after the wand was paid for. "Now, I must run to attend to things in the ministry, but do go train with Bellatrix. She needs to teach you some basic spells that will provide useful on the field."

Hermione nodded her had but she highly doubted she would be able to actually produce spells. He escorted her to the elevator and bid her goodbye. She arrived back to the office and let out a scream when that shrunken head from before hopped by her.

"Ah, Hermione's back!" Luna announced jovially, the scream giving away Hermione's arrival.

Luna took the wrench the shrunken head had brought her and gave the globe she had been working on a whack. The wrench snapped in half and she frowned, rubbing her chin and scribbled something more down in journal as the head hopped away.

Bellatrix was at her desk, her desk lamp on as she scowled down at the paper report she was reading. The stack of files had only grown since yesterday. Dora was missing. Wonder if she was under the floor again.

Hermione pressed a hand to her chest, giving a wide berth to the shrunken head which seemed fine on not bothering her either.

She took the time now to finally organize her desk, taking out her cat post it note dispenser, her paper weight, and pens, pencils, and her trusted mug for drinking tea. She didn't have much, not even a picture frame of friends to put up.

"How did the talk go with Kingsley?" a voice asked right next to Hermione's ear and she jumped from her seat, the chair spinning with how quickly she got up.

"Dora, where did you come from?" she asked, half mad at Dora for scaring her like this. The woman had silently walked up behind her and she was clutching the knight's half rusted arm over her shoulder.

"From up there," she pointed to the ceiling where a rope hung from. She must have climbed down it.

"What is even up there?" Hermione craned her head up, but nope, she still couldn't see an end to the blackness there.

"You'll find out one day. Not yet. So, did you get your wand?" Dora asked, excited.

"I did." Hermione pulled it out and Dora nodded her head.

"That wand is so you. Hey, auntie! Hermione's got her wand."

That warranted a grunt from Bellatrix, who didn't even seem to register it. Dora didn't let that stop her enthusiasm. She strutted over to Bella's desk and clanked the arm on Bellatrix's shoulder.

"Nymphadora, what do you want? I'm in the middle of work," she snapped irritably, swatting the arm off.

"Hermione got her wand. You've got to train her."

"I don't recall making such promises."

"You did at breakfast. Several times. While reading the paper," Dora pointed out. "You even promised to be nice."

Bellatrix looked disgruntled at getting tricked. "It's not like anyone else can train her properly. So I guess I have no choice but to do it." She stood up with a heavy sigh, reluctant to leave her paper work. "Miss Granger. Let us go and start training."

Hermione obediently followed Bellatrix's lead, the dark haired woman taking her down the long corridor full of doors and stopping by a heavy looking one. "This is our training room. We use this space to keep in tip top shape, though I use it most frequently and you will probably have to as well, given you will be my field partner," Bellatrix stated as she pushed the door open.

"Does it bother you, having someone so new and incompetent by your side?" Hermione asked, insecurities eating up at her. Bellatrix looked like she had accomplished many things in her life, and Hermione wanted to impress her badly. Wanted to prove she could handle this world of wonder.

Bellatrix gave her an odd look at this, spinning on her heel and invading Hermione's personal space by getting too close to her. This close up, Hermione could see the woman was a good three inches taller than her, and that inside the deep ring of black that composed her eyes, were flecks of bright silver.

"Frankly, I couldn't care less about you being my partner," she said in that crude callous way of hers and Hermione could feel her heart squeeze painfully. This kind of dismissal wasn't something that should surprise her. She was used to others hating her, to not wanting to be her friends. And Dora's openness and friendly behavior had tricked her into thinking that maybe if the human world couldn't accept her she could find complete and utter acceptance here. It seemed she was wrong.

"All I care about is getting my partner back. I consider you just his replacement until he returns and if you can be helpful during that time then great. And if you can't, then too bad. I'm not babying you on missions." She smiled thinly at Hermione and then entered the training room. "Now hurry up. I haven't got all day to go over this."

Hermione swallowed harshly and tried to push the sting of Bellatrix's words away. She would prove this woman wrong. She would prove her worth.

She took up position on the other side of the woman, on the padded floor. The walls were padded as well and there were some practice dummies lined up on one side.

"I'm only going to go over the spells once, so listen carefully," Bellatrix warned and then she launched into basic spells 101. Hermione's head throbbed with the influx of information flooding in, but she wasn't a genius without true reason. She managed to keep up, but by the skin of her teeth. Bellatrix instructed her on spells like accio, which were meant to bring things to her. Spells like wingardum leviosa, which were meant to levitate things. Spells like epiksey which helped with small battlefield injuries.

"Those are just minor things you can practice later on your own," she dismissed them hurriedly without letting Hermione try them out. All she did was showcase them to prove they worked, and then she moved on. "What is important is knowing how to protect yourself on the field. Because you will get attacked, and you will need to do some attacking in some cases." Bellatrix had taken her suspenders off and they dangled around her waist so she could have more upper body mobility. Sleeves rolled up, she held out her wand like a conductor waiting for the orchestra to begin.

"The best defense is a good offense," she said, "and thus the first spell you should learn is Bombarda!" she shouted out and magic rocketed out of her wand and into the ceiling. Plaster showered down and Hermione jumped. It wasn't the plaster falling on her that caused that, but the sheer loudness of that spell. And it's destructive force.

She was in awe and horror of it. "When would we need to use a spell like this?"

"When similar spells are being flung back at you," Bellatrix retorted sharply, not in the mood for Hermione's questions right now. "Now focus. I want you to cast the spell."

The ceiling above repaired itself magically- a perk or ability it must have gained for the purpose of being able to be destroyed and rebuilt rapidly for combat. Hermione wished the same could be said for her now sullied state. She dusted the plaster remains off as best she could before leveling her wand up to the ceiling as Bellatrix did. Wonder how she would feel getting the same taste of medicine.

Wetting her lips nervously, Hermione called out, "Bombarda!"

And nothing.

Bellatrix did not look impressed. "They said you had much magical potential in you."

"Maybe it's the wand?" Hermione snapped out, irritated because Bellatrix already had a low opinion of her and she didn't need it descending ever further.

"A pianist should not blame the piano for his faulty tunes," she retorted, before barking out, "try it again. With a bit more vim."

So Hermione did. Still nothing. She began to almost feel embarrassed by her efforts.

Bellatrix sighed out in annoyance. "Still no results. I suppose I'll have to try things the old tried and trued method." She cracked her neck and rolled her shoulders. "Alright, Granger, I'm going to attack you with spells. Try to fight me back."

"What?" that was about as much warning as Hermione got before Bellatrix pointed her wand at her. "Stupefy!"

Hermione let out a yelp and ducked, only annoying Bellatrix further. "Try to use less muggle methods. Use your wand!"

"How the bloody hell am I supposed to use my wand if I've never cast magic before?" Hermione shot back and dodged yet more spells flying over head.

"Defend yourself!" was Bellatrix's holler and Hermione yelped as a blue spell burnt the ends of her hair. She was running out of directions to run in, Bellatrix chasing her across the mainly empty room. There wasn't even anything to duck down under.

"Shit," Hermione cursed out, feeling pressured. A low spell hit her ankle and she cried out in pain, dropping down. Bellatrix approached her, wand held out, holding Hermione like she was at gun point.

"Attack me!" Bellatrix goaded and there was something maniacal in her eyes, like she enjoyed the way Hermione was squirming.

Hermione despised that. She would not be looked down upon like that. Gritting her teeth, she rose up and shouted out "Bombarda!" at the top of her lungs, intent on wiping that smug look from Bellatrix's face.

And something magical happened. It worked.

Hermione could feel a sort of surge coming up her arm, spreading to her fingers, to her wand, and next thing she knew, blue magic was streaming from the tip, right at Bellatrix. Hermione stood wide eyed as she watched it move, almost as if in slow motion. Bellatrix smirked, before lazily flicking the stream of the spell aside with her wand. It hit the mat three feet away from her and detonated there.

"About time," she drawled.

"Magic," Hermione breathed out, flabbergasted. To hear about it, to see it happen from others...that was something else...but to actually do it herself?

She swallowed heavily, her heart racing. She had magic. They told her she had it. But she hadn't really given the notion any weight.

Now...now she held so much potential in herself. She could do anything with magic if it was truly as limitless as it seemed to be.

Her revelations were stopped when she was hit with a spell that knocked the air out of her lungs and sent her flying across the room.

She thumped down hard on the ground, and let out a groan.

"We don't have all day for your daydreaming. You have magic, big deal. Get over it, and get back up. We're not done here. Not yet." Hermione got up, coughing to try and regain her breath. She saw a fire alive in Bellatrix's eyes, and it did not bond well for her. It seemed like Bellatrix was excited to test out Hermione's magic for her. "Let's see how well you master this next spell. Confrigo!"


Hermione exited the training room three hours later, smelling of smoke, and feeling utterly drained. It had been brutal, simply put and Hermione almost regretted being so eager to get Bellatrix to train her. The woman was relentless, not taking pity on Hermione or letting her rest. She kept pressing her and pressing her, zapping or stinging her until she got the spells right. And Hermione had picked up the spells easily after that. It seemed whatever block had been on her magic had been lifted with the horror of Bellatrix hurting her until otherwise.

And while odd at first, the spells started to feel more normal to her. The whole ordeal of uttering spells out, started to feel more normal to her. With time, she was sure, she wouldn't even bat at eye at all this.

"I was going to ask how it went," Dora winced when she saw the state Hermione came back in, "but I can see for myself." Meanwhile, Bellatrix was striding out of there, not a hair out of place and looking almost serene.

"I'm glad it's not us for a change," Luna commented easily, still pondering over that globe or what remained of it. She had taken it apart. "She and Tom used to tear the entire room apart," she added in a lower voice so the dark haired woman wouldn't over hear. Currently she was stirring her wand over her coffee mug, having just conjured freshly made coffee.

Hermione decided she needed to learn how to do that with tea.

"Yes, well I learned a lot. And I have a lot more studying to do."

"Certainly. Though focus on the battle arts first. You'll need those out on the field. Everything else can be learned as you touch and go," Dora said. She was polishing up the rusty knight in the corner, rubbing oil onto it manually and with special care. "Actually, that reminds me- there's night classes you can take to help you with your skills. Hogwarts offers special courses for struggling students and I'm sure they must have something for muggleborns. The headmaster, Dumbledore, is quite fond of muggleborns."

That sounded like the magical equivalent of night classes. "I'll check that out. It sounds like something that might come in handy."

"For now, why doesn't Luna take you on a tour of the Vault," Dora suggested.

"The Vault?"

"It's where we keep all our magical artifacts. Safely contained, might I add," Luna explained, bright with enthusiasm for showing Hermione around. "This is my area of specialty. I catalog and keep track of everything that comes our way. This is where the objects you and Bellatrix capture will end up."

Luna gave up on her globe and strode off, Hermione following after her. They went down the corridor of many doors and this time boarded the elevator. However, instead of pressing any of the buttons, Luna got out her wand and waved it over the control panel. Hermione couldn't quite catch on to what she was saying only that it resulted in all the buttons melting away to reveal one big one. Luna pressed it with the tip of her wand, and warned, "hold on," when some straps descended from the elevator top. Hermione wisely did so and the elevator went soaring down at such speeds that Hermione's stomach jumped up.

It was so quickly over that she didn't have time to even properly exhale before the doors swung open. "This, is the Vault," Luna exclaimed, her voice echoing as they stepped into a giant dark chamber. Everything was made of granite tiling, steel pillars supporting the ceiling above which towered many feet over their head. The only source of light came from the door, where lights beamed down on it and show cased the giant door that looked heavy and had a bar on front of it, keeping it closed.

Hermione felt nervous. She was about to embark on seeing some of the most well kept secrets in the wizarding world. What could even be in that room?

"The heavy bar is to keep visitors out?" she asked, just so she had something to get her mind off of her slight apprehension.

"No, that's to keep the items inside," Luna said and missed the look of dread that overtook Hermione's face momentarily. What horrifying things needed to be locked in? Instinctively she reached for the gun holstered by her side. She still wore it out of habit, even though she had a new weapon- a wand.

Luna waved her wand and though sparkles came from it, nothing really happened. "What are you doing?" Hermione inquired.

"I'm taking down the protective wards and such before I can actually get the door to open."

"Wards?"

"You haven't heard of them yet?"

"No."

Luna hummed thoughtfully. "Well, there are many kinds. Ones that are easy and simple, ones that can hide a whole castle from view, ones that only allow blood relatives to enter your house, ones that blow up when you accidentally touch them, and so forth."

"The last one does not sound fun."

"Not for the intruder," Luna flashed a sharp grin that coupled oddly with her swirly glasses. "Ward making is a very delicate process. If you are not careful, it could back fire on you. Perhaps if you spend enough time on the force, I could teach you how to make some."

"I would like that."

At last the final ward must have fallen, and Luna was able to wave the door open, the massive bar sliding free. They walked in, and Hermione was surprised to see that the inside looked...normal. Like she had stepped into a warehouse. Everything was labeled accordingly and set on the shelves neatly.

And it was quiet. Really quiet here.

"This is where all the artifacts go," Luna said, leading the way down the maze of shelves. "And do speak in low tones. They're sleeping right now."

"Er, right," because of course magical objects had sentience.

"When we capture them, they have to go through a neutralization process," Luna explained. "That dampens their powers. Some require it more often, and others less. It depends on how potent an object really is. And it's my job to do it, though sometimes Steve helps me."

"Steve? Who is that?" Hermione had not seen another man around here.

"He's a vampire. Poor thing got turned and his family threw him out. But he has a great knack for punctuality and organizing, so we took him in."

Hermione nodded her head. If witches existed than it only made sense for vampires to exist as well, she supposed. Though she wouldn't say she was keen to meet him.

"Would you like to see some of the objects?" Luna asked, stopping by one of the shelves.

"I wouldn't be opposed to it. It would give me a better idea of what I'm working with."

Luna nodded her head, happy to hear this. She delicately picked up a pocket watch. It was fashioned from old with ornate designs stamped into it. Except when Luna flipped the lid open, there was no clock inside, but a big blue eye.

Hermione almost screamed when the pupil looked right at her. "This is the pocket-watch of Kronos. It has the ability to bend time and space when it blinks. The sufferer who had this was tossed from time and place to multiverse to parallel dimensions before we finally managed to neutralize it. It almost lead to a war erupting but we were able to use the watch to stop it. It's very tricky to control it and we only managed it through a combination of luck and skill and lots of research." Luna flipped the lid over it again and placed it down.

Hermione swallowed harshly. Holy shit. A watch that could control time and space? When she had been thinking of magical objects she thought it might be things that cause pranks or something, and not something with world changing dynamics!

They moved on, Luna picking up the next item gently. It looked to be a regular change purse. But when she opened it up, there was a full set of teeth inside. "This object my uncle had. He bought it at a yard sale, from a muggle actually, during his travels. This purse eats money that you put inside it and spits out twice the amount."

While creepy looking, this object didn't seem as bad as the first one.

"Why'd he give it away?"

"Once you start feeding it, it needs to be constantly fed, and it took off three of his fingers, and killed his wife, before he gave it to us to manage."

Hermione's throat went dry. "Oh," she said quietly. "How-how would a coin purse even kill a woman?"

"It ripped her throat out with it's teeth. But now the purse is here, and neutralized, it poses no threat. People's greed is what causes it kill."

"I'm sorry to hear about what happened to your uncle," Hermione consoled, eyeing the coin purse warily.

"Don't be. He has millions of galleons to keep him from his misery," Luna airily responded and moved on to the next place.

The next one was a candle holder, a sort of small gargoyle holding up the spots for the candles. "This one steals people's items and hides them if you keep the candles lit after midnight."

This one had an oddly specific set of requirements. "Does it do other more dangerous things?" because the coin purse hadn't seemed bad but it was actually was.

Luna shook her head, blonde hair swishing. "No. Not all of them are deadly. Some are just trivial or dumb. More nuisances actually than threats."

They kept walking, Luna showing off more items to Hermione and explaining the history of how they got here if it was a particularly interesting one. Hermione had no idea how far they'd gone in but she hoped Luna knew her way around.

There was a break to the mind numbing similarities of the shelves when they came across a giant space in the middle where there was a single carpet there. There were some scorch marks there. Hermione wondered what left them.

"That's where our dragon sleeps," Luna said when she caught Hermione's curious gaze.

"Dragon?!" she sputtered out, not able to contain her shock. She craned her head up to the ceiling, as if thinking she could catch a glimpse of it. As if it might rain fire upon her head.

"They're our security for the night. We have wards but you can never be too safe."

Still, that didn't assuage Hermione's fears. She kept thinking she would catch sight of it now.

"Alright, that's it for the tour of the Vault. I could go on and on, but I figure you could use this time to continue catching up on your wizarding studies," Luna said as they drew to the door they had come in through. How that worked, Hermione did not know, because they had been walking in a straight line ever since they got here, so they shouldn't have been able to reach the door.

"Is there a map to navigating this place?" if Hermione ever came down here, she didn't want to get lost.

"No need for one. The room's been enchanted so that we can't ever got lost in it. Walk far enough, or think of the door, and you'll end up right by it no matter how many turns or twists you take."

"That's reassuring."

Luna grinned widely at the brunette.

"Don't worry, Hermione. You'll do just well with our department."

Hermione really hoped she would.

Chapter Text

The dice lay hot in his palm and he slowly closed his fist over them, shaking with exhilaration, adrenaline, and power.

He felt like a god right now and as he surveyed the slumped over but decidedly dead bodies on the table and surrounding it, a sick smile covered his thin lips. "It works," he muttered out and a soft feminine voice chuckled off to his side. It belonged to a woman wearing a slinky and shiny golden skin tight dress. Her shoulders were bare, her blonde hair styled in the affect of a 1950s pin up girl brushing the pale skin. Smoke curled from her ruby red lips and from the cigarette holder between her gloved hands.

"Did I ever say it would not?" she asked, coming over and sitting on his lap and wrapping her arms around his neck like a lover would. "You can win any game you play. And all the money is yours, always."

His heart swelled with confidence. "I can be a millionaire," he decried, cackling madly, the world now his limit. And if anyone had still been alive they would have seen him talking to himself.


Hermione found she couldn't sleep at all this night, as she stayed up, silently practicing spells. Spells that were simple. The evening after they had returned from work, Hermione had confessed that she had wanted to learn more about spells and Dora had acquainted her with the wonders of Grimmore Manor's giant library. It was a large room, one that would make any bookworm or bibliophile jealous. Old tomes, new tomes, books in popular print, books in rare print, and books on topics ranging on anything and everything. It was a very extensive collection.

Hermione could spend hours alone in this room but there would be time for that later. Right now, she wanted to study up on beginner spells as much as she could. She knew she had been urged to attend to battle spells, but she very much did not want to do that and destroy the manor. Beside, it did not work well without a sparring partner and Hermione did not know enough to even conjure a dummy up.

So that morning she went downstairs, bags under her eyes and body a bit lethargic from the little sleep she got.

"Rough night?" Dora asked over her mug of tea.

"Busy studying," Hermione answered, glancing over at Bellatrix who as usual, was ignoring them in favor of her paper. The images on it moved and Hermione wondered how that worked. Was it magical ink? Or magical paper that made it work? "I actually wanted to ask you, could you take me to this Hogwarts place so I can learn more magic? Books are great and all, but if the option of a class exists, I'd be more than pleased to take one."

"Of course! I have no problem with that. I can only imagine if I was in your shoes and placed in the muggle world, I'd want to learn everything I could about it too."

"You don't know how the muggle world works?" To Hermione it was such common and blatant knowledge, it almost seemed absurd to know nothing of it.

"Sadly, we wizardkind have our heads stuck up our own arses and we don't care much for the learning of the muggle world. Much of our society looks down on your kind, even though I'm sure there are many reasons for why you're much brighter than given credit for."

"Well, that's insulting," Hermione commented, not sure how else to phrase it.

"It's how my kind has been for centuries and old habits die hard. That's not to say I wouldn't love to visit your world and learn more about it. Auntie Bella has seen loads of it because of her missions and you've already got a great understanding of it, so you should have no problem dealing with it."

"Sounds like I have a lot of history to read up on for this wizarding world as well," Hermione said, sitting down to eat. She didn't mind learning new things. She lived for it actually. She was only stressed about the time constraints. She was worried she wouldn't do a good job because she hadn't finished researching this world yet.

After she got over the shock of it all, it was honestly a fascinating place. Here Hermione, forever an entrepreneur of learning and discovering new worlds, was given the opportunity to study a whole new world that few of her muggle kind rarely got to.

Breakfast finished, with Dora and Hermione mildly chatting, they headed back to the department using the Floo network.

As Hermione sat at her desk, going over spell books, a loud noise from above drew her attention. It was that same boat from before, loud music and voices playing though she could see no one on it.

"Why is there a floating ship here?" she asked Luna who was the desk over. She was still working on that globe from last time, though she was putting it together now.

"That is the Caleuche, a magical artifact we captured. It used to show up near the island of Chiloe and it carries the souls of those who drowned at sea. It is always loud and party like because that is how it attracted new victims to it's deck. Once there, people would remain forever stuck, becoming one of the spirits."

"Why not keep it locked up in the Vault?" Hermione asked. This ship was dangerous. What if it dragged one of them to join it?

"It helps liven up the place, and it's pretty tame now," Luna answered casually. She turned back to her globe while Hermione watched the ship pass through the walls and continue it's ghostly journey else where. Ghosts must also be possible in the wizarding world and she decided she would need to do some research on magical beings as well.

Hours passed in this manner. Bellatrix splitting up her time between her files and the training room, Dora zipping back and forth, cleaning up the place or fixing one thing or another, Luna trained on the globe, and Hermione finishing up her books. It was a little past four when something exciting happened.

"Ah, the globe is done!" Luna announced and immediately it began to spin rapidly.

"What does it do?" Dora popped on by, stopping to admire it.

"It's supposed to automatically determine the location of rogue artifacts, or active ones." Her smile dropped when the globe stopped spinning. "Ladies, it looks like there's an artifact coming up."

The globe stopped on USA, Nevada, a small light emitting from the spot.

"Let me guess, Bellatrix and I need to go there?" Hermione asked as Luna nodded her head in confirmation. "What kind of artifact are we looking for?"

"Jasmin!" Luna called out.

Oh bloody hell, not the damn shrunken head again, Hermione worried to herself. It made her light headed and weirded out each time she saw it. But within seconds it was hoping by, a scroll rolled up in her mouth. Luna took it, while Hermione averted her eyes. The blonde unfurled it while the head hopped away.

"Ah, I figured it would be this," Luna said, though how she managed to read past her swirly glasses was a mystery. "We're hunting down the Devil's Dice."

That sounded ominous.

"Right. I'll look up information about it from the department library-"

Luna put a hand on Hermione to stop her. "There's no time. You have to go now. This artifact is a level three threat, and since it's in use, that means it's threat level has been bumped to a two."

Kingsley had explained threat levels to Hermione. The scale went from a one to a five. Five was practically harmless whereas an one was world altering.

"I'll owl you the necessary information while you and Bellatrix travel there. In the meantime, get going," Luna shooed Hermione towards Bellatrix who was already pulling on her suit jacket over her usual uniform of suspenders, pressed shirt, and tight slacks.

"You got everything?" Bellatrix asked as Hermione stood by her, not sure what to do. She hadn't expected to be thrown onto a case so early on.

"Uh, I think so. I got my gun and wand."

"But the outfit won't do," Bellatrix frowned, looking over the wizarding robes Kinglsey had gotten her.

"Am I not supposed to wear robes?" she asked, looking them over. It felt weird wearing them but she wanted to honor the wizarding culture and embrace it especially if it was hers.

"Not if you want to pretend to be an FBI agent." She pulled out her wand and with a quick swirl, Hermione's clothes had transformed into an all black outfit, complete with sunglasses. "Much better," Bellatrix said with a satisfied nod of her head. "Kingsley also created false documentation for us to use under any situation. FBI, CIA, M15, even a Kripsy Kreme identification if we would need one. They tailor to whatever case we need." Bellatrix dug out of her drawer two badges, tossing one to Hermione. "Don't lose it. Now let's get to the case. Time is a wasting."

"And how are we traveling across the pond so quickly? I doubt a fireplace can take us."

Bellatrix ignored that, instead holding out her hand. "Here we go," she said and Hermione tentatively took her arm. Their surroundings faded away and Hermione felt the sensation of being horrendously squeezed. She couldn't breath, couldn't blink, couldn't even swallow and panic filled her chest. She was robbed of sight, scent, touch and hearing.

Just when she thought she couldn't stand this sensation any longer, the world returned to her. She immediately dropped to the floor.

"Warn me before you do that!" Hermione gasped out from her position on her hands and knees. She squeezed her eyes as a wave of nausea hit her. That was terrible. Was that the teleportation Luna had been talking about? If so, Hermione much preferred the toilets and fireplaces. Though after she contemplated it later, it truly was marvelous being able to travel all those miles and all that water in mere seconds. It was just...wow.

"I did," Bellatrix said, rolling her eyes at the theatrics.

"All you said, was here we go!"

"Get up. People are going to stare." Bellatrix had no patience for Hermione.

Hermione got to her feet, dusting off her pants and saw that they had landed on a corner of downtown Las Vegas that wasn't as heavily trafficked. It was hot and she could feel the oppressing heat pressing in on all sides of her. "Now what do we do?"

"Now we have to find where the artifact is." Bellatrix discreetly pulled out her wand and uttered out, "locator artificium." A long thin line extended from the wand, and went shooting out into the air. It hovered over them, glowing brightly in the sky. "This will lead us to the artifact."

"And once we get to it?" Hermione asked as Bellatrix strode off quickly in the direction.

She frowned at Hermione, and if she weren't wearing sunglasses than Hermione would have been treated to one of her patented glares. "Have you not been listening to anything Kingsley or the Cleaner team have been telling you?"

"I have!" Hermione raced to complete. "I just want to be absolutely certain-"

"All you need to do on this mission is watch me. And don't interrupt." Bellatrix's tone was no nonsense.

"Fine," Hermione huffed out and followed in petulant silence.

They walked about three blocks before the heat started to really get to Hermione. It was just so oppressive. But whereas she was sweating through her jacket, Bellatrix looked as cool as a cucumber, almost as if enjoying this weather.

"How are you not sweating in this?" Hermione asked, pulling on the tight collar of her shirt, loosening it to get some merciful air onto her drenched skin. She pulled her wet hair up into a ponytail but it didn't do much.

A smirk lit Bellatrix's features, taking pleasure from Hermione's sodden state. "I cast a cooling charm on my clothes."

Hermione had to look that up. For she knew Bellatrix wouldn't do the charm for her if she even asked. Thankfully they didn't have to walk any further. The red line ended over a casino.

"It figures the dice would be here."

"Do you know anything about the dice?" Hermione asked.

"I do not. Luna's the one with all the knowledge on it. But she said she'd owl us information." And right on cue a barn owl fluttered past their heads, dropping down a scroll. Of course, how this was at all synced up by Luna, Hermione had no idea but she decided it would be a good idea to stop trying to make sense of these sorts of things and just go with them.

None of the people around them thought much of this. They probably saw the two women's uniforms and the owl above their heads as some part of a gimmick. Nothing out of the ordinary in Vegas than.

Bellatrix unrolled the scroll and read it. Hermione edged closer to her, almost too intimidated to stand this close least the witch snap at her. The words were in script so it took Hermione a bit of time to read. The info was to the point.

Devil's Dice, otherwise known as Lady Luck, is a figure that causes the user to have immense luck. However, this luck does not come without a cost. For each time the user utilizes the dice in a game, every person that is playing that game, will fall to the dice killer if they lose. And their loss is guaranteed for the user has all the luck.

To the scroll were attached several newspaper clippings that all detailed mysterious murders in casino's all over the USA. They started in New Jersey and had moved down to the south. Hermione's eyes bulged out. How was she going to stop something like this? With magic?

"We need to stop the game, then, if that's how the lives are being taken," Hermione said.

Bellatrix snorted. "I know that. But we won't know whose using the dice."

"Is there a spell for that? Like the one you just did?"

Bellatrix tucked the papers away into an inner pocket. "No. That spell only leads us to the general vicinity of the artifact. To find it, we'll have to do it the old fashioned way. You talk to the manager of the hotel, get on the camera feeds, and I'll do a sweep of all the floors."

"Right," Hermione confirmed, watching Bellatrix walk away before she realized she had no way of communicating with the woman once she found something. "Bugger," she grumbled to herself. Holding her back out, she decided she might as well go and get results.

She stepped up to the nearest security guard, a big stocky man and showed her the forged FBI badge, surprised it worked. "I need to speak to your casino manager now. I'm in pursuit of a suspect."

The guard called down the manager through his ear piece and Hermione stood there waiting, trying to come off as intimidating as possible so that she seemed legit. Standing with her legs stiff, her hands by her side and a scowl on her face. The manager came down within minutes.

"FBI agent Granger," Hermione flashed her badge again. "I need access to all camera feeds and recorded footage today. I am in current pursuit of a target and have reason to believe that he is on the premises."

"Is he dangerous?" the pudgy man asked, wiping his brow in worry.

"Have you heard of the casino murders?"

He nodded his head.

"I think that very person is in this casino and I need to check."

"Shouldn't we clear everyone out?"

"No. We don't want to alert him. Everything is to continue running. I have another agent canvassing the ground right now."

He took Hermione up without another word to the surveillance room. She knew that the murders hadn't happened yet, because if they had the casino would have been shut down so there was no point in looking back at that footage. So she looked at the live footage, scanning back and forth from the tiny black and white screens. But it was hard to tell where the suspect was. Was it a man? A woman? Could be anyone, young or old.

Hermione didn't even know how the rules of the dice game worked. Surely if they died in conjunction to as soon as they lost than there would be dead bodies and someone would definitely see. She only wished Bellatrix hadn't pocketed those newspaper clippings. Hermione would have to rely on her own deductions. And what she sensed was that once the game truly ended then the participants all died.

She caught a familiar figure moving in the corner of her eye and saw that Bellatrix was heading down to a restricted area. Of course!

Something clicked in Hermione's head. The casino had to be running more games. Games that were hidden and only for the really high rollers with high stakes. If the killer had won a dozen games already he was certain to have amassed enough money to do a high level killing in private where they could get away with it.

She turned to the manager so fast he flinched. "Where are your highest bidders playing today?"

"In...in.." he swallowed, clearly not wanting to relent this information, worried about the legality of it. Hermione could care less about that now. She needed to find the artifact.

"I need to know. The killer is probably with them."

He sighed. "In the basement, take the stairs on the right and through the door that looks locked."

Hermione rushed off. Bellatrix must have already figured this all out, that was why she was on the ground. So then what was the point of sending Hermione upstairs? To get her out of the way? Well, that stung. Hermione could handle solving cases. She had done so as a detective. Why did the black haired witch have qualms? Was it because Hermione was new to the wizarding world?

She raced to the location the manager had told her and found the supposedly locked door, open. Bellatrix must have forced her way through already. Hermione cautiously went through, drawing her gun to feel safer. She had no idea what she would see when she came down there. She went down the other stairs, coming to a dimly lit room. She hid behind the doorway and scanned the area. Smoke curled in the air, and men and women chattered as chips danced across the table. There were so many of them and Hermione recognized one of them as a British official. And sitting, laughing at some man's joke, was Bellatrix. Hermione almost didn't recognize her given her whole outfit had changed. She was no longer in her suit and pants but in a nice dress, hair let down and curling down her shoulders.

What the hell was she doing playing this game?! Didn't she know the consequences of doing it? Hermione wanted to run in and shake some sense into her but she couldn't. If she did she might ruin whatever cover Bellatrix had going on. Instead, she kept trying to catch Bellatrix's eye and eventually it worked. The woman saw her, and set down her glass as she got up. "Excuse me," she said. "I'm going to the bathroom. I'll be right back. No one touch my cards." They laughed at this and she made way. Once she got around the doorway, Hermione grabbed her and pulled her aside.

"What the bloody hell are you thinking?" she hissed, angry.

"I know what I'm doing. Don't get in my way," Bellatrix hissed back.

"In case you aren't aware of this, we're supposed to be working as a team. I don't appreciate being tricked in order to get brushed aside."

"And I told you to watch how I work. You don't know what you're dealing with, so be content to watch," Bellatrix wretched her arm free of Hermione's tight hold.

"Neither must you. Don't you know what entering a gam-"

"I know what I'm doing," Bellatrix cut in, her patience gone before she headed back to the game. And so all Hermione could do was stand there and hope Bellatrix wasn't about to get herself killed. The game progressed and all Hermione could do was pace and sweat and fret uselessly. Sounds of laughter sounded at wins and groans of disappointment at losses. Each time Hermione feared Bellatrix was one of them, but when she dared to look back out she saw that Bellatrix was holding her own. She was in the last three, with two other men. Hermione assumed one of them was the owner of the Devil's Dice. She analyzed both men's motions, trying to see who it could be. It was the little details that could reveal the most.

She eyed them. One looked nervous, given the slight tick of his jaw when he would swallow occasionally, and the way he shuffled his cards a bit as he decided over them. The other man looked more at ease, though he was looking at the other two players with intense looks as if deciding something about them. And his hand had the strange habit of wanting to hover over his pocket before remembering itself and relaxing. One would only do that if they had something very important there.

Hermione's eyes narrowed. That had to be him. She was sure of it.

He was an unassuming man. In his mid-thirties with salt and pepper hair. He was wearing a clearly expensive outfit, one he must have bought with all his ill gotten goods.

Hermione wondered what Bellatrix would do now. Certainly she must have figured out by now who the man was. Would she accost him after the other man dropped out? Or would she play the game to the end?

Great. Hermione felt useless and she hated that sort of feeling. And she most certainly disliked how Bellatrix had pushed her to the side, as if Hermione couldn't possibly handle such a case. She could, and she would. She had already figured out the suspect and she could have arrested him rather than endure a game with him!

Sighing she shook her head and decided to let the other woman do as she pleased. Which was something arduous for Hermione to do, considering she liked taking charge and doing things her way. She had a sneaking suspicion that Bellatrix and her were going to butt heads a lot on these cases.

Her inner musings were cut short when a scream sounded from the room, and suddenly several people stampeded out, nearly crushing Hermione in their hasty retreat. What was going on? She pushed her way into the room when they finished, drawing out her gun out of habit.

Inside she found Bellatrix seated at the poker table, coolly observing as the man with the salt and pepper hair clutched at his chest, gasping for breath on the table, his eyes bulging out and saliva dripping from his mouth. She slung an arm over the back of her seat and only looked up when Hermione came in, waving her gun around.

"Put that thing away least you shoot someone," Bellatrix warned.

"We need to get him medical attention," she put the gun away and rushed to his side.

"Nothing can save him now," was the cool assessment and Hermione turned with horror in her eyes to Bellatrix because the woman was right. The man had stopped struggling and the pulse in his neck no longer beat.

He was dead.

"Did you kill him?" she accused and Bellatrix's nostrils flared at the accusation.

"I detest being accused of something like that," she stood up, taller than Hermione by much due to the heels she was wearing. She placed her hands on her hips and glared Hermione down. "He lost the game and the artifact enacted its revenge on him by backfiring. I must admit I didn't fully suspect it would do that, but it was just for all the lives his selfish greed has taken."

There was so much wrong with that statement. "The judicial system should determine his punishment. Not us!" her hands balled up into fists as Bellatrix snorted derisively at her.

"We don't do things that way in the magical world. Magic has serious consequences and those who take the risk of tangling with the dark arts must learn to live with them, and suffer for them."

"He was just a muggle!" Hermione exclaimed, angry that such thinking of the magical world was old fashioned. It rubbed her the wrong way.

"Which makes his crimes even more egregious," Bellatrix said, before side stepping around Hermione. "Listen, we don't have time to engage in such childish debates-"

"Childish!" Hermione huffed, deeply affronted.

"-we need to neutralize the artifact and get out of here before the authorities come." She dug into his pocket and took out her wand. In her hand rested a pair of dice, blood red with black dots. They looked like nothing out of the ordinary but the power and influence they carried were scary. "Omen corrumpebant," she intoned and a soothing purple surrounded the object and wrapped around it before dissipating. "There, they are neutralized now." She pocketed them and with another wave of her wand was back to her usual outfit.

"What about his body?" Hermione asked, as Bellatrix strode out without another look behind.

"We'll leave it for the muggles to deal with. They need something to close the case of the casino killer and if we take it, it might cause more trouble for us than needed."

Hermione hated that answer too. It wasn't right to just leave him there. She sullenly followed Bellatrix out of the casino before Bellatrix traveled a bit down to a nice bar. She sat down, and ordered a drink like she hadn't just witnessed a man dying in front of her.

"Really, and now you're going to get drinks?" Hermione burst out.

"I'm in Las Vegas. I might as well enjoy some of my time here."

"Shouldn't we get the dice back immediately? Shouldn't, we you know, discuss the whole fucked up business of what you did back there?"

Bellatrix slowly turned on her chair, an almost bone chilling look in her dark eyes. "Miss Granger, let us make one thing clear," she said with a lento pace and a low tenor. "The wizarding world operates in a different manner than the muggle one. Thus, when working on these cases, we will do things my way. Is that clear?"

When Hermione didn't do anything, she leaned in, their noses an inch from brushing. "If I tell you to jump, you jump. If I tell you to run, you run. If I tell you to shut up, you shut up. And most importantly, if I tell you to kill someone, you do it. Because magic is a serious thing, and trying to do the right thing all the time will get you killed or worse." She sat back, a drink sliding her way just as she finished. She raised it to her lips and took a hearty sip before turning to ignore Hermione, whose heart was beating with a mixture of dread and anger.

It wasn't right for this woman to boss her around like this. And killing others? Hermione blanched at that idea. She wouldn't do it, no matter what Bellatrix said. She was going to prove to her that she could do this job without losing her morals.

She raised a hand and ordered a drink as well because today had been a rough fucking day, mentally for her, and she deserved something for putting up with the ornery woman next to her.

Tense silence reigned as they drank, until Hermione broke it.

Despite her being at odds with the woman, she did have a question on how the hell Bellatrix had won the game against the man.

"How did you win," she asked and Bellatrix took a moment to answer her.

"I had magic where others didn't. Luck can only help someone so far when I can change his cards and mine to whatever I want." She grinned at this, a mischievous sort of thing.

"How did you know to do that?" Hermione asked, astounded. "How did you know to join the game to win?"

"Gut instinct," she responded with coolly and cockily. "Also, it played in with the rules of the artifact." She finished her drink and set it down harshly, taking out a few bills to pay for her and Hermione's orders. "You will find, Miss Granger, that thinking with your head isn't always the best solution. Magic is about emotion," at this she jabbed Hermione hard in the collarbone. So hard she almost fell off the stool at the intrusive touch. "It's all about what is inside of you. And if you don't have what it takes, then magic will destroy you."

And then she got up and Hermione trailed after her.


Nomine: Devil's Dice

Alia Nomina: Lady Luck

Species: A pair of red dice with black spots

Potestatum: The ability to give the user endless luck. They will win any game they play, and those who play against the user will find themselves with no luck and dead at the end of the game. Those who use the dice suffer from the apparition of Lady Luck who goads them into killing more, into utilizing the dice more, all by seducing them.

Only men can suffer from this affliction as there have been no reported cases of the dice affecting women.

Notas Additional: A game can be won when entered against them if magic is used. As Bellatrix proved, the dice are useless when magic is involved and can be tricked. However, should the user of the dice be bested in a game, they die as well. And then the dice can be bound to someone else.

Chapter Text

The day after Hermione's first case turned out to be a weekend and so with that Dora took her to take care of some important matters.

"We've got to set up a bank account for you," she announced. "Or else you'll have no way of properly buying anything here."

And because Hermione couldn't wait to explore more of the wizarding world, she agreed to it. Plus, she still felt at odds with Bellatrix, though the older woman didn't seem to care much about Hermione's huffy state.

"Stop being a baby," was all she said in passing yesterday, when they had returned to the department, dice intact. The dice had been handed off to Luna who had taken them to the Vault, and Hermione had been alternating between reading her wizarding books and glaring at Bellatrix over the desk divider.

Hermione's face had only scrunched up more at the older woman's words and she turned back to her reading.

"Where are we going first?" Hermione asked, once she and Dora had had their breakfast and were approaching one of Grimmore's many fireplaces.

"To the bank of course," and then in a plume of green fire they were gone.

They came out in some communal area where there were a bunch of fireplaces. Many people used them to appear and disappear and Hermione likened the place to like an airport of sorts but on a smaller and more personal scale.

The communal area turned out to be about four blocks from the bank. The bank was an impressive thing, made of marble and gold and fashioned after roman architecture. Once they got inside, however, Hermione's appreciation turned to apprehension.

"Goblins," she hissed out, digging her nails into her palm. Goblins were everywhere. Walking past her, talking to customers, sitting at desks and filling out paperwork. And they were all dressed in sharp businessman clothes, nothing like the rags the others had been in.

"Oh, right," Dora made wide eyes at Hermione's tense form when she realized why Hermione was having this reaction. "I forgot you had a bad run in with some."

Flashes of the fight flared to life inside Hermione and she shivered as she felt claws raking down her back. The marks had long disappeared but she could still feel them. "Don't worry. These are safe. Goblins are great with handling gold and those you came across must have been rebel goblins, deviating from their normal course of action."

"Right," Hermione nodded her head but still did not fell entirely safe. They stepped up to a teller desk, which was pretty high up.

"What can I help you with?" asked the goblin, fixing his spectacles on his eyes as he looked down condescendingly at them.

"We need a new bank account. One that can transfer all of her muggle money into galleons."

"Ah," he made a noise of understanding. "That will be no issue. We will transfer the accounts, as long as we can be provided the right information."

"And how long will the transfer take?" Dora asked because all Hermione could do was stare judgmentally at the goblin before her.

"About a day, depending on how far the bank account is," he answered.

"That's great," Dora nodded her head and nudged Hermione with her elbow. "Give him your account information, Hermione."

Hermione did not feel comfortable with the idea. She didn't trust them. Not at all. But still, she supposed she best get over her discomfort if she was going to live in this magical world. She hoped these goblins wouldn't be like the rest.

But her hand seemed to have a hard time writing down her information regardless and once it was all over, and they had left the bank, only then did she breathe easily.

"That wasn't so bad. I hope," Dora said when she saw Hermione's tense features. "How about we go get you settled in with some remedy classes, ya? I talked to the headmaster of Hogwarts and we have a meeting set up with him."

"That would be good," Hermione agreed. "Studying literature can only get me so far."

"I think I know just what kind of classes you might need and I think you'll love them." Dora grinned happily and they were off to the fireplace again, this time the transport bringing them to an elaborate and ornately furnished older office. A bird sounded off, startling Hermione a bit. She looked to spot it sitting on a perch, it's feathers a fiery golden red color.

"That's a phoenix," Dora explained. "They are majestic and noble creatures that are very brave. Their tears can heal venomous wounds."

"That is a neat pet to have around."

"It's not a pet," a voice said from behind them. Hermione turned to see an elderly man entering the room. He was wearing robes with stars and moons on them, a pointy hat, and half moon spectacles on his face. His beard was long and white and trailed down almost to his waist. "It is a companion." He approached the bird and stroked it, the animal preening happily.

"Headmaster Dumbledore," Dora greeted. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with us."

"It is my pleasure. And how are you doing Nymphadora? It has been five years since you last left our school."

"I'm doing well. Still working with family and still doing good for the world," she answered brightly as she sat down on a chair in front of his desk. Hermione followed after her just as he sat down in his spot as well. He tapped his fingers together. "And you must be Hermione Granger, the young woman Dora has gushed so much about."

"Yes, that's me," Hermione said, smiling awkwardly. This man exhumed power from him. He commanded respect, and she felt nervous around him, though he seemed like he wouldn't hurt a fly least pushed to the edge to protect those he loved.

"Welcome to the wizarding world. I hope it has been treating you kindly so far," he said.

"It's all very new and intriguing. I hope to learn more about it."

"And about yourself, hopefully."

"Yes, that is why I would love to take some classes here. Dora told me how amazing this school is and I want to be able to take part in all it has to offer," she said.

Dora had gushed to Hermione about all her wild adventures down the old halls of Hogwarts. From her pranking the local ghosts, to racing on brooms, to sneaking off the castle grounds to explore the forbidden forest. All said with such fond looks that it made Hermione ache to have gone to such a school when she was younger.

"Ah, yes," he smiled and fixed his spectacles. "We have several night classes if you are interested in them. Hopefully those will help you understand our world a bit more." He pulled out a parchment and held it to her. She took it and perused it carefully.

There were five classes offered. Defense Against the Dark Arts. Potions. Potions II. Charms. And Herbalogy.

"These are classes meant for those who could not afford to go to school. For those who wish to learn more. Or for those who are slower to learn." He explained. "You can take up to two, but I do not recommend taking more."

She shook her head. "I think I should take all of them. I have a huge disadvantage and given my field of work, I think I am highly unprepared."

"It is not feasible to attend all of them for they occur at roughly the same time," he explained gently to her.

"But professor, couldn't you make it work somehow?" Dora edged, looking at him with special meaning.

He blinked in agreement. "There is a way to do so, however, it would only let Hermione take three classes and not five. And, I do not know if she is ready to hold such responsibility over an object."

"I trust her character," Dora answered.

Again, they were talking about things like Hermione wasn't even in the room and that bothered her. "What object?"

"There is a special object your department owns, that can alter time," Dumbledore said.

"The pocket-watch of Kronos?" Why the hell would Hermione want to use that? It would send her to other dimensions!

"No, a time turner. I don't think Luna has shown it to you, but it's a much more manageable object. It was actually based off of the research we did on the pocket watch and there are several in the ministry. We own one of them in case a case goes wrong and we need to turn back time," Dora explained.

"And you want to give it to me?" Hermione asked incredulously. Her voice may have gone up a pitch or two.

"Yes. It would allow you to take two classes at the same time. You would go to one, and then turn back time an hour or so and then go to the next."

"That is...amazing," she whispered out. The possibilities of time travel with such an object...they were endless.

"Do not get too overwhelmed. The time turner only works for up to three hours. Go back any further and it may cause issues with continuity. That is why it is rarely ever used," Dumbledore explained. "And why I am not certain if Hermione should use it for something like classes, especially since she is new to this world."

Dora nodded her head in reluctant agreement. "I guess that's true. I didn't think about it that way. But hey," here she placed a hand on Hermione's shoulder. "Maybe one day you can use it. I know I can't. Using it requires you to have good memory of what events already happened. Like what you said and to who and that kind of stuff, in order for you to successfully time travel. Plus you gotta hide from your own self so as not to ruin space time continuum and that's hard."

"Take your time deciding what course you want to take and then let me know by owl so I can register you," he concluded, getting up. "And now, ladies, I am afraid I have matters to attend to."

"Of course. It was nice to see you," Dora said.

Making a choice on which class to take was not easy, but Dora explained that the school year was divided into two semesters. Which meant Hermione could probably take another two classes at the end of it. That made her happy, knowing that she wouldn't be relegated to take only two classes per year. Since these were remedy classes they were more condensed, as a normal school year class was not like this.

Hermione eventually chose Defense Against the Dark Arts and Charms. Potions sounded interesting but it wouldn't do much to help her on the field and right now she needed to focus on enhancing her wand abilities. She could only cast simple spells and training with Bellatrix was harsh. The woman gave no pause or quarter, going full force on Hermione. Hermione had a feeling the woman liked seeing her down on her knees or flattened onto her back.

But before she could go to her classes, she also had to buy some gear for it.

Dora went shopping with her, only too glad to drag Hermione from store to store. "Shopping for the new year was always my favorite part. The smell of fresh ink, the crinkle of parchment, and the feel of new robes. It was so much fun. And oh, taking the Hogwarts express of course. That is an adventure in itself. As a first year you're standing on this platform and this beast of a machine comes up and all you knows is it's going to take you away to a magical land. And you can't forget the lady with the sweets on the train. I bought so many my first year I got sick." Dora laughed at her memories, eyes sparkling with joy.

"Will I need to take the train to get there each afternoon?"

"No, you'll just floo there. The train only works on holidays and the beginning and end of the year."

They shopped around the store, Dora instructing Hermione what kind of paper, ink, and quill to buy for best quality. They hunted down for the necessary textbooks, one of them nearly biting Hermione's fingers off when she opened it up.

"What is that?" she screamed, dropping it to the floor and still it came after her, snapping its covers to bite her toes. Dora took out her wand and cast a quick "stupefy" spell on it. It quieted down and then she levitated it back into it's bookcase.

"Just a book on magical creatures."

"Is it a magical creature?" she asked once her heart rate had begun to silence.

"No, it's not. Just enchanted," Dora explained and they continued on.

Once the actual day of the classes arrived, Hermione could not be more excited to go. True, it was after her work shift and she'd be in class until nine pm before she would have to go home and complete homework, but she didn't mind. Pursuit of knowledge was very integral to who she was.

She arrived first out of all her classmates and was soothed to find some of them her age, some younger, and some even older. They all looked uncertain and sat in silence until the professor arrived.

"Alright class, I'm certain we all want to get a move on with our learning," he started when he came in. He looked disheveled. His outfit a crumpled gray suit, his suitcase battered and old, and his hair mussed up. He also looked like he hadn't slept for a while and that when he had, it had been on benches.

"So we won't waste any time on introductions on our new classmates." This was directed towards Hermione who had joined the class about halfway with Dumbledore's special permission, but he was hopeful she would maintain the rapid pace required of her. "We'll jump right into our work. Now, open up your books to page thirty three and tell me, what is the most important and yet the simplest spell, a witch or wizard can use."

Hermione's hand shot right into the air, because she had read the book before coming here and she already knew a good chunk of the spells for DADA. He picked on her, as she was the only one eagerly awaiting to answer him.

"It's protego," she said.

"Very good..."

"Hermione," she supplied.

"Very good Hermione," he said and the lesson moved on quite quickly from there, quills scratching on parchment. Hermione found the whole using of quills and inks odd and she was half tempted to just pull out a pen and paper, or even a laptop, but Dora had warned her not to.

"It'll tip them off that you are muggleborn and that isn't a good idea. Some people hold terrible grudges and prejudices against them and I don't want you facing any."

Hermione had listened to that, because until she knew enough spells she wouldn't be able to protect herself properly from them. And it's not like she would pull out a gun on them to scare them off.

The lesson was interesting and the professor, whose name was Lupin, was apt at the material despite his haggard appearance. She took notes on everything, answered as many questions as she could and relished the knowledge she gained. Tomorrow she would be taking Charms and she could not wait to see what spells they would learn then.

At the conclusion of the lesson, one of the men in the class got her attention. "Say, you're awfully good at all this," he commented. His hair was ginger and his facial features reminded her of the Weasley twins. "But I've never seen you around before."

"That's because I'm new. Just moved her a week ago," she answered. Luna had instructed Hermione not to speak openly on her blood status and on her job. Both were to be secrets.

"From where?"

"Australia," she lied, knowing that the two accents were sort of close enough that it wouldn't seem odd for her to say this.

"How come you decided to come here?"

"Work," she answered.

"Nice. You need to tell me your secrets when it comes to making spells work." They had done some wand work and his had been abysmal. He could barely make them work on the first try and it took him a lot to do them. Hermione had an easier time despite not being born in the wizarding world.

"Just lots of studying," she answered. They were packing their stuff and getting ready to go home.

"I don't really have time to do that," he admitted, rubbing the back of his head in shame. "I spend a lot of time working. My family is poor and they've got a lot of mouths to feed so I didn't exactly have time to stay in school."

"You didn't go to wizarding school?"

"No, I attended here up until the third grade because it was all I could afford. All my brothers before me- all five of them- did the same. But they were smart so they managed in other ways. My brother Bill was good with animals, specifically dragons, so he went travelling to Africa to catalog new species and to train them."

Dragon hunting was a profession here?

How the hell did that work? And how had no humans noticed it?

"My brother Percy was really smart and he traveled to the States to go to school there. He found some free school, though it wasn't as good as Hogwarts, and finished school before going to work in the ministry. Charlie followed along Percy's footsteps and he's also working in the ministry right now but at a much lower level job. And George and Fred were always trouble makers so when they dropped out the school celebrated. But since they had a knack for creative and mischievous things, they opened up a candy shop."

So Hermione had been right in noticing that similarity. This boy was related to the twins in some manner.

"And then me, I was never really good so I was kinda glad I dropped out. But now that the family has a bit more money because of the twins, I can afford to take these classes and Ginny, my sister and the youngest of the house, can afford to go to school for the full seven years."

"That's nice, that you're choosing to relearn things."

"Doesn't mean I'll be good at it." he smiled ruefully. "How come you're taking these classes? You seem bright and put together."

She chuckled. "I uh, never really grew up in the wizarding world. There were circumstances were my family had to hide their identity and I grew up among hu-er, muggles," she said, hoping that this vague answer would satisfy him.

"So you grew up surrounded by muggles?" his eyes grew wide. "My father would love to hear about that. He's obsessed with learning about muggle culture and in collecting their artifacts. His latest possession is a 1980's Chevrolet. Except he magicked it to fly. It's pretty wicked. You should drop by and test it out some time."

The way this man spoke, with so much energy and excitement, made the mood infectious. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to be nice to him. To perhaps befriend him. He could teach her some things about the world she now resided in.

"Sure. I would love that. And you should teach me some wizarding customs. But it's a secret that I'm new here," she added, a touch playful.

"Deal," he stuck out his hand for them to shake. "You teach me muggle manners and I'll teach you wizarding ones. But now this means you have to come visit my house and my family."

She shook his hand. "Agreed."

"I'm Ron, by the way."

"And I'm Hermione."

Hermione was sitting at her desk at work when a file fell flat onto it, disrupting her reading of her Charms book. She looked up to see Bellatrix standing over her, hands on her hips. "It has come to my attention that you have not yet been informed of a case of utmost importance. This folder contains the compilation of all the data I've compiled. Read it, breathe it, live the information. And then I expect some feed back on it." With that she strode off back to her desk, pulling out a cigarette to light up.

Hermione stared at the manila file. So this was the case that was pertinent and all consuming on Bellatrix's mind. The one that was extremely dangerous. She opened it up and began to read the case files. There were many of them- and each example more horrifying than the rest. This artifact, dated back all the way to ancient civilizations and Bellatrix had put together every single scrap so much as associating with it.

"Apophis," Hermione breathed out, tracing the image with her finger. It was blurry and barely there, but two glowing red eyes were visible, and they must belong to whatever was the artifact. It was a chaos maker, determined to be able to bring about the end of the world. And each time it had arisen, terrible wars had started. Like WWI and WWII. But there was a way to lull it back into slumber. And that was for someone pure of heart to sacrifice themselves.

But there was no description of how to destroy it, or if it could even be neutralized. And there was never any case where the physical form of the artifact had been found.

Done reading, Hermione approached Bellatrix's desk. The woman did not look up. She was filling out some paperwork. "What do you think?" she asked.

"It's all very disheartening and horrid," Hermione said, clutching the thick files. "And it seems to be like no one has ever been successful in attempting to find this artifact. Which begs the question of how will we stop it, if we do not know it's physical appearance? And if it is in slumber now, since there are no impending signs of doom, like natural disasters or wars breaking out, then how will we find it?"

"Those are all questions I've already asked myself. I'm quite saddened by your analysis. I was hoping to hear something fresh."

Well excuse me, Hermione wanted to snap out. It was the first she heard of something chaotic enough to destroy the whole world. "Maybe you should enlighten me with your analysis then?" she challenged.

Bellatrix looked up here, with a quirk to her brow. "I heard you're taking classes in DADA and Charms," was the non sequitur.

"Yes, I am," Hermione did not understand why this question.

"I'm curious to test your new spells and your new ability."

"Well, it's only been one class-"

"Perfect, let's see how much you've improved then." Bellatrix got up, an eager look on her face.

Hermione was in no mood to battle Bellatrix but something told her one didn't refuse Bellatrix.

She reluctantly followed the dark haired woman into the training room and got ready for another unfair duel.

Bellatrix took out her wand and tapped it against her chin.

"If nothing has been recorded of the physical form, then what do you think that implies," she questioned before zinging off a blue spell.

Hermione waved her hand and directed it into the ground. Bellatrix did not give any indication if she was proud or satisfied with Hermione's process.

"It could mean any number of things. Either that it's form changes, or that it has no form."

"You don't think it's a physical object?" she arched an interested brow and then sent another spell. These were all slow paced and allowed Hermione greater amounts of time to duck or dodge. This time Hermione sent one of her own spells. Bellatrix blocked it easily.

"Think about it. Apophis is a snake, according to ancient Egyptian myth, which is the embodiment of chaos and the natural opponent of order. In going with the laws of its existence, chaos shouldn't have a singular form as chaos is a body-less concept. Thus, it's not a who, or a what, that we are looking for, but a when. As in, when will he next rise."

Hermione ducked a spell coming in over her head. Bellatrix was flinging them quicker now and Hermione was beginning to sweat. She only knew a handful of spells and Bellatrix kept bringing out new ones. They whizzed past Hermione's head like rockets, and her body was jerky with motions.

"If that is the case," Bellatrix posed. "Than how do we determine the when?"

"According to the data, there isn't an exact way of measuring that. Different religions and different nations had their own version of this chaos, but it all works in the same way. It will grow stronger in power and bid its time until it is strong enough to attack only for it to be thwarted when it tries to do so by some worthy heroes. The heroes sacrifice their lives to defeat Apophis and then it slumbers once more until it can rise again. The only pattern is the sacrifices but there is no set way to determine how long the sacrifice will keep the snake down."

Bellatrix looked more pleased by Hermione's deductions now. "Good." It was like she was testing her. "And tell me, what is wrong with the sacrifices?"

This made Hermione think a bit more. She threw up a protego to block Bellatrix's attacks so she could gather her thoughts. "They seem to be lasting less and less. With mere decades in between each rising."

"Exactly. And does that denote that people are getting less pure of heart, or that simply the sacrifices are lacking because they are missing some core element?"

Here Hermione shrugged. "It could be both. Though it seems to me that if order is the natural enemy of chaos, then order needs to somehow be utilized and brought into the fight."

Bellatrix smiled before jerking her wand up like a fishing rod hooking up a fish and Hermione found herself flat on her back as her feet were jerked up from beneath her. She lay there, trying to catch her breath, face red from exertion. Bellatrix stood over her, smiling keenly. She had been taking it easy on Hermione today, is what the smile said.

"It seems to me, Hermione, that we aren't looking for Apophis, but for Order. Now get back to your desk and do your part in looking up clues as to where it could be hiding."

Chapter Text

Wasn't Luna their researcher? Hermione grumbled to herself as she blinked her dry eyes. Currently she was parked in a comfy armchair in the department's personal library. It was an enormous thing, so big that she had to use a spell in order to bring forth the books she needed. Normally she wouldn't complain about research, but that was Luna's area of expertise in regards to magical objects and curses and things, and not Hermione's. Still, Bellatrix had ordered Hermione to do it, in a way testing her mettle.

Would the woman be never pleased with Hermione? The brunette understood that Bellatrix was different ever since her partner's death but she didn't have to take it out on her. She was just here, doing her job. She didn't ask to have magic.

She sighed as she flipped another worn page and tried to make sense of the words blurring on the page. Sighing again, she slammed the book shut, figuring she would not be getting anywhere tonight. She packed up her stuff and headed for the fireplace, deciding she might as well go home and get some sleep and resume her research tomorrow. She had stayed behind late in the office. It was past five and everyone had gone home, except for Luna who liked to mill around here and milk the tree of knowledge wherever that was and for whatever reason.

Hermione walked down the corridor of doors, wondering what was behind them all. No one had explained to her what they held and she felt that familiar twinge of curiosity eating away at her. In particular she was intrigued by the door with smoke curling up from underneath it. It constantly did that and she wanted to know why.

Looking around to make sure no one was looking- she shouldn't worry, she was an employee here surely she had a right to look inside- she pressed her hand to the knob and found it swung open right away. The room was glowing with an inner misty white. Smoke curled on the floor and inside it was ten degrees colder.

Shelves lined the walls, full of jars with gray liquid inside, and in the middle was a basin, jiggling with gray liquid.

Hermione came closer to it. She could hear whispering coming from it. But why? And how? She got closer to it, reaching down with her face. She could even make out images in the murky liquid. But before she could make them out, they changed, shifting dramatically. She squinted her eyes, trying to get ever closer when she tipped too far and went face forward.

She gasped loudly as a cool sensation fell over her face. She was no longer in the room, but in the middle of something else. And that something else was a cave, lit with red angry fire and with lava consuming the floor.

Hot wind stirred around her and she looked over her body, finding it a ghostly outline while everything around her seemed solid. "What the hell is going on? She cried out and spotted a familiar face close by. It was Bellatrix, looking haggard and hurt. She was bleeding from her shoulder, and one arm hung limply from her side. Her pants were ripped at the knee and a huge claw mark ran down her face. What had happened to her? Who had hurt her like this?

"Bellatrix, what is going on?" Hermione called out but the woman walked right through her, her eyes elsewhere.

Was...was this a vision of something? What was going on? She turned to follow Bellatrix's troubled journey. The dark haired witch was panting hard and looking for someone. "Tom. Tom!" she hollered out loud. "Tom where are you?"

"Over here!" came a strained cry and she rushed over to him, nearly twisting her ankle on some rocks. He was buried under a rock, face grimacing in pain and sweating from it. It had landed on his leg, the biggest rock, and had no doubt crushed it.

This was the first time Hermione was seeing this elusive Tom. And under all the grime, he was a handsome man. With high brows, a strong chin, and curly brown with hints of red hair that was shorn short and to the skin except for the top.

With her wand Bellatrix picked up the debris from him and he sighed in relief. His leg was broken without a doubt and with another wave of her wand she was able to call a splint to put around it.

"We need to get out of here," she said, helping him up with her one good arm. He placed some of his weight around her good shoulder, face white with pain.

"You don't have to tell me twice."

"You're not leaving anywhere," a sibilant voice hissed, the very tone of it sending tremors of fear down their backs and Hermione's even as she knew whatever this was must be in the past if Tom was still alive. It's voice rumbled through the cave, rumbled through their very being, it's insidious voice lodging inside them and taking root there.

"Apophis," Tom paled even more and then Hermione saw it, a massive snake rising from the lava. Molten rock slid down it's gleaming scales which were dark black with a criss cross of red going up and down them. It's eyes shone with malicious intent and a long forked tongue slithered from between it's lips. Staring at it was enough to bring Hermione to a near panic attack; her knees shaking and breath shallowing. She could only imagine what they truly felt, having come face to face with this being in reality.

"You foolish mortals will not be able to stop me. And you will perish in your arrogance in thinking you can." With that it dove right at them, this thirty foot monster, it's jaws open wide and fangs gleaming with poison. Hermione yelped even though she knew it couldn't hurt her.

Her heart lept in terror as the two were stuck, unable to move out of the way, frozen in their terror of it. Tom was the first to tear himself awake and lept in front of Bellatrix, using his body to shield her from the fangs. They sunk in, rupturing bone and bringing forth blood.

"No!' Bellatrix hollered out as he gasped in pain. The snake retreated, shaking it's head in distaste and sliding back into the lava, like Tom had somehow hurt it. The man's body crumpled to the ground, twitching and him foaming at the mouth as the poison worked it's curse. It spread lightning fast, black lines covering his body and turning his skin blue.

"Tom," Bellatrix murmured, sinking to her knees. "Tom, no." So much horror and pain conveyed in her voice. She cradled his limp body, his eyes having rolled into the back of his head. There were no last goodbyes. No time for even a last glance. He was gone already, his body growing cold.

With the disappearance of the snake, the red light went out and the lava quickly cooled, throwing Bellatrix into a rapidly darkening cave as tears streamed down her face. And in the dark, she sobbed over his fallen body.

Hermione was launched from the memory, tears having streamed down her own face. How horrible. How utterly gut wrenching. She stumbled from the basin, wiping her tears as she went. Now she knew why Apophis had been defeated. It was because Tom had given his life for Bellatrix's. And it was why Bellatrix wanted revenge on the snake. Wanted it destroyed.

Because it was what had killed her partner.

Hermione gathered her satchel from where it had fallen and rushed out of the room, running right into Luna who had been standing outside silently. "I see you've discovered the room with pensive." It was hard to tell if she was upset by this. Her voice was neutral.

"The what?" Hermione tried to act like she hadn't just seen something traumatic.

"It's a method for witches and wizards to store memories. Memories they cherish, or memories they don't want to keep too close."

"So it was all real. Everything that happened there?"

Luna nodded her head. "He died to protect her, and if Bellatrix is anything, than she is honor bound as it is the way of purebloods and nobles. And she will do whatever it takes to avenge him. Or to bring him back to life."

"You can't bring a dead person back," Hermione countered.

Luna shook her head, serious. "You can. It's been done before, but with less than favorable results. Bellatrix is just searching for a proper way to do it, and her venture into such dark arts will not be good on her. Dark arts can make one go crazy, if not worse. Please," at this she stepped closer to Hermione. "Watch out for her. Don't let her go down such a disastrous path. Tom was her best friend and his death hurt her a lot but she needs to learn to let go."

Hermione nodded her head though she knew not how she would keep Bellatrix safe. "I'll do my best."

"Thank you." And then Luna's dreamy smile was back in place.


It turned out Ron was in both of Hermione's remedial classes. And after they were done, they decided to go to Hogsmeade one late evening. "You have got to see the place. I only went there a handful of times in my third year but it is amazing. It's a quaint little magical town," Ron reminisced.

And it indeed was. Hermione liked the whole feel of it. Something about it made her feel like it was a festive Christmas like place, despite the fact it was only May as of right now. They went and got butterbeers, tried some tea in a fancy cafe there where confetti would fall from the sky, and they even met up with his younger sister Ginny, who it turned out was a sixth year at Hogwarts. Thanks to the family's now more stable finances, Ginny had the option of finishing school where her brothers could not.

"Nice to meet you," Hermione shook the hand of the younger girl. She had two pigtails braided down the sides of her face, a face filled with freckles. And her hair was the same color as Ron's. "I'm Hermione."

"Yes, I know who you are. Brother always talks about you at home. We can't get him to shut up."

"Hey! That's not true!" Ron blustered, turning a red shade.

Ginny grinned, enjoying embarrassing her brother. "So is."

"Stop lying!"

"I'm not. Why, are you ashamed or something?"

Hermione laughed softly as she watched them bicker. "I never got to annoy my siblings. I was an only child. Sometimes I wished I had a sibling to fight with."

"You're crazy," Ginny pronounced. "I wish I was the only one sometimes. There were so many of us that we always had to share everything."

"Don't act like a brat. You were an only girl so everything you got was brand new. Since I was the last of the sons, I got everything sixth hand. I didn't get anything new and by the time I got some robes they had holes and singes from all of what they'd been through. And even my wand isn't mine. It was Bill's."

"Maybe that's why it's hard for you to cast spells?" Hermione suggested gently. "I know that every wand needs to be tailored. It's how they make the best fit."

He shook his head. "It all worked for them, so I don't know why it won't work for me."

"Hermione's right. Change your wand and stop holding onto it out of stupid sentiment," Ginny said.

"Easy for you to say, when you got a whole new wand!"

"Stop being so bitter about everything." They fell into more bickering before they drew to the shop they were meant to go to.

"Quidditch?" Hermione questioned. "What is that?"

Ginny looked at her oddly. "You don't know what that is?"

"She grew up muggle, remember?" Ron prompted.

"Right. Well, it's a sport to us. We fly on brooms and try to score different balls into different goal posts."

"Flying on brooms?" That sounded dangerous. Ginny launched into a diatribe on the sport while they walked through the store, her going into details and making Hermione confused at some parts by the complex rules of the sport. "Why brooms? Why not use your feet?"

"Do you even know how to fly on a broom?" Ginny questioned and Hermione felt a bit flustered when she answered with a "no."

"Merlin, you really missed out on a lot. You need to learn. It's a major way of transport for us as well. And its our huge cultural trademark."

The thought of going that high up made Hermione queasy. "I think I'll stay with flooing for now."

"Nonsense. You're not a proper witch without it. I'll teach you if you want," Ginny offered eagerly, green eyes sparkling with the idea of doing so.

"You should take the offer," Ron suggested. "Ginny's a Qudditch player for her school- a beater for Gryffindor actually- and she's quite amazing at it. Hasn't fallen off her broom once. She actually taught me how to fly," he chuckled.

"Er," Hermione had a protest ready on the tip of her tongue. Ginny cut her off animatedly.

"And I need to educate you more on the sport as well. It's a big part of wizarding culture."

"We should take her to a game," Ron said. And the rest of the stay in the store was spent planning a trip to a game with Hermione, while Ginny shopped for new gloves for her team sport.


"I need a broom," Hermione told Dora one day while they were at the mansion. Dora had been out pruning some bushes with magic when the brunette detective approached her.

"What for?" she asked, wiping the sweat off of her brow with her thick gloves.

"I was informed, that I need to know how to fly because I am not a true witch otherwise," she stated flatly.

"You don't need to learn how to fly, but you certainly can if you want to. I won't stop you." Dora got up, dusting the dirt from her knees. "I know just the place for you to get a broom. But they don't come cheap, I'll warn you."

"Whose teaching you?" Dora asked once she had changed into some robes and they had flooed away.

"I met this man in my night class and his sister is currently going to Hogwarts and she offered to show me how to fly."

"That was kind of her."

"She's a Quidditch player and she's intent on converting me into liking the sport." Hermione was not amused at the idea.

"I actually don't favor the sport too much. It's so complicated for no reason," Dora admitted. "Though I do marvel at their ability to stay on a broom and brave falling from such heights."

"Do you know how to fly a broom?" Hermione pointedly ignored the mention of falling from brooms as it made her palms sweaty.

"Of course. I've been doing it since I was six. They put these little training wheels on the broom when you're younger. It makes it so the broom is stable. And they use a sticking charm to make sure your bum stays put even if the broom turns upside down. Bellatrix has been flying brooms since before she could walk."

"Really?" Hermione arched a brow because the woman dressed so muggle that it was hard to think of her as a witch sometimes.

"Yes. She was wild as a child. And she used to get into so much trouble. But she was the brightest witch of her age and was offered so many jobs when she finished schooling."

"So then how did she end up in the department?"

"As a favor to someone. I don't know the full story, but she's been here since the beginning and she's seen some shite. Almost everyone who used to work died or left, or ended up going crazy. But not her. She's tough as nails."

Hermione gulped. That did not sound good. "Is she cursed or something?" she weakly joked.

Dora smiled but it wasn't a comfortable one. "A lot of people say that, but honestly, it's just the casualties of the job. When you work in such a field, what can you expect."

"Then why do you want to work here if you know the dangers?" Hermione was thinking about if it wasn't too late to transfer out and find a job elsewhere.

"I'm never on the field so I won't get hurt. And beside, I like working for the government. I like helping save the world in whatever way I can. And Luna, she's here because she got selected to be. She doesn't think like the rest of us so that's why she's so damn good at figuring out where the artifacts will be next. It's like she's got a sixth sense for tracking them down. She doesn't even need that globe she made, but she made it for us in case an artifact pops up when she's not around.

"But enough depressing talk," Dora waved the words away with her hand and pulled open the door to the broom shop. "We've got some shopping to do."

Inside there were brooms on stands, all polished wood and straight bristles. Fact cards were floating next to them, boasting certain attributes they had, none of which held any real value to Hermione because she had not the slightest clue about brooms.

"I think we should get you a basic broom. Something not too expensive in case you break it." Dora looked around, rubbing her chin in thought. "I think the Comet Two Sixty would be good for you," she supplied. "It's not too fast- it goes about 0-60 in thirty seconds."

"That's...pretty fast," Hermione gulped. In a car that was nothing. But on a broom? Where she could fall at any given moment?

"It's decent. The fastest broom is the Firebolt. It goes 0-150 in ten seconds flat!"

"That sounds like a nightmare."

"-It's fun!"

Dora and Hermione spoke at the same time and then looked at each other because of how opposite the ends of their statement were. Hermione offered a sheepish smile while Dora chuckled at the brunette's apparent distaste for flying.

Hermione got the Comet, paid for it, and they left the store, her feeling a bit ridiculous to be carrying a broom around on her shoulder. She didn't even know how to activate it. Did she just sit on it? Or did she have to use a spell to make it work?

She figured Ginny would tell her.

When evening came, Hermione decided she would do some snooping around. Luna had asked her to check up on Bellatrix and Hermione would. So as discreetly as possible, she joined Bellatrix in the library of the manor. She sat down with a book, furtively looking at the dark haired woman over the top of a book she had picked out.

Bellatrix was deeply absorbed in a book with no cover, which made it hard for Hermione to determine if it was a dark arts book. Though she did find herself taking in the woman's appearance instead. She was wearing a set of black robes, tailored to fit her perfectly. And her hair had been let loose from it's usual high ponytail, her dark locks framing her sharp features. She was beautiful, Hermione deduced. She had clearly aristocratic features but they were all doused in darkness. All held an edge of danger to them. Her eyes may be hooded and her pale skin stretched over sharp bones, but behind it lay hidden an almost predatory nature. Like she was always alert, on guard, and ready to go on the defensive. Hermione wondered if that was a product of Bellatrix working in this department for so long and having to endure so much when no one else could.

Hermione was intrigued in learning more. About what made Bellatrix this way. About what adventures she had gone through. Hermione knew she could learn a lot from her. Eventually, the older woman picked up on Hermione's staring. "Do I seem fascinating to you?"

This startled Hermione, who had gone so deep in her thoughts that she was outright blatantly staring at the dark haired witch. "Excuse me?"

"I ask because you keep staring at me," the woman responded, without picking up her eyes. She flipped a page.

"No..I, um, I'm just thinking about the books behind your head. I think I might want to read them," she stammered a reply.

"Then go ahead, why don't you grab one instead of staring?" she said, inviting Hermione. It was almost as if she could tell Hermione's answer was a crock of shite.

"You're in the way. I wouldn't want to bother you."

"You already have," was the snappy response and Hermione sighed and got up. Perhaps getting closer would be a good idea. This way she could peer down to see what the woman was reading. She was a bit fearful, though, for getting close to the woman made her nervous. She was intimidating, and...something else. There was something else about her that made Hermione feel like butterflies were exploding in her stomach and not in the good way.

She inched over to the chair Bellatrix was sitting in, that was in front of the shelves and pretended to concentrate on which book she wanted, meanwhile she let her eyes drift down to what Bellatrix was reading. The words looked strange, perhaps in another language, but Hermione couldn't determine properly because Bellatrix shut the book with a snap, making Hermione jump.

"Granger," she scolded like one would a child who got their hand stuck in the cookie jar, and frowned up at the brunette. "Why do you keep staring at me. It is downright rude."

"I'm not-"

Bellatrix got up with a haughty swish of her robes. "You are. Did Luna put you up to this?" she peered in closer, making Hermione falter and take a step back.

"She didn't-"

"She did," is Bellatrix's confident answer. "Why won't you two stay out of my business?" she threw her hands up in annoyance.

Hermione gave up the pretense. "Because we're worried. About-"

"I don't want to hear it," Bellatrix cut in before his name could be said. She stormed off. To keep her here, to keep the conversation going, Hermione blurted out, "I saw it. Saw how he died. In your...pensieve."

This paused Bellatrix. Paused her with anger. She swirled on her heel, her hair flying with her dramatic turn of fury. "Who gave you the bloody right to look into my memories!" she screeched high pitched, storming her way over to Hermione who backed up against the shelves, trapped with no where to go. Bellatrix's finger jabbed into Hermione's collarbone on each word. "Who gave you the right to violate my memories?"

"N-no one-"

"Then bloody stay away from there!" Bellatrix growled out. "Those are private and I don't need you and your big nose to intrude upon them." With that, she stormed off again, slamming the door shut on the way out.

Hermione's heart raced in her chest and she let out a trembling sigh.

She had inadvertently only pissed off Bellatrix more. She needed to apologize to the woman. To explain to her she hadn't intentionally seen her memories. "Maybe put your memories somewhere where I can't fall into them," she mumbled gloomily into the empty space, rubbing her sore collarbone.

Hermione waited two hours before she decided to go searching for Bellatrix. She figured that was enough time for one to get over their anger. She realized it was a bit late-about 11 at night, but hopefully the woman wasn't asleep yet.

But as Hermione took to searching the house, she realized that it was much bigger than anticipated and that she had no clue where the woman's private chambers were. "Ginger," she barked out, hoping to summon the house elf.

"Ginger is needed?" the house elf asked, popping up in back of Hermione and scaring her. She wondered when she would get used to such rapid appearances.

"Yes, Ginger. I need to find Bellatrix's room."

"Mistress Black does not like guests in her room."

"I'm not going to stay there. I just need to apologize to her for something. I promise it'll be quick," Hermione swore.

"Mistress doesn't-" Ginger began to default to denial again.

"Just for a second. Please. I don't want to have her mad at me. I'm worried for her. And for her health. I heard she hasn't been doing well."

"Mistress has been ill at ease since He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's death," Ginger whispered, rubbing her knobbly hands together fretfully.

Tom, Hermione guessed. It seemed Bellatrix didn't want to hear his name at all. "Then you can see I care for her and want to make sure she is fine. She needs a friend now more than ever. Surely you would want your mistress to be well?" Hermione couldn't believe she was trying to manipulate a house elf right now, but she needed to find Bellatrix.

Ginger looked indecisive before giving in.

"Ginger will take you, but if anyone asks, it was not Ginger who did." The elf lead the way. They went up the stairs, down three twisted halls and up another pair of stairs. The manor up here looked largely neglected. So many empty rooms, so many halls. What could they all be needed for?

Ginger stopped in front of an ornate door. This was Bellatrix's bedroom. "Thank you Ginger," Hermione thanked and the elf disappeared in a snap.

Hermione got closer and knocked on the door, rehearsing the words she would say. But her knocks went unanswered as she heard muffled screaming coming from behind the door. That couldn't be good. Hermione's eyes widened in fear and she pushed the door open.

Bellatrix was on her bed, the covers tossed around her, twisted up as her hands ripping into the sheets.

The woman was having a nightmare. A terrible one given her thrashing state.

"No," she moaned as she twisted and turned. "No. Tom!"

Hermione rushed to her side, shaking her to wake her up. "Bellatrix, wake up. Wake up!" she shouted and the woman did, sitting up so fast she almost hit Hermione in the mouth with her head.

She gasped heavily, looking around her as if she was afraid she was still in the nightmare world.

"What are you doing here?" she growled out when her eyes finally focused on the brunette, her chest heaving and Hermione's eyes were drawn to it to notice that she was wearing a teddy with a very low scoop neck. Hermione blushed and averted her eyes. "I heard screaming and I came here."

"Well you shouldn't be here. You don't have permission to be in this part of the manor." Bellatrix got up, angry, and went to her cabinet immediately to pour herself a drink.

"I'm just worried about you. As your partner. If you have any issues you can talk to me about them-"

"I don't want to. And I most certainly don't need you meddling in my affairs," Bellatrix growled out, setting down the empty glass with an angry thunk, back still rudely turned from Hermione.

Hermione could tell she was dismissed. She left the room, having not discovered anything of use or even able to apologize. If Bellatrix was dabbling in the dark arts than she couldn't tell. All she knew was the woman was probably suffering from survivor's guilt and she wouldn't let Hermione do anything to help her with it. In fact, Hermione trying to be nice had only seemed to piss her off even more.

Would she and Bellatrix ever get along? She wondered as she left back to her room.

Only time would tell.

Chapter Text

It was two months later and Hermione had grown somewhat accustomed to the new and strange world around her. There were still more things to learn and to understand and discover, but for now she was more confident with what she dealt with. She practiced with her wand daily. Went on walks with Dora to see new places and try new foods. She continued taking her classes with Ron and taking flying lessons with Ginny, and also in working on her job.

There hadn't been another case of magical artifacts gone wrong for quite some time, so Hermione did not have a chance to test her new skills. All she did was read files and do research on the Apophis case. And focus on trying to breach the tough exterior of her partner.

Bellatrix was as hard to get along with as ever. She paid little to no mind to Hermione, though they did talk more because Bellatrix begrudgingly had to get used to Hermione being in the department and the two of them being partners. The dark haired witch used to be intimidating to Hermione but she had gotten over it and now was in admiration of her. Admiration of her looks, and her work.

She wasn't supposed to, but she had mined Luna on information about Bellatrix. In order to take care of her partner better Hermione had to know her better and Bellatrix certainly wasn't making things easy by opening up to Hermione's casual questions. She was still distrustful that Hermione was trying to find her doing dark arts, which Hermione was- having failed dreadfully at the whole thing- and so Bellatrix did not impart much about herself. Luna gave Hermione access to the older witch's files and though Hermione felt like she was doing something shady and that qualified as a breach of trust, she had no choice. Luna was concerned over Bellatrix and her all consuming focus on revenge for Tom. That was not a healthy obsession and Hermione wanted to put a stop to it.

So Hermione looked up the files, a large chunk of which were missing but when she asked about it, Luna only shrugged and said the ministry must have taken them and that nothing could be done now.

Bellatrix had attended Hogwarts as a student, classified into the Slytherin house. She was often described as smart and skilled but all together troublesome and liking a good riot at the expanse of others. She had graduated with top marks, before disappearing off the map of society for a good bit. This was were the notes were missing. Nothing of her young adult life was visible, though Hermione knew from Dora that Bellatrix had been offered many jobs at this point, but she only seemed to show up once more about ten years ago when it came time to work for the Department of Mysteries.

She had over a hundred closed cases and had outlived anyone on her team. She was a master spell caster, known to fire basic spells at speeds of .5 seconds. She was trained extensively under a mysterious man's tutelage, and she had stopped the world from ending on three different occasions. And yet, no one in public knew she was a hero. Though she was awarded by the ministry in secret.

She had even invented new spell types and Hermione was impressed. This was a woman who had done much to benefit society and felt no need to be honored for it. But there was something concerning in the notes.

Kingsley had left a personal note on his stationary there, detailing how he was having Bellatrix monitored by others in case the curse of the department struck again.

Hermione wondered what this meant. Dora had laughingly mentioned it but could it be a real thing? So Hermione approached Luna on it while the blonde was rocking a voodoo doll to sleep in her hands. She had it swaddled in a blanket and was singing something in creole to it.

Hermione waited until the woman had lulled it to sleep. Something like this might have been uncommon and strange to Hermione before but now it was only the norm. "Did it wake again?" Hermione asked in a whisper, careful not to waken it again. Luna set it down on it's spot on the shelf before going over to Hermione.

"It's been waking up a lot recently," Luna said, taking off the purple magical gloves she had used to protect herself. "I don't know why yet, but it might have to do with it's creator. Sometimes objects can sense their distress and it won't let them rest."

"What can we do about it?"

"Nothing for now. I'll just tell Steve to be mindful of it."

Hermione had yet to see the cataloging vampire since starting work here. But on the other hand she wasn't sure if she wanted to. It made her neck prickle in discomfort.

"Luna, I read Bellatrix's files and I am confused. What does the curse of the department mean?"

"Oh, that. Not many know of it. Just Kingsley and I. And now you. You see, working in the department is a very special thing. Though it will be a bit hard to explain, so do listen with your heart and soul as well as your mind," Luna said airily as they began walking through the warehouse.

Hermione followed.

"The department is in itself a magical thing." Luna gestured with her hands expansively. "Because of being around so many magical devices they radiate a sort of magic from them. A malignant magic. And those carry malignant things with them. It does not affect each person the same way."

"So, a sort of radiation? That mutates people?" Hermione questioned, skin prickling with unease.

"Yes, in a way. But it can give both good and bad effects. In fact, each person who's ever worked here has developed a new and random ability over the course of the years, granted they stay long enough. But more often before they can even get it, they end up losing their mind or falling ill or dying. The new ability is almost like a gift to those who survive."

This did not at all sound promising. Hermione did not want to lose her mind; it was her greatest asset. Even if the ability to gain a superhuman power was intriguing. She doubted very much that she wanted to stay long enough to receive it.

"And Kingsley thinks Bellatrix is going to fall to that curse?"

"Yes. She's been here for so long and she hasn't gotten it. He's worried it'll strike her soon. And he's even more worried that it might be the obsession on revenge that is what is happening to her."

"So we need to stop it, but how, if this is part of a curse we don't understand," Hermione pondered as they reached the exit.

Luna stopped here, looking over at Hermione oddly. "I never said I believed the revenge to be the curse. That is something else on it's own that needs to be stopped. Bellatrix was cursed long ago but Kingsley doesn't believe me." And then she pulled the door open.

Hermione sighed out heavily as she walked out. Great. Just more questions rather than answers on how she could help Bellatrix. "Wait, Luna. What was she cursed with!" Hermione asked as she hurried after the blonde, but Luna merely shrugged.

"That is not for me to impart."

And that was the end of that conversation.


"Hands steady. Hands steady!" Ginny cried out as Hermione wobbled on the broom. Two months of this and she was barely making any progress.

"Man, you move like a snail," Ginny chided as Hermione steadied her hands, allowing her broom to stabilize and stop tilting to the front.

"Well, excuse me for not liking heights," Hermione shot back. She was always snappish when on the broom.

"You're barely a foot above the ground," Ginny rolled her eyes as Hermione could literally extend her feet and touch the ground. "But it's not just that. You seem distracted today," she added more kindly, tone indicating she was open to listening to her friend's woes.

Surprisingly the two of them had struck up a fast relationship. Ginny was mature beyond her years; Hermione supposed it had to do with being poor and growing up with seven brothers.

She hesitated before she spoke, however, because this was top secret business, and plus, she didn't want to scar Ginny with fright. But perhaps Ginny could tell her something new that could be useful.

"Say, if your friend was cursed, what would you do to help them?" Hermione asked.

"I want you to practice elevating up to three feet and back down, without shaking your broom or tipping it," Ginny instructed before she rubbed her chin thinking. "If they're cursed, you need to de-curse them."

"Yes, but I don't know what they're even cursed with!" Hermione said, rising up slowly and steadily.

"Then how do you know they're cursed? Maybe they're just acting odd because of natural reasons," Ginny supplied, watching as Hermione rose.

"While it is true I do not have much to reference their current behavior to in regards to their past behavior, I have been informed by others that it will have or has happened already. Simply put, it's best described as a location curse."

"Those are horrid, but easily remedied. For example, take a haunted house. Some are cursed to drive the occupant mad until they murder, but usually it goes away if the person leaves. Most of the time a reverse spell does not even need to be done."

"But they can't leave the place."

"Why not? Do they not think themselves cursed?"

Hermione shook her head. "It's just...they cannot leave the place. It's their job. And I'm sure they know of the curse but they don't care about it." Surely Bellatrix had had to have heard of it in the very least if she had been around for so long.

Ginny shrugged. "Then really, you've done all you can. Short of casting a memory spell and getting them out of there, you can't make them leave. Maybe that's the curse? That they can't leave?"

That raised a truly thoughtful point. What if Bellatrix's curse was to forever work for the department? Hermione would relay her findings to Luna later. Right now- "Alright Hermione, now go up to five feet and repeat the instructions."

Hermione gulped and did as asked.


When she got back later to Grimmore manor, she found it a flurry. There were buckets and mops and dust wipes cleaning the floors, shelves, ceilings and walls and anything else that could be cleaned. She found Ginger in the mess of it, directing the inanimate but animate objects with her magic.

"Ginger, what is going on here?" Hermione asked, lifting one foot than the other so a scrubber could cleanse the grime on the floor she had brought in.

"Mistress Black is having a ball. Mistress hates balls but her family insisted and it is tradition so she must do it!" Ginger shrilled. "And now Ginger worries if she will get everything done on time."

"Let me help then," Hermione offered, hating to see the creature so distressed. "I know some spells-"

"Ginger cannot. You are a guest here. Ginger will not let you do work!"

"Really it's alright-"

"Don't bother," a cool voice cut in. Hermione turned to see Bellatrix was there. She was clutching a mug of coffee in her hand and she looked relaxed. Sleeves done up, top three buttons undone and suspenders hanging from her hips. Even her hair was down and it was long, reaching to below her bra line. "House elves take great insult when you take their work away from them."

"But I only wish to help," Hermione explained as Bellatrix tipped her head, indicating Hermione to follow after her. So she did. They went into a room Ginger had yet not cleaned and sat down on the cushions there.

It was a small study, with only a desk, some chairs, and a curtained window between two book shelves. It looked well used, scratches on the wood, and ink stains on the carpet, and something told Hermione Bellatrix used it a lot.

"I haven't told you this, but unfortunately I am to host a ball here within the fortnight," Bellatrix started distastefully. "As per family tradition I need to do one." She rolled her eyes. "Which means you are invited to this as well."

A wizarding ball. Hermione had never been to one. It sounded fabulous. And an opportunity to learn something new.

She sat up higher in her seat. Bellatrix noted her energy with contempt. "Don't be excited. Balls are boring. All pomp and no substance. You need to be falsely sweet to everyone." Hermione surmised that did not bond well for Bellatrix's prickly demeanor. "And it's a pureblood ball. Which means you can't talk about your blood line. And never, mention your muggle roots. Just say you are a visiting witch, one of Dora's friends, and leave it at that."

Dora had warned Hermione about the prejudices, so she would be stupid as to ignore them, even more so coming from Bellatrix.

"And you must have a proper dress. Tell Dora to take you for a fitting and don't worry about the cost, I'll pay for it."

"I have my own money now, surely-"

Bellatrix waved it off, arrogantly. "I have more money than can even be counted. Don't worry about such a trifle." Than she got up and left.

Hermione did indeed ask Dora for help finding a new dress. The younger woman was excited for any chance to go out with Hermione and buy new things. "You're going to love the ball. There's so much food and drink and dance there. Not to mention the performances."

"Performances?" Hermione questioned.

"Yes. Lots of magic shows and dancers and musicians and even fire shows!" Dora explained with eagerness. "And there are even duels there. Each year there is a competition for prizes. Ten participants challenge Bella for money and for pride. And so far, no one has bested her title."

"That will certainly be a spectacle," Hermione said more to herself than to Dora. She knew how the dark haired detective loved her fights; she had no doubt it would be interesting to watch. And maybe Hermione could learn something herself so she could finally land a blow on Bellatrix. Training with her had only lent to a bruised ego and bruised skin.

"It will be. She never lets them off easily," Dora said jovially.


The time for the ball finally arrived and Hermione was nervous. Suddenly presented with a giant crowd of people who would judge her for her blood status sunk in and she smoothed her hands across her green satin dress. In her room she peered at herself in the mirror, examining herself for any imperfections. Her hair was in an updo and her makeup was light and not too over done. She looked classy. Yet comfortable.

"Hermione, are you ready?" Dora asked, knocking on the door.

"Yes, as ready as I will ever be," she replied, stepping out of the room.

Dora was wearing a dark blue dress that she didn't seem all too comfortable in. Dora didn't strike her as the dress type, more at ease in jeans and a dirtied smock. She had grown her hair out for this event, and it was long and brown. It was almost a bit odd seeing her look so normal.

"Remember, you're my half cousin from Sweden, one of the only three houses of purebloods there."

"Why Sweden? My name isn't Swedish enough."

"You were named after your Greek grandmother," Dora fibbed. "Now, come, we don't want to be late." She looped her arm through Hermione's and off they went, descending the stairs down. Dozens of finely dressed rich folk were already milling down in the grand hall which had floating candles and tables laden with food. In the middle on a raised dais was a band playing music on harps and strings.

Waiters walked around catering the event.

One man had even brought his own house elf. How rich could he be? She watched as the elf took his coat and vanished into whatever realm elves did when teleporting.

"This is nice." The grand hall had been dusty the last time Hermione had seen it. Ginger had done a good job. "Did Ginger set this all up?"

Dora nodded in the affirmative. "House elf's have great deals of magic even if they don't look it. But they only ever use their magic in service of their masters. And of their houses."

They began to mingle with the crowd for it was something needed or else they would come off as rude. Hermione merely followed along, smiling tightly as Dora introduced her and kissed the cheeks of people she knew. "This is Hermione, my half cousin from Sweden. She's visiting because I finally convinced her to come. She's quite an introvert, but I keep telling her she needs to get out more so that the purebloods can finally meet her."

"I just like books more than balls," she answered, keeping as much of her accent out of her voice as she could.

"I'd bet," a man chuckled, shooting her a lurid look and she realized too late how her statement could be misconstrued. She didn't decided to elaborate because that would only make it worse. So she flushed in silence.

They circled around but Hermione couldn't see Bellatrix anywhere yet. "Is she not coming?"

"Who?" Dora mumbled around a mouthful of food. She had shoved a small cake whole in.

"Bellatrix."

"She'll be coming soon. She likes to come as late as she can get away with it, if only not to have to deal with this just yet."

And that was true. The party was under way for about two hours by the time Bellatrix made her entrance. Hermione hadn't been expecting her to come dressed in a dress, even though she had seen her in one during their dice hunt. But this dress, unlike the other one, was simply extravagant. It was obsidian black with small sparkles in it that glimmered and shone under the candlelight. It had a trail that followed Bellatrix down the stairs, slipping behind her like ink. The dress had long sleeves and a high neck, sort of like a turtleneck that went up to under Bellatrix's jaw line. Her hair was done up, curls tight with two loose strands that hung around her face. Her lips were painted a red that matched her nails and her naturally hooded eyes were made more stygian with dark eye shadow that sparkled.

Hermione could not tear her eyes away. Bellatrix looked amazing. And so enchanting. Like the dress itself was magic, clinging to her so tightly that Hermione could see every last curve and dip on her body.

"Are you okay?" Dora asked, furrowed brows at Hermione's look.

That startled the brunette free. "Uh, yes. Just, um, these pot stickers are amazing," she fibbed, raising the food in her hand and giving a wavering smile. Dora looked like didn't quite believe her but didn't comment further on it.

"Let's go say hi then," Dora insisted and they walked over to find Bellatrix who was chatting with some blonde haired woman and man. "That's Bellatrix's youngest sister. She's...quite prickly." Dora whispered.

"More prickly than Bellatrix?"

"Prickly in a different manner. I hope you don't find out how."

They reached the two women and man and Dora plastered on a fake smile.

"Auntie Narcissa and Uncle Lucius!" Dora greeted and rushed forward to kiss her aunt on the cheek. "It is nice to see you."

"As it is nice to see you," Narcissa said, though Hermione detected a bit of unwelcome in her eyes. The woman looked cold and callous- like she had had the life leeched out from her until she was still and thin. She held herself upright, neck and back straight as a ruler. And her movements were stilted. Her face was dour, eyes cutting and sharp.

Her husband looked no better off, though he seemed less severe than her.

"And who is this?" Narcissa added, looking over Hermione with barely concealed distaste.

"This is Hermione, my half cousin from Sweden-"

"Don't be absurd, Nymphadora. You have no half cousins in Sweden. I know the family tree well." Narcissa cut in and with measured steps approached Hermione. Hermione felt like she was being approached by a snake, coiled tight and ready to strike any time.

"Cissa," Bellatrix warned from behind not that the other woman was listening.

"Who are you?" Narcissa asked. "You are most certainly not family."

"Like Dora said, I am Hermione Granger."

Bellatrix shook her head as if to say 'you idiot'.

"There has never been a house of Granger in the purebloood history. Ever. You are not pureblood and neither are you halfblood." Disgust over rode her features. She swiveled on her heel, glaring at Bellatrix like she had done some great wrong.

"She is a mudblood!" Narcissa shrilled out. Her voice was drawing unnecessary looks. Hermione felt self conscious.

Bellatrix grabbed her sister savagely by the upper arm to get her further away from peering eyes and ears, dragging her into a corner. "She is my partner. And you will damn well respect her as long as you are in my house, under my roof." She spat, eyes black with fury.

Narcissa's lips pulled back in disgust. "You keep partnering up with filth, Bella. First Tom and now this," she hissed venomously.

"You will not bring up his name ever again, is that clear to you?" Bellatrix spat, shaking her.

"At least he had some pure blood in him. She has none! And remove your mudblood loving hands from me at once!" she screeched out and Bellatrix did as asked, releasing her with so much force she stumbled back and had to steady herself. Lucius caught her. She wiped at her arm, where Bellatrix's nails had sunk into pale flesh and marked it red. She sniffed, turned up her chin, and taking her skirts in one hand, busied off. Her husband followed after her. Dora gave Hermione a concerned look before rushing after her family in hopes of doing damage control.

Many guests were still watching and Bellatrix glowered at them. "Mind your own business, lest you want to find yourselves removed from the guest list." They turned away at once, leaving Bellatrix and Hermione together. It would do no good. Hermione had a feeling Narcissa wasn't one to refrain from gossiping. Soon, a lot more people would know about her status here.

"Thank you," Hermione said, her unexpected words shaking Bellatrix momentarily from her anger.

"What for?" she grunted out.

"For calling me your partner. For sticking up for me." That meant more to Hermione than Bellatrix could possibly know. Hermione had only ever wanted to be a good partner. To be accepted by the older woman. And this confrontation had proved that Bellatrix cared for her a bit.

"I didn't do it for you," she spat out before spinning away on her heel, gone to do whatever it was she did when pissed. Probably set things on fire, Hermione thought wryly.

Oh well. Some progress had been made. Bellatrix cared for Hermione somewhat even if she wouldn't admit it. Hermione kept her smile small and went on to find Dora so that she wouldn't be alone during the event any longer.


The highlight of the event came when it was time for a dueling tournament. The garden out back had been magically outfitted to hold an arena. A flat ground of sand and stone with rocks and pillars standing upright or on their side for the terrain. While on the sides the audience sat in elevated stands of white stone. It made Hermione think of a smaller scale version of the Colosseum. She sat with Dora who was jittery with excitement. Bellatrix was standing next to them, in the row so she could more easily enter the field. They had front row seats courtesy of living in the manor.

Bellatrix was wearing a dueling jacket for nobles. A black top with ornate pure black fleurs de lis on a backdrop of velvet and lighter black silk. A chain hung from the top button across to her shoulder where a small cape was, heralding the family crest. One of a raven with spread wings, clutching arrows in it's claws. It signaled cleverness and war. Her sleeves were long and her gloves long, flaring up around her elbows. Her leggings were black as well and over them went black shoes that reached her knees.

Her hair was worn loose surprisingly and melted into the dark ensemble she wore.

Unlike the men who were her challengers, chests puffed out like proud peacocks and backs upright to be as tall as could be, she was almost lazily slouched over, a bored look on her haughty face.

"I do not feel much up for the dueling anymore," she confided in Dora who looked shocked to hear this as they both looked on at the competition on the other side of the constructed makeshift dueling arena.

"Why? You love this!"

"I always win. There is no real challenge and I have better things to do than spend time on these losers," she tapped her wand to her chin, thoughtful. "I may just make the games go by quickly so as to be done with them."

Before Dora could retort, Bellatrix was gone onto the field, and the crowd shook to attention. Hermione watched keenly, never having seen Bellatrix in competitive action.

The first opponent was wearing orange, and he had a blue sash running across with his family crest on it.

"Sir Mungus from the Westminister nobles," announced the announcer, his voice booming across the field.

His friends and family cheered for him as he approached Bellatrix in the middle of the field. Both their hands were behind their backs. "This fight will be for the title that currently an undefeated Bellatrix Black from the noble Black family holds. As well as for a cash reward of half a million galleons. Remember, the rules are, wandwork only. There will be no kicking, no punching and no biting. I'm looking at you, Bellatrix. And there are to be no illegal or dirty spells. No spells that can cause serious harm." Both duelists nodded their head though Bellatrix had a disgruntled face at being called out.

"Now, duelists, walk fifteen paces from each other." They did so, turning around with a swift spin of the heel before metering out fifteen paces. "Pull out your wands."

Bellatrix's wand slipped free from where it had been up her sleeve, dropping down into her palm. So did his.

"3...2..." the countdown began and Hermione could feel anticipation build up inside her. Dora looked on edge as well. "...1!"

Both contestants swiveled around, wands raised, spells spilling forth from their lips as magic burst from their wands in a collision of red and blue.

The game had begun.

Chapter Text

True to her word, Bellatrix gave no respite to her opponents. She made short work of the first, second, and third one, now on her way to her fourth opponent. And it was jaw dropping how good she was at this. While fighting Bellatrix herself, Hermione hadn't been able to truly admire the finesse Bellatrix worked with. But she had style and flair. Her arms spun in intricate movements. Her hair whirled around her. Her wand arched and stabbed through the air as her body moved like a dancer's across the field.

Spells were fired off one after the other and she didn't even look tired out by it. Instead, she wore a maddening grin on her face to taunt her enemies, like this was all too easy. And it was, for her. And her spells were magnificent too. All colorful bursts that entertained with snakes and images of ghosts and dragons.

Hermione wanted to be like her. Dora could see the admiration on her face, though she did not fully support it. "Auntie went through a great deal of hardship to fight like she does. I would not wish you to have to struggle the same way."

Hermione wanted to ask exactly what was in Bellatrix's past that she did not know about when a shadow cast across her face.

An owl fluttered over head and dropped a note into Hermione's lap before flying away with a hoot.

"It must be from Luna. Only our department uses such owls to deliver notes," Dora explained as Hermione unrolled the sheet.

Come meet me by the front gate it said in barely legible scrawl.

"Meet who?" Hermione questioned but Dora was already moving in the direction, and Hermione followed after her, nearly stumbling twice in heels.

They got there and found Luna standing right outside. Even though the gate was open, she could not get through.

"Luna, what are you doing here?" Hermione asked.

"I came here to bring you some horrid news," she started with, face pale with the weight of it, or perhaps that was just her usual pallor. "There's an artifact inside this mansion as we speak. And it's active."

"What kind of artifact?" Dora asked; she and Hermione sported looks of concern. How was it possible for an artifact to be here? Had someone snuck one in?

"A blood one."

"Always the worst kind," Dora proclaimed gravely. She turned to Hermione in explanation before the woman could open her mouth to ask. "Blood magic is a gruesome and most dangerous thing to do. Honestly, I'm not surprised a pureblood has access to it. They always tend to dabble in the worst things because they think their blood status makes them invincible."

"Do we know who has it?" Hermione asked Luna.

"Use the locator spell. It will tell you who."

"And what is it?" Dora tacked on.

"It is a pin. Small and gold in color."

That could easily blend in. It would be hard to find it.

"And what does it do?"

"It kills. And it must be stopped before it does so at this party. Because once one is killed, than more and more are killed. But all will be fine as long as it doesn't get a taste of blood. Without blood, it cannot be activated and is harmless." Luna shrugged, so casual for something so serious. "I wish I could tell you more, but this artifact is one of the uncatalogued ones. We get those from time to time and all I can tell you is what it is and how it is triggered. Beside that, you are on your own."

That did not sound promising.

"Come help us look," Hermione offered but Luna was already shaking her head.

"I cannot pass this gate, unfortunately."

"Why not? Is there a ward on it?" Hermione asked.

"No. A special spell that only invited guests can enter. I am not one of those."

"We can get Bellatrix to invite you then-"

"By the time it takes her to invite me in, the artifact might be gone. You need to get her and tell her that everyone here is in danger."

"Okay. Thank you Luna," Dora nodded her head briskly and was tugging on Hermione's hand to drag her inside.

"We should secure the artifact first," Hermione proclaimed. "If it's as dangerous as it sounds. Once we have it, we can get Bellatrix to look at it."

"Right," Dora agreed.

Using the locator spell like she'd seen Bellatrix do, Hermione shouted out, "locator artificium." A long thin line spread from her wand, winding it's way through corridors and the grand ballroom where a couple of people were milling around the dining table.

Hermione and Dora rushed after it, their heels clacking angrily on the floor. Following the trail that no one else could see, did not take long as it lead to a room, the door ajar. Hermione pushed it open with the tip of her wand.

Her face blanched as did Dora's hair.

"Looks like we found who had it," she said in a dry whisper. "Wait here. I'll go get Auntie." And she bolted out.

Hermione was left looking at a dead man on the floor. Blood pooled around his body in a bright pond. Had the artifact killed him? And did he still have the artifact with him? She leaned down to pat him over, her hands only coming away sticky as she did so. A lot of blood was coming from his palm, which was odd. It was almost like he had bled to death through it, which shouldn't be possible. She touched his hand and turned it to see a small dot on it. A hole that stabbing someone with a pin would make.

This couldn't be good. The pin had tasted blood. Now it's powers could be activated and everyone could be at risk now.

She cast the locator spell again, but this time, it no longer pointed to him. Huh. Someone must have taken it then after killing him. Or maybe he hadn't been the one to have it originally but had simply been the victim needed to start the artifact's magic.

She stood up over his body when a scream made her jump up. She turned around to see Narcissa behind her, standing with three men.

"You killed a man! You dirty mudblood!"

"No I didn't!" blurted out of her mouth but it did nothing to help. One of the men raised his wands and sent a spell right at Hermione.

"Protego!" she erected a shield just in time as Narcissa continued to shout.

"Murderer! Murderer in the house!" This was drawing unneeded attention and Hermione felt swamped as the other two men pulled out their own wands and began to advance on her. She held her shield up, retreating into the room so that with the doorway in the way, no one could sneak up behind her. The only way to her would be through her.

"I found the body. I swear I did!" she explained.

"Liar!" hissed out one man. And then the floor exploded under her as he threw a spell there. She was flung off her feet and onto the body of the dead man. Before she could get up, a stupefy hit her right in the face. She slumped back down on the cold body with a low groan as black swam in her vision.

When she came to, she was sitting propped up at a chair, bound by magic chains. She felt disoriented and dizzy. Her mouth tasted like cotton balls and there was dried blood on her dress. A whole crowd was surrounding her, chattering angrily, staring at her like she was some sort of animal.

"Move out of the way," came a gruff voice she recognized.

Bellatrix cut through the crowd, Dora behind her. When Dora saw Hermione, she gasped and rushed right to her side. "What happened?" she asked.

"I got knocked out," Hermione said flatly, her face feeling heavy as she spoke.

"What the bloody hell is going on here?" Bellatrix demanded, standing in front of Hermione as if to protect her, and glaring angrily at the crowd.

"She did it!" Narcissa shrilled. "She's a mudblood and she killed Lord Silver!" She pointed an accusing finger at Hermione who blanched with panic as angry eyes turned to her.

Bellatrix snorted at this. "Don't be absurd. She did no such thing."

"I saw her, standing over him, hands dripping in his blood!" Narcissa powered on.

Bellatrix rolled her eyes. "She's a stupid mudblood for Merlin's sake. She only knows two spells and she can barely manage those. I doubt she could kill him with magic."

"Then check her wand. The spell should be there. Proof!" hollered another man.

"Very well, if only you idiots will shut up," Bellatrix growled out, snatching the wand from one of the man's hands. They had been holding onto it.

Bellatrix took out her wand and cast a spell on it. Hermione's wand shone blue before losing the color. "See, nothing," Bellatrix said. "She is innocent."

"Then she could have killed him through muggle means! They're all savages!" shouted out another and this brought up more shouting.

Bellatrix used her wand to cast "Silencio," which took away all their voices. "If you would calm down, you would let me explain that I shall handle things. For safety purposes, everyone allow Ginger to lead you to studies or bedrooms in which you shall make yourselves comfortable so that I may find the culprit unimpeded and deal with the body. Unless you all want me to call the aurors to make things work."

Clearly they did not want authorities getting involved so they nodded their heads though they did not look happy. She returned their voices and they went on their way, grumbling angrily and speculating on why Hermione killed him. Narcissa and Lucius stubbornly remained.

"I cannot fathom how you do not just lock her up. She's clearly the culprit," the thin blonde man sneered.

"Just because she was found at the scene of the crime does not mean she did it. Surely you know that from experience, Lucius," she turned steely black eyes on him. "Oh, no, my mistake. You always were guilty when found at the scene of the crime."

He glowered at her, not saying anything for she was right, and sniffed angrily, turning up his nose as he and his wife finally left.

Only then, with the room empty, could Dora undo Hermione's ties. The brunette rubbed her sore wrists.

"Dora tells me there is an artifact here. A blood one," Bellatrix started, twirling her wand between her fingers, itching to be used.

"Yes, and it's already tasted blood." Hermione's face was grim as she reported this. Bellatrix gave her back her wand and Hermione held it tightly, glad to have it back.

Bellatrix's eyes closed here, as if to say she was tired of this shit. "Did Luna specify which one it was?"

"She said it was a small pin. And it uses blood to work. But other than that she doesn't know much because she's never seen it before."

"Just our bloody luck," Bellatrix muttered out. "Let's go examine the body and then we need to split up before the killer strikes again." They left to go to the room where the body had been, only upon arriving there, they found it gone.

"Did Ginger clean it up?" Dora asked.

"No, she wouldn't deal with the mess until I've examined it, because she knows it's evidence," Bellatrix shook her head. She turned to Hermione. "Are you sure Lord Silver was dead?"

Hermione let out an affronted huff. "Of course. His pulse was gone and he wasn't breathing."

Bellatrix rubbed her chin. "It could have been a stasis magic- one that holds the body in a frozen state before reviving them. Maybe that's what the pin does?" she thought to herself.

"But then why would he bleed this much?" Hermione pointed to the giant pool of blood on the carpet. It was a whole body's worth she'd wager.

"Something about this pin isn't making much sense." Bellatrix pulled out her wand. "Keep your magic handy. I think something foul is afoot. Dora, go with Hermione. She'll need some protection."

"I can handle myself!" she decried only for Bellatrix to cut her a cutting look. "You could barely defend against a stupefy. You need help."

Hermione fumed but let it go because her partner was right. "And what will you do?"

"I'm going to hunt the artifact down. Dora and you will try to find the body- the killer could've hidden it- and look at the guest list. Dora knows most of the people there and she will find which suspect has motive."

"Got it," Dora nodded her head. "Let's go." And she tugged Hermione away while Bellatrix took some time to examine the blood more.

The hallways were empty, but filled with muffled voices from closed rooms. It seemed all the guests had locked up for now. Who ever had been the killer, it would be hard for them to kill again. Unless they were in one of these rooms.

They kept an eye on a missing body but couldn't find one. If he had been picked up or dragged away then there would be bloody prints. But there hadn't even been any footprints to indicate that someone had been there. If the body had been moved it must be with magic. Hermione missed the good old way of solving crime, without annoying magic to complicate things.

They even summoned and asked Ginger to look for the body but she reported back in ten minutes with a resounding no. Her magic tracing for human bodies did not find anything outside of the rooms, except for the three of them. Wherever the body had gone, it had been hidden well. And it most certainly wasn't alive.

Dora ran through the guest list, which consisted of four hundred people. Hermione sat in boredom, spinning her wand on the tip of her finger. She would much rather be out on the field, but Bellatrix still didn't trust her to handle this work. After the support Bellatrix gave her in standing up for her, this hurt. They had slid back in their progress. She needed to take initiative and show the raven haired witch she could do things right.

"I have a better idea," Hermione announced. "Why don't we question the guests? Get a feel for the crowd before we go after the suspects?"

"I don't think that's a good idea, given your blood status. They won't answer. Certainly not to you."

Hermione slumped into her chair, defeated. Dora continued to scan the list before she got to the end. "Alright, I think I have a few people in mind who could have done this."

"And what did you base your hunch on?"

"On people with shady pasts. Those who have grudges against Lord Silver's family. There's fifty people so far. I'm going to go question them all. You stay put outside the rooms while I do this."

"And of course, I get to do nothing. You don't trust me to do anything?" Hermione asked, her ire at Bellatrix spilling out unwillingly at her friend. Dora shook her head. "I already told you, they won't answer to a muggleborn."

Hermione sighed out in malcontent but decided to let it go for now.

They asked Ginger to tell them which rooms the suspects were in and the house elf did so very helpfully, before it left them to take care of house things. "Ginger need to clean that blood up before it stains ever further," she explained before teleporting away.

When they arrived at the first room, Dora was let in and Hermione waited outside, annoyed. Why did bloody wizards have to care so much if she was muggle born or not? It didn't make her less of a human. As she stood there, like a delinquent against the wall that did nothing but brood and loiter after school hours, she saw the thin line of the locator spell glowing over her head and to a door two doors down.

Bellatrix must have cast it in hopes of following it. Had Bellatrix checked this room yet? Or had she not seen it? Curiosity and a need to prove her worth, propelled Hermione forwards. She knocked on the door and when no one opened it, she pushed it open, finding it unlocked and with all the spells warding it, gone. Which meant whoever had killed them, must have been a friend for them to let them in. Or, someone with enough magical prowess to easily deconstruct these wards and protective spells. And on the floor, three dead bodies, all lying in pools of blood. She bet if she looked down, she'd find pin sized holes on their palms.

"You really must stop finding these bodies before I do," a low voice murmured behind her and she jumped, finding an annoyed looking Bellatrix there. "Or else people really will not believe that you didn't do it. Did I not tell you to help Dora?"

"She's busy interrogating suspects. And I certainly did not do this. I just got here. I saw your spell and followed inside. I thought you were supposed to be finding the suspect? How is it that three more are dead?" Hermione stemmed her hands on her hips, which only angered Bellatrix.

"Do not take that tone with me. Clearly, whoever is doing this, is not human. Nor on the guest list."

"Then why send me and Dora t- are you bloody serious? Sending me away again so I won't get in your way!" Hermione cried in exasperation as it sunk in. Bellatrix had done the same thing last time. Mislead Hermione into doing something else.

"I don't want Dora coming to harm and I don't want you impeding the investigation," said with recourse.

"So you let us scour the guest list for no reason if you already knew from the start it wasn't a guest here? Do you know how excited Dora was to help, only to have that taken from her?"

Bellatrix snorted. "Do not try to guilt trip me. I don't care."

"Then I don't care for you and your stupid rules. I'm going to investigate on my own!"

"Please do. That way when you get killed, it won't be on me," she shrugged, uncaring.

This enraged Hermione further. "Why are you so callous? How am I supposed to work with you?"

"You're not. You're just a replacement until I get my real partner back."

"You're crazy if you think he's coming back to life."

"You muggles think death is certain. How amusing," she chuckled and then bent down to examine the bodies, dismissing the brunette detective. Hermione childishly stomped her foot. "Fine, be that way." And then she stormed off, slamming the door behind her. Dora had just finished inside the room and she saw her friend's distraught face. "What's wrong."

Bellatrix is what's wrong, Hermione wanted to say. But she did not. "Bellatrix found more dead bodies. But no one in the room killed them, which means the killer is outside the halls, or someone they know. Though Bellatrix thinks it's not human."

"Not human? What non human thing could be killing them?" Dora was confused.

Hermione shook her head. "I don't know."

"Well, either way we need to hurry. I don't want more people to get hurt." She shook her head. "Though no doubt Bellatrix is delighted by this. Now her party's got a bad reputation and she won't have to host one for ages."

That made Hermione startle with an idea. "You think Bellatrix did this?"

"What, ruin her own party?" Dora looked appalled by that idea. "If she wanted to do it, she'd do it outright, not with such back handed measures."

Hermione wasn't sure. But she'd take Dora's word for it.

They hurried down the darkened halls towards their next lead- which Hermione didn't have the heart to tell Dora the truth about- when they saw a person standing at the end, moaning and sort of just bumping their head into the wall. Their skin was grey and they wore blood spattered clothing.

"Who is that?" Hermione demanded, narrowing her eyes at it. Her wand eased into her hand, though she itched to pull out her gun. Sadly, it wasn't allowed at wizarding events.

"It's Lord Silver," Dora said in a sort of 'huh'.

"He's not dead?" But he had bleed out so much.

"Lord Silver. Lord Silver!" Dora called out and he raised his head in confusion. His eyes were blank and unfocused and his jaw hung slack as he stumbled towards them. Some realization hit Dora. She slapped her hand to her forehead.

"Of course Ginger's locating spell didn't work. It's an Inferi!"

"A what now?"

"A shambling corpse brought back to life by magic."

"A zombie, you mean." Hermione clarified before it hit her. "Oh shite, a zombie!"

"Man, this is exciting!" Dora gushed in a whisper as the zombie stumbled, confused, towards them. "I've always wanted some action for my job and I'm finally getting it!"

"This isn't a good thing," Hermione whispered back. "Have you not seen a zombie movie? They always end in disaster!" Then it hit her again, Dora wasn't muggle. "Of course you haven't seen one."

"We need to take it down." Dora raised her wand and hit it square in the face with a stupefy spell. Nothing happened, except for making it angrier. "Huh, that's not good." She looked at her wand as if it had malfunctioned. Hermione had watched enough movies to know a good shot to the head was the only way to do them in.

"I think we should run. Now," she managed out as it lunged towards them, howling. She and Dora tore down the hallway, their hair sweeping behind them. "I don't suppose wands can do gun spells? Like you know, shoot bullets and stuff?"

"No, I don't think so," Dora said as they raced into the grand ballroom. Then that meant they would have to take care of it in another way. Such as trapping it. Her mind raced as she circled in the middle of the room, looking for something, anything. Her eyes landed on some chairs and tables. With her wand she sent them flying at the Inferi. They sent him crumpling to his back with a might roar. She kept piling them on and on to him, leaving him trapped under dead weight. He would be steadied for now.

"Quick thinking," Dora breathed out relieved just as the high windows smashed to their right and Bellatrix came flying through them in a shower of glass. She rolled onto the floor, ending up on her front, rising to her knees as soon as she could. There was a cut on her cheek and she spat out blood onto the floor. What the hell had happened?

"The house elf is doing this!" she cried out, raising her wand and blocking a blast of malignant energy that came swarming at the three of them. It collided against her shield with a tremendous crash, causing a ferocious wind to rattle the room and blast some tables away, namely the ones off of Lord Silver. No one noticed him rising, snarling with vengeance and hunger.

"The house elf? Ginger?" Hermione cried out, unable to hear well over the ringing of her ears.

Bellatrix rose to her feet, a look of derision on her face. "No, the other one."

As Bellatrix spoke she dropped the shield and without looking, magicked Lord Silver so that he was somehow hanging upside down in midair, unable to do anything. "We need to find him."

"Why would the elf do this?" Hermione asked. She saw the image of Pepper, the rich pureblood's house elf, looking so nice. Nothing to tip off why he was doing this. He had even mingled around the party, performing little magic tricks for the guests on his master's orders.

"Probably because his master ordered him to," Dora supplied. "And it explains why the killer has been able to get in and out of rooms. Why the artifact has moved around so quickly."

"And where is he? Where is Pepper's owner?" Hermione asked.

"Dead. I found another room of dead guests," Bellatrix barked back, tentatively approaching the window and peering out to see if the coast was clear.

"I-I don't understand- then why-?" Hermione was at a loss. A lot of things weren't making sense right now.

"We don't need to understand for now. We need to stop this." And then Bellatrix dropped back out the window, landing down in a patch of brush.

"What do we do?" Hermione asked, turning to Dora. "We should get the guests out of here!" This was going to turn into a mass murder scene.

"They can't leave. If they do, then they're in more danger because they could get caught in the cross hairs. They need to stay in their rooms for now. And we need to find the Inferi and round them up before they get loose and out of control. Bella will take care of the elf."

"Great. Zombie hunting," Hermione said flatly. She really wished she had her gun now.

Chapter Text

Hermione wiped the sweat from her brow. With Dora's help they had rounded up all the zombies into one room, bound them with magic, and locked them into it. Even Lord Silver was there after they got him down from midair. It had not been fun running from them as bait, but at last all of them were accounted for. A blast shook the mansion, not the first of many. It signified that an ongoing battle was ensuing. That was Bellatrix no doubt taking care of Pepper.

How could a house elf turn evil? From what Hermione knew, they didn't just do that. Was the pin influencing it like that? It could be possible.

"Let's go help your aunt now," Hermione said, now that the horror of a full scale zombie apocalypse had been put away.

"I think Ginger is already helping her, but something tells me that she'll need all the help she can get to take Pepper down," Dora stated.

"Are house elf's usually this strong?" Hermione asked as they raced along. Her feet were aching and she had discarded her heels long ago, ripping the bottom half of her dress away so she could run better. Dora had shook her head at Hermione's more barbarian methods before she simply magicked them both sneakers and sweat suits so they could be more comfortable.

"Yes. But their magic is held back and only used to serve wizards."

"That's kind of messed up. Forcing them into slavery like that."

"They like it." Dora shrugged, reconsidering her words. "I don't know. It's just how the world is."

"Doesn't mean it's right."

Debate on that topic was put on the back burner for they had arrived outside, where dust and smoke was curling from the ground. Shouts were coming from inside it. Bellatrix must be there, along with Ginger and Pepper.

"Dora. Hermione." A wispy voice called out to them behind the giant wrought iron fence. Hermione jumped, jittery from this whole experience and not needing more scares. It was only Luna, peering in on the chaotic scene. What was she still doing here?

"I was collecting data, observing what I could, and I have more information. The artifact isn't just the pin. That's only the means of communicating the spell used to turn humans into Inferi," Luna said, in her hand a weird object that looked like those giant satellite dishes humans used to read the skies. "There's two artifacts on the loose, one of them using the pin's aura to hide their own aura behind it."

Two artifacts? That couldn't be good!

"Then what is the other artifact?" Dora asked.

"It's the house elf."

"The elf is the artifact?" Hermione said in incredulity. "How does that even work-?"

"Yes. That's why it's also blood magic. Because it's a living object!" Luna exclaimed.

"How do we stop it?" Hermione questioned.

"Quite obviously, with the neutralizing spell. It should put it right out. Thanks Luna!" Dora filled in and rushed off to tell her aunt.

Hermione followed after her to the battle site. Magic was thrumming thickly in the air and blasts of red and blue spells raced through the air. The field looked even, both Ginger and Bellatrix's magic balancing out Pepper's magics. His eyes had turned red now and he was floating in the air, in a swirl of malignancy. Debris swirled around him, acting as a shield that made it hard to aim at him with magic.

"What shall Ginger do?" Ginger asked, fretting because her mistress had already been hurt and she hated seeing her hurt. She would have healed her but Bellatrix ordered her not to.

"Keep throwing your magic at it!" Bellatrix ordered. Then she saw Dora and Hermione rushing towards her. She scowled. "What are you doing? It's dangerous for you two to be out here!"

"We have news, auntie! The elf is an artifact according to Luna."

Bellatrix took a second to process this. "Alright, then take up positions. We need to do a barrage of assault on the elf and then I can use the spell."

Hermione and Dora got right to work, taking up strong stances and whipping their wands over their heads, uttering spells to blast apart the debris around the elf. But when one got knocked out of the way, all he did was rip more of the ground from underneath their feet to protect himself as his own magics leaked out in static bolts that blasted over head like loud thunder cracks.

"This isn't working!" Hermione shouted as a shard hit her in the face and she felt the warm trickle of blood. Another one hit the floor and she fell onto her back. Dora shot her a look of concern, leaving herself vulnerable to a hit that electrocuted her and made her hair stick up funnily as smoke wafted up from her.

"I can tell!" Bellatrix snapped out through gritted teeth. She had no choice but to utilize a highly dangerous spell. Many would blanch to use it for it was nearly impossible to control. But Bellatrix exerted tight control over it, forcing it to do her will. And it would do her will now.

"Fiendfyre!" she screamed out and from her wand green fire erupted. It quickly took on the shape of a massive dragon. Only it's head and shoulders were formed but even then it took up a massive portion of the sky. With a ferocious roar it opened it's maw and flew straight at the elf in midair.

"What is that?" Hermione gasped out, eyes wide. She could feel the heat of it even a good distance from Bellatrix and she could imagine it must be absolutely sweltering using this spell. Bellatrix's face was pink and sweat was trickling down her temple. Her jaw was clenched tightly as she held on tightly to the wand.

"It's Fiendfyre," Dora said with a low whistle. "It's a most dangerous and dark spell but auntie's an expert at it. I just didn't think she'd pull it out so soon. She must really be pissed off at that damned elf artifact."

The two watched as the dragon swallowed up everything, Pepper letting out a scream as the scorching heat consumed it. The cries were terrible and made Hermione cringe. How could an artifact feel pain?

The dragon roared back and spat out the elf, the burnt being crashing right into the floor, steaming and little bits of it's skin still flaming. The smell was horrendous.

It writhed on the floor as Bellatrix recalled the Fiendfyre spell. It fought against her, not wanting to go back into her wand. "Finite Incatatuem!" she hissed out, her wand arm shaking in exertion. With a displeased snarl it slipped back in and finally she was able to breath properly, the moisture having been sucked out of her nose and lungs because of how hot it had been.

The elf began to try and get up, still intent on hurting them but before it could, Dora landed the neutralizing spell and the elf crumpled to the floor. There it turned into a small statue made of stone.

It was over.

Luna clapped happily from behind the fence, smiling serenely at their victory.

Hermione let out a ragged breath and rose to her feet, wiping the blood trickling from the cut on her chin. Bellatrix picked the stone up, looking it over. The elf had turned into a statue which was not normal. Something else was up behind this. "Odd indeed," she said before pocketing it. Attached to the stone had been the pin. Killing two birds with one stone.

"What we do with all the zombies?" Hermione asked.

"The what?" Luna blinked.

"The Inferi," she corrected.

"Oh, well, now that we have the artifact, we can use it to reverse the spell."

"And the elf will just let us do that?" Hermione asked.

"If we force it to, it will have to. And if it's not capable of doing that, I'll just brew a draught to fix it all. Speaking of, I really should mine Lord Farnsworth's memories of where he got this elf from. We don't need more elf's like that popping up." Bellatrix hurried off. As the Lord was a zombie, asking him verbally would garner no results and she was far too impatient to wait to turn him back before finding out some information. So she would be deep diving into his memories.

"We'll need to memory wipe everyone here as well," Luna stated grimly. "They cannot know what has happened."

"Memory wipe. But that's-"

"How things work here," Dora concluded to Hermione's statement. "It's okay, you don't have to do it Hermione. I'll do it myself. You can go around and repair the state of the manor with Ginger's help."

Hermione thinned her lips, still not happy with this. Dora didn't seem to mind, except one detail. "Man, Auntie will be upset when she finds out all the memories had to be wiped and she'll have to host the ball next year again anyways." Then Dora strode off, shaking her head to herself in amusement.

Hermione focused on repairing the mansion in order to keep her mind off of the way people were being stripped of their rights by having their memories wiped without their consent. With Ginger's aid they hefted up huge chunks of wall, repaired cracks in the ground, and mended any smaller breaks.

By the time they were done, the guests were vacating the house, laughing and talking to themselves and entirely unaware of the whole debacle that had happened. She walked past them, they paying her no mind. They must have forgotten she was muggle born too.

Hermione felt guilty for all this.

"Did we really have to wipe them?" Hermione asked Dora who tipped her head at her friend.

"I could wipe your memory too if it bothers you."

Hermione backed up at that but Dora was laughing. "Relax, I won't hurt you. Besides, we're cursed to remember everything that happens. Sometimes it's better to forget the awful. But we can't. Not ever."

Dora said this in a light hearted manner but it really wasn't a topic to joke about.

"I have news on Farnsworth," Bellatrix announced as they stood in one of the hallways. The guests had all cleared out, with the exception of the Inferi who were still locked up. "He has no recollection of what happened. All he knows is that one day he was walking in the markets and the statue called his name. It held an unnatural draw on him and he took it home, where he cleaned it with a cloth and cut his finger on the sharp point of the spear and that's where he doesn't recall things. Everything up until the statue's destruction has been a blur for him. Which means the object must have been planted there for him, so it could possess him."

"But why possess him? For what good?" Hermione could not make heads or tails of it.

"As far as I can tell, it was so it could infiltrate this party. But why? To cause chaos?" Bellatrix shook her head unsure. "Until we do further research we cannot tell for sure. And I will be keeping a close eye on Farnsworth to see if perhaps the artifact was not possessing him for monetary aims." She uncrossed her arms from her chest. Her wonderful dueling outfit had been ruined with rips and tears and some blood. Hermione hoped her partner wasn't too badly injured.

"And what about the pin?"

"The pin was probably in Lord Farnsworth's possession already. It's something that I know has been passed down from generation through generation. Purebloods tend to have blood objects as heirlooms. But because it had been handled so well over the years and kept locked up we didn't suspect it to be so powerful. To be in reality an artifact. The fact he had one might be another reason he was a target," Bellatrix deduced. "For now, let's just get the artifacts locked up safely."


The Inferi were brought back to the department where Bellatrix set about brewing a potion to help them. Hermione wished to over look the process but Bellatrix had told her it was a delicate process, not to have noses stuck into, before rudely slamming the door in Hermione's face.

So, she was forced to sit at her desk and read up on magical creatures, namely elf's, and Inferi.

Dora was out, overseeing the estate with Ginger and following up on the wellfare of the guests who had left, while Luna was doing research.

Hermione had cleaned up before arriving here. Her wounds healed with a quick Epiksey and her clothes magicked into her usual pants and buttoned up shirt.

Five hours passed in this boring manner, only ended by Luna arriving up to inform Hermione of her discovery. As if sensing Luna was done, Bellatrix emerged from the room she had been brewing potions in, the Inferi stuck in another room of high security.

She wiped her hands on her apron, a smudge of purple power on her cheek. Hermione felt tempted to wipe it off. But she held back.

Luna started speaking. "I did research on the statue that we got. It's a shabiti."

"A what?" Hermione asked as reflex.

"In ancient Egypt, they were small statues that would come to life and help serve their masters. But this one must be corrupted. Either that, or it was following the orders of some master but not Farnsworth. One with ill intentions."

"Do we know who ordered it to do such a thing?" Hermione asked.

Luna tapped her chin. "Shabiti don't take the form of elves, however. They are women or men of short stature. Yet this one did."

"Which means one thing," Bellatrix said grimly. She turned to Hermione, urging her to make the analysis, testing to see if she was right. Hermione would rise to the challenge.

"The association with Ancient Egypt, the infiltration and cause of chaos- it can only mean Apophis."

Bellatrix nodded her head yes. "It means he's on the rise again and so soon." She closed her eyes, annoyed. "And he made the statue assume the form of an elf so it could fit into our culture and not be so conspicuous. Which is smart on him."

"But why invade the party?"

"Chaos. Why else. And perhaps to test us," Bellatrix surmised grimly. "As soon as I finish with the potions I'm going to Farnsworth's mansion and checking it for any clues that might offer us something."

"In the meantime, I'm going to keep an eye open for these statues. Something tells me this won't be the first and last one," Luna said.

"But let's keep it as the first and last," Bellatrix said steely, as she turned to return back to the potions room.

"I'm coming with you to the mansion," Hermione added as the dark haired woman left.

"No, you are not."

"Yes, I am. I'm not a baby. I can dust for prints you know," she shouted back but the door was already slamming shut.

Rude.

Hermione waited, waited for Bellatrix to begin leaving the department office before she rushed after her. "Hermione," Bellatrix growled out in warning as she shrugged on her coat.

"Listen, it's just dusting for prints. I know how to do that because I've been doing it in my muggle job. Just allow me this if you won't allow me to help any other ways."

Bellatrix didn't turn around but she did give an aggrieved shake of her head. "Fine."

They arrived there but it was the middle of the night. "I don't know if anyone will be awake at this time to allow us in," Hermione said in consideration.

Bellatrix gave her an odd look. "We're breaking in."

Hermione jolted at this. "B-breaking in? But that's illegal-"

Bellatrix gave a heavy sigh. "And this is why I didn't want to bring you along. All you do is complain!"

"But we can't do such things!"

Bellatrix span around, her face in Hermione's space. "Things work a bit differently in the wizarding world. Especially if you work for the ministry departments. Besides, no one is home and it's imperative we go in to check for leads on our case. Artifact hunting and the protection of the wizarding and muggle race is all important, more important than some societal rules." With that she span back around, taking out her wand so she could take down some wards around the house.

Sucking in an irritated breath, Hermione squared her back. She didn't like all this breaking of the rules, but Bellatrix had been doing this job a hell of a long time and she was alive. Maybe there was a method to her madness?

Hermione decided she wouldn't complain, or keep the complaining to a minimal because if she didn't, she wouldn't get to tag along with Bellatrix, and that was the opposite of what she wanted.

She followed Bellatrix in, and set about observing Bellatrix's methods of investigating Farnsworth's items. She tried not to touch anything or interrupt with her thousands of brimming questions. She also felt like they might get discovered, but by the end of the half hour, Bellatrix had found what she needed, or rather, a lack of it, and they left without a trace of being there.

"Nothing at his house to give us further insight into this. Our next stop will be questioning him once the draught sets in and makes him human once more," she said as she put the wards back up into place.

"I suppose we'll be looking over the market where he bought such a thing?"

"I'll be looking over it," Bellatrix clarified stubbornly. "No doubt it was bought at a black market and the type of company kept there is not the best."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Do you think I'm a delicate flower whose never held a gun before, whose never got into fist fights, whose never had to endure vile criminals?"

"Oh I have no doubt you did," Bellatrix's upper lip quirked up. "But wizard criminals are of an other sort and they'll smell the muggle born on you. You won't make it past the doors."

Hermione's forehead furrowed. "What do you mean?"

"I mean that literally, in order to gain entry, you must be of pure blood." Bellatrix finished off the wards and tapped her wand tip to the veins on her wrist. They were royal blue under her pale pallor. "Otherwise you'll be incinerated by the magics preventing entry and I don't think you'd like that."

"Oh." Hermione swallowed harshly. "That's...that's cruel."

Bellatrix's smirk dropped. "It's how things are in the upper classes. How they've always been." She said with a hint of melancholy.


A month passed after that. An exhausting month. Five more cases of the Shabiti turned evil elves arose and Bellatrix went to shut them down, with Ginger's help. Not Hermione's, but Ginger's. It was utterly frustrating. Hermione was her partner. Not the house elf!

"Just give her some time," Luna told Hermione who had been silently fuming as they packed away yet another one of those things into a special crate to hold them from releasing magic. Luckily none of these had carried other artifacts, proving them to be more nuisances than actual threats.

"How much more does she need? I am capable. Just because I didn't grow up in this world doesn't mean I cannot adjust to it. I'm already at normal capacity for spells. I know about over a hundred of them, and I'm getting top marks in all my evening classes. Why won't she let me into her line of work?" she cried, out frustrated.

"Did you think that maybe she's doing this to protect you?" Luna suggested. It cut Hermione's anger in half.

"Protecting me? How?" She spluttered.

"She lost her partner, who was a halfborn. And he was more capable than you when it came to understanding how this world worked. She probably doesn't want to lose another, especially since you still have a lot to learn about this world."

That was...well, Hermione hadn't thought of it this way. It was oddly endearing. But still, she didn't need to be babied. She was well aware this new world was dangerous, but so had been the muggle one. And she had survived it.

She'd even gotten through a zombie apocalypse at a ball. So what was the big deal?

"But whose going to protect her? She can't do everything herself."

Luna let out a small laugh. "She can. She's stubborn. You tell her she can't do something and she'll still do it just to spite you. But you are right. There comes a time when one needs a partner. She's just seen so many die throughout the years. It took a toll on her. She probably doesn't want to have anyone help her because she doesn't want to watch another one die."

"Well, then good thing I'm not going anywhere," Hermione said with resolution. "I'm as stubborn as her. I'll prove to her she can trust me. That I can deal with whatever comes my way."

"I'm not giving you a shabiti case," Luna said sternly, losing her willowy edge for a second as her normally air headed nature faded. "That is out of your league."

That was fine. Hermione would find another case to work on, without Bellatrix's help. And she was going to get her wish sooner rather than later.

Chapter Text

A book was lying in a puddle of water on the second floor of the girl's bathroom. A curious girl stood over it, picking it up and shaking the water out of it's pages. Did this belong to someone? Who had dropped it here?

She took it with herself, adding it to the stack of her books in her arms, and decided she would leave it in a lost and found. But as she traversed the hall, it dropped from her arms as if it had a mind of its own, and flipped open to a page in the middle.

As she watched with wide eyes, words bled on the page. In elegant script.

Help me it said.

And then it began to glow gold.


In Lupin's evening class, Hermione noticed that Ron was barely able to pay attention. He was distracted, fidgety, and pain flickered across his face from time to time. Additionally he performed worse on his classwork than normal. When class was over, Hermione asked him about it. "What's wrong Ron?"

He hesitated before speaking. "It's..I'm just worried about my sister." He rubbed his hands together, unsure if he should speak on this topic at all.

"Did something happen to her?" Ginny struck Hermione as a responsible girl. What troubles could she have gotten up?

"Not necessarily. I'm just worried about her. Something's going on in the school."

"What is?" Hermione asked, leaning in eagerly into his space to hear better, already wondering if it was an artifact. This would be her chance to help out.

"There's been attacks. Two students turned to stone, bloody writing on the walls, and the rumors going on that," at this he looked on to see if anyone was listening. No one was, the halls churning with chattering students and adults, none who paid the slightest attention to them. "The chamber has been opened," he whispered, as if he was afraid to even mention this for fear it would cause him harm.

"What chamber?"

"The chamber of secrets. Created by Salazar Slytherin to protect purebloods. Whatever beast is inside it, it has been going around hurting muggle borns."

"And the school hasn't caught it?" This was ridiculous! The school should be doing whatever it could to stop this. It should be shut down! Students sent home until this could be righted. What was wrong with the school that it wasn't doing this? Wizarding policy was weird.

"They can't find the chamber. Or who opened it. And Dumbledore has already had Aurors come in and search for it, but nothing was found and there is no discernible proof or enough harm done for the school to be shut down."

That was- just- ugh, Hermione had to take a deep breath because it was frustrating her. Honestly.

Ron went on. "And I'm worried for Ginny because I don't want her to get hurt. Technically she won't because she's halfblood but she's been acting odd. Off. Lost in her own world."

"You should talk to her. We should talk to her." Something sounded fishy. Which meant it was time to investigate as it could be the work of an artifact. And Hermione wanted to be there to double check.

"I know where her room is. It's in the Gryffindor tower." Ron lead the way, climbing up a most interesting set of stairs. Stairs that moved. They made Hermione's head hurt trying to navigate them. They would climb up the flights as they switched and turned silently.

She was afraid she would fall off. Heights weren't her thing, and as she looked over the stone banister as the stairs swung to the left to a doorway, she gulped. "Ron, has anyone fallen off or died on these stairs?"

"Huh, don't think so. Maybe one or two did, but they were first years and they only broke a bone."

That wasn't reassuring. Hermione couldn't be happier when they finally got to solid ground.

They got to a portrait of a fat woman, who happened to be in the process of looking into a mirror. "Password."

"Tripplegnots," he said and the portrait swung open to reveal a passageway to a room inside. "My sister told me it, in case I want to visit her," he explained as they entered a red and gold common room. The fireplace was crackling merrily despite the fact summer was almost upon them. It was empty save for two students reading in the armchairs.

"The girl dormitories are up the left."

But when they got to Ginny's room, it was empty and a mess. Like someone had gone through it, looking for something. Either that or trashed it in anger. "What happened here?" Ron gaped in shock.

"We need to find her. She'll know," Hermione said as her eyes went over the sheets, shredded. To the parchment, balled up. To the books all over the floor. And the clothes out the trunk. "Any idea where she might be at this hour?"

"The Quidditch field or Hogsmeade."

And so they went there. On the field there were a couple of Gryffindor's passing a ball back and forth from each other as they zoomed through the air. "Oi, Lavender. I have a question!" Ron waved down one of the girls and she lowered gently on her broom.

"What's up, Ron." Her blonde hair fluttered in the air, stray hairs not tied by the bandanna coming free.

"Have you seen my sister?"

"Ginny said she's feeling ill so she didn't come to practice today," she answered.

"That's odd. Ginny would never miss practice. She only did it once when she had the dragon flu and the school forbade her from going," he muttered to himself, as they strode off.

"And we know she's not in her room. So that means she might be covering something up, or she's in the infirmary. Let's split up. I'll check with Madame Pomfrey and you go to Hogsmeade and check out Ginny's favorite spots there. We'll meet back in an hour, okay?" Hermione asked, mind formulating what she would do already.

"Right," he nodded his head, before turning on his heel and leaving.

Hermione had a feeling that Ginny wouldn't be with the school healer but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

"And who are you?" the healer asked with a disapproving stare at Hermione's inquiry, barring entrance to the room with her body.

"I'm Ron's friend. He's worried for his sister Ginny and just wants to know if she's not here. She said she doesn't feel well." When the woman didn't budge, Hermione added on. "Look, you don't have to let me in, but just let me know if she's there or not."

"And why can't he ask himself?"

"Because he's looking for her in Hogsmeade."

"And why would he do that if he knows she's sick and wouldn't be out on town?"

This woman really wasn't making things easy. "Because we think something happened to Ginny. Something bad. Something related to the chamber."

The woman paled at this, shooting Hermione a sharp look. "Don't speak so loudly on that!"

"Then let me know if she is okay," Hermione said, taking out her magical Department badge. She didn't want to flash it, but she didn't have much choice. "This is part of an ongoing Ministry investigation."

Healer Pomfrey looked it over with a skeptic gaze. "I thought the Ministry had already checked and found there wasn't enough cause for panic? That the statues who had been students had only been a prank gone wrong? An reenactment by some bored students."

"I'm from a different department in the Ministry. One who handles such cases expertly unlike the Aurors. Now will you answer my questions?"

"Dumbledore didn't tell me you were coming."

Hermione held in an irritated breath.

"It must have slipped my mind," an wizened voice from behind her spoke up and Hermione felt relieved to see the old man there, though partially shocked that he had come out of the blue. He smiled at her warmly. "It is good to see you once more Hermione. Though I wish it had been under more pleasant circumstances. Now, Madame Pomfrey, why don't you answer the detective's questions. I need to have a word with her afterwards." He moved to the side, giving Hermione privacy.

The healer looked like she still didn't trust Hermione entirely but she pursed her lips. "Very well. Ginny came in earlier in the week, complaining that she felt ill and out of control sometimes. That she found herself blanking out and when she came to a moment later she was doing something else. I gave her some herbs for it, told her to rest the night here because it could be due to stress and bad nourishment. Sometimes students tend to forget to eat and sleep because of finals. And she is a sixth year who also plays sports; she has a busy schedule. She became better so I discharged her and let her go. After that, she didn't come back with any other complaints."

"Thank you. That is all," Hermione said and left to sit down next to Dumbledore who was waiting patiently on a stone bench, looking out the window. Dusk was falling. "I am glad you are here. I had a feeling sooner or later you would become involved in the affairs going on in this school. Though, I had feared to think it was an artifact," he said. He did not look at her as they talked.

"I'm not a hundred percent sure it is one, but Ginny is acting strangely and perhaps it is linked to the chamber of secrets being opened."

"I can tell you more on that. I will tell you anything you need to know so that you can help my students where I have failed. The ministry do not believe the rumors, but I know there is something more to them. Students turning to stone can only mean one thing. Especially if they are muggle born."

"Alright. Tell me all I need to know and I shall handle this case." Hermione was only too ready to leap into action and prove her worth.

"A long long time ago, when this school was founded, one of the founders, the man who created the house of Slytherin, one associated with purebloods and cunning people, sometimes evil, people, reputably made a chamber. One which housed a massive beast that was a snake that would protect purebloods. Though the chamber was never found, it is now thought to be opened, summoned to cleanse this school of the muggle borns who walk it's halls."

"And who summoned it?"

"That is what we do not know. Nor how it could even be opened. All we know is that our housekeeper's cat was killed and their blood used to write a warning message on the wall that the chamber was open."

"And what of the students who were turned to stone?"

"Would you like to see them? They are held in the infirmary."

"And they have not been helped?"

"Making a potion to help them takes a while. Our potions professor is working on it as we speak. The incidents have only happened in the past three weeks. The chamber was opened in the first we believe, and each victim was found once per week."

They rose and walked into the infirmary and Pomfrey shot Hermione a nasty look, like 'you again?'

Hermione refrained from looking at her. Dumbledore lead her to the back where he pulled the curtain around three beds hidden from view. All were turned to stone, no doubt about it, but one of them held an item in his hand. A camera.

"Did he manage to take a photo of the being?"

"He tried to- but any film that was inside was fried by it."

Hermione tapped her chin as she peered closer. "Hmmm, so this beast can somehow do this by touch? I don't see any wounds however. Maybe it can cast magic?"

A girl was lying on the bed next to his. "She was found staring through the form of a ghost in the closed second floor bathroom."

Hermione cataloged that.

She walked over to what looked like a ghost- turned to stone.

"Who is this?"

"A resident ghost. Moaning Myrtle was found frozen in the flooded bathroom on the second floor. That bathroom is closed indefinitely because that is where Myrtle died and we do not want any other girls to get the wrong idea."

"Died?"

"Yes, many years ago. Before I was headmaster here. But now that we are mentioning her death it reminds me, there was a similar case of the chamber being opened. But whether the rumors then were true or not, or how it was even closed, is lost to time." He waved a hand through the air, denoting his uncertainty on this matter.

So, if this beast was an artifact, it meant it had been used before. Never neutralized or captured.

"Let me know if anything else happens or if you can think of more clues or information. I'll be in touch." She would need to go back to the Department and do some research on this.

"Anything, to help my students," he smiled sincerely. "I wasn't sure this was worthy of the department's notice but I am glad someone has deemed it so. Thank you for taking the time to help, Hermione."

"Just doing my job."

Hermione then left to go meet up with Ron. She was happy to see Ginny was standing by him, though Ginny herself didn't look happy. She stood there while he berated her. Hermione was too far away to hear what he was saying and when she got closer, he stopped.

"I found her in one of the cafes," he reported, looking upset.

"I don't know why you're upset. I wasn't doing anything wrong," she shrugged, acting like a spoiled brat.

"I'm upset because you lied about being sick to skip practice and go to a cafe!"

"So," she crossed her arms over her chest defiantly. "Everyone does it from time to time."

Hermione could sense this argument wasn't going to get anywhere, so she intervened. "Ginny, why was your room a mess?"

Ginny shrugged. "Because I made it a mess."

"So you threw all your clothes out, ripped your sheets and papers?" Hermione gave her a hard look.

"Yes. I was frustrated. Finals are approaching. Now, can I leave? Or are you going to send me to Azkaban for skipping practice and messing up my room?" she asked nastily.

"Fine, you can go," she said and Ginny left, turning quickly on her heel.

"She's never acted like this before," Ron shook his head.

"Something's bothering her. But what," Hermione mussed before turning to Ron. "I'll figure it out, I promise you. Just keep tabs on her, okay?"

"Sure."


"Are there any artifacts that can turn one into stone?" Hermione tried to casually ask as she helped Luna carry a box into the warehouse.

"No. None."

"Any spells that could turn one to stone?"

"There's temporary jinxes. But nothing that can cause long term statue-ism," she replied, placing her own box onto a shelf labeled as 'junk' before turning to Hermione and taking the box from her. "Does this have to do with the chamber of secrets?"

Hermione felt it would be pointless to deny Luna's guess. "How do you know about it? The papers are mum on the issue."

"I know a great many things, just like how Bellatrix will not be happy you are going behind her back to do this case."

"Ah, so there is an artifact involved then!" That was all the confirmation needed. Luna frowned, as if she had been duped.

"Yes, but it's most certainly not the beast." She set the second box on the shelf.

Hermione's victory smiled faded. "What do you mean? The elves were artifacts."

"Yes, but everyone who goes to Hogwarts knows the legend of the chamber. And it is more a curse than an artifact. If you're looking for one, look for something that could have opened the chamber. Something that could have awakened the beast, or the snake of Slytherin."

"But snakes cannot turn others to stone. Unless you think this is a snake related to that of Apophis."

Luna placed her hands on her hips, staring off into the distance behind those swirly glasses of hers. "Hmm, I hadn't thought of it that way. Maybe there is a connection. I would have to cross reference every time the chamber opened to Apophis's awake cycles. But for now, look up some mythical animals in the bestiary."

"I'll take it you're not telling Bellatrix then?"

"Only because this artifact will hurt her."

Hurt her? How? "Why do you say that?"

"I'm not at liberty to explain that to you. She'd have to tell you herself."

Naturally. No answer once more. Hermione was slowly getting used to not having answers given to her. She moved on to another pressing point.

"So you know what the artifact is?"

"Only one thing could open the chamber up, but we've never been able to get our hands on it. Perhaps you can change that fact."

Luna hurried out of the warehouse. "Wait, Luna, so tell me what the artifact is! The quicker I can get it, the faster I can finish this case."

"I'm going with you on this case," she stated breezily. "I won't let this artifact slip from our Department again."


"This is Luna." Hermione introduced to Ron after yet another of their evening class had let out. "She's going to help us with your sister and with shutting down the chamber."

"Nice to meet you, I'm Ron," he stuck out his hand but she was paying him no mind. She was wandering over to a stone wall and tapping on it. Pressing her ear to it like she was listening to something.

Er," he looked on at her oddly.

"Don't mind her, that's just how she normally is," Hermione explained quickly.

"Hermione, did you read up on mythical animals like I told you too?" Luna asked as she kept her ear to the wall and moved alongside it. Several students gave her odd looks and moved out of the way.

"Yes. And I narrowed my search down to all reptile like creatures."

"And you said the bloody writing on the wall was on the second floor, close to the closed bathroom. The same bathroom where Moaning Myrtle's ghost was found frozen, as was the girl's, and where Collin Creevy's statue form was found not far away?"

"Yes, which means that the beast is coming from that area. It must have a nest there."

"Or, it's using the water pipes to travel," Luna pried her head away. "That's how it is getting around to the bathroom. The bathroom is merely where it exits."

"Which would explain moaning Myrtle's death decades ago." Hermione began to think hard, tapping a finger to her chin. "If Moaning Myrtle died as opposed to turning to stone, and only turned to stone now...and the girl who was found looking through her form only turned to stone too...whereas Collin was looking through his camera and turned to stone...it must mean that this beast can kill with it's looks."

"Which means it's a basilisk," Ron answered, surprising them both. They looked on at him. "What?" he shrugged. "The basilisk has been in folk lores for ages. I used to love reading books about it when I was younger."

"Then how do we fight it?" Hermione asked him.

"We can't look into it's eyes or else it'll kill us. And I'm guessing looking into reflections will simply turn us to stone." Ron answered.

"So then how do we trap it if we can't look at it?" Hermione mussed.

"That's why I'm here," Luna said, patting her tote bag. "Sometimes, the things we capture can be used to help.

Using artifacts? Hermione wasn't so sure about that. But she would trust Luna on this.

"Then what are we waiting for, let's head to the girl's bathroom and find that basilisk's nest," Ron said with a grim determination.

They headed in the direction of the second floor bathroom. They were closed off and forbidden from students entering because of all the incidents around the area. Given all that had happened, Hermione was surprised magical protection or guards were not put in place in this area. Seriously, the school could be doing so much more.

They gave Ron an odd look when he too went inside the girl's restroom. "What?" he gave them a look back. "There's no girls in here and we're trying to solve some issues."

They gave the restroom a look around, Ron calling to their attention and they went to where he stood, peering over a sink. The faucets were designed as snakes and they had emerald's set into their eyes, giving them an alive look. Ron looked fairly certain this was the place. "The beast must be getting through the sink."

"But how? It wouldn't be fitting through the pipes," Hermione said. "Shouldn't we look at the loos more?"

"No, he's right," Luna said, peering at the object with a hand on her chin. "I can see faint lines, but nevertheless lines that indicate there is something more behind this. Also, look at the floor." Hermone looked down and saw scrapes on the marble, like something heavy had been moved against it.

"Huh, so the sink opens up and lets the beast out. But surely a beast can't do this by itself."

"No, it cannot. Which means someone in this school is helping it," Luna concluded.

"So we should find them first," Hermione said but Luna was already shaking her head no.

"Whoever they are, they must have the artifact that can control this beast. However, right now the beast is more dangerous to us and to this school. We need to destroy it without alerting the person and then we can go after them."

That sounded like a good plan. "The only issue is, how are we going to get this open if we don't have the artifact used to open it."

"There's more than one way to get into something. I know a man who can help with this," Ron said as they looked down at the sink.

"With opening the sink? Can't we just try an opening spell first?" Hermione looked on at him as if he was daft.

"No," he shook his head. "We need to speak parseltongue in order to open this, if what we think is true of the beast wandering these halls. And I know just the guy. We only need to find a fireplace."

Chapter Text

Hermione let Ron lead the way. Luna stayed behind, saying she wanted to examine the bathroom more. Hermione took that as Luna wanting to do research on the artifact which Hermione still had no clue on what it was because Luna was staying mum on the issue. Which honestly, Hermione shouldn't be surprised about. Despite being in a top secret ministry department, even she wasn't privy to all the mysteries and truths.

She watched patiently as Ron found a secure and out of the way fireplace and threw some green powder into it. "Harry Potter," he said into it and a couple seconds later a head appeared in the fireplace.

"How does that work?" Hermione asked, peering in closer. Did it function sort of like a telephone call? But with fire? Truly, just when she thought she had the function of one magical object figured out, here it was, turning everything she knew right on the head. Hadn't fireplaces been only for traveling?

She shook her head.

Honestly, using a phone was easier. Why did wizards struggle so much to just use easier methods? She was certain these methods might have been amazing centuries ago, but now the wizarding culture was behind compared to the human culture.

"Ron, what's going on?" the bobbing head spoke. It was a man with short cropped hair and round glasses on his face. And most curiously he had a lighting scar on his forehead.

"Harry, it's my sister. She's in some sort of trouble and we need your help speaking parseltongue."

"Is this about the chamber of secrets? I still don't know why the ministry hasn't bothered with it. But I suppose what do those bigots care for muggle borns." He shook his head and sighed, a man tired and weary of this world already for his young age. "I'll be there as soon as my broom can take me. But we keep this off the record." And then his head flickered and was gone.

Ron got up from where he was kneeling in front of the small fireplace. "He should be here soon. In the meantime we should patrol the halls and make sure nothing happens."

"Does Harry work for the ministry?" Hermione asked as they left the room. She wondered why Harry didn't want to use the fireplace but she supposed he must have his reason. Maybe so he couldn't be tracked?

"Yes. He's an Auror. He hunts down criminals and such. And you said you worked for the ministry as well. Which branch?"

"I can't tell you. It's a secret."

"Oh, one of those branches. Are you an Unspeakable?"

Hermione frowned. "What are those?"

"No, I suppose you are not. Or you could be," he scrunched up his face in thinking. "They aren't allowed to speak on certain things. Magic restricts them. It's how secrets keep secrets."

"Interesting." Now Hermione wanted to meet one of those. It did make her ponder why she was able to speak on Department issues if she wanted to. No one had magically restrained her on it, she simply decided it was best not to speak on it of her own volition.

But she was certain they wouldn't hesitate to muzzle her if she couldn't keep her mouth shut.

Ron and Hermione checked the halls as best as they could- given how big the school was. They chatted about this and that, looking for anything suspicious. But all the students were chattering and walking in groups for safety. Hermione narrowed her eyes at them. Which one of them had done it? Who had the artifact?

"Those nasty Slytherins probably did this," Ron groused as they stopped by a window, waiting on Harry to arrive.

"Why do you say that?"

"They're a house full of blood elitists. Nasty and rich and haughty good for nothings. Always trying to put the other houses down or in trouble. One of them could have been a heir of Salazar and opened the chamber to get rid of muggle borns."

"That does give them probable cause but we can't know for sure until we take down the basilisk. Once it'd down we can lay a trap for the student and stop them. But we need to hurry. Or else the beast could strike before dark arrives."

"You think it might attack?" Ron looked at her with increasing worry.

"It attacks once per week, though I know not why. Luckily it only does so sparingly and which leads me to believe since this is a new week and the days to the weekend are dwindling closer that it will arrive with an attack soon," she stated. The basilisk fed off of large rodents and other animals, not off of humans. So these humans must have gotten in its way as it went to feed. Hogwarts did have a Forbidden forest behind it, manner to all creatures. Hermione had read Hogwarts, a History, and was appalled to see that such a dangerous place was so close to an educational one. Seriously, did these wizards not give a damn for safety?

A projectile zoomed past their window, startling them both.

"That must be Harry," Ron said and hurried up to the owlery, Hermione going after him. They found the black haired boy there, propping up his broom and taking off his riding gloves. "Ron, how nice to see you mate," he smiled at his friend and they exchanged a hug.

"I wished it had been under better circumstances," Ron said grimly.

Harry nodded his head in solemn acknowledgment before turning his startling green gaze to Hermione. "Who is your friend?"

"Hermione Granger." Hermione stuck out her hand for him to shake and Harry did so.

"She's muggle born. Grew up in the muggle world," Ron supplied.

"It must have been a shock, then, to come here?" Harry surmised. "I too grew up in the muggle world but at least I was introduced to this one when I was fairly young so it wasn't too jarring of a transition."

"Yes, well," Hermione gave a shrug. "Thank you for coming. But I really need your help. I have a lead on where the basilisk could be but Ron tells me we can't get there without parseltongue, whatever that is."

Harry switched over to business mode. "It's disgusting that the ministry hasn't been able to solve this until now. I'm glad someone has finally found sense enough to help with a lead. I would be on this if the ministry didn't seem so ardent in pushing me away from this case."

"An inside job?" Hermione suggested as the trio made way down the halls quickly. Harry had a familiarity to this place which lead her to believe that he had gone to school here.

Harry shook his head no in response to her question. "I don't think so. The minister of magic is just incompetent. Couldn't care about anything past his own nose. And oh, parseltongue is the ability to speak to snakes."

Hermione's eyes widened. "How is that even possible?"

"Some wizards can learn magical languages. Those of animals or of magical creatures. Mind you, they're not easy," he chuckled right as they arrived in front of the girl's bathroom. They found Luna sitting on the sink basin.

"Ah about time," she jumped off, smiling at them.

"This is my colleague, Luna," Hermione introduced. "She's here, helping me with this issue."

"Nice to meet you, Harry Potter," she smiled before he could even say his name.

"You know each other?" Hermione pondered.

"Why no, but he's quite famous. Being a hero and all," Luna supplied.

"I'm not really a hero," he said modestly. "Just doing my job." He rubbed his hands together because Luna was still looking at him in that oddly astute way of hers. "And now I am here to open this basin, to which you claim the beast is hiding in?"

They moved aside, letting him do his work. Hissing noises came from his lips, making him seem almost inhuman for a second and then there was a grinding of gears as the sink moved open, revealing a chute that was deep, dark, and smelled of sewer.

They all pinched their noses except for Luna who inhaled with an appreciative 'hm' sound. "This is the beast's lair. I am certain."

"Now what?" Hermione asked in a nasal voice, leaning forwards as if it would enable her to see better. It didn't. "How deep does it even go?" It could go on for miles.

"Only one way to find out." And Luna pushed Hermione in.

The brunette was so shocked she almost forgot to scream. And then when she was sliding down, she did, because she had no idea how deep this went and if there was a drop or if there was water or- oh. Her feet hit solid ground a couple of seconds later and she stood up, dusting off her robes. Luna slid in behind her.

"See, that wasn't all bad," Luna said when Hermione shot her a glare.

"You pushed me in."

"You would have been fine," Luna assured breezily. A thumping sound alerted the two of them that the boys were joining.

Luna frowned. "This isn't good. I didn't want them joining us."

"Why not?" Hermione posited, casting a quick Lumos so she could see around them. She regretted it when she saw the skulls and bones of animals, picked clean. The smell down here was even worse.

"Because this is artifact business. We'll have to oblivate them if they see too much."

But any protestations Hermione could make about oblivating people was cut short by the arrival of those people. Ron came down first, and then Harry a split second later.

Their wands also lit up.

"Now, what do we do?" Ron asked in a whisper.

"We find the beast," Luna said and led the way.

They followed in a single file.

"Say, who do you work for?" Harry asked Hermione. "Why help the school out?"

"We're just a part of the ministry that handles odd cases," Hermione said in a roundabout manner. "And technically, we're not even supposed to be here but I took the case in my own private time," she admitted.

"Be quiet," Luna hushed from up front. "Or else, we'll get heard."

They eventually entered into a chamber which was expansive and which had torches lit on the wall. The visage of a stone man with no eyes and an open mouth eerily greeted them. "A student was most definitely here," Luna assured in a whisper. "Or else these torches wouldn't be lit."

"But who?" Ron wondered not for the last time.

"Let us handle our work," Luna told them. "You two guard the entrance in case our mystery student comes."

"Surely you'll need the extra wand power-" Ron started.

"No, we won't. We've handled worse things. And the two of you will be getting in our way," she said brusquely.

"Don't you need me to call the basilisk forward?" Harry stated.

Luna shook her head no, shooing them away. They shuffled off a bit awkwardly. Once they were gone far enough, Luna hunkered down behind a rubble. She began to pull a mirror out of her bag, careful so that the cover on it wouldn't fall off. A very long mirror that shouldn't at all be able to fit there. It was about Hermione's height.

"Is this how we're going to deal with the basilisk?" Hermione inquired, not sure this would work.

"Yes."

"It's just a mirror."

"Not just a mirror. It's been imbued with Medusa's blood. Meaning whatever is reflected in it turns into stone."

"Wouldn't the snake looking into the mirror have his own powers reflected back at him and be turned to stone? Why couldn't we just use one of those?" Because Hermione was suddenly very afraid to use this mirror.

"Because we're trying to slay the beast. The basilisk would need to directly look into its own gaze to be killed. Going through another medium would only turn him into stone. But, should he look into the mirror, his own gaze and that of Medusa amplify it into a killing gaze, which will slay the beast. And also us, if we happen to look in."

Great. Hermione even less wanted to use this artifact. Guess it was a good thing the boys were gone or else there would be questions. "Stay here. I'll set it up and wait for the beast to come," Luna said and Hermione did, sitting behind the rubble while they waited for the snake to come.

Surprisingly they didn't have to wait long. It must be it's feeding time, and it was hungry. A dry slithering sound came from where the monster must be sleeping inside the visage of the man. Hermione almost turned to look at before she remembered to do so would be to die. So she sat still, ears pricked, wondering if everything was okay. If Luna would be fine.

Her heart thudded in her chest when she heard a horrific squeal and then a heavy thud. She rushed to her feet, worry for Luna overriding her worry for being killed by the basilisk's gaze. She shouldn't have worried. Luna was already wrapping the mirror up from where she had been positioned right at the basilisk's nest. The monster was slain, mouth open, forked tongue out, and eyes clouded over.

She had expected things to be harder due to all the trouble this beast had given but...things had been smooth.

"Wow. We did it. We actually destroyed the beast," Hermione said in wonder over gazing at such a monster actually existing. Four months ago she had never thought of such a thing to be more than a story. But it was all true. All fantastically and horrifically true. "What do we do with the body?"

Luna shoved the mirror into her bag. "We leave it here. It will decompose naturally." She dusted her hands off, proud with her own work. "Our biggest challenge will be getting the artifact because we don't know what it is."

They returned back to Ron and Harry who were standing by the tunnel. "You two are fine," Harry said in shock. "Is the basilisk dead-"

"All the nargles were in place for a smooth victory," Luna said easily and both Ron and Harry looked at Hermione for clarification who could only shrug. She didn't understand Luna any better.

"But yea, the beast's dead."

"Really? Blimey," Ron's brows went up so high his hair hid them. "How did you do it?" It looked like the two of them very much wanted to go back and check but there was no time for that now.

"Secret. Sorry," Hermione said and the four of them began the long climb up.

"Now what do we do?"

"We lay our trap. Though, I suspect we shan't have to wait long," Luna explained. The sink slid back into place once they left the tunnel. "We will wait in the stall and once we see the culprit, we will stun them."

They got into the positions that Luna instructed them into. One in each stall that had a view of the sinks and then they waited. Waited so long that Hermione's foot began to go numb from how she crouched on the toilet seat so her legs wouldn't be visible. Maybe the student wouldn't come today?

But then they heard it. The creaking of the door opening. Of soft feet on the floor. Hermione could make out a glimpse of red hair through the crack in her door. She peered in closer. Was that-?

"Ginny!" spurted out of Ron's mouth as he left the stall.

Idiot! He was supposed to wait, Hermione hissed. We don't even know if she's the responsible one.

The red haired girl turned around, shocked to see her brother there. "What are you doing in the girl bathroom? Becoming a pervert? Gross!" she spat at her brother. And took out her wand.

Hermione jumped out a second later or else he was going to become toast, unable to raise his wand against his own sister. "Expeliamous!" and the wand went zipping over to Hermione who was behind Ginny. The red head was unprepared.

"You!" she span with vitriol and nearly hissed at Hermione. "Teamed up against me?"

Oh yea, something was wrong with Ginny. Her eyes were black. That certainly did not bond well.

"We have to do this. Ginny, you're in trouble." And then Hermione sent a stunner at Ginny who dove out of the way. It hit Ron instead who didn't even move because it had all happened so quickly. "Shite," Hermione cursed out as Ron hit the floor hard. Ginny tried to run but the stall door opened and smacked her right in the face. She ended up on the floor, blood streaming from her nose. Luna peered down at her from how she crouched over the toilet. "Oops," she said not at all repentant. "That was meant to be softer." And then she added a stun on top of that, making Ginny's head loll back before she could get up from the cold marble.

"Well, that went well," Luna said but without any sarcasm. She waved her wand over Ginny and sat her upright on the toilet, tying her to it. Harry had come out of his stall, propping Ron up by the sink so he could be comfortable in his sojourn with unconsciousness.

"Now what?" he asked.

"She's the one who opened the chamber," Luna said sagely and confidently.

"No way," Harry blurted out. "Ginny isn't a pureblood. She doesn't hate muggle borns. She could never do this!"

"It wasn't her, doing this. Something else." Luna went through all of Ginny's pockets, yelping when she found something. It dropped to the floor and she nursed the cut it had given her finger.

"A diary?" Hermione and Harry both looked it over skeptically while Luna sucked on her finger.

Harry jumped back as the diary suddenly opened wide, smoke curling forth from it's pages.

An image of a tall man, in his early teens, with brown curly hair popped out. Hermione's eyes went wide. She recognized him. "Tom Riddle?" What the hell was he doing projecting from a book?

"Assholes!" the Tom screamed out. His eyes were bleeding black ink. "You destroyed my basilisk. I was going to make this world pure! And you ruined it all!" He gnashed his teeth in anger and an angry wind began to whirl towards him, as if trying to suck them in.

"This thing was possessing Ginny to do evil. I do not know how, but we're stopping it. Quickly," Luna said.

"But how? If the neutralizing spell doesn't work-" Hermione began.

"-then something else will," Luna assured, calm in the face of this. She dug into her small purse and took out an old wizard hat. "Put your hand into this and think of summoning something that will help us."

"Like what?" Hermione asked, not sure what the hell she would be able to pull out of it.

Luna only thrust the hat closer to her in wordless hurry. Hermione stuck her hand in and felt around but when she pulled her hand out, nothing was there.

Luna merely moved onto Harry who did it without question. The wind around them howled hungrily, trying to suck them in. Hermione's hair wiped into her eyes, making them water.

"The Sword of Gryffindor," Luna said in awe as Harry pulled it out of the old raggedy hat Luna had procured for him. How had he pulled something out when Hermione couldn't?

Harry stared at it in awe.

"Only the brave and true of heart can wield it, for it only comes to them. Now use it, Harry. Destroy the diary!" Luna urged, her words almost ripped away by the swell of the wind.

With clenched teeth he swung down, rendering the book in half. Everything quieted down as the diary let out one last plume of smoke. And just in time, for Ron and Ginny began to stir to.

"Ugh, what happened? Why does my head hurt?" Ron groused and Harry dropped the sword to help him up. Luna put it back in the hat and the hat back in her bag. "I'll stay here and handle things with the students and with Dumbledore. You go back, before Bellatrix gets suspicious," Luna said in a tone meaning she meant every word to be followed.

"Right," Hermione nodded her head. She wanted to stay behind and make sure everyone was okay, but she was still in a bit shook by her mission and the object she had just witnessed. Why was Tom there? She only had more questions than answers. She bid them a hasty goodbye and left, finding an angry Bellatrix waiting for her by her desk. The office was closed but the detective had waited for her.

"And where have you been?"

"Uh-" Hermione's words stuck to her throat, not expecting this right off the bat. "No where-"

"You stink of the sewers," Bellatrix said, getting up in the brunette's space. This close Hermione could see the swirl of silver in her black irises. "Clearly, you've been up to no good."

Hermione gave up the pretense, irritated. "Look, a case popped up and I decided to handle it."

"You should have notified me of it!" Bellatrix's crossed arms tightened and her brow jumped up like a live wire.

"As if! So you could, what, bench me? No thank you. I did the case, it's closed, and I managed to actually learn and be of use, which you won't let me be every time I go on a case with you!" she shot back.

Bellatrix's jaw tightened. "You want to be benched so badly, than I'll damn well suspend you."

Hermione let out a gasp. "You can't do that."

"I can if I want to," was the heated response and then Bellatrix turned on her heel, grabbed her coat from off her chair so harshly it was left spinning, and then went home. Hermione stared after her, fuming. Why was she so infuriating? Would it kill her to give Hermione a case at her job?

Shaking her head, Hermione decided to hit the books. She had some questions to ask Luna about the artifact they just collected and she would wait for her here.

She had curled up and was deeply entrenched in a book about magical beasts when Luna flooed back into the office, darkened and empty except for Hermione at this hour. Hermione shot up to her feet at the sight of her friend. "So...?"

"Everything's been handled. The students are now safe and Dumbledore is grateful of our help."

"But what of the artifact? You said it would hurt Bellatrix to see it, which was why you left her out of this case. But how did you know...?"

Luna shrugged. "This isn't the first time I have run into it, and it's properties. It's maligned. Something corrupted it. It wasn't always like this." Luna took the broken halves out, now powerless. She seemed to be mulling something over; perhaps how much to say. "This was Tom's. One of his many items."

"How did it fall into the wrong hands and why was it corrupted?"

Luna shook her head. "I'm not certain. There's so much I don't know about it. But he and I ran into it a couple years ago. We stopped it before it could be used but lost it in the process."

"Could it have been used to open the chamber before?"

"No. Because Tom wasn't around back then. And so his diary couldn't be used." She tapped the two pieces together. "I'll have to keep this hidden away. Bellatrix would be hurt to see something of his desecrated like this. She wouldn't stop until blood was shed." And on that sour note, Luna walked over to the warehouse to put it a

Chapter Text

"Why are we taking the train today?" Hermione asked as she watched the landscape around her blur, chin propped on her fist in dull nature. Compared to all the magical ways they could travel, why this?

Bellatrix turned the page of the paper she was heavily invested in. "Because."

"That's not an answer."

"Yes, it is."

"Not a very good one."

Bellatrix glared at Hermione over the top of her paper. "I'm trying to read here. I don't need you pestering me like a petulant child. You should be quite happy I even bothered to take you on this case."

"Yes, why did you," Hermione perked up at this point, her ever curious mind hungry for details. "I thought you were going to suspend me?"

Bellatrix rolled her eyes. And did not answer.

Hermione grew smug at this. "Ah, so you tried but it didn't work, did it?"

"Kingsley wouldn't let me, saying I had to take you on cases," she said from the side of her mouth unhappily. "But this doesn't mean you get to help. Stay out of the way and let me do my job."

Hermione's brows pinched at this. Why was Bellatrix so stubborn on this? It was annoying. So what if she wanted to protect Hermione. Hermione wanted to protect her. It was what being partners was all about.

"Could you at least tell me what we're doing here?"

Bellatrix gave her a sharp look, like Hermione was obtuse for asking this. "We're looking for an artifact, naturally."

"What kind? Did Luna leave a note for us about it?"

Bellatrix held up the slip of paper with the information on it between two slim fingers. Hermione immediately lunged for it, knowing it wouldn't be handed over to her other wise. Bellatrix was expecting that and shifted so that Hermione's hands met nothing but air. "Give me that," Hermione huffed as a foot was planted firmly in her abdomen, keeping her grasping hands away as Bellatrix held the paper over their heads.

At last Hermione gave up, sitting back down in her seat, red faced and annoyed. "Honestly, you're like a child."

Bellatrix stuck out her tongue at this for good measure. Hermione glowered at her and folded her arms over chest. Bellatrix was not distracted by this, raising her newspaper up higher and Hermione glared at that, hoping she could bore a hole into it with her heated glaring.

They sat in silence, the only sound the clacking of the train on the tracks. A women passed by with a train cart full of snacks and drinks. Hermione decided to get some, only so she could have something to do. But once she bought some chips and a water and the lady had left, Bellatrix smacked the items out of her hands.

"What are you doing?" Hermione grumbled.

"Don't eat these. There's an artifact on the train. We don't know what it could have affected or what it is," she stressed.

Well, at least now Hermione knew that Bellatrix didn't have any better of an idea about what the hell this object was. They were both in this together. "Why couldn't you have told me this before I spent my food?"

Bellatrix gave Hermione a smug smirk before burying her face into the paper once more. Hermione slumped back into her seat. Nice. So Bellatrix was taking out her frustrations about Hermione not being suspended out on Hermione by being as annoying as humanely possible.

If that was the case, Hermione could be irritating too.

"How long are we going to ride this train?"

No answer.

"Your paper sucks."

Silence.

"You're so annoying. I dislike you."

Still nothing.

Hermione threw her hands up in the air. She gave up. She didn't have the stamina to remain bothering someone. She got up, deciding to go to the restroom.

It was at the end of the cart and she locked herself in so she could splash some water on her face. She wouldn't be surprised if when she came out, Bellatrix was gone, happy to leave Hermione behind.

She looked herself in the mirror, eyes hard. If Bellatrix insisted on not having her help, then Hermione would do things herself. After all, had she not handled the basilisk case perfectly fine? She left the bathroom and decided she would look through each cart for what the object was. She cast the artifact locator spell discreetly, for this train contained muggles and wizards, and found to her disappointment it fizzled out. She had never seen it do that before and she cast it several more times, each time it fizzling out. Was it malfunctioning? Or was the artifact simply not on this train? Still, best to check it out by hand.

So, it would be examining each cart carefully then, to see if anyone was acting odd or if something was out of place. She began walking through the carriages so she could get to the last wagon where the luggage was. On the way no one stopped her, and so unimpeded she lit the tip of her wand and began to comb through the suitcases, which were all arranged neatly.

She felt like she had wasted her time when she couldn't find anything odd. From there she went from passenger cart to passenger cart, checking to see if anyone was acting oddly or talking about something that raised red flags. The cabin Bellatrix had been sitting in was empty, which made Hermione feel better for wandering around.

Then the brunette detective went to the dining cart, which was stationed almost in the middle of the train wagons. The wonderful smell of food wafted up to her nose. She was a bit peckish and Bellatrix had smacked her snacks away. Hermione figured, what could it hurt if she had something to eat? Surely the artifact couldn't affect the food. She ordered a sandwich and sat at the bar, watching the woman making it.

"Traveling far?" she asked as she made it and Hermione shook her head. "No, not far. Just two or three stops," she said.

"Traveling with anyone?"

"A colleague from work," Hermione said. Her sandwich arrived in front of her and she began to tear into it.

"Enjoy it," the woman said, smiling. "It's got the freshest cuts of meat in it. All natural."

"Thank you," Hermione said and was halfway through it when a hand on her shoulder jerked her out of her attentions.

"You really don't like to listen to me, do you," Bellatrix said sharply and Hermione shot her a nasty look.

"No, not when you're wrong."

Bellatrix snorted to show she didn't think this but she didn't say more on it. "You need to stay put in the cabin-"

"Or I can stay here and enjoy my sandwich, since I'm not supposed to help you anyways," Hermione said with a hint of hurt. "What, are you my baby sitter? Can I not even eat now?"

Bellatrix raised a brow. But she said nothing more, just walked off to the luxury cabin where the bar was and a musician playing some music on a violin.

So infuriating.

Hermione was halfway through her sandwich, absently plotting on what the object could be and what it even did. Did this have to do with the recent string of train murders? About several people on board being found mutilated and with organs missing, the remains of it stuffed into the toilets. They could never find who had done it as there were no prints or any type of evidence at all.

It either was a person who had done this and gone out of their way to venture to several different train routes to do this, or the artifact was on the train- specifically this train as it was the one from the papers- and being activated accidentally. But what object could destroy a human body like that?

And there were no connections between the victims so even if it was a person in charge of this, they didn't know why these people or why these certain train routes. This train had been rerouted several times, but it was always this train that had those bodies on it. It was called a cursed train and attendance of people who used it had dropped. People would rather wait or take more convoluted lines rather than this one. Hermione didn't fault them.

Suddenly all the lights went out.

Passengers gasped and began to whisper, wondering what was going on. Hermione had a feeling Bellatrix was behind this. So much for her being convert. Several seconds later the lights flicked back on. And everything changed.

Hermione's eyes went wide as she saw what the hell was on her plate. It wasn't a sandwich with turkey meat and lettuce, but with a hand. A bloodied, raw hand, and her teeth marks were on it where she had bit into the flesh and eaten it.

She jerked back from the chair so fast it fell on the floor and other people around her began to scream, suddenly awake to the other horrors around. But Hermione was focused on the food. No...no she couldn't have eaten that. She couldn't have. Somebody had to switched it out in the dark. As a sick joke.

She felt queasy.

She looked at the woman who had served it to her. She was nothing but a skeleton.

"What, don't like your fresh meat?" she asked, teeth clacking hideously.

Everything came up at that moment. Hermione closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to see the bites of flesh that came up with it. Oh Merlin.

She should have listened to Bellatrix. She fucking should have. What the hell was going on here? When nothing else would come up, Hermione shakily got to her feet and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, tasting bile and blood on her tongue. People shoved and pushed around her and she took this time to look around her. Holy hell...what was this?

The tasteful wallpapers were gone, replaced by slimy walls, that moved and pulsating like a giant intestine. The floor was the same texture. The furniture were made from flesh and so were the lamps, some sort of bio-luminescence providing a glow from them.

Was this train alive?

The door snapped open, and Hermione couldn't be happier to see Bellatrix on the other end of it. "What the hell did you do?" Hermione asked. She still had tears in her eyes from the ordeal with the sandwich. She wiped at them hastily so Bellatrix wouldn't see her weak. Bellatrix saw and gave her the look of one who was right. "I felt something was off about the giant chandelier in the middle of the train. Call it a gut instinct. So I attacked it. It turned out doing so turned the glamour off of whatever this is."

"And what is it?" Hermione asked, amidst the chaos around them.

"The train is the artifact," Bellatrix hissed out, eyes going dark.

"How the fuck are we going to fight a whole train?!" Hermione made out through her shock.

"The only way we can. With magic," Bellatrix brandished her wand.

"And what of the people?"

"We ignore them. They'll only get in our way."

"They can get hurt. We should explain to them-"

"No," Bellatrix said callously. "Our first imperative is to get this train out of commission. And everything else goes after that."

Hermione swallowed harshly. "And how do we stop it?"

"Well, since this thing seems to be alive, what better way than to mess with it than to get into the brain of it?" Bellatrix said as she led the way to the front of the train. They edged past panicking people. People trying to get off this train, people sobbing, or people screaming in terror. Hermione felt bad for them. No doubt she wouldn't want to be stuck in a situation like this without explanation.

But she had to stop this train first.

She tried to shake off her lingering revulsion and looked at Bellatrix's strong back in front of her rather than the walls of pulsating nasty around them, holding them in. How strong must the magic have been that it could trick so many people at once? What even was the point of this artifact? To kill people and serve them? She shuddered at this.

"How do you think the train killed the people?" Talking kept her mind off of the horror of their situation.

"I don't know," Bellatrix grunted out. "The most important part is stopping it from hurting anyone anymore." They powered on to the next wagon. "Oh, this isn't good," Bellatrix hissed from between her teeth a second later.

"What. What's happening now?" Hermione blurted out.

"Look."

Hermione looked. "The walls- they're closing in!" Indeed they were, with the intent to crush the people inside. Maybe even to digest them.

"We need to hurry," Bellatrix picked up the pace, running even faster down the halls, shoving people out of the way.

"B-but the people!" Hermione blurted out, waffling in her motions in helping them. She paused only for Bellatrix's hand to find hers and tug her forwards roughly. There was a hint of worry in her dark eyes over Hermione.

"There won't be a way for us to save the people if we don't save ourselves first and stop this train!"

Hermione grit her teeth but she could see the logic in this. She just hoped that they could be fast enough about it.

They burst into the next wagon, space increasingly disappearing. "Almost there!" Bellatrix said, zapping the walls with a bolt of electricity from her wand and making them inch back enough so that they could get to the last door. Bellatrix tugged on the handle only to find it was jammed. "Stand back," she instructed and Hermione did, gulping as the convulsing walls came close once more. If she extended her hand, she could touch them.

"Alohomora!" And the door swung open, allowing the two of them in before shutting behind them. The front of the train was empty, no one there. No one but the brain of the train. The furnace was hot and it swung open, revealing rows of hungry teeth. Eyes formed out of the forward facing windows, angrily glaring at them. Tendrils of flesh erupted from the floor, reaching for them.

Bellatrix was already on the defensive, shooting them down with her wand. Hermione joined her too, though she feared she wasn't much help. She ducked and put up a shield more than she cut them down.

"We need to hit the furnace with the neutralizing spell," Bellatrix roared out. "I'll cover you, you get closer and hit it!"

"Right," Hermione nodded her head grimly, a bit overwhelmed by all this. Not once again did she hanker for the easier days of not having to deal with such bullshit. But, it was almost as if the train could hear them.

There was a great shudder as the train hit something and both Bellatrix and Hermione went flying, crashing into the wall of the train, Hermione smacking right into the black haired witch. Bellatrix was up on her feet right away, Hermione taking a bit longer to get up.

She peered out the unobstructed window that wasn't an eye, and gulped loudly. "Uh, the train just derailed." Her eyes went wide and her throat dried out. "And it's heading towards a cliff!" As if they hadn't had enough to deal with before.

"Shite, you arsehole train!" Bellatrix spat out and ducked the tendril of flesh the train sent at them, trying to get them closer to it's hot billowing mouth. Hot coals spat out of it, sizzling on the floor where they landed. There wasn't enough space around here.

She whipped her wand around her, slicing through the air and cutting through the tendrils.

Hermione readied her wand and began to announce the neutralizing spell, causing her guard to be down. A tendril wrapped around her ankle and lifted her from the ground, holding her upside down.

"Oh, fuck!" Hermione cursed as she found her wand falling from her hand.

"Are you serious!" and Hermione wasn't sure who Bellatrix was yelling that at- the tentacle or Hermione's clumsiness. There was a flash of magic and Hermione fell flat on her face, hurting it. She let out a groan and fumbled for her wand, hastily rising to her feet.

"We're running out of time!" Bellatrix announced. The cliff was getting ever closer. And the train was suffocating the people it had inside it.

"Can't you cast a Fiendfyre and just get rid of it that way?" Hermione poised as she flicked a tendril away from her again. Another one slapped her across the face and she spat out the slimy deposit it had left on her lips.

"Are you an idiot? There's not enough space on this train to do it. I could burn us all up!" Bellatrix said savagely and went into a risky roll, rolling herself closer to the furnace and somehow avoiding most of the mass of the tentacles. One grabbed her by the arm but Hermione was prepared. She zapped it from her spot while Bellatrix stuck her wand right up and uttered the neutralizing spell.

The furnace twisted up, the train weakening. In the other wagons, the walls moved back, releasing the people it nearly tried to digest. But despite this, the train was still going full steam ahead.

The tentacles retreated into the floorboards, allowing Hermione to rush across them to the brake. She pulled the lever down, but nothing happened. So she pulled it up and back down again. Still, no result.

"It's broken!" she cried out in panic.

"I can bloody see that!" Bellatrix hissed out, before quickly shedding her jacket and putting her wand between her teeth.

"What are you doing?" Hermione asked.

"I'm going to stop the train," and then Bellatrix was gone, moving out the window and climbing almost onto the front grill of the train.

"She's bloody insane!" Hermione cried out, hands itching to help her, but not sure how she could. In a burst of adrenaline she decided to follow Bellatrix out, though less elegantly.

She found the woman was hanging off the side, shooting freezing spells at the train wheels. There was a terrifying screech as they froze, Hermione quickly getting the idea and clambering to the other side to do the same. Outside the wind whipped her hair back and forth and she could feel the terrible thrumming of the heavy machinery under her, bringing them closer to the brink. They were less than thirty seconds away from the edge.

Hermione's spells hit and the train began to slow down, but it had too much momentum to stop completely. The wagon's behind it piled up on the front wagon and the ground was ripped up as the train slowed, but still the cliff was coming and they were going too fast.

Hermione panicked. She didn't know what else to do. She was frozen in terror, feeling like the end had arrived.

"Hold onto something!" Bellatrix screamed out over the howling wind and screeching of metal and cast her wand at the space in front of them. Stringy material materialized between the two trees on the edge, catching onto the grill of the train and putting resistance onto it. The train jolted forward harshly as the material stretched but kept the machine put with a tremendous groan, the trees roots ripping out a bit as they were lifted from the dirt, threatening to fall into the water.

Hermione didn't know exactly what happened afterwards, because the huge jolt of the train had been too much for her to hold on. Her grip wasn't strong enough and she was flung off the train, over the material and right over the edge to the water.

"Hermione!" Bellatrix cried out, somehow having managed to stay on the train. But Hermione couldn't even scream, she was so in shock. All she could do was watch wide eyed as the water rushed up to her.

She fell in with a hard impact, the breath getting knocked from her lungs. Dark water covered her head and she couldn't see jack shite. Her wand had been flushed out of her hand and she blindly grasped, as if she could find the surface this way.

But she was lost, lost to the powerful waves and she couldn't breathe. Bubbles escaped from her mouth as she felt the cool and hungry water grabbing her, tugging her down.

The last thought in her head was that maybe Bellatrix had been right in stopping her from going on these cases. She had been over eager to prove herself, and now this was happening. She thrashed in the water, the panic only making it worse. Her vision was blackening. She was so cold.

Her eyes slipped closed.


Hermione could make out muffled screaming, but she couldn't make out what it was saving. Her body felt cold. Heavy. And she couldn't breathe.

But her mouth was warm, and so was her waist. She forced her eyes open a sliver and found herself surrounded by black. Was she still in the water? If so, how was she alive? But then the black moved away and as the curls shifted, Hermione saw that it was Bellatrix. A sodden looking Bellatrix who was straddling Hermione's waist and now was placing her hands on Hermione's chest and pumping rhythmically.

"Come on you idiot, bloody get up," she growled, though it was more of a panicked sound. Hermione's throat gurgled as she felt water harshly moving inside her. All the water she had swallowed. She tried to move her body, find the words to tell Bellatrix she was okay but she couldn't. There was too much water in her and she couldn't breathe right.

When the pumping didn't work, Bellatrix leaned back in once more and did mouth to mouth on Hermione. Hermione's eyes bolted open at this, and she was so shocked. So shocked by the feel of her partner's mouth on hers she inhaled deeply, deep enough that suddenly all the water wanted to come rushing out. Bellatrix pulled back, allowing Hermione to turn her head to the side and cough up the water. It hurt coming up and tears formed in Hermione's eyes.

A not so gentle hand clapped her on the back, helping her cough the rest up. When she was done she sat up, trembling with cold and with what just happened. Oh god. It all felt so surreal.

Bellatrix was next to her, watching with careful eyes. They were guarded now, but Hermione knew she hadn't imagined the panic and concern the dark haired witch had had moments ago. Nor could she forget the way her mouth had felt on Hermione's. If she wasn't so shaken, she would have been blushing right now. But she certainly did notice Bellatrix's soaked through shirt. The white fabric clung to her and did nothing to hide her curves. Hermione averted her gaze, the two of them just sat on the bank of the river, not saying anything to one another.

At last when it didn't burn to breathe, Hermione spoke, arms wrapped around herself to stop the shivering. "What happened?"

Bellatrix snorted, getting up. "I had to save your dumb arse because you clearly couldn't hold on."

"Thank you...for that. I realize you didn't have to do that," Hermione said.

"I couldn't let you die so idiotically. It would make me look bad," the older witch said haughtily, flipping her wet hair over her shoulder. "Go home. I'll handle the clean up for the rest of the case."

"Did we...did we save them?"

"Yes, we did," Bellatrix said, waving her wand and drying her hair and outfit with it. She turned to Hermione and was kind enough to do the same to her. But despite the dry clothing and hair, Hermione felt chilled to the bones by the water. "I couldn't save your wand. You might have to get another one."

"That's alright," Hermione said, getting up. Her voice shook, for she was still in shock over this. "I think I need a nice long nap." And then she allowed Bellatrix to apparate her away, before she went back to the scene of the case, Hermione feeling slightly guilty for leaving Bellatrix behind to clean up the mess, but knowing that she wouldn't be of anymore use to her after this. She went, took a hot shower, drank some hot tea and then crawled into bed, looking up at the ceiling.

The image of Bellatrix straddling her waist, freaking out over her, was something she couldn't forget. Despite everything, Bellatrix had saved her. She didn't have to. But she had. Risking even her own life. Luna had said Bellatrix cared for her, and wanted to protect her, and this was the proof that made Hermione believe it. Believe the fact, even if Bellatrix lamented that she wanted her old partner back, and that Hermione was no one important to her.

Hermione had to find a better way to thank Bellatrix for rescuing her.

And as she drifted off into a fitful slumber, her finger unconsciously traced her lips.

Chapter Text

Word got around of what happened on the train mission, mainly because Dora was nosy to high heavens and had pulled it out of Hermione. Okay, so perhaps it wasn't entirely Dora behind this sharing of information because Hermione had approached her on finding ways to thank Bellatrix properly for having rescued her. Flowers didn't feel personal enough. Neither did chocolates.

"Honestly, get her like a knife or something," Dora had said. "If you insist on gifting her anything at all, but which I find redundant only because she's saved people's lives countless times. It's probably lost all meaning to her."

That hadn't made Hermione feel good- it was cheapening the whole ordeal. Dora hadn't meant it that way, but it still stung.

"Knives?" Hermione questioned. "Why those?"

Dora shrugs. "Some people collect postage stamps. She collects knives. I think she just likes how sharp they are, much like her tongue."

At this, Hermione couldn't stop the flush coming onto her face. Dora noticed it immediately. "What? What's got you imitating a tomato?"

Hermione shook her head. "No, nothing. Honestly." She looked down into her tea.

Dora frowned. "Come on, out with it."

"It's not important."

"It wouldn't be, if you hadn't flushed like that."

Hermione bit her bottom lip, contemplating. "It's just...um," she had felt...a bit out of sorts since the whole mouth to mouth situation. Hermione knew it wasn't a big deal and Bellatrix had carried on like nothing had happened. But Hermione needed to tell someone about this, so they could reassure her she was just over thinking things. "Well, she gave me mouth to mouth," she admitted at last, squirming in her seat like it was hot.

Dora had practically no reaction to this. "So?"

"I...just feel weird about it now." Hermione shrugged suddenly feeling lame. Why was she freaking out over something like this? She was 28 years old. She needed to get a grip on things.

"It's not even a kiss," Dora waved it off. "Besides, I'm sure that she's not bothered in the least by it. It's not going to make things weird between the two of you if you don't make it weird."

"Right," Hermione said unsatisfactorily. For some reason, hearing it not be taken as a kiss made her feel...a tad let down. She wasn't sure why entirely.

She took a sip of her tea, Dora springing up with another idea. "Oh, I know. She loves firewhiskey. Get her a bottle then. Or two! She drinks like a fish."

So, Hermione did.

"What's this?" Bellatrix arched an inquisitive brow as Hermione thunked down the amber bottle of firewhiskey and an ornate knife down next to it.

"This, is a thank you gift for saving me."

Bellatrix stared so long at Hermione, Hermione started to feel dumb.

"Are you feeling quite alright. Did the dunk in the river mess with your brain?" Bellatrix asked, setting her book aside so she could come at Hermione full force. It was late at night and both of them were in their pjs, though Bellatrix's definitely showed more skin than Hermione's tasteful striped long pants and button up shirt type did. And Bellatrix's hair was down to let loose her luscious locks, making her look more relaxed than normal. Hermione's own hair was up if only because it would get too tangled if she let it loose while she slept.

Hermione frowned. "Can't I just be grateful?"

"It's not a big deal, Granger. I save lives all the time." Said with that patented smugness.

"It is a big deal to me. And I think that despite you saying you don't quite care for me, you care a bit. So please, just take this gift to show you that I do care about you too. Even if you are a giant jerk to me and like to abuse me under the guise of our training sessions."

Bellatrix raised two brows at this verbal comment. "I don't care for you. I already told you you're a replacement for my old partner until I get him back. The fact I didn't want you dying is because it looks bad on me."

Hermione rolled her eyes. Right. She was beginning to think all of Bellatrix's bluster and prickliness was just a cover up to hide the fact she was a soft marshmallow on the inside.

"Well, anyways, I'll leave this here and let you get back to your book." Hermione turned to leave when Bellatrix's voice called out to her.

"Sit. Won't you have a drink with me?" Bellatrix offered, a bit reluctantly as if she herself wasn't sure she wanted to do this but yet was offering from some societal reason Hermione was not privy to.

Hermione shook her head. "No thank you. I'm alright."

"Afraid to drink?" Bellatrix challenged, apparently not being used to being rejected and this rubbing her the wrong way.

"No, I just don't want to drink on a work night."

"Don't be so uptight. Just have a glass with me. Alcohol tastes better with someone to share it."

Hermione never would have expected Bellatrix to want to spend time with her for anything other than work, and even then she didn't want to either.

So, on second thought, this might be an amazing chance, not only to get closer to Bellatrix and learn more about her, possibly becoming better partners, but also maybe to weasel some clues from her about where she had been sneaking off to on the weekends. Hermione had noticed it, noticed Bellatrix's long absences, noticed her coming back at late hours, looking so haggard.

"I suppose one glass would be alright," Hermione said, sitting down on the seat on the other side of the small table. Bellatrix conjured up some glasses and popped open the bottle. An intense cinnamon-y scent wafted into the air.

"Have you ever had this before?" Bellatrix asked as she poured.

"No. Not really."

"It's a kick to the pants, that's for sure," Bellatrix commented. She drank hers down right away and Hermione tried to as well only to nearly choke on it. It burned like hell! She set the glass down and slapped a hand to her chest to help it go down.

"Oh god," she squeaked out while Bellatrix sported a richly amused look on her face. Hermione shot her a glare. She felt like Bellatrix had invited her for the drink now, only to see this reaction. "Why didn't you warn me?" she coughed out.

"I did," Bellatrix refilled her glass and poured more into Hermione's. "You get used to the burn after a bit."

Hermione highly doubted that but she stayed put for now, clutching the glass with the amber liquid in her hand.

"How was your time in the muggle world?" Bellatrix asked, the question taking Hermione off guard. Bellatrix never deigned to ask Hermione such personal questions.

"Uh, well. Normal, I guess. I went to school. Got a masters in criminal justice before I settled down on a station. They all wanted me for my reputable skills. But I settled on the one closest to home so I wouldn't be too far from my parents. And then...I worked there for about five years."

"You never experienced anything magical before that incident with the goblins?"

Hermione took a thoughtful sip, thinking back. "Maybe. As a child. Whenever I had issues with others, like really bad issues that made me all so emotional, something bad would happen to them. Like they would get pooped on by a bird, or lose their favorite toys. I always thought it was God doing that to them, however. Besides, it stopped when I got older because I had to learn how to be more stoic."

She had to learn stoicism so the bullies wouldn't see how much it hurt when they did the things they did to her. If they got no reaction, they would get bored. Which had ended up working out and so Hermione had been fine up until she'd started working at the police station, when Crabbe and Goyle would start being right arses to her all because she was better than them. She wasn't conceited. But she had self worth and self esteem in her abilities and those washed up doughnut eaters only found worth in their lives when annoying her. And no one wanted to side with her, because they were annoyed with her for doing such a good job and taking their cases away. Only the chief had adored her and made sure she was alright because he knew how cruel the others could be. He had even offered an office all for herself, but she knew it would only worsen the situation with the other cops if they saw her being singled out and treated better, and she had declined.

"Sounds like magic to me," Bellatrix said. "Magic always arrives in children, but muggles often brush off their magical mishaps and experiences as something else, so then when they grow up, that magic within them lays dormant and going to waste unless they are able to train it properly. You're lucky you were able to do that, because some adults lose the ability to call out that magic at all and it can start driving them mad from the inside."

Hermione shuddered, both from the burn of the new sip of firewhiskey she had taken and the news of that.

"That's awful," she stated. "But how come my magic allowed me to see those goblins at the time I did? If there are so many magical creatures around, shouldn't I see them more often?"

"Magical creatures stay away from the muggle world. It's too polluted and dirty for them. Besides, your rapid expansion has killed off huge populations of them."

"Oh." That was awful, but much like what humanity was doing to the normal animal species that existed, for hundreds of years.

"Those goblins must have been desperate and not expecting to find a hidden witch among the humans. So they had the bad luck of running into you."

That eased Hermione's mind a bit on the whole situation. In fact, this whole conversation with Bellatrix was nice. They hadn't spoken like this ever before. It made Hermione wonder why the sudden interest. Naturally, she could not refrain from asking.

"Why all these questions about me? Why do you care?" Hermione said, words slurred because every time she looked at her glass it had refilled and she couldn't just leave it there to be wasted. Bellatrix had been right, while the liquor still burned, it felt nice now and made her body pleasantly warm. Though she had to admit, she had gotten drunk a lot faster than she'd expected. This stuff was strong.

Bellatrix huffed out. "I suppose if I'm stuck with you for the time being, I might as well get to know about you somewhat."

"Then the same should apply to you too," Hermione said, her drunk mind sensing an opening here.

Bellatrix tilted her head coyly. "Oh, and what would you like to know about me?" Despite drinking more than Hermione, she seemed fine. Not even a warm tint to her cheeks.

"How do you get your curls like that?" Hermione leaned in, intently staring at them. Oops. She hadn't meant to ask that but it had come out anyways and it was too late to take it back.

That comment only fed into Bellatrix's ego. "Genetics."

Hermione pouted. She should have seen that coming. So she refocused herself, tried to get back on track. "Well then what do you like to do on the weekends?"

Bellatrix gave Hermione a cheeky grin. "You're not subtle at all."

"I just want to know why you're gone all the time." Hermione shrugged, like she wasn't being transparent on checking up on Bellatrix and making sure she wasn't doing something she wasn't supposed to.

"And what if it's because I have a lover?" Bellatrix suggested and suddenly Hermione felt her stomach squeeze.

Oh. She hadn't considered that. What kind of lover could it be? She could only imagine it must be a man of standing because Bellatrix was so picky and so demanding of the best that it would only make sense she would want the best.

An image of a man with dark hair, tall stature and well dressed body filled Hermione's mind. But it felt wrong to see Bellatrix in his arms, smiling and giggling girlishly for some man. It also made Hermione oddly upset.

She wasn't sure why. She respected her partner and was in awe of her, even if she was an arsehole most of the time.

"Prudish much?" Bellatrix teased when she saw Hermione's expression.

"No, just too much information," Hermione said, trying to look for a reason to leave now. Her eyes landed on the clock. "I think I should be going to bed soon too. It's nearly midnight."

"I won't stop you, but I will finish this bottle," Bellatrix said and leaned back more comfortably into the chair. Hermione finished her glass and left the room, catching out of the corner of her eye, Bellatrix glancing at her reflection in the steel of the knife she'd been gifted, when she thought Hermione wasn't looking.


Hermione stumbled into work the next day with a hangover.

"Geeze, I thought an Inferi had gotten in with the amount of groaning and moaning you're doing," Dora admonished playfully when she saw the haggard brunette walking in. Hermione's hair was more bushy than normal and her clothes were sloppily put on. But she could not care one iota about that right now because she felt like rubbish.

"Remind me never to drink again with Bellatrix."

Bellatrix chuckled from where she was situated at her desk, looking right as rain and engrossed in her work.

"Yea, don't do that. She will drink you under the table into an early grave," Dora said. "Everyone in the wizarding world knows this." She took pity on her friend who had collapsed into her seat with a throbbing head, body and with her stomach doing pirouettes in order to see what it could make come up.

"Wait here, I'll go fetch you a hangover potion," Dora instructed and Hermione only let out a grunt of assent. When Dora came back with a pink potion, it could have been poison for all Hermione knew, she just wanted the pain to go away. She had never had a hangover this bad. It must be because she had drank firewhiskey and her body wasn't used to wizarding drinks. She gulped the potion down and immediately could feel the effects of it.

It soothed all the aches and pain and within five minutes she was her old self-her hangover a distant thing of the past. "This is amazing," she said, stunned. She had to learn how to make one. Now she was ready for a day of work. But first, she'd spruce up her image a bit, now that she felt better enough to care about it.

And good thing she did too, because when she came out of the bathroom, Kingsley's door had materialized on the wall by the no longer rusty knight and he popped it open, searching for her.

"Hermione, I would like to have a word with you in my office," Kingsley said. They entered his office.

"What is this about?" Hermione asked, worried this was about her and Luna taking down the diary artifact without consulting Bellatrix on the matter. Or even about the train case. She nervously rubbed her hands together and tried not to act anxious.

He inhaled deeply as he sat in front of her, hands folded together. "There is no easy way to go about this."

Is he going to fire me? She thought.

"The upcoming case will be a difficult one."

Oh, good. Well not good that the case would be rough but good in that she wasn't in trouble over what she had done.

"How so?" Was this why she was being briefed by him today and not by Luna?

"This case will deal with a blood artifact, but Luna can fill you in on the rest. What I have to tell you has to do with Bellatrix."

"Is she not going on the mission?"

"No, she is. Which is why I need you to be extra careful of her. Pay special attention to her."

"Why?"

"The place you are going to in order to get the artifact holds bad memories for her. Very bad memories and I don't want it affecting her mental state. You also need to watch yourself. The people the two of you will be dealing with are not nice souls."

"I'll protect her, don't worry," she assured, only confused by his cryptic words.

"Good," he smiled and she took it that she was dismissed. She left the office and as soon as she did it melted away only leaving a bare wall where the door had once been.

"Ready to start the mission?" Luna asked, holding some files in her hand that a shrunken head had brought her. Hermione shivered, grateful it was already bouncing away.

"Yes, but I'm confused. Kingsley warned me to keep an eye," at this she glanced over at the woman who was scribbling something quickly on parchment with quill as smoke curled up from her cigarette, "on Bellatrix. Do you know why?" she asked in a lower tone of voice.

Luna tipped her head to the side. "No. I don't." And this Luna truly meant it; for once she was not withholding information. She handed the files over to Hermione. "Let's brief this case first. There's a lot to digest."

Hermione followed Luna over to a quiet part of the station, far away from any of the other occupants of it. They sat down, spreading out the files. "Bellatrix has been already briefed on this and instructed on what she must do. She knows her role, but you must learn yours."

"Oh so I'll be going undercover." Hermione had done this a couple of times back at her muggle job. She knew how dangerous it was. She was already prepared mentally for the high stakes.

"This isn't anything of the sort you've done before in your work as a muggle detective. This is on another level. You'll be infiltrating a purist cult." That didn't sound fun at all.

"Won't they know I'm muggle born?" Hermione questioned. Surely they had wards up for that. Bellatrix had told her about the horrifying nature of them last time.

"Yes, they will. Which is why you're going in as Bellatrix's muggle."

Hermione arched a brow in confusion. "Her what?"

"Like a pet. An offering perhaps would be better wording," Luna mumbled the second part, trying to find the words to describe this.

Hermione's stomach gave a nervous churn. "An offering for what?" she nearly squeaked out.

"For the rise of Voldemort."

Hermione shook her head, denoting she was drawing a blank on this.

"You don't need to know about him for your role. All you have to do is act dumb and clueless of the world around you. Bellatrix is the one who will have to navigate the purist cult and find the artifact and then get the both of you out of there before the rest of the ministry swoops in on the sting operation."

"But I would like to know about him, just for my own sake," Hermione said.

Luna nodded her head, opening her mouth for what would become a huge dump of information.

"We've had issues with him before. About 20 years ago." That would put Hermione roughly at eight and Bellatrix fresh out of Hogwarts. "He was a sick man who had this vision that magical bloodlines were becoming too polluted with muggle blood. He wanted to stop that by revenging himself upon those who were muggle supporters or who were muggle. He had a swath of purebloods and even halfbloods who supported him in this. They even laid war upon us, striking even Hogwarts and trying to kill Dumbledore if the man hadn't been able to put an army together to save most of the wizarding world. The war raged on for a while and Voldemort's army held strong. He was a master wizard, but then he made the mistake of coming after a boy named Harry Potter when he was but a babe."

Hermione's eyes widened at this. So that was part of why Harry was so famous in this world!

"But Voldemort ended up killing himself when his spell backfired. Harry's mother had loved her son so much that when she died her love for him protected Harry from evil and destroyed Voldemort. And it was thought Voldemort was defeated for his army was disbanded and thrown to jail and he simply vanished into thin air."

"But now he's back," Hermione said.

"We're not certain," Luna replied. She looked worried behind her glasses which couldn't be good. Luna rarely worried over anything. "We've heard rumors that the purebloods, those who still believe in blood purity, have been uniting at the behest of some man with grand power. We aren't even sure the artifact will be involved."

"So then why send us in?" Hermione knew stopping a purist cult was a given on any day, but if their department was only artifacts: why go if one wasn't there?

"Because I know there was an artifact there," Luna stressed, "even if there's isn't physical proof of one." She spread out some photos that had been taken of Voldemort. He was a tall man with pale skin whose face looked like it had been wiped clean of all it's features. He looked that of a humanoid snake almost. And his eyes burned with hatred.

She looked from moving image to moving image. One was of Voldemort screaming something at his supporters. Another was of him in a wand duel. Another of him destroying wizarding London with magic, walking through it like he owned it. He was powerful, that much could be seen just from the magnitude of his sheer magical force.

And on every picture he wore a simple silver ring on his fourth finger.

"This ring I believe is an artifact," Luna said, tapping on it. "It might not have been an artifact when he used it, but it could be one now."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Artifacts don't simply arrive from thin air. They are created, much as one creates life. And the way they are created is through strong emotion. This ring, has seen much hatred and bloodshed and that would be enough to create a malignant artifact. One that could have been found and used by this new person who wants to pick up Voldemort's old work."

"Do you even have such a ring recorded?"

Luna shook her head no. "The ministry took what remained of Voldemort when the curse back fired. Which were his robes, his ring, and the elder wand he carried. We don't have access to those. However," at this Luna slid a notice to Hermione. Hermione scanned it, reading quickly.

"Someone broke in and stole it from them. About five months ago." Hermione concluded.

"Yes," Luna nodded grimly. "Which is why there might be an artifact involved. I am certain there is one, while no one else fully believes it. Kingsley thinks it is the power of the elder wand that draws people to this new man, but it is not. It is the ring. Voldemort was a charismatic man even despite his looks. He had a way with words that could sway anyone. It was what drew others to him. If the ring is the artifact than that would mean it would give the wearer unmatched charisma and coupled with the wand, unmatched power to do his bidding and lead the purebloods to escalate another war of purity."

This was not sounding good. Could Hermione be affected by the charisma even if she wasn't pureblood?

"Unfortunately, this case won't allow you to bring wands or any magical devices with you. There will no doubt be wards put up in place to protect the location these purists will be meeting at. Neither can we put any disillusionment charms on your face to disguise you, so just wear a lot of make up."

That didn't sound good at all. They would be going in cold. "What if we run into trouble? How are we to take down this new evil guy?"

Luna sighed. "I really wish I could help with this, but we don't want to risk giving you a magical implements and having it be confiscated or having it set off the alarms."

"What about using an artifact?"

Luna shook her head. "The risk is too great. Besides, I'm not asking you both to take him down. We just need confirmation that he has the ring and of what he looks like, so then we can give the information to the ministry. Snagging the ring on your way out would be amazing but you don't have to do it. We can always steal it back afterwards now that I've discovered where it was being kept and where it will most likely be kept next.

"We will be waiting nearby so that if we sense anything is wrong we can help draw you out or help you escape." Luna concluded, closing the folder.

And with that, the briefing was over and the hunt for New Voldemort on.

Chapter Text

Bellatrix and Hermione apparated in front of a grand looking manor, hidden somewhere in the middle of the deep woods. Hermione had no idea where they were, but Bellatrix seemed to know. Both of them were dressed nicely, in ball gowns as was required. Hermione's was baby blue with white see through trim and modest, though she had a low decolletage and around her neck were pearls. She had a small clutch in her hand that matched the dress.

Bellatrix's dress was a dark burgundy, almost sleek looking in it's texture. It was more form fitting and had black lace flowers patterned over it. Her hair was let down and loose, curling over her cutting figure as one manicured finger tapped over her thigh as she glowered at the mansion before them.

In front of them, milling up the stairs, were several pureblood couples, all dressed in finery as well. Classical music could be heard drifting out from inside and Hermione wondered if this would be anything like Bellatrix's ball. Hermione just hoped it wouldn't get that chaotic.

Hermione had to act like she was just a dumb human, being invited to an elite party by Bellatrix. The whole evening would have the humans be under the impression they would be here as guests but then when the end of the night arrived, it would all be over for them. They would be used as offerings to the new Voldemort, whatever that meant. Even Bellatrix, with her surprising amount of inside knowledge, didn't know everything.

"Just stay close to my side, and for Merlin's sake, don't ask questions," Bellatrix hissed, looking visibly agitated. Bellatrix was usually calm and collected and despite trying to be so like this tonight, she could not hide it well enough. Hermione was good at noticing details and she could see the way Bellatrix's jaw was tense and her eyes were dilated like she was trying to see everything at once so as not to miss anything.

She nodded her head to let Bellatrix know she would listen and in they went.

They passed through a magical barrier in the doorway, a feeling like they were walking through jelly surrounding them. But nothing went off; the barrier did not proclaim them dangerous.

Inside the house was grand, with a giant room where there was a stage set up in the front and buffet tables on the sides. It was a bright red, reminding Hermione of blood, and had gold inlays and trim. So many people were already here and it disheartened Hermione to see this. To see all these purists here. Wanting to hurt muggles. To eradicate them even.

And who were the muggles? She scanned the crowds but couldn't make them out from the purebloods.

"Let's go get some food," Bellatrix said in a low voice, her shoulders and neck so tense that it looked like one sharp motion would cause them to snap.

"Is it safe to eat-"

Bellatrix gave her a sharp look. "What did I tell you about questions?"

"Sorry," Hermione said quietly. They approached the table, only to come across a group of elite men and women, who all seemed to recognize Bellatrix right away.

"Bellatrix, is that you?" A woman with ruddy hair gasped, drawing the attention of the group to her.

Bellatrix stiffened, for but a second, before relaxing. A look crossed her face that Hermione had never seen before. It was haughty, something she typically wore, but this look of arrogance was...twisted.

Hermione didn't know how to describe it, but it was suddenly as if Bellatrix had switched. Her body became more fluid, expressions dramatic and gestures used to manipulate and convey. Her voice oozed this toxic state.

"Hello there darling," she nearly purred, extending her hand so all the men in the group could kiss the back of it. They did so happily, one man with barely held lust in his eyes. Hermione felt a sliver of revulsion lodge inside her gut and stay there. Something so wrong was going on. Something really wrong. "Alecto and Amycus Carrow," she let her eyes slide over the woman who had spoken to her in greeting and the man who was looking at her with lust. She continued naming the others, all people who were older but yet the same age as her. "Augustus Rookwood, Thomas Nott, and Barty Crouch Jr. It's been ages, hasn't it."

"And yet you haven't aged a day," Amycus said hungrily.

"Keep it in your pants, you big oaf," Thomas Nott elbowed his friend who glared at him for the intrusion.

"We'd thought you were killed or captured by the ministry," Rookwood stated. "We haven't heard word from you ever since the fall of our first lord and our escape from avoiding Azkaban."

Azkaban? Hermione shivered a bit at this. She had heard of that place and it was simply horrid. Were these people criminals? What were they talking about?

"Well, you know me. I have my many talents. Keeping out of the eye of the ministry and living my life unimpeded was one of them."

"And it was a good thing you did," Alecto crowed. "A new lord and a new cause have risen. And we need your talent on our side to help us win."

"We must catch up at some point, when we are in a more intimate setting," Bellatrix said, tipping her head a bit to the side to indicate Hermione who was standing dumbly a few feet behind her.

Amycus's eyes flashed on the thought of being in a more intimate setting with Bellatrix- it wasn't hard to think what he was hoping for, while the others finally noticed Hermione.

"Oh, who is your friend over there?" Alecto asked, eyes quickly appraising Hermione.

"I'm Hermione," she responded with, timorously. "I'm here as Bellatrix's guest."

"You must excuse our confusing talk," Nott quickly said, covering their bases, "but we used to be in a rebellion group when we were younger. We were all young and it was the 60s and we used to fight against the silliest things in the system."

"Of course," Hermione nodded her head to show she understood. "I did stupid things with my friends in my youth as well." That didn't explain the use of the term our lord, but Hermione wasn't going to question such things. She had been told to refrain from asking and she was going to. She needed to seem dumb after all.

"We'll be off to get some refreshments," Bellatrix added, putting a hand on her hip. "You know how exhausting one of them can be and how one must indulge them. What will happen to them afterwards, anyways?" Bellatrix asked and Hermione had a feeling the woman was talking about muggles for some reason. She looked away so they wouldn't think she was listening but she was.

"They'll get to see the lord first up and share their lives with him," Crouch answered.

"Ah!" Bellatrix's features lit up as she heard of this. "Excellent. Till then." And she gathered her skirts and left, Hermione following after.

When they got to the table, Bellatrix had returned to normal and looked a bit upset. Hermione was brimming to know what was wrong and what that whole conversation had been about. But she pressed her lips tight, knowing better than to do so right now.

She watched instead as Bellatrix's hand shook a bit as she put food on her plate. Instinctively Hermione reached out, placing her hand over her's to soothe her. "Relax," she breathed out. Going undercover was rough and nerve wracking, but Bellatrix had to calm down or she could expose them.

Bellatrix looked at Hermione's hand on hers for so long that Hermione removed it, blushing a bit. She hadn't meant to entirely grab her. "Relax. We'll get through this," she whispered, making sure none of the folks around them could hear. "We just need to find him and leave."

Bellatrix's jaw twitched. "It's not that simple anymore," she stated, before leaving and making Hermione wonder just what exactly was Bellatrix's history with these blood purists. They seemed to know each other and they didn't give Hermione good ideas on how they knew each other. Maybe Bellatrix had been undercover back then too? Hermione frowned and stuffed a pig in a blanket into her mouth so she wouldn't have to think on this anymore.

She looked through the crowd to spot Bellatrix's inky black curls, sidling up to her side when she saw she was talking to yet another old acquaintance.

"Darling Bellatrix," he cooed, kissing the back of her hand.

That feeling in Hermione's gut pinched now.

"How many years has it been, and you have not changed at all. It is as if I am looking at when we first met," he said, running his thumb over the back of her hand before finally letting it drop. "Do you remember that day?"

"Of course I do. You were flat on your ass after I beat you in that duel at Hogwarts," she replied in that arrogant manner all these purebloods seemed to speak and carry themselves in.

"You also captured my heart that day." He would have continued crooning his sickeningly words had he not spotted Hermione. "Ah, this must be the friend you brought along. I brought one too, but I admit, he's gotten lost in the punch. It's quite strong this time. I've been urged to stay away," he said with a laugh.

"Hello," Hermione said stiffly to him.

"Hermione, would you be a dear and excuse us? I'd like to speak to Rodolphus privately," Bellatrix said, linking elbows with him.

"Sure," Hermione mumbled, not liking this one bit. She didn't want to get them separated, but perhaps Bellatrix could get information out of Rodolphus this way about who the new lord was. Would he even show up to his own event? The hour was growing later.

Bellatrix and Rodolphus walked away to one of the hallways, and Hermione paced around the crowd, feeling alone, before she decided she would eavesdrop on Bellatrix. She knew she shouldn't do that, but she also needed to get a better grasp of what was going on.

She went in the direction she had last seen Bellatrix going into and after some wandering, found voices coming from behind one of the doors. She held her ear to it, listening in, and making sure her breathing was quiet so they wouldn't sense her.

"Glad to see you back here, Bellatrix," Rodolphus greeted. "I knew when Voldemort went down, that you wouldn't give up on the cause. You were his loyalest supporter. There was no one you wouldn't kill for him."

Hermione's stomach dropped at that. Bellatrix had killed others? Hermione fervently hoped that wasn't true.

"Of course," Bellatrix purred. "How could I resist the call of this?" the sound of heels as Bellatrix paced across the room. "Another chance to get what was stolen from us. Do you think this new lord has the possibility of leading us into greatness?"

"Are you suddenly a doubter?" Rodolphus questioned with suspicion.

"The last one made so many promises and I was heart broken to see him fail us after all the support we gave him." A pout to her words. Mocking almost.

"It is not like you to speak ill of the lord."

"Perhaps not, but I am no longer young, and naive. I see the world for how it is."

"And how is it?" his words were sharp. "You ran away and hid like a coward while the others got sentenced away for life. They are still there, waiting for us to swoop in and rescue them."

"I ran away to save my life, you idiot," she hissed. "The rest of the morons stupidly stood there and proclaimed their loyalty and all their dark deeds to the public, when they should have been hiding and waiting so that they could be of use again."

"But they thought it was the end. That there would be no new purpose. I thought our chance was over too, I admit, so I hid and I changed my aims. The only question is why you, of all people, his loyalest, did not think it was the end. Did not turn yourself in. Especially since you loved him."

Hermione's stomach churned at this. Bellatrix? In love with such an evil man as Voldemort? What was this development?

Bellatrix snorted. "I did not love him. I admired him. Respected him."

"Don't give me that. You have a corroded notion of love, my dear. It's why our marriage never worked out."

Hermione blanched at this. Bellatrix had been married to that man? Why? How? She pressed her ear closer, distraught by these revelations but unable to turn away.

"I do not. I know I can love just fine. It was you who couldn't understand my love."

He gave a bitter laugh. "You are one to speak of love. You never loved me. I loved you with all my black heart, but you couldn't see anything past our lord."

"To serve him was the highest honor."

"And what of this new lord? Will you serve him blindly too?"

"If he deserves my services," was the smooth answer. "That is why I have shown up this late to the new purist movement. I did not want to waste hope and time on something that might never be."

"Oh, but I have seen him," at this, wonder in Rodolphus's words. "He is magnificent. Every inch the lord as our last one. And he wishes nothing more than to continue the work we left off on. But his dreams are even grander."

"So you have seen him? Spoken with him?"

"Yes. Few get the honor to do so, but he has selected me to be one of his closer confidants."

"Since you are so close to this new lord, do you think I could get a private audience with him?" Bellatrix suggested in that seductive voice of hers.

"I don't know..." Rodolphus trailed off.

"I have an outstanding reputation. The brightest witch of my age, a superb magic wielder, and I was the old lord's loyalest follower," she tipped toed her fingers up and down his lapels, or at least Hermione could imagine her doing that.

"I suppose...I could try and talk to him about seeing you privately."

That would be perfect! Bellatrix could get an audience with the man and then they could go and leave this wretched place. Being here made Hermione's mouth dry and she was finding out so many things that she hadn't known about Bellatrix before.

She would be interrogating the woman about this later, without a doubt. She knew the woman was no saint, but what exact horrors had she committed? Being engaged to that man was one of them, for sure. Hermione didn't like them being together one bit at all.

She pulled away from the door, deciding it was time to maybe scope out the rest of the party. When she went back to the ballroom, her stomach sunk as she saw someone there she recognized. Nacrissa and Lucius. This could not be good.

Of course they would be here. Bellatrix would not be happy in the least to know her sister was here. Hermione had to avoid the blonde sibling. The woman would no doubt recognize her from the pureblood party, make up or not, wig or not, because Narcissa had disliked her so much. Hermione knew the party members had been oblivated but she didn't know if Narcissa's memories of her had been entirely eradicated.

She hoped they would. But just as she was about to move out of the line of vision of Narcissa, the woman turned and spotted her, eyebrows going high up. Hermione swallowed heavily and turned on her heel, very aware that Narcissa was trailing her.

She had to get rid of her, but how?

Quickly thinking she slipped inside the bathroom and hid behind the door. Holding her breath captive, she waited until the door swung open. Narcissa came through, searching for Hermione. Hermione took this chance to lift her hand bag up and bring the heavy object down on Narcissa's head. The woman went down with a quiet oh and was out cold on the floor. Hermione then dragged her heavy body, and stuffed her inside a supply closet. There, she would out of their way for a bit now.

She left the bathroom, hoping she would find Bellatrix.

She spotted the woman, alone for now, and rushed over to her. "Were you able to find anything out?" she asked. Would she be given access to the new Voldemort?

Bellatrix made a shushing motion to her. "He's about to arrive," she admitted. The lights dimmed on her words, a spotlight falling onto the middle of the stage.

The crowd hushed and in a swirl of black smoke, he apparated into the room.

He looked almost exactly like the last dark lord. Snake like and disgusting in appearance. Except he was a good deal taller and his robes were more flourished- showoffish.

"Greetings, my fellow comrades," he began speaking, his voice smooth and silky like chocolate. Hermione could feel a warm tingle at the base of her spine and she briefly panicked, wondering if he was using his artifact.

"Tonight marks the start of a new era. The start of your new purpose in life. Each of you here are here because you believe there is need for change in this world. A change that was started long ago but failed to continue onwards."

"Is he talking about global warming?" asked one woman, who must be a muggle since she had no idea what Voldemort was really talking about.

"And you want to fight for this change. Want to bring it about with your own two hands. And you shall be able to. Tonight, you have brought me offerings so you may pledge your loyalty to making this world a better place for our children. Soon, the offerings shall be accepted and your new lives and purposes shall begin."

But as he spoke, Hermione didn't feel anything. She wondered, was the ring working? Or was Luna's hunch wrong and the ring wasn't an artifact? But as he continued to speak, the crowd began to get more into his words. Clapping and roaring their approval as their eyes were filled with fervor. A few people Hermione noticed were only politely clapping but had confusion on their faces that mirrored Hermione's.

Even Bellatrix next to her was staring up at the man like his words riveted her very soul. Hanging onto his every word as if she would die if she did not. Hermione clapped along, while on the inside she began to grow worried. Kingsley had told Hermione to watch out for Bellatrix. Clearly something about this whole purist cult had PTSD effects on her. But why would it?

Now that they had seen Voldemort, and heard his racist speech, it was only a matter of getting out. The ministry could capture him and then Luna would find a way to get the ring from them. Unless Hermione could find a way to get the ring herself, which would be better than letting the ministry get their hands on it.

But, something in her gut told her it would be better if the both of them got out of here. They were only here to spy and then get out. She could see the ring flashing in the light on stage, tempting her to go up and get it, but it would inadvisable right now.

Voldemort 2.0 got off of the stage and the purebloods and their muggle guests began to line up down the corridor to a room with double doors. "Hurry and line up," Bellatrix hissed at her, that odd glint in her eyes. Hermione suddenly felt not so safe with her. Was it possible that Bellatrix had been affected by the artifact? If so, how? And if that was the case then why didn't Hermione?

They waited on line in silence, Bellatrix tapping her foot impatiently as they watched pureblood after pureblood go in, each time leaving without their muggle companion. That could not bond well.

"Bellatrix we should leave," Hermione said between stiff lips.

Bellatrix gave her a ludicrous glare. "Absolutely not! We are not missing seeing Voldemort and hearing the words he speaks."

Reasoning with her was not going to work. And something told Hermione trying to walk away or try to physically make Bellatrix comply with her orders wouldn't work out well either.

Shite. What did she do now?

"This is ridiculous. I shouldn't be waiting out here like this. I should be at the front of the line!" Bellatrix gripped. "Stay here, " she told Hermione sharply and rushed off. Hermione had no idea where she went, but when she came back she had a smug and triumphant smile on her face. "Come with me. We're going to get prime access."

Bellatrix lead the way to the front of the line, cutting in front of an elderly woman who sent a scowl her way. But Bellatrix only tossed back her head.

When they got into the room, Hermione and Bellatrix stood on the dais in front of Voldemort and his two henchmen who stood by his side. They wore black robes and their wands were in their hands; a threat but of no use currently.

Hermione swallowed nervously. This was too far. They were going in too deep.

"Bellatrix Black nee Lestrange," Voldemort spoke, eyeing the woman. "I have heard much about you. Truly, a wonderful specimen."

"I live to please, my lord," she curtsied, her head in a deep and respectful bow.

Hermione felt a cold shiver run down her back and she clenched her clutch closer. There was no doubt about it. Bellatrix had been influenced by the ring.

Shite. Shite! Hermione's brain scrambled to try and find a solution to this. This could not end well.

"And please me you shall. I would be most honored to have your talents on my team. But first, you must bind yourself to our order. An order called the Death Eaters." He held out his hand on which was a knife with a wicked blade.

Bellatrix rushed towards him, taking the knife with barely concealed joy in her eyes. With barely concealed exaltation. "I shall live and breath the cause, my lord," she assured with a sibilant hiss, as she turned to Hermione, knife in her hand.

Chapter Text

It was like Bellatrix was an entirely different person. And from the looks of it, she was about to do something extremely dangerous to Hermione. The brunette detective now knew what was happening to the muggles. They were being slaughtered in some sort of ritual of trust and initiation to this club of blood mad inbreeds.

As Bellatrix, with a mad gleam in her eye, danced closer with the knife, Hermione got into a ready stance, picking her fists up, spreading her weight to be more balanced. The clutch hung heavily from her hand as a second weapon.

"How amusing, the mud blood intends to fight," Voldemort cackled, amused by this.

Bellatrix may be a master of the wand, but it hadn't lent for a lot of opportunities for hand to hand combat. Hermione had a lot of experience with it, because guns weren't like wands. They only knew how to do one thing. And when in pursuit of justice, she needed to bring a criminal in, not always hurt them.

So she'd learned to tackle. To punch and to kick. For someone of her size and stature, she could bring the heat if needed. And it was needed now. Despite the dress holding her back, Hermione was able to take on an angry Bellatrix wielding a knife.

The woman lunged at her, tip pointed at her jugular. That was her mistake. She shouldn't have been so open about her move. Hermione stepped in, while knocking the knife wielding hand away with an arm, her free arm grabbing Bellatrix's left shoulder and pushing down, while her heel drove into Bellatrix's instep to cause her to go crashing to the ground.

Within seconds, Hermione had her expertly pinned, one knee in her back, knife twisted out of her wrist, and both hands forced behind the back. Bellatrix's look of shock was priceless. She clearly hadn't been expecting this from Hermione. It was possible that whatever spell was on her, was affecting her to the point of dulling her senses, because she was certain in reality, Bellatrix would have been smarter about this whole fight.

"Y-You dirt!" Bellatrix hissed, beyond aggravated and insulted, and Hermione increased the pressure on her until she was screeching through her teeth. "How dare you touch me! You are nothing! You should be bowing before me, not fighting me on this! Death is all you deserve for you serve no purposes on this world otherwise!" The stuff spouting from Bellatrix's lips hurt Hermione. She didn't want to hear them. Was this really what Bellatrix thought? Hermione's chest clenched in pain but she ignored her feelings. This had to be the work of the artifact. She was certain of it.

"Get off of me!" Bellatrix howled and tried to throw Hermione, but Hermione grit her teeth and pushed down harder.

Hermione's clutch was still tied to her wrist and she took this chance to unzip it and pull out the gun there. She pointed it at Voldemort, heart pounding in her chest.

And while Hermione had Bellatrix pinned to the ground, both of the men by Voldemort's side took out their wands and pointed it at her. But they did not shoot, thinking her gun wasn't any threat.

"What should we do with her, my lord," asked the blonde. "She's assaulted a pureblood!"

"We should kill her right now! Desecrate her corpse for good measure."

Hermione was tempted to put her gun on them too, but she didn't know, who was the biggest threat right now. She had to be smart about this, or else she could cost both her and Bellatrix their lives. A bead of sweat went down her temple.

Voldemort's face was contorted in disgust at her. "You think you are a threat to us, mud blood?" he spat. "We hold such power that-" he rose to his feet, on another speech that she couldn't bare to listen to, so she shot him. Right in his ugly snake like face. The gun shot rang loudly in the small space.

He let out a gasp of shock, eyes widening before he fell onto the floor before him, where so many muggles had just lost their lives.

The two men ran to Voldemort's side, forgetting about Hermione like she counted they would when they saw their lord hurt. They were gasping in shock when they saw the blood pooling around his head where a bullet hole was. Hermione lifted Bellatrix up, holding her by her side. But the woman struggled too much for Hermione to maintain a one armed grip on her. She elbowed Hermione hard in the gut and ran towards the lifeless man on the ground, throwing herself over his form.

"My lord. No!" she cried out. She shook him, as if that could bring him back to life. Panic and horror writ on each inch of her face.

"The filthy muggle killed him! With that steel noisemaker!" said one of the men.

Idiots. How did they not know what a gun was?

When she'd come in through the wards on this house protecting it from weapons and such, she'd been banking on the fact it wouldn't be able to recognize what a gun was. And she was right. These pureblood snobs had never thought to think a muggle might bring in their own weapons.

Though, Hermione was sort of wishing that she had a wand now, because she didn't want to kill any others. She rushed towards the bent over figures, using their moment of weakness to clobber one of the men over his head with the butt of her handgun, allowing her unfettered access to his wand. Just in time.

"You sodding piece of shite!" hollered out the other man, raising his wand at her. His first spell hit her in the abdomen and she went flying into the wall. "I'm going to torture you until you wish you were dead. You've ruined our movement you mud blood piece of rubbish!" his neck veins were standing out with effort of his hatred.

He sent a flurry of spells at her and she sent up a protego to block them. His friend that she had hit, was holding up a hand to his bleeding head. Seeing the blood on his fingers as he took it away, he scowled.

"I'll tear you apart with my teeth for what you did!" he vowed and went at her.

With her gun she sent off several warning shots that had them ducking a bit to avoid her aim. This allowed her to drop her protego as the barrage of spells ended momentarily and she hit the wand wielding man with a stupefy that knocked him out cold. His compatriot did not have a wand, so taking him out was much easier.

The two of them crumpled to the floor like dominoes.

This only left Bellatrix. A Bellatrix who was seething with black rage and unforgiveness.

"You!" she screeched at Hermione, blind to the wand and gun in Hermione's hand, and lunging at Hermione.

"Bellatrix stop!" Hermione cried out, because she did not want to hurt her partner. This was a mistake. Bellatrix grabbed Hermione by the shoulders and slammed her into the wall hard, hard enough to cause the wand and gun to drop from Hermione's hands, hard enough her head knocked into the wall and she saw stars.

And then she was being tossed forwards, falling onto the dais where the knife and another wand lay, henchmen's bodies not too far away. Bellatrix threw herself after Hermione, nearly pinning her to the floor with her weight and strength.

This time, the struggle was no holds barred. Bellatrix was no longer able to be taken by surprise by Hermione's moves. She was ready and she was furious. She was all punches and kicking, snarling and biting and scratching, and ugly vulgar insults.

She was gone. Nothing in her eyes but blackness. Hermione barely recognized her and it scared her. She didn't want to lose Bellatrix but the woman wasn't making this easy. She was an animal. Primal and blood thirsty.

Hermione and her rumbled on the floor, all elegant moves out the window as they struggled to win in this play of dominance. In this fight for their life.

"I'll kill you for it! For killing my lord!" Bellatrix's shrills were ear shattering. "I'll rip you limb from limb and then bring you back to life just to kill you again and again!"

Hermione flung out a fist and caught Bellatrix right in the face. So hard her lip split and still she kept babbling on and on. So, surging up as much might in her body as she could, she bucked Bellatrix's form off of her, and tried to scramble for the wand she saw not far away so she could knock Bellatrix out. But Bellatrix had much the same idea, except with the knife they had been struggling by and that glinted oh so temptingly.

She crawled towards it, snagging the slim wood in her hand, just as Bellatrix grabbed a hold of the knife and came after Hermione, crawling after her body.

Just as Hermione turned around, raising her wand with a stupefy on her lips, Bellatrix drove the blade to the hilt right into Hermione's soft abdomen. The spell died on her screams of anguish and Bellatrix cackled loudly, getting ready to pull the blade out again. Hermione's free hand fell over the handle to keep it there, before with pure desperation she breathed out 'stupefy' and hit Bellatrix right in the face with it. The woman passed out over her, jolting the knife even more as Hemione grit her teeth and tried not to scream loudly.

With a huff, she pushed her body off of her and carefully sat up. She knew a simple epiksey spell wouldn't heal this and she needed to get the two of them out of here and fast. Too bad she didn't know how to apparate.

With a groan of pain, and holding one hand over where the knife was causing a pool of red to seep through her clothes, Hermione hobbled over on her knees to wretch the ring off of Voldemort's finger and pocketed it, before using the legs of the chair to pull herself up.

She left bloody prints on the chair and her breaths were labored as tears pricked her eyes. This shit fucking hurt. But luckily she had a wand. Normally, she would look for a quiet way to sneak out of here, but she didn't have time for that. She had to get out of here fast. She cast a quick spell over Bellatrix to have her unconscious form levitating and then, kicking the door open while holding her side, she quickly cast several bombarda spells into the waiting public.

Screams and panic erupted, as wizards and witches and muggles scrambled to get out of there. The few men that had wands for they were armed by Voldemort, took out their wands now. But Hermione had made sure to note their positions and who they were prior to entering the room. She'd use the confusion to sneak past them. They started looking through the smoke she had caused for who it could be, and she kept low to the ground, taking this opportunity to toss Bellatrix's now light form over her shoulder on her none injured side, because she decided it would look suspicious if she was floating. As they made way to the door, nearly getting hit by a couple of spells on the way out, Hermione deflected a couple of errant spells and tried to resist getting jostled by the crowd. She was weary they would touch her knife but she knew it would be foolish to pull it out as it would cause more bleeding.

It was a good thing most of the people were rushing towards the exit.

"Maybe they're in Voldemort's room. We have to check to make sure he's safe!" shouted out one of Voldemort's armed forces and several ran in that direction. A couple stayed out in the crowd, trying to search the faces for who it could be, but they were pushed in the mad rush.

Hermione hid in the crowd, trying to look small. By the time she got to the door, her face had grown pale now and she couldn't be happier to see the doorway. She knew there were wards up to prevent entry of muggles or wizards with wands in, but she hoped there wouldn't be an issue with them coming out. But, just to be on the safe side, she threw the wand out the door way where it burned as it passed through. She wouldn't need it now, anyways.

Luna and her people would be outside waiting for them and as Hermione thumped down the stairs leading out into cool fresh air, she could already see ministry officials encircling the area.

"Hermione, this way," Luna called out from some bushes out of the way of the main lawn as ministry officials pulled out their wands and held them at the fleeing crowd which were forced to their knees, hands behind their heads as spotlights fell on them.

Hermione followed Luna's voice and as soon as she rounded the corner towards a row of petunias, she was able to hand over Bellatrix's body to Dora who took it with a surprised 'oh' when she saw she was light. "Auntie really does need to eat more. Does she live on air?"

"We need to get you to St. Mungo's," Luna said, when she saw the knife sticking out of Hermione. Dora paled at this, her hair whitening too.

"That would be great, really," Hermione groaned. The stain had spread and she could feel herself growing colder.

"Hold on." Luna grabbed Hermione by the wrist, and it was a good thing she did at that time, because Hermione's legs did not seem to want to support her. She fell onto Luna who held her up and then they were apparating away.


After a three hour stay at St. Mungo's, Hermione was good to go. It truly was a wonder what magic could do. Not even a damned scar was left of her wound. She was discharged and instructed to go home and stay away from exercise for a week, but instead she went back to the department, needing to know what was happening now. She had undoubtedly left a huge mess behind.

"How's everything?" she asked when she got in, fearing the worst.

"How are you, is the better question," Dora bounced over to Hermione, giving her a look over and determining she was okay, pulling her in for a quick hug.

Hermione groaned as it caused pain to lace up her side and Dora pulled away quickly so as not to cause her more discomfort.

"Agent Granger, excellent work," Kingsley stated from where he was standing with Luna. "Not only did you eliminate the threat, but you also snagged the ring before the ministry could get their hands on it."

"Thank you. I was just doing my job," she responded with, ever humble.

"Nearly all the purebloods were captured," he reported, and Hermione wondered if Narcissa and Lucius had been in that statistic. She couldn't imagine Bellatrix would be happy when she found out. "And we've been able to shut down what could have been another movement for war and for murder of muggles."

"I wasn't able to save everyone-"

"But you saved enough. And that's all that matters," he said and she nodded and swallowed away her guilt for all the muggles that had gone in before her and that had suffered an extremely horrid fate.

"Take some time off. We all think you and Bellatrix deserve a rest," he ordered.

"What about Bellatrix? How is she?"

"She's fine. A little rattled but fine," he told her sternly, in a tone that denoted she shouldn't be asking more into this. That lead her to believe Bellatrix wasn't as fine as they'd like Hermione to think.

"Alright. I'll see you all tomorrow," she stated, unsure what to do now.

"You've got the week off," Kingsley told her and then turned to Luna to discuss the affects of the ring.


A week was an awfully long time to do nothing, especially without Bellatrix. It was a slightly crazy notion, since even with them staying at the same manor and working the same job they didn't talk much, somehow Hermione even missed Bellatrix's pestering presence. She hadn't seen head or tail of her and it was beginning to worry her.

Bellatrix had been driven to almost killing Hermione due to the ring. Hermione had recovered, with minimal nightmares and pain from the event, but surely Bellatrix must be going through it mentally trying to come to terms with what she'd done.

It mustn't be easy. And Hermione wished she could talk to her. Find out if she was okay, address the whole trying to kill her thing, and even talk about Bellatrix's past with this purist cult. There was just so much to unpack. And sitting about and doing nothing was not getting her anywhere productive.

When she asked Dora about where Bellatrix had gone, she shrugged. "She's in her room. I know because Ginger brings her food and drink."

"You aren't worried about her?" Hermione was a bit shocked by Dora's lack of concern.

"Of course I am!" she exclaimed, slapping her fork onto the table. "But I was ordered to stay away."

"By who?"

"Kingsley," Dora said uncomfortably and quietly, like she wasn't supposed to admit this.

"Why did he tell you to do that? If someone's hurt or struggling they need someone by their side not everyone avoiding them!" Hermione cried out, irritated that this was the approach.

"She's not alone. He's sending healers through her private fireplace to help her after all she's been through. He just thinks its a better idea for all of us to stay away from her when she's like this," she answered quietly and a bit shamefully like she thought she should be doing more instead of listening to orders.

"That's bollucks!" Hermione felt herself grow even angrier, hands curling up into fists. "Shouldn't the rings effects stopped working on her?"

Dora shook her head sadly. "This isn't a simple artifact, Hermione. It's a strong artifact, and it's effects don't just go away for days. It can take weeks, months, years even to get rid of it."

Hermione's utensils dropped from her hands and she found herself not hungry anymore. "What do you mean by that?" she asked softly.

"It means that Luna did some research on the ring with Kingsely's permission. The purebloods it affected and that are in captivity are still all so upset and in love with Voldemort. Killing him, removing the artifact, and neutralizing it did nothing. They still believe in all those backwards views." She closed her eyes, deep lines furrowing her brow. "Just like when the first Voldemort fell, the loyalty of his followers barely dropped over time and they flocked to yet another man who held the ring. So, if auntie Bella has been affected, it might be a while since she'll be okay again." Dora now looked defeated. "If she ever can."

Hermione slumped back in her seat, chilled to the bone.

Oh.

This was bad. This was very bad.

Hermione might have just lost her partner.

Chapter Text

The first thing Hermione did when she went into work that day after her week off, was storm up to Luna.

"Luna, how can I get in contact with Kingsley?"

Luna pushed her swirly glasses up her nose. "Usually he just arrives when he only needs something-"

"I don't have time to wait on that," Hermione cut in impatiently. "I need to talk to him now."

"I'll send him an owl."

"Thank you Luna." Hermione went to her desk, sighing and sitting down to open some files. But as the time wore on, she got more jittery, unable to wait for Kingsley to arrive. Luna sensed this energy for she offered for Hermione to come along with her to the vault.

"He won't arrive while you're gone," Luna assured when she saw Hermione reluctant to leave, her eyes glancing at the wall by the knight every couple of minutes. "He'll be done with his meeting by five and then he'll come here."

"Alright," Hermione sighed out, because this waiting was killing her. She followed Luna to the vault.

"I need your help neutralizing some of the artifacts. Steve was supposed to do them today but he got sick."

"I didn't even know vampires could get sick."

"He was coffin a little," Luna said and smiled privately to herself because the pun had gone right over Hermione's head.

Neutralizing the artifacts was relaxing work in an odd way. It was rote, and it made her feel like she was in control of something in her life. Worry for her partner weighed heavily over her head. Luna could sense it, but she didn't pry into it, figuring Hermione needed some time to sort things out in her head by herself.

Coming up from the Vault after five pm found that familiar door on the wall which caused Hermione to rush to it, knocking on it and barely waiting for the come in before she was inside.

"I heard you wanted to speak to me?" the director of the program said.

"Yes. It's about Bellatrix," Hermione said, sitting down and getting right to the point. "I'm worried about her."

"Don't be. She's seeing the best healers that our department can afford. All she needs now is time."

"You told me to take care of her," Hermione started, a lump forming her throat. "And now she's..." she trailed off, unable to continue on for fear her voice would fail her.

"And you did take care of her. You made sure she didn't gravely hurt anyone, you snagged the ring, got rid of a huge threat to the world, and made it out safely with her. I couldn't have asked for a better job done."

"It doesn't feel like a job well done," Hermione insisted. "What if she never gets better?"

"She will. You just need to be patient with her. And like I said, give her a lot of time," he stressed.

"Is she not going back out on the field?"

"Probably not for a while. But she knew the risk going into this, and she was willing to take it."

Hermione shook her head. "I still don't understand some things. What exactly happened to her?"

"The same thing that happened to many purebloods before. I don't want to tell you about it, to be quite frank," he said in that deep voice of his. "It's not my story to tell and I'm sure Bellatrix wouldn't want you to be prying into her business. This actually brings me to another topic I've wanted to talk to you about. Since she is currently recovering, we'll be assigning you another agent to join you on the field."

Hermione's eyes grew large. "You're replacing her?"

"For the time being. We can't have artifacts running wild all over the world, simply because we are one agent less. I've made sure to find someone suitable. He's worked in several ministry departments before and he's done outstanding work in each. He'll be loaned over to us from the department of dangerous creatures until Bellatrix can recover. He'll be coming over tomorrow. He's briefed on everything important, but do give him a tour of the place."

Hermione felt a bit crushed. She didn't want a new partner. She wanted Bellatrix back.

And it was this sentiment that made her resonate and understand Bellatrix's dislike of her at first when Tom had been replaced by Hermione.

But Hermione was a big girl now. She had to suck it up.


Hermione's new partner was a man. A reasonably young man with olive skin and dark thick hair slicked back against his skull. He had on a tight, well suited gray and peach suit and he was tall with a lithe figure. He was handsome, and it made Hermione resent him more. If he was ugly, she wouldn't mind him replacing Bellatrix so much. She knew her anger was childish and misplaced but she could not help it.

The whole situation that had occurred in the purist cult had her a bit more shaken than she would have liked. She just wanted Bellatrix to be back to her normal stoic self. The madness Hermione had seen in her eyes had been terrifying. She hoped it could be reversed.

"Blaise Zabini," he held out his hand for Hermione to shake. His grip was strong, like he had something to prove.

"Hermione Granger," she said behind gritted teeth. "Let me show you around the place," she offered unhappily. He seemed to not notice her foul mood or the lackluster responses he got from Luna and Dora. He was chatty, and happy to be here, his mood unable to be bent.

"I love learning more about this wonderful world we live in. So many secrets to explore, don't ya think?"

Hermione just grumbled along to his talking, never really giving a concrete response. She just hoped he wouldn't be this chatty during their artifact hunting. The tour was over quickly because she had no desire to have her ear chatted off and when they came up, Luna was holding two manila files for them. "We've got a case," she announced. "I hope you can learn on the fly, Chase Babini."

His eyebrows went up into his hair line. "Uh, actually, it's Blaise-"

Luna handing them files first was out of custom. She usually owled them the info. "It's a level five, so read up on it first, let Brian get a feel for it, and then go get it. It's not far, so you can walk it there."

He frowned at her calling him different names but didn't comment more. They went to their desks- Blaise had been given a new one, which was a great sign that Bellatrix hadn't been completely removed.

Hermione's eyes scanned the file- it was a slim one. Her eyes caught the name of the store and she rolled her eyes. "What have the twins been up to. Artifact making? How did they make one?"

Luna answered breezily. "They didn't make it. They bought it. But go talk to them if you want more details. And preferably, take it away."

"If it's level five that means it's not doing anything bad. So do we really need to take it?" Blaise asked.

Luna tsked. "All artifacts need to be collected as under ministry decree 5678-9067. Because they can still cause harm and need to be locked away. It's better if muggles or wizards don't have access to them."

"We're all set to go," Hermione closed the file and looked at Blaise expectantly.

"What?" he asked, not getting it.

"Apparate us there. I haven't learned yet," she said, a touch sheepishly.

He chuckled. "What kind of a witch are you that you don't know-"

"The kind that isn't interested in explaining herself to you. Now get a move on Blaise," she said sternly and he sighed but did as asked. He grabbed her wrist and they apparated to the store.

"Hermione!" the twins chorused when she walked in. Seemed Ron had told them about her.

"Hello there," she smiled.

"Come to try our candy?"

"Or try our pranks?" concluded the other twin.

"I'm actually here on work business," she said.

Both made matching looks of shock. "Oh. Are we trouble?"

"Not really," she said. "If you wouldn't mind, can we talk privately?"

"Of course."

"Not a problem."

Blaise and Hermione followed the twins into the back room where there were many packaged crates of product waiting to go on the shelf.

"What's this about?" one of them clapped their hands.

Hermione couldn't tell which one was Fred or George, so she didn't mention them by name. "This is about that peculiar statue you purchased..."


She took out the new wand she had gotten and cast the neutralizing spell and it was all set. Saying her goodbyes to the twins, she and Blaise left the joke shop, artifact safely secured in their grasp and on it's way to be delivered to the mysterious department.

"That was a piece of cake," Blaise commented, with a winning smile and a sort of swagger to his step like he had just saved the world. Did Kingsley really think this man would be a good fit here? Hermione highly doubted it. He was so cocky and not in the good way. Bellatrix was arrogant because she had earned the right to be so. Blaise had yet to demonstrate his skills.

"Not all our cases will be like that," Hermione responded with coolly. "Some entail saving the lives of thousands."

"And have you been on one of those cases?" he asked, and she couldn't be sure if he was mocking her by denoting she hadn't been or if he was genuinely curious.

"I've been on one where I saved hundreds of people's lives. Prevented a war even," she said with a touch of pride.

"I can't wait to do that."

She paused and pulled him aside in their walk back to the mysterious department- with the artifact captured there was no need to rush. Apparation still wasn't Hermione's favorite thing anyways. Despite it being amazing how thousands of miles could be crossed in seconds, it didn't feel great and she feared she'd never get used to the sensation.

"This isn't some opportunity for you to play hero. I don't know what you did at your old job, but this isn't a game. Lives are at stake here, and so is the world. Even your own life is in danger and it's not assured that you won't be killed on a mission."

He arched a brow at her telling him off, clearly not impressed. "I know all this. Did you think all I did was sit and look pretty at the desk while my colleagues risked their arses to capture dangerous creatures, or undo problematic magical maladies? No, I did my fair share of work. I got hurt the same as they did. I saved lives too." He let out a soft breath, his shoulders relaxing a bit. "This is serious business, I know, but I like to keep a smile on my face and a pep in my step, because sometimes we need that extra happiness to keep us going through the bad."

Hermione felt a tad bad now that she had told him off like that. There was more to him than he was letting on.

"And I know you're not thrilled about me-" Hermione opened her mouth to argue against this but he waved her words off. "Don't even try to cover it up. I'm intuitive. I can read people very well when it comes to what they are feeling. Call me an empath if you will. And I know you don't like me. Neither do Dora or Luna. And it's because I replaced your partner. She's been in the department a long time and I've seen her work. It's nothing short of impressive. I don't intend to take her place. I'm here to help you all get through this rough patch until she's back. So I would appreciate it if you'd give me a chance before jumping down my throat."

Hermione clenched her jaw. She didn't like being called out like this.

"So," Blaise hiked up a brow. "How about I buy you a beer and we get to know each other better?"

Hermione really didn't want to, but she supposed she was being unfair and bullheaded towards him. "Alright, you can buy me a beer."

"That's the spirit. Literally," he chuckled to himself at the pun and Hermione rolled her eyes as she followed him.

They went to a classy wizarding pub, full of nicely dressed customers, and one Blaise seemed to frequent a lot given he had a special handshake with the bar tender. Blaise got two butter beers for them and Hermione sipped hers calmly while he chugged nearly his whole drink down.

"So, tell me a bit about yourself," he questioned.

Hermione bit her lip, wondering how much she could tell him. Was he open minded about muggles, or did he harbor a resentment for them like most purebloods. Was he even pureblood? The whole incident left her a bit paranoid and vulnerable of her status. "You tell me first," she countered. "Kingsley told us nothing about you."

"I was going to be a gentleman and have ladies go first but I suppose I can boast about myself for a bit," he added a wink at the end and Hermione had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes again. He thought himself smooth, didn't he?

"I actually was born in the French country side, but my family moved when I was quite young, for business related reasons. We come from old money, but my father wanted to earn his own money and our trade worked better in England than in France."

"What was the trade?"

"Brooms. My father owns the biggest broom company here. They're not too big on brooms in France. I don't get way. Must be because they prefer loving to Quidditch," he joked. Hermione did not laugh, though she did try to be less harsh towards him and so offered up a half hearted smile.

"Ever since then, I've lived here my whole life, except for when I went to Durmstrang for schooling."

"Is that like Hogwarts?"

"Yes but in Russia. It gets quite cold there, but I do so love the snow. It's just dazzling." He swallowed down the rest of his drink and ordered two more despite Hermione only being halfway through hers. " And when I graduated, with high scores, I applied to the ministry. I worked in magical maladies at first, then jumped to sports injuries, then jumped to potions regulations and then I ended up in magical creatures before I got here to the mysterious department," he added in a lowered voice so no one would hear them.

"You've jumped around a lot. Any reason for that?"

He shrugged. "I just had a lot to offer, and I wanted to get as much experience as I could. Magical maladies was more like problem solving: trying to understand where an issue stemmed from and what steps to take to stop it before sending someone to do the dirty work. Sports injuries was boring. Paperwork and talking about sports at the water cooler with the boys. Potions regulations was also a bunch of paper work but at least I got to try out some of the new patented potions that were trying to be passed along. And then capturing magical creatures was where the danger and action was at. I loved it."

"So then why leave for this job?"

"How can I resist the allure of even more dangerous work that is also mysterious?" he wagged his brows. "Didn't you join for the same reason?"

She shook her head. "I was scouted out for this. It was all an accident honestly. And I'm still fairly new here." It hadn't even been a full year yet and still, Hermione felt like she had matured so much in a weird way.

Before Blaise could open up his mouth to ask more about her, there was a ruckus in the back of the place and a loud thunk as a chair fell to the floor.

"What did you just say about my mother?!" roared out one blonde haired boy loudly enough that the whole bar heard. He was currently facing off another boy, though he looked smug.

"Oh no, Malfoy," Blaise tsked, setting down his beer as he recognized the boy. He got up and ambled over to the fight, some wizards and witches watching, curious to see what would happen next. Hermione followed after Blaise.

"I said your mother is a sodding bint and your father is a spineless coward for getting arrested for being blood purists," the other boy sneered. "You're family is sick. Your purebloods are worse than the muggles you claim that are below you."

Malfoy's face churned with white hot rage as his lips peeled back from his teeth. "There was a mix up. They shouldn't be in Azkaban. And you should mind your tongue when you speak to your betters."

"Or what? You'll send your precious father on me?" the other boy mocked. "You can't. Because he's rotting behind bars like you should you bigot."

With a snarl Malfoy lunged at the dark haired boy but Blaise was putting himself in between them, pushing Malfoy back.

"Stop this Draco. Don't make a bigger arse of yourself then you already have," he hissed at him. Though they were both built the same, Blaise had two inches on Draco and also less drinks in him. Draco stumbled back, smashing into a decorative vase that shattered of it's pedestal and onto the floor.

"That's coming out of your galleons, Malfoy," shouted out the bartender from his spot, staying there and wisely not getting involved.

"I won't let him talk about my family that way. We Malfoy's deserve respect. We are old blood." Draco barely seemed to notice he had fallen. He was back on his feet, unsteady but ready to fight.

Another pureblood, it seemed, with an inflated sense of self worth.

"Old blood as in obsolete," the other boy spat back.

"Stop it, McCorick," Blaise chastised him. "You shouldn't even be out drinking, we both know the ministry will suspend you again if they find out."

McCorick's mouth shut quickly and he shifted his eyes. "It was only one beer. Please don't tell them." He said this pleadingly.

"Then go home and stop bothering Draco."

"He was being an enormous prat!" McCorick argued.

"Just go home," Blaise ordered more sternly. McCorick tsked but took his jacket and buggered off.

Draco watched him leave, with fire in his eyes.

"Alright, shows over," Hermione made shooing motions at the other customers still watching. They dispersed and Blaise was able to grab Draco by the upper arm, snag his jacket and walk him out of the bar. Hermione joined in.

Outside in the chilly air, Draco jerked himself free. "I don't need to be babied by you," he spat ungratefully at Blaise. Blaise rudely tossed the jacket at him.

"You do, you idiot. I know your parents are in Azkaban but that doesn't mean you can go and get recklessly drunk while picking fights with anyone. Get your shite together. I won't always be there to bail you out."

"You don't know how this feels," Draco spit out, crumbling his jacket up in his hands. "They...I don't know why they're there. The news says they got involved in some purist cult. I know they hated muggles but I didn't think...I didn't think..." he hiccuped about to cry it seemed. "I didn't think they hated them that much. That they would go and get involved in something so stupid. And now what am I supposed to do? My reputation is shite. I can't rebuild the family name. I work in the ministry not run my own business. I'll be ruined. Already our businesses are failing."

Blaise put his hands on Draco's shoulders. "Hey. Relax. Take a breath. Everything's going to be okay. You'll get through this one step at a time."

Draco sighed out. Unable to look his friend in the eyes. "What do you know. You still have your family."

He was defeated. An angry boy tired of hurting. He tugged on his coat and Blaise watched him with worry in his eyes.

"I'm sorry you had to see that," Blaise apologized to Hermione as Draco stumbled on ahead in the snow. "I'm going to take him home. It wouldn't be a good idea for him to apparate drunk."

"I understand. I'll see you at the office tomorrow," Hermione said and watched the two of them disappear. She wondered which of the couples she had seen at the purist cult had been Draco's parents. His blonde hair was strikingly familiar and yet she couldn't be sure.

She pushed the thought away as she hurried home.

 

Chapter Text

A month. It had been a sodding month since Hermione had seen Bellatrix. The woman, if she was even in the manor, hadn't stepped a single hair out of her room and it was frankly disconcerting for Hermione. She resolved, that she couldn't just sit here and not talk to Bellatrix about the way things had ended on that cult mission.

Things at the department hadn't been the same with Bellatrix gone. Dora was less happy than usual, her pink hair a dull color. Luna was more prone to frowning when she thought Hermione wasn't looking and Blaise...well Blaise was his annoyingly good looking and optimistic self.

He had picked up quickly on what needed to be done in the department and didn't even bat an eye at the things that happened there. He and Hermione had gone on three more cases of low caliber artifacts during the past month but other than that, things were mercifully slow.

Hermione had decided to give Bellatrix some space but enough was enough. How much longer could Bellatrix stay away from them? So without telling anyone, for they would surely try to dissuade her, Hermione went to Bellatrix's room and undid the wards on the door, letting herself in without another thought.

She found the room a dreadful state. The sheets of the bed were crumpled, clothes were all over the floor and Bellatrix was in her teddy, staring out the window. She gave no indication that she had heard Hermione come in. Hermione tentatively crossed the floor, coming in halfway so as to not spook the woman.

"Bellatrix?" she softly called out and Bellatrix's head whipped to her so fast. Her hair was in tangled knots and there were bags under her eyes, her skin more pale than usual.

Her bottom lip quivered with rage when her eyes narrowed in on Hermione. Hermione's old wound twinged in reminder of the pain that sort of look was precursor to and she flinched away. Bellatrix's eyes returned to normal when she saw the flinch, and she scowled at Hermione.

"What are you doing here?" her voice was rough from disuse.

"I was worried for you, Bellatrix. I haven't seen you in months."

"What do you care?" Bellatrix shrugged in insouciance that didn't match her.

"I care because you're my partner and because we went through something that clearly traumatized you!"

"You aren't anything to me you mud bl-" Bellatrix cut herself off there, pulling on her hair. "No, no," she bemoaned, sounding so heart broken. "I thought I was getting better. It was supposed to get better!"

"Be-"

But Bellatrix grabbed a lamp off of the night stand and threw it against the wall where it shattered. "You want to know what's wrong with me?" she hollered out at Hermione like an accusation. "I'm a purist piece of shite. That's what I've been turned into, because apparently I've always been like this right from birth!"

Hermione wasn't exactly sure what was happening to Bellatrix since Kingsley was keeping mum and Luna was of no use since she couldn't research this, so Hermione had to piece her own thoughts together with scraps of evidence. She was going off of a hunch, a hunch she hoped would help her partner.

"You're not like that. You're not a racist, Bella."

It was the first time Hermione had called her that, it sort of slipping out, and it seemed to bring an emotional shift in Bellatrix at the nickname. Her face wrinkled up like she was about to cry. Instead she started screaming. "There's a part of me that is, and will always be, a pureblood fanatic!" she insisted, breathing ragged and a dark look in her eyes.

In this moment she looked a bit like a madwoman. Hermione wanted to soothe her, even as she took a step back. She raised her hands in a placating manner. "Bellatrix- you're not like that. I know you're not. It was the ring-"

"It isn't the ring's fault, Hermione," she growled. "The ring doesn't affect muggles. Do you know why? Because the ring only affects purebloods. Only makes them do these terrible things, and it's because of what we've been raised like. We've all learned from an early age to look down on others. To hate muggles. And some of us grow out of it. Learn better. Some of us don't. But whatever the outcome is, that part of that, that instilled inbred racism exists. Try as we might, we can't stamp it out." She was beating a hand to her chest, as if trying to inflict pain upon herself for admitting this.

"That's not true!" Hermione exclaimed, getting truly worried. This mission had shaken Bellatrix badly, worse than Hermione had thought. Hermione had swore to protect her, and she had failed. This was all her fault that Bellatrix was like this. Bellatrix had saved her, but she couldn't save Bellatrix. "You aren't like how you were raised. You were friends with Tom and you've traveled the muggle world and you've saved them before. You saved me before. If you hated muggles you wouldn't give a rat's arse!"

"Then why did the ring affect me? If I've changed so much?" Bellatrix poised. "It shouldn't have. I'm not how I was before."

"You said it yourself, it only affects purebloods. Maybe it doesn't matter if you've changed. It made you act like that because you're pureblood and not because of your beliefs. It's a blood artifact, Bellatrix. It can only affect people's blood."

Bellatrix shook her head. "Don't try to make me feel better. I'm a horrid person, Hermione. You don't know the things I've done. And I never wanted to...I never wanted to do it again. To be subjected to that again." Her hands balled up into fists, shaking. She sank against the wall, weak. Scared.

Hermione came up to her, crouching in front of her. Tentatively she held out her hand and placed it on Bellatrix's shoulder.

"It's going to be alright," because Hermione knew not what else to say.

Bellatrix licked her lips, looking like she was struggling to speak. "I want to...I want to hurt you even now," Bellatrix confessed in a small scared voice as Hermione held her.

"It's the ring doing this to you. It's still influencing you. It'll go away. We'll find a way to make it go away."

"What if...it doesn't?" Bellatrix's voice was small. She was staring past Hermione, eyes unfocused. "Last time, it took me years to fix myself. I hurt so many people because of it. I don't ever want to have to do that again."

"You won't have to. The ring is safely locked up where it will never hurt you again," Hermione assured, thinking she had finally succeeded in making Bellatrix calm down.

She was wrong. Within seconds, Bellatrix was scrambling up, making Hermione get up too if only to get away from her ire.

"Because of me you killed a man!" Bellatrix shrieked out, riling herself up again.

To this, Hermione openly scoffed.

"What do you take me for? I'm no innocent, Bellatrix. I've had to kill others before for the sake of justice and safety to be carried out." She crossed her arms over her chest. "I don't enjoy it, but I have to do what needs to be done. I killed him because he had killed others and he was going to kill us and many more. Killing isn't my first solution or first option for anything. But in that moment, it was the choice that needed to be made, and you didn't cause me to take it. I chose on my own."

Bellatrix looked shaken by that revelation but she powered on.

"I promised myself I would never...never go down that path ever again. And I did. I fucking did. I almost killed you," Bellatrix's voice was an aghast whisper. She curled up into an even smaller ball. Seeing the woman like this, so vulnerable, did not sit right with Hermione.

Hermione slapped her. Hard. It made Bellatrix stunned. "Don't give up. You've been in this department longer than anyone. You've survived everything that others could not. Don't let something as stupid as a ring put you down. You can fight this. Because you are a fighter. You've fought all your life and something like this won't bring you down. Because you will fight it and you will win," Hermione told her sternly.

"But please," she continued. "Don't lock us out. We all want to help you get through this. We do."

"Even if I want to hurt you?" Bellatrix asked uncertainly.

"You won't hurt me."

"How can you trust me like that," Bellatrix was aghast.

"Because you're my partner and I trust you with my life. To always save me," Hermione gave a warm and timid smile.

Bellatrix clenched her jaw, unsure on what to do. Hermione held out a hand, urging Bellatrix to take it. The woman did after some hesitation. It must have taken her getting through whatever barriers and prejudices the ring had put on her, to do so. Which already meant Bellatrix was getting better. Her skin was cold on Hermione's warm hand. "I don't want to lose you." Hermione confessed. A gut wrenching confession. More deep than she had wanted it to be.

"I don't...I don't want to be lost either," Bellatrix admitted. She closed her eyes. "But it's so hard to fight my thoughts every day. It hurts knowing I had grown out of my old ways, and now to be back in them..."

"We'll get through this, like we always do." Hermione paused, then added. "Besides, you wouldn't want your spot to be taken away by some hot shot guy, would you?"

Bellatrix's eyes blazed determination. "He better stay away from my desk, and especially my coffee mugs!"

"Then you better get well if you want to chase him away," Hermione teased and Bellatrix gave a lopsided smile to this. It was only there for a second but Hermione was filled with hope that soon, things would be back on track.


The day after that conversation, Bellatrix showed up for dinner at the table. Dora and Hermione almost couldn't believe their eyes. It was like an apparition. Bellatrix even had fixed her hair and was wearing her old clothes. There was no way to hide the gauntness of her frame and the haunted quality of her eyes but it was so good to see her.

Dora immediately hugged her and Bellatrix stood there awkwardly before returning the hug.


Bellatrix wasn't well enough for work yet, but she did sup with them at dinner each day now, making conversation to them both consciously and even smirking a couple of times at stories they told her. Both Dora and Hermione didn't mention a peep of how Narcissa was in Azkaban. Bellatrix was recovering, and she didn't need any more worries. They would get to that in their own time.

One night she knocked on Hermione's door, looking a bit uncomfortable which was an oddity for her. She strode into each room like she owned it and like she never apologized for anything.

"Hello," she said, quite formally. "I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time?"

"Certainly," Hermione said, putting the book she had been reading away. She had just finished up her studies for her afternoon classes.

"I...wanted to talk to you about what happened. I'm certain you may have a lot of questions about me and my past connections to those purists. I'm not a...foregoing person," Bellatrix started in disclaimer as she leaned against Hermione's dresser. "But I feel I owe you this much in the least."

This was it. The opening that Hermione wanted. "Will you answer anything I ask?"

"As best I can," Bellatrix said. "Somethings it would be better for you not to know the details on."

"Right," Hermione nodded, considering her questions. "What sort of treatment do they have you on?"

"Potions. Lots and lots of potions," she said with a look of disgust. "They're supposed to numb down the effects of the artifact and keep my moods stable. But who knows if they're working. I feel like I'm just poisoning my liver. Alcohol would be so much better."

A pause as Hermione decided she would just go out with it, and go for the hard questions. "Bellatrix, were you once a blood purist?"

Bellatrix's face paled but she answered through stiff lips. "Yes."

Hermione's stomach dropped. Back in the day, Voldemort's ring did not have it's artifact properties, meaning it couldn't control others. This meant that Bellatrix had fallen for his words of her own free will.

"Why?" Hermione asked in a rough whisper.

"I grew up in a pureblood household, amongst a pureblood culture. Hatred against muggles was as overt and expected as one is expected to breathe and blink. I didn't know any better for years. My parents stamped the inclination for it into all of us. Andromeda was different of course," Bellatrix gave a wry smile here. "She didn't buy into our ideology, able to resist it by who knows what means. But Narcissa and I were different. I was the eldest daughter, so I was expected to tote and promote this sort of ideology in order to prevent shame from befalling our family. And I was...proud of my ideals," a wince as Bellatrix thought back to her old self. "I was young, and reckless, and a general problem maker. I'd always been that way. Too wild for my own good. Not challenged enough in my school work at Hogwarts. But then I met him. Voldemort. He was a man with a mission that echoed what I had been raised on for so long. And since it was my duty foremost to make the family name excel I joined his cult. He had need of me. Of my power, so he swayed me to his side. He made me feel wanted and needed because of my skills and my energy. He never told me I was too much, or that I was some terrible brat. He embraced my darker sides and my faults and it made me...admire him all the more," Bellatrix's eyes were going distant as if she was reliving all this.

"You killed for him?"

Bellatrix's chin jerked upwards. "I did," she admitted, using arrogance to cover up her feelings of shame. "I did it because I thought it was what I was meant to do. And I wanted him to be happy with my work. I wanted to please him. He became to me the father figure I never truly had. And I loved him as a father."

Loving a murdering psychopath? That was a bit much to swallow. As were all the deaths Bellatrix had caused in the past. But Hermione had sensed that in the very least; she knew Bellatrix carried some burdens on her shoulders and she was too skilled with the wand to not have been in life or death matches. That admission wasn't the most jarring.

"What about your husband?"

Bellatrix narrowed her eyes at this and Hermione a touch sheepishly responded with, "I eavesdropped on you and Rodolphus."

"Of course you did," Bellatrix said with an unhappy sigh. "He and I were married briefly. We married for power because our pureblood families set us up. But then when the dark lord decreed we were to divorce, for he did not want me to be a housewife, bearing children as was my pureblood duty, but on the field as his greatest asset, I followed through on his word and Rodolphus and I were only married on paper, before I annulled the marriage entirely years later."

Bellatrix shook her head. "I'm not making excuses for what I did, or even trying to explain it. I wanted to tell you the truth. I did, horrible things in my past. A past I tried to cover up because I don't want to remember it. I am ashamed of who I was."

"Don't be too harsh on yourself," Hermione said. "We've all made mistakes."

Bellatrix thumped her fist on the dresser, startlingly Hermione. "How can you say that! I killed dozens, possible caused the deaths of hundreds of people all for a cause I was blinded to! That is not a mistake, it's a tragedy! How can you be okay with it?"

"I'm not okay with it. But there's nothing we can do about the past, can we? Voldemort was a charismatic man. He used your weaknesses against you, molded you to be who he wanted. You've come a long way from there. You saved people. So many lives. You've even saved the world thrice over."

Bellatrix snorted and gave an ugly laugh. "And what does it matter in the end? One use of that ring and I've gone back into my old ways. Even the fact I am having this conversation with a muggle in their room is making my skin crawl. And I know it shouldn't be this way, but I can't...I bloody can't help it!"

"I already told you this once, and I'll tell you this again: we're going to get through this. You were able to change once, you can do it again."

Bellatrix closed her eyes. "Last time I was like this, it took me years to change. Granted I was stubborn and I didn't seen any point in changing because I couldn't see what was wrong. But Kingsley took me under his wing, told me I had too much talent to waste on going to prison and he opened my eyes to this world. He made me realize that muggles were amazing inventors and deserved my respect. But I don't know...I don't know how long it will take again to do that. I don't want to have to go through it all again especially because now I have an idea of who wrong this all is and it's tearing me apart on the inside."

Hermione really felt for her partner's struggles but she felt useless to do anything more. This was an internal battle, one Hermione could support Bellatrix through but short of a miracle, it would be a struggle for many years to come.

"At least you don't want to kill me anymore," Hermione weakly joked, trying to ease the tension. "That has to be a start."

Bellatrix opened her eyes. "Speaking of killing, I never formally apologized to you for...hurting you. I'm not the gifting type, so let me know what you would like and I will buy it for you."

"It's alright you needn't-"

"My honor is at stake here, Hermione. Blacks have to uphold their reputation. We can't afford to be in debt to anyone. It's not the way we work."

"Oh, alright then. If you impose," Hermione said, not quite knowing what to ask for. She didn't want for anything. Except maybe an evening to get to know Bellatrix better.

"Dinner."

"Dinner?" Bellatrix blinked like Hermione was daft.

"Yes, in a nice muggle place. We just both need something to ease us from the past events." Hermione still felt bad about letting Bellatrix down but the woman had waved it all off. She did not put any blame on Hermione, but on herself.

"I knew what was going to happen. So don't be so hard on yourself. I knew and I went in and yet I still dared to hope all would work out in my favor," Bellatrix had shook her head when Hermione had brought it up after dinner several times, making sure Dora was out of earshot.

That didn't mean Hermione wasn't going to make it up to Bellatrix by being the best partner she could be.

"It is dinner then," Bellatrix said, still at odds with the idea. "Do I pick the place or...?"

"I'll send you the information. And we can pick a day mutually."

"Good night," Bellatrix said as she left, closing the door on Hermione's soft good night in response.

 

Chapter Text

"Relax, they're not going to do anything to you," Hermione assured when she saw Bellatrix glaring out of the corner of her eye at some muggles next to their table in the restaurant.

Bellatrix grumbled at being caught. "I know that. It's just-"

Hermione put her hand on Bellatrix's fist, stilling the woman and cutting off her words. She was purposefully trying to touch Bellatrix at least once a day so that Bellatrix would get used to not being annoyed by muggle touch. It was an ongoing process. "I know you're still overcoming the effects of the ring. It's fine."

"It isn't," Bellatrix said tersely.

"It is. It's only been two months. You can't expect monumental progress in that amount of time. You're already making big steps by coming to a muggle restaurant with me. You need to be more positive and less harsh on yourself."

Bellatrix's body eased up a bit as she pulled her hand away. "Fine," she pouted, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'll be nicer to myself."

Bellatrix had made large improvements already in the two months since the purist ring cult shut down and Hermione was proud of her. The woman wouldn't hide in her room anymore, unless it was time for a therapy session with a ministry sent healer. And she spoke to Dora and Hermione both, in that normal grumpy tone of hers.

She went out about town, shopping and just getting lunch publicly. And now, here she was in the heart of muggle London, eating dinner with a muggle born and surrounded by muggles. It was a shame really, this had all happened, but Hermione thought that if Bellatrix didn't truly want to be her old pureblood self it was testament to how she would never have been like that if she had grown up in a more understanding and open house.

Perhaps there would be hope for Narcissa too.

Dinner was a normal affair. Bellatrix only snapped once at the waiter but she and Hermione were able to have a normal conversation. Hermione relished that. There was still so much she didn't know about Bellatrix and if the woman was being in a more truthful mood, then why not use it.

"Tell me about your sister Andromeda."

That nearly caused Bellatrix to choke on her water. "Why do you ask?"

"You said she was different from you all. And you've never mentioned having another sister. So I was curious."

"She's estranged from the family is why. Disowned." Bellatrix admitted bitterly, setting her glass down and rubbing her finger around the rim.

"How come?"

"She eloped with a muggle born man. My family couldn't stand for such a disgrace so she was erased from ever existing."

"That's horrid!"

"That's purebloods for you," was the caustic response.

"And nobody does anything against this discrimination?"

"No. Because purebloods fund politics and government programs. Fund even society, so no one can stand up against them or else there won't be anything for anyone else."

"This whole wizarding world is so archaic. It could do with a systematic change."

"So could your world," Bellatrix countered. "I actually did some studies there thanks to Kingsley's interventions and there are as many problems there as there are in our society. The only difference is we all know about it and don't try to hide it, whereas your kind does, in implicit ways."

It almost sounded like Bellatrix might have gone to college in the muggle world. Now that was a story. Hermione couldn't imagine Bellatrix doing keg stands or twerking to hip hop. She was too prim for that.

"That is true, but we have movements to change things."

"Movements are grand and all but they're mostly for décor. Change in society is slow because they'll always be oppositional forces trying to stop progress from happening."

They continued on this vein of conversation until it was time for dessert. Bellatrix didn't order one for herself, stating she only enjoyed bitter things. But she did still snag a piece when she didn't think Hermione was looking.

They left dinner, full and ready to go home for it was quiet late now.

They decided to walk back to the wizarding part of London, if only because it would force Bellatrix to mingle among the muggles more and use more muggle means of walking to sympathize with them. Another thing was, they had to hold hands.

Bellatrix wasn't a hand holding type. Hermione was, but she was embarrassed by it. She didn't know why because it shouldn't be a big deal. But it was, a big deal.

So, Hermione flushed slightly in the face, and Bellatrix trying to ignore what her right hand was doing with Hermione's left hand, walked down the streets. It was something the healer had recommended them doing because it would help with Bellatrix's progress.

"Thank you. Dinner was nice," Hermione commented so that the awkwardness of this could go away.

"You wanted a dinner, so you got it," Bellatrix said brusquely no doubt because she was feeling a bit vulnerable at expressing outward affection right now and was trying to cover it up.

"We should do it another time when we get some days off from work."

Bellatrix said, "Oh, you just want me spending more money on you, don't you."

Hermione teased back. "You bragged about having so much money that you didn't care about it. Suddenly feeling frugal?"

But before Bellatrix could respond, her face went dark as she saw something ahead of them. "Move!" she told Hermione, pushing her to the right and into some snow bank while she jumped to the left. Not a second too soon for a bolt of magic zapped where they had been standing a second ago, turning it into a pile of goo.

"Bellatrix Black!" screeched out a voice and both women turned to see who it was.

It was Rookwood from the party. Apparently he had not gotten caught by the ministry. Either that or he had escaped from prison. "You ruined everything for us! You traitorous cow!"

"Oh, looks like someone is upset," she almost sang, a gleam to her eyes. It had been far too long since she'd dueled and she wasn't about to miss this chance. She slid her wand out and took a chance. The streets had cleared when the muggles saw the strange man yelling at the woman.

"Hermione," she ordered, blocking another blow from him. "Secure the area. Make sure the muggles don't report this."

"But-"

"You don't need to help me," Bellatrix promised. "I've dying to get my hands on this pureblood arseholes so I could work out so my own issues."

Hermione was worried Bellatrix would get hurt but she knew her partner needed this. In some way, her hurting another pureblood who was a purist, would be healing in a way, proof in a way she wasn't like them.

Hermione rushed off to secure the area and hunt down any muggles that might have seen something. She oblivated as many as she could, mindful that there were no street cameras to record her.

When she came back, Rookwood was a bloodied and bruised mess under Bellatrix's booted heel. She ground it into his cheek, half his mustache gone. He was whimpering pitifully but glaring at her with hatred in his eyes. "I contacted the ministry. They'll be pleased to see this one."

"Are you alright?" Hermione inquired when she noted the blood trickling down from Bellatrix's temple. "Oh, this?" Bellatrix asked, touching the blood with her fingertips. "A piece of rubble got me from a blast radius. He didn't get a single spell in on me." She looked alive, unlike the shell of herself she had been for the past couple of days.

"I wouldn't have expected any less from you," Hermione grinned.


They got home a bit later than anticipated, only to find they had a guest. It was that blonde haired boy Draco which Hermione had seen get into a drunken altercation. What was he doing here?

Dora was entertaining him in the parlor with some hot tea, but as soon as he saw Bellatrix he stood up so quickly he nearly spilled it.

"Auntie Bella!" he exclaimed, a look of partial desperation on his face.

Was Bellatrix his aunt? Were all damned purebloods related?

"Draco, what's wrong?" Bellatrix asked, concern for her nephew clear on her face.

"It's my mother and father. They've been in Azkaban for months now and I don't know to who to turn-"

"What!" Bellatrix shrilled out and turned to Hermione accusingly. "You didn't tell me my own family was in Azkaban?!"

Hermione raised her hands in a placating manner. "It was mutually decided not to tell you to spare you during your healing."

Now Bellatrix looked accusingly at Dora. "You were in on this too?"

Dora gave an apologetic nod of confirmation.

"Screw my healing!" Bellatrix raised her hands up high. "Narcissa is my sister! My family. Why the hell is she even in Azkaban?"

Nobody wanted to say anything to this, Hermione biting her lip and turning away. Dora busied herself with the tea. It was Draco who explained. "They've been framed for being caught up in some purist cult. But I know it's not true. They wouldn't do that-" he pleaded with his aunt, as if trying to convince her too.

Bellatrix whirled in on Hermione again. "What aren't you telling me?" she demanded.

"Bellatrix I didn't intend to keep this from you, but you were sick and hurt and if I told you it could have made things worse."

"My suffering is nothing compared to what they do to people in Azkaban, especially those suspected of supporting dark lords!" she shrilled out, nostrils flaring with ire. "They break your soul. Do you have any idea what it feels for your soul to be broken?" she rounded on Hermione. But Hermione wasn't going to back down. She wasn't going to let Bellatrix bully her for caring for her.

"I don't," she said resolutely.

"I do," Bellatrix admitted. "Dementors feed on your happiness each and every day, sucking what little joy you have out of your body. They leave you an empty husk of a person unsure to even what day it is. If you don't die first from lack of nutrition and happiness, then you go mad. Your mind rotting inside you. No soul means not feeling anything. Being cold. Being numb. Wanting to make others hurt just so they know a sliver of what was done to you." Her words were deadly cold now. "My struggles with the ring are nothing to what they could be doing to her. She's my family, no matter how fucked up things are."

"Then why are people sent there. It sounds horrible," Hermione gasped, upset that that was where the people from the purist cult had gone. Where Bellatrix had gone for who knows how long. If she had suffered, had the joy leeched out of her, then it explained why she was always so melancholic. Always so sharp and ready to bite into others.

"Just tell me why she's there."

"She was at the purist cult. I saw her and Lucius both there," Hermione averted her eyes, ashamed to admit this.

The sound of a clock smashing as Bellatrix grabbed it off the mantle and threw it against the wall where it shattered, started all of them. "Merlin damn it! I told that sodding woman to never get involved in such idiocies again! She got away from getting the sentence last time, and her stupid arse had to try her luck again!"

She grabbed some floo powder off the fireplace. "Draco, come with me."

The boy followed the order and his aunt into the fireplace and then they were both gone.

Dora magicked the broken pieces of the clock together. "Don't blame yourself. You did the right thing not telling her because this was going to be her reaction in any scenario."

"She doesn't think it was the right thing to do," Hermione mumbled out, feeling dejected.

Dora didn't have anything else to say to that.


Hermione tried apologizing to Bellatrix about what happened, but Bellatrix wouldn't hear the end of it. She was barely home anyways, setting up some arrangement to help her sister. And at the end of the week, who should arrive by fireplace but Lucius and Narcissa. Both looked gaunt and flinched whenever someone spoke too loudly or something made a loud noise.

"They're going to be staying with us for a while," Bellatrix explained to Dora, Draco and Hermione. "Kingsley, on the promise that I would take care of them and allow them to be reformed, said they would be freed. Since their estates were taken by the ministry, they'll need some time to get back on their feet."

"We're staying here? With the mud blood?" Lucius asked as his eyes seemed to find focus on Hermione. Before Hermione could even react, Bellatrix had slapped Lucius open handed across the face. "You will not speak to her like that as long as you are under my roof, eating my food. Or you can go straight back to Azkaban!" she hissed behind gritted teeth.

Lucius cradled his hurt cheek, getting the message, while Narcissa glared at Bellatrix. "Don't be uncouth."

"I can act however I please to you," Bellatrix growled, clearly upset with her sister. "You ruined Draco's future and very nearly his family, all for what? Some old prejudices?"

"You speak as if you are a mud- muggle lover," Narcissa quickly corrected herself, disgust outlined on every last line of her face. "You're supposed to be the forefront of this family, Bellatrix. Doing us pride by-"

"As forefront of this family, I've decided that we won't be doing such things anymore."

A loud gasp from Narcissa, like she had been stabbed. But she knew better than to argue. She had been rescued from a horrible place and she wasn't stupid enough to spit on her sister's help.

"Ginger will take you to your things," Bellatrix commented harshly and dismissively when she saw with satisfaction that her sister would not be arguing back with her.

Ginger popped up at that, leading the Malfoy's to go to their rooms. Draco stayed behind, smiling at his aunt. "Thank you so much for helping me, Auntie Bella. Truly."

"Family sticks together, Draco," she murmured, soft affection on her face for him. He seemed to be the only exception to her no showing emotion rule.


The Malfoy's for the most part, seemed to avoid Hermione whenever they could. The one time they couldn't was at dinner, when they all had to sup together. Draco would stop by for dinner, because it seemed the poor thing didn't know how to cook without a house elf at his disposal.

There, it was clear they disliked Hermione but they tried to be courteous to her. Talking to her in snatches, listening to what she had to say. If they showed even a hint of disdain, Bellatrix roughly cleared her throat and they fixed their attitudes.

It even seemed like they didn't like Dora all that much and the reason for it became clear when Dora explained who her mother was. "It's Andromeda. But she got erased from the family tree. They're not allowed to talk to her or get in touch with her according to family tradition."

"That's stupid. You're here; why can't they talk to her."

"Because I didn't ask to be born, so the curse doesn't affect me. And it's not like Bella doesn't want to talk to Andromeda, especially since auntie has a changed demeanor on muggles. They literally cannot talk to each other. I have to be their go between."

Hermione brow furrowed in confusion at this. "What do you mean?"

"When she was cast from the tree, mum was then affected by ancient magic that has been around for centuries and long forgotten to us in how to control it. Mum is physically unable to inherit any of the fortunes or talk to us unless she is put in terrible pain."

"That's awful!"

"Auntie has been researching it so she can fix it but she hasn't found anything good yet. It sort of makes me think this is the reason why she's in the mysterious department. So that she can find an artifact to reverse this."

For her sake, Hermione hoped she would. It was a terrible thing to be cut off from family simply because of who one chose to love.

But such were the ways of pureblood it seemed.

With the arrival of Bellatrix family, the woman forgave Hermione and Dora for not telling her about the incident and things went back to normal, or as normal as they could be for them.

Hermione continued taking night classes in order to learn more about the wizarding world. She worked with Blaise on cases, coming to tolerate his company. And then four months after the blood purist cult take down, Bellatrix was finally reinstated on the team.

And just in time, for more troubles were about to unravel.

Chapter Text

After this case, Hermione noticed a change in how Bellatrix treated her. It was more like they were equals. No longer did she snort or roll her eyes in derision of what Hermione offered to do on the cases. She instead respected her, let her do the work on the cases, and even fight the battles there. Finally, Bellatrix was letting Hermione properly do her job.

It must have been because Hermione had saved Bellatrix's ass at that pureblood case. Hermione was sorry Bellatrix had to go through it but she wasn't sorry that they were now on equal footing because of it.

The same couldn't be said for Bellatrix and Blaise. The woman seemed to hate him- which to be fair, Hermione had been annoyed with him at first, but he was helpful and not half as cocky as he looked- and despite his best efforts to charm the pants off of Bellatrix, she literally charmed his off of him. It was a routine each day. He'd come in, with a grin and greeting for everyone, and when he'd approach her for it, she'd wave her wand lazily and make his pants drop.

It didn't stop being funny any of the times it happened, and even when he thought he'd outsmarted her by using a sticking charm to stick his pants to his bottoms, she'd find some other way to annoy him. She'd make his shirt fly off, or his shoes quack each time he walked, or even make his chair turn into a squealing pig right under him.

Hermione felt bad for Blaise but she couldn't stop laughing the whole time. And though it was clear he was annoyed, he didn't stop trying to be friendly to Bellatrix. Which definitely did not score points with him in any way with the acerbic older woman. But while it was amusing in the office to see Bellatrix and Blaise bantering, on the field, it could be quite annoying. Especially if they were trying to find the damned artifact before it destroyed one thing or another.

"Could the two of you shut up and concentrate!" Hermione hissed, at a wit's end by their childish behavior.

"I would if someone here hadn't turned my shoes into beavers!" Blaise cried out in frustration as the furry animals ran around his socked feet.

"It's not a hard spell to reverse," Bellatrix rolled her eyes at him.

"Bellatrix and Blaise will the two of you cut it out! We have a case to solve, if either of you bloody noticed!" Hermione chided angrily from where she was crouched behind a car, Bellatrix and Blaise next to her. Not far from them, at the end of the block ran around several cartoonish looking monsters. Monsters that looked like they'd been scribbled into creation by some child.

Currently they were smashing things apart left and right.

Bellatrix looked at the scene with insouciance. "Those aren't even a real threat. Don't lose your head over it."

"Then if it's not a bloody big deal, help me fix it!" Hermione exclaimed too loudly, drawing the attention of the drawn monsters towards them on the otherwise, smartly vacated street. With unearthly screams they launched forwards. Hermione fumbled with her wand, cursing under her breath because she was a quick draw with the gun, not with the wand. It still felt a tad bit unnatural in high strung situations.

She zapped one of the beasts with a quick bombarda and it screeched terribly but did not dissolve, merely smoking. "Huh, is that not supposed to work?" she questioned.

Bellatrix grabbed Hermione by the back of her collar and yanked her into a new position. Blaise followed after in his socked feet. Bellatrix magicked a house's door open and they rushed in, interrupting a family who had been hiding inside. "Hi," Hermione awkwardly waved at them as they stumbled by.

"Where's your child," Bellatrix barked at them as a tremendous crash came at the front of the house. The monsters were trying to force their way in. "Blaise, go guard the door," she threw off hand at him.

His face blanched. "But spells won't hurt them. What is the point?"

"The point is you hold them back by becoming bait while we neutralize the artifact," Bellatrix ordered. He huffed, clearly not happy at this, but he knew he had to buy them time. He rushed off to fortify the door and front of the house with some spells to prevent the beasts from coming in.

"Bellatrix, how is a child going to help us-" Hermione started only to be cut off.

"It's in the notes Luna sent us."

"I didn't get to read them because you hogged all of them!" Hermione protested.

"Um, excuse me, but who are you two?" asked the woman who must be the mother.

"We're here to get rid of those monsters for you. And your child has something to do with them," Bellatrix said. "I would appreciate if I could talk to them."

"My son couldn't do something like this-"

"And just like that I've lost patience for this conversation," Bellatrix shouldered past, running up the stairs.

"Hey, you stay away from my child!" the father roared out protectively. He rushed after Bellatrix's form. Hermione couldn't let him get in the way so she cast a quick jelly leg jinks on him. He went crashing down into the ground just as a groaning sound came from out front followed by Blaise cursing.

They were running out of time.

The mother ran over to check on her husband, allowing Hermione to step over them and go upstairs to aid Bellatrix. The dark haired witch had already blown down the door to the child's bedroom and found him hiding under the bed. "Where is the book!" she screamed at them, frantically tossing all the books off his shelf.

She was scaring the poor child. Hermione knelt down in front of him, finding he had been crying. "I didn't mean to do it," he whispered in a tear filled voice. "I only wanted to have them fight my bullies for me."

"It's okay. You're not in trouble," Hermione assured. "We're here to stop them. We just need you to give us the book."

"But the book made this all happen. It's bad," he stressed.

"We're going to destroy it. Can you show us where it is? And then this can all be over," Hermione implored the child, trying to remain calm even as impatience burned in her veins. The child nodded his head in agreement and reached under his shirt where he had hid the book. "I didn't want it to hurt anyone else. I tried erasing the things I drew from the book but they wouldn't erase and I didn't know how to stop it."

"I can erase them for you," Hermione said, taking the book.

"Good, you've got it," Bellatrix commented, stopping in her rampaging of looking for the book. It was a plain little black thing, leather bound. It didn't look powerful in the least. Hermione took out her wand and completed the neutralizing spell. The book shone purple for a bit and then stopped. And not a moment too soon, the mother coming up the stairs holding a knife in her hands in order to protect her son. But it wasn't needed.

"Mom!" the boy ran and hugged her. "They said they would stop the monsters."

"Did they-" before the woman could even complete her sentence, Bellatrix had oblivated her and the boy in one go. Hermione tsked, because she still didn't like the memory erasing part even if she knew it was vital. She pocketed the book while the woman and son blinked blankly. "Why am I holding a knife? And who are you?" she asked the two women.

"Exterminators," Bellatrix breezily answered. "You had a bit of a pest problem." And then she walked off, humming as she went to oblivate the father and then deal with the rest of the town. Hermione followed after her.

They went downstairs and saw that Blaise was coming back. He was a bit sweaty, no doubt from having to hold back the drawn monsters. "You sure took your sweet time," he grumbled.

"Wouldn't feel that way if you knew how to actually use your wand," Bellatrix retorted, clearing the father and undoing the jelly leg jinx before going through the door.

"I know how to use my wand. Both of them," he assured with a flirty wink, directed at Hermione. The brunette flushed as his brazen behavior.

Bellatrix made a noise of disbelief and disgust. "Keep it in your pants."


"You and Bellatrix are going to babysit the department while Dora and I go get a missing part for it."

"I'm what?" Hermione blinked as she watched Luna carefully shelve the book between two spines of other books. "Babysitting the department?"

"Yes," Luna nodded her head. "The department is in need of magical repairs but sole magic can't fix it. We need to get parts for it. Thus, you and Bellatrix are going to look after things for us while we're gone. Shelve some things, dust some dust. Make sure everything is alright."

"Why can't Steve do it?"

"He's away on vampiric business. And Blaise can't do it either because Kingsley is meeting with him today. So, it's up to you two."

"Well..." Hermione didn't mind but she wasn't sure how Bellatrix would feel about dusting old artifacts. "Sure, I guess."

"I left you a manual on things you should do and shouldn't do," Luna continued. "It's only a thousand pages long so you shouldn't have too much trouble getting through it."

"Only a thousand!?" Hermione choked out.

Luna didn't see the problem with it. She had a merry smile on her face. "Perfect. I can trust that everything will be fine in your hands. Dora and I shouldn't be out long."


"This blows," Bellatrix grumbled out, her teenage like vernacular throwing Hermione off a bit.

"It's not that bad," Hermione stated as she shelved an artifact. Bellatrix was milling around by her, grumpy and of no use.

"I should be out on the field, fighting, instead of being stuck here putting dusty things on even dustier shelves."

"They wouldn't be dusty if you started dusting them off," Hermione pointed out, a bit sharply because she was in no mood to deal with a whiny Bellatrix.

But it was true. The whole place could use a good dusting off. "Do you know any spells to clean this place up more quickly?" Hermione asked she stepped off the ladder, wiping her grimy hands on her robes.

"A few. I'll teach them to you," Bellatrix offered.

"Or, you could use them to help me instead of just teaching them to me," Hermione said. Bellatrix rolled her eyes at this.

"I never agreed to this," Bellatrix replied.

"It's part of your job."

"My job is to be on the field. Not held indoors."

Hermione was getting fed up with all the whining. "if you're just going to bitch and moan then leave me alone. That way I can get actually work done."

This must have been the outing Bellatrix was looking for. "I'll be in the training room." As Bellatrix brushed by, she nudged a heavy cloak of sorts that dropped to the floor and released a huge cloud of dust. Hermione took one inhale of it, and sneezed loudly and hard. So hard she bumped into a shelf behind her, accidentally triggering one of the artifacts. The lantern tipped over and opened up, and with little shrieks of delight, a bunch of small winged creatures flew out. They buzzed around Hermione's head once and then were gone.

Bellatrix, who had not yet left, sent a glare Hermione's way. "You just let the pixies out!"

"It wasn't my fault. You made the cloak fall and all this dust-"

"We don't have time for your excuses, we need to go collect them and now. Those things are vicious and mischievous. There's no telling what kind of trouble they'll cook up," Bellatrix said hurriedly. That did not sound promising. Hermione pulled out her own wand and followed Bellatrix, the woman booking it down the aisles, looking up for them. But the pixies were small and hard to find. Hermione considered using the tracking spell, but realized it wouldn't be of much use considering the fact that this room was filled with artifacts and it would likely confuse the spell.

They eventually slowed down and took three left turns and then a right, Hermione not daring to speak in this tense situation.

"Oh no!" Hermione gasped out when the two of them walked down another aisle. There was a singular dodge ball bouncing up and down ominously like it had been waiting on them. "I swear that was put away."

"Damned pixies. They're undoing all the work you just did! Of course they would. We can't let them keep getting their hands on all the artifacts you put up today," Bellatrix growled out, brandishing her wand. She cast a quick spell at the ball before it dropped and stopped bouncing on it's own. Hermione let out a sigh of relief. She didn't want to say anything, but the sound of the rubber smacking off the floor reminded her all too much of how during elementary school games, she'd be picked on and pelted with those balls.

Bad memories.

Overheard came a tittering sound and when Hermione looked up, all she managed to see was a large heavy net being thrown over them. She let out a gasp as the net fell on her and immediately began to ravel inwards, drawing her and Bellatrix closer together.

"Those slimy bastards!" Bellatrix complained as she was pushed into Hermione, the net cutting into their skin now. They were nose to nose and Hermione was mildly torn on being flustered at how close she was to Bellatrix or panicking on how this net was probably going to strangle them to death.

With the tight angle of this all, Bellatrix had trouble extending her arm and doing the wand motions for the spell. She tried it three times, only to get sparks. "Shite!" she cursed out, shooting a look at Hermione. The brunette's arm was in a better position to cast the spell. "Well, don't just stand there, do something!"

Hermione shook to action, trying to draw back a little because their faces were so close to each other now that when they talked their lips almost brushed. Hermione swallowed dryly and almost stuttering, uttered the spell. Immediately the net slackened and Bellatrix jumped back. Hermione was left gasping for air, still feeling the pain of where the rope had cut through cloth and into her skin. Her heart was pounding in her chest from that experience and from being so close to her partner. It hadn't been an appropriate moment or time to be acting so weird about it, but Hermione couldn't stop thinking about how close they had been.

"I'm going to kill those bloody pixies!" Bellatrix swore and then raced off in the direction of a loud crash. This could not be good. Hermione was meant to look over the warehouse and here it was, being destroyed. Luna would never trust her again.

Which was why she had to clean up this mess as quickly as possible, and with less involvement from Bellatrix. Something told her the woman would only cause more messes to occur. "Bellatrix!" she called out when she saw that Bellatrix had knocked down some paint cans onto the floor. Not just any paint cans. These were shaking, looking like they were about to explode like grenades.

And there was Bellatrix, zapping at the pixies swarming her head. She was getting dangerously close to a huge bust of some roman emperor. "Great," Hermione mumbled under her breath. Maybe she really should have read the manual.


As soon as Luna came back into the department, she asked, "okay, what happened here?" hands on her hips.

Hermione and Bellatrix, who were both sitting at their desks, affecting nonchalance, looked at her. A silent three way stare off commenced. Dora did not know what to make of it.

"It was her fault," Bellatrix pointed at Hermione.

"You snitch!" Hermione gasped out, mad at her partner for giving her up so easily.

Chapter Text

It was roughly, almost two years since Hermione had joined the force. And her life had changed so much. She had access to a whole new world at her fingertips, one that came with wonder but also horror and troubles due to her job as an artifact hunter. And yet, she loved it. She knew the dangers, she knew the stakes at risk, but she had finally met people who cared for her. Who treated her as an equal, and not as an annoying know it all.

Dora was her close friend, practically like a sister to her. Luna was her friend too, but the one that was slightly odd yet everyone respected. Ron and Ginny were also great pals, and through hanging out with Ron, she got to know the famous Harry Potter a bit better too.

She even made progress with Bellatrix, the two of them on equal footing ever since the pureblood case. Bellatrix respected Hermione more and saw her as capable of taking care of herself. Bellatrix no longer tried to keep her away from the danger by trying to bench her or trick her away, but she did still keep a wary eye on her, while Hermione protected Bellatrix's back as well.

There had been fun moments and then there had been less fun ones, in which the every heavy threat of Apophis hung over their heads, as did the issue of Bellatrix trying to seek revenge against others for Tom, her old partner's death. But all in all, Hermione couldn't ever imagine going back to how she had used to live life. It was just impossible to do so.

There was so much to do, to explore, and Hermione enjoyed being kept on her toes. She was so busy, that she sometimes didn't have time for a quieter moment in life, like being able to go out with Ron and just enjoy a nice meal. Or, even realizing that it was a date until it was too late.

"What is up with all this décor?" Hermione had asked when she strode into her office on Friday. There were hearts floating in the air and sappy music playing from the walls. Dora was going around, setting things up with her wand. When she saw Hermione, coming in with her leather briefcase and in her suit and pants with the wizarding robes overlaying them, she turned to her and sprinkled heart confetti all over Hermione's neat outfit. "Tomorrow's the day of love. Thought I'd help celebrate it with you all."

"So, witches and wizards don't celebrate thanksgiving, or Christmas, but you celebrate valentine's day?" Hermione questioned, using her wand to get rid of the sickening sprinkles. She never was one for this day, namely because she never had a sweetheart to share it with. So each year, she sort of stamped it out from her memories and she's quite surprised each time it comes around.

"Those two holidays are not from our culture. Winter solstice is the closest we get to a winter time celebration. But Valentine used to be a wizard and he made love potions by trade, which helped those who needed some extra lovin'," Dora winked at the saucy implication.

"Isn't that illegal?" Hermione asked as she sat down at her desk. There was a dancing heart animated on it, and she would have crushed it if she knew it wouldn't hurt Dora's feelings. But Hermione really didn't like this holiday.

"It is now. But not back in the day. So," Dora leaned in on Hermione's desk. "What are you doing tomorrow?"

"I'm hanging out with Ron."

"You have a date!" Dora exclaimed gleefully. "Tell me all about it! Did he ask you out, or did you?"

"It's not a date-" Hermione blinked. Oh shite. How had she not noticed this before. "Oh no." She moaned out, refraining from slapping herself in the face. "I don't want him to get the wrong idea. How do I tell him it's not a date!" she exclaimed with mild panic and turning to Dora who frowned.

"What do you mean it's not a date?"

"He asked me about hanging out tomorrow and I said yes because I haven't had a chance to with him in a long time, and I didn't realize until now what tomorrow was!" His more timid state and the way he shyly looked at her when he'd asked made more sense. He had been asking her out! She didn't want to presume and think that he liked her, but what else could a date on this mean?

Shite. She didn't want to lead him on. Because she liked him as a friend but nothing more.

"Oh," Dora said in understanding. "Well, I don't know-"

Loud cursing came from the hallway as Bellatrix was undoubtedly attacked by some of the mechanical cupids Dora had put up. "Who put these accursed things up?" she screamed and Dora winced. "I should probably get that." She ran off to stop her aunt before she destroyed anything.


It was with a feeling of dread that Hermione went to her date with Ron. She kept trying to think of excuses to skip out on it, relating to work, but she always stopped herself from doing so, thinking that it would be rude to do that to him. So she would have to grin and bear it, and tell him afterwards that this didn't mean anything.

She didn't want to dress too over the top but also not too casually, so she settled on a sweater under shirt combo that made her look smart. When she got to the cafe they were supposed to meet at, she was distinctly uncomfortable with all the confetti and valentine's day imagery floating around. The cafe was packed, because apparently it was a popular place to go to for this holiday.

Hermione found Ron waiting for her at the table, dressed up in a suit and bowtie.

This was definitely meant to be a date. She winced internally but sat down in front of him, plastering on a fake smile. "Hi."

"I'm so happy you could make it."

"Well, we haven't seen each other in a while, so I figured why not." She hoped that was neutral enough of a response. They small talked for a bit, before Ron ordered for them, insisting that he pay for the meals. They were about halfway through them, having to talk loudly over the chatter of the other patrons, when someone barged right through the small tables to theirs and called out Hermione's name.

"Hermione, get your things, we need to leave," Bellatrix ordered, the sleek black trench coat she had over her shoulders swirling around dramatically as she announced this.

Hermione was so startled she almost dropped her tea cup. "Why, what happened?"

"Just get your things. We must make haste, and now," Bellatrix's tone brokered no more discussion.

Hermione scrambled to get her things, shooting Ron an apologetic look. "So sorry- but work. I gotta go."

Ron just watched wide eyed as Hermione had to rush out, though she was grateful she had an out for the date.

As soon as they went outside the cafe, Bellatrix didn't even let Hermione pull her coat on properly before they apparated away. Hermione would never get over the sensation of this and she dropped to her knees when Bellatrix landed them away.

"What's going on?" she asked, panting as she recovered and got to her feet.

"An artifact set off our globe alarm. We need to find it."

"What kind of artifact."

Bellatrix scowled deeply. "The worst kind. A love artifact."

Ah, seemed like Bellatrix wasn't a fan of love at all. Shouldn't be a surprise.

"What's it do?" Hermione asked as she followed Bellatrix in the cobblestone town that looked like it could be in Sweden; the two taking some dark alleys to get to where they were needed.

She didn't have to wait long for an answer, because she could hear screaming coming from the town square.

"That," Bellatrix responded and pointed to the sky where a Cupid with bows and arrows was hovering on baby angel wings and shooting down at the crowd, piercing them with his arrows. The people who were hit didn't seem hurt, but instead became love crazed and threw themselves at the nearest person next to them.

Whatever festival had been going on around here was now breaking up.

"Muggles found an old object, thought to use it as a decoration for the festival, without knowing it was an artifact that when activated would use it's magic to indiscriminately target anyone and make them fall in love."

Hermione's mind was already analyzing the situation. "We'll need to calm down the humans and oblivate them. We can't have this be on the news. And then we'll need to target the Cupid and shoot it down."

But the thing moved fast, flittering about almost like a humming bird.

"As easy as cake," Bellatrix said, at ease on the field like this. She tossed Hermione something from within the deep reaches of her coat pocket. It looked like a light bulb, converted to hold a liquid inside that looked like a mini storm, with gray howling winds and lighting flashes.

"What's this?"

"It'll cause a storm that will wash away any human recollection of the event. We'll be okay because we're immune to it's affects. But I want you to use it. I'll take down the Cupid."

Hermione nodded her head and they were off, separating ways.

"Oi, baby face!" Bellatrix hollered at the Cupid. It was a baby doll wearing a diaper and wielding a bow and arrows but it's teeth were sharp and it's eyes shone red. It grinned maliciously at having a new target. "Down here. Come and get me!" the darker haired witch taunted and then began to sling her wand against his barrage of arrows.

Hermione got a bit out of the way, opening up the light bulb and watching as the liquid came up, swirling up and into the atmosphere. Immediately the sky darkened and thunder rolled in the distance as rain began to fall, causing a cool low mist to arise.

The panicked people stopped shoving their way out, instead walking out slowly, faces blank. Crushed fruits and foods and other objects that lay under foot were drenched in rain, some washing away. Hermione stared into the sky, watching bolts of blue and red illuminate the sky as Bellatrix battled the Cupid. It wasn't long before Bellatrix had him knocked down from the sky and cast the spell on it to neutralize it for now.

Hermione approached her, shivering a bit because she was drenched. So was Bellatrix, her curls plastered to her skin. She picked the object up, and this close, Hermione could see it was a statue, painted and made of light material. Bellatrix put it into her magically expanded pocket.

"We've got the artifact, and once we bring it back and Luna neutralizes it properly, then we should be able to see the effects of the love arrows on the people stop working."

"Who knew love could be so dangerous," Hermione said with a small laugh.

Bellatrix pulled a long face. "Oh, it's downright terrible. The things these arrows do to others. It keeps escalating until the person who is affected ends up killing their beloved, or whoever it was their eyes first set on when they were pierced by the arrow."

Hermione swallowed deeply. "Why can't there ever be a nice artifact?"

"Because the world is not a kind place. We both know that," Bellatrix answered simply. They turned to leave when Bellatrix scowled and picked up the foot she had just put down. She hadn't noticed it before but she'd stepped on a broken arrow head, pointing up and partially covered by rubble.

"Stupid arrow," she grumbled, setting her foot down where it was safer, and the two of them walked off, to deliver their item to Luna.


The office was busy for a Saturday that was a holiday. Though that might have to do with how suddenly there was a pool in the lobby where their desks usually were, those aforementioned desks pushed against the walls.

"Um," Hermione said when greeted with the sight, because sometimes she still couldn't get over the oddity of this department.

"Luna!" Bellatrix called out and from the glimmering blue pool, a scuba diver head popped out. The hatch opened and Luna's face was there.

"Yes, what is it now?"

They approached the pool edge. "We've got the Cupid. We need you to neutralize it and store it," Bellatrix instructed.

"You'll have to wait a bit. I'm in the delicate process of extracting the drains in our department's network with Nymphadora right now because the pipes decided to have an attitude today of all days. You know how fickle this place is. If we don't do it, we might flood." She closed the hatch and descended once more.

That did not sound like fun work.

"Fine. Hermione and I will stay here. Unless you'd rather go back to your pathetic date," Bellatrix cut in, directing that towards Hermione.

Hermione was cut off guard by that comment. "Pathetic?" and suddenly she was filled with the need to protect herself. "What do you mean by pathetic?"

Bellatrix snorted. "Honestly. The Weasel boy? You could get someone so much better than him. Don't lower your standards."

Hermione's mouth flapped open and closed. "I didn't ask you for your opinion on the matter! Ron is a perfectly nice boy."

"Exactly. A nice boy. He's not grown enough for you," Bellatrix berated.

Hermione snorted. "As if you're any more grown than him. You're extremely puerile at the worst of moments. Like insulting my friend in this moment for no reason at all!"

Bellatrix's smirk dropped, and an oddly puzzled look came to her face, like she didn't know why she'd said all this. She shook her head, her curls already back to their bouncy consistency despite being sopping wet before. Hermione's curls were ruined.

"Nevermind," Bellatrix murmured, back in a sullen and grumpy mood. "I'll be at my desk." And she edged over to it, squeezing in between the wall and her desk. Hermione huffed and went to the bathroom to fix her wet state before she would go home. She figured if the artifact was captured, then her work here was done. She'd have to owl Ron and apologize once more for the mishap with their failed date.


Monday at work was regular. The swimming pool was still there, so Hermione tried to sit as comfortably as she could at her squished in desk, reading her files and organizing the material. Ever so often she could feel a prickling sensation like someone was staring at her, but every time she looked up to glance across the pool, Bellatrix wasn't looking at her.

Bellatrix hadn't talked to her ever since their odd conversation about Ron, never in the house when Hermione was around. And with Dora and Luna both busy with the pipes, only the sound of gently splashing water and the flipping of pages could be heard in the office today.

Tuesday went by much in this same manner, Hermione receiving a letter from Ron saying all was alright and that he understood she had a very important job. Her night classes at Hogwarts continued. This time she was taking the second level of DADA and a potions 101 crash course. Ron wasn't in either of those classes, but they saw each other after the classes let out and they stopped to have a chat or to see his sister.

It was by Wednesday that Hermione started to get really annoyed. "Would you stop staring at me?" she asked, annoyed and without flicking her gaze from the paper.

There was a long pause, before, "who? Me?"

"Yes, you. Who else."

"Could be anyone else in this room," Bellatrix said lackadaisically.

Hermione snapped her head up angrily. "Like who? It's only us two." Blaise had gone home for a family emergency and wouldn't be back for two weeks.

Bellatrix shrugged but looked away, a flicker of annoyance on her face. "The knight in armor is alive whether you believe it or not."

Hermione's head snapped to the unassuming armor in the corner of the room. She felt a chill run down her back. She did not like that. She angled her body so she could keep an eye on it as she continued to do her work.

"Alright, we're all done," Dora announced about half an hour later, as she pulled herself from the pool in her clunky scuba outfit. "We should be good to go for months now."

Luna pulled up next to her.

"What's even down there?" Hermione asked, curious.

"Just a bunch of old pipes. They carry water throughout the whole wizarding world, even if these pipes aren't connected to the houses. It only works because we caught an artifact and outfitted it to make it work for us. But it's fickle and needs to be maintained otherwise the water system could collapse."

"Oh, that is fascinating," Hermione was all ears. "What kind of artifact?"

"An old aqueduct. The Romans were notorious for creating a chain of water supplies and this artifact is imbued with that emotion and power behind it," Dora finished explaining as she stripped out of her outfit.

Luna had already tossed hers aside and was using her wand to shrink the pool until it became nothing but a small drain on the floor. Desks went flying back to their respective spots, without anything on them shifting. Hermione hadn't expected to be dragged along when that happened, so she let out a surprised little sound as she was set down on the floor.

It was drowned out by a large noise coming from the globe on Luna's desk which spun and stopped on Germany, Munich.

"Looks like we've got an artifact. I sensed another one coming," Luna hummed, tapping a finger on it all knowingly.

Hermione was already scrambling for her badge and suit jacket but Luna waved it off. "If this is what I think it is, you won't be needing a suit, but another outfit entirely," she said.

"And what exactly is it?" Bellatrix asked, approaching them.

"I've been tracking the case for a little while now. I'll send you the information by owl. Just get there, and track it down," Luna said, knowledge whirling in her head on what it could be.

"Got it," Bellatrix said and grabbing Hermione by the wrist, apparated them there before Hermione could ask more questions.

Chapter Text

When Hermione steadied herself from the apparation, she found that Bellatrix had brought them outside a club.

A owl hooted over them, dropping down the notes Luna had for them. Bellatrix snatched it out of the air first, unrolling it, and Hermione had to extend her neck to see over the dark haired witch's shoulder because Bellatrix was hogging the notes.

"Death-step?" Hermione frowned in question as she caught some of the text.

"It's a sub-genre of muggle music," Bellatrix said off hand.

"How do you know this?"

"I spent some time in the muggle world, too much of which dealt with seedy bars and clubs in order to redeem myself." She snapped the notes closed so Hermione couldn't finish reading them. The brunette frowned in annoyance but Bellatrix opted to explain things to her. "We're looking for something that uses death step in order to influence people into getting violent, to the point of even killing one another in night clubs."

"Murder on the dance floor," Hermione concluded, and she did recall seeing on the muggle news something involving a string of club violences. It could be possible that an artifact was behind this. After all, Hermione wouldn't be on this case if one wasn't involved.

"We'll need to dress up to fit in and canvas the floors." Bellatrix held her palm on which two pairs of ear buds rested. "Luna prepared these for us to help cancel the effects of the music."

Hermione took them and put them in, finding she could still hear Bellatrix just fine but the music from the club across the street was now drowned out. Marvelous.

"Do we know who has it?" Hermione asked as Bellatrix waved a wand over their hands and turned them into party goers. Fishnet stocking, ripped jeans, tight shirts and leather jackets over it all. "I would hazard and say it's the DJ but that would be too easy."

"Sometimes it is that easy," Bellatrix responded with and they crossed the street, ready to go partying. They flashed their ID's to the bouncer and were let in, finding a crush of bodies inside that stretched between them and the DJ. Going to scope him out would not be easy, and judging his DJ booth from this distance, it seemed normal. No outright artifact to be found.

He must be another muggle with his hands on something he shouldn't have, because it didn't seem right for a wizard to be DJ-ing. They didn't know enough about muggle customs and music tastes like that. Just to be sure, Hermione covertly slipped out her wand and cast the artifact locator spell. It hovered over the dancing patrons and right to the DJ. Yup. It was him. Case practically closed.

"Stick close to me, we wouldn't want to get separated," Bellatrix instructed and grabbed Hermione's hand to lead her through the crowd. They had become so used to holding hands because of Bellatrix's therapy that Hermione only felt mildly taken aback by Bellatrix reaching for her first. Hermione followed after her as they made way through the crowd. But it was hard work, and short of jinxing people, they moved too slow for the two detectives to progress quickly.

Hermione could see Bellatrix getting angry and shoving more pointedly. Maybe they should try another way around?

Just as Hermione was going to voice this, a rough hand grabbed her, jerking her out of Bellatrix's grip. It belonged to some drunk guy, his hands immediately all over her. "Hey baby, wanna dance?" he leered at her drunkenly. She shoved a hand at his chest but it did nothing to push him away.

"Get off!" she hissed out, trying to find her wand so she could zap him away. She shouldn't have worried. A fist came sailing right into his temple, knocking him off balance and away from Hermione.

"Don't touch her," Bellatrix growled out. Hermione felt as shocked as the guy who'd been punched. In fact, Bellatrix's actions almost made Hermione feel like she got punched too. But in the gut. And emotionally.

"Bellatrix what the bloody hell-"

But Bellatrix was already leaving the place, grabbing Hermione by the hand and tugging her out. Hermione followed after her, pushing through the sweaty crowd. When they got outside, to the much cooler air, she found Bellatrix bent over, hands on her knees and breathing hard. "Bellatrix, are you okay-" she reached out a hand to touch her only to have it be slapped away harshly.

"Don't touch me," Bellatrix scooted back, face pale and her eyes looking just a bit frenzied. It was almost like she was...afraid of Hermione?

"What's wrong. What's going on? Do you think the artifact affected you?" Hermione asked rapid fire. If that was the case, she had to find it and neutralize it quick.

Bellatrix parted her lips as if to answer and instead grabbed Hermione by the upper arms and tossed her against the wall. Hermione's head collided painfully with it and she hissed out. She knew some hand to hand combat, so she wasn't afraid to throw Bellatrix off. She just didn't want to do that now and hurt Bellatrix without getting to the root of the issue. Bellatrix glared at her, her jaw tensed and shaking a bit.

"Bellatrix," Hermione voiced, wondering what the hell was affecting her partner. But Bellatrix's lashes fluttered shut and she took a deep shuddering breath. When she opened her eyes, she seemed to be under control.

She backed off of Hermione. "I'm fine," she said brusquely, like nothing had happened, rolling her shoulders back. And she had said it not a moment too soon. All of a sudden the music from the club got louder, vibrations coursing through their body from the bass.

The magical ear plugs they both sported would block out the negative affects of the music while still letting them hear each other and it was a good thing they did, because something about this music they felt, was off. They exchanged looks and ran towards the club.

They stepped inside the club, finding everyone fighting tooth and nail as the music made them do this.

"We need to destroy his DJ booth, and now," Bellatrix shouted out over the crush. She ducked as something went flying over her head.

"How are we going to get through them?" Hermione shouted back. They couldn't get through them normally. With the crowd crazy like this now, it would be even more impossible.

"With magic," Bellatrix announced, brandishing her wand.

"No, that'll take too long," Hermione shook her head. "And it might be too dangerous." She eyed the exit sign not far behind the booth. "We'll take the back exit."

They left the crush of the crowd, running around to the back of the building. With a quick alohomora, the door swung open and they raced down the stairs to where the DJ was close by. He had his back turned to them, vibing to the violence he was causing. Was he doing this on purpose? Or did he not understand what his music was doing to others?

"Hey you asshole," Bellatrix cried out. He didn't hear her insult; this was why she hated clubs, no quiet to truly engage verbal barbs. "Hey!" she tried again, as they got up on the stage he was on. Now he seemed to notice them and his face grew dark. "You better turn that music off!" Bellatrix screamed over the music. "Or else I'll make you."

"Then make me," he mocked and she lunged at him, engaging in hand to hand combat. She was particularly pissed off to the point she wanted to use her own hands to hurt him, to feel his flesh split under a well placed knuckle sandwich. Hermione, meanwhile, took to looking for where the artifact was. The locator spell didn't work this close because it couldn't descipher where the object was. So she began pressing buttons, flipping switches, making the music sound awful, while the DJ and Bellatrix exchanged blows behind her, tousling back and forth. Hermione eyed the disc jokey. Could that be it? The disc? But it was such a muggle object. Why would it be a wizarding artifact? Just as she was about to extract it, Bellatrix had punched the DJ so hard he stumbled back and into Hermione. There was no railing over the DJ booth. She went crashing off of the stage and into the fighting crowd headfirst. If that wasn't bad enough, she was now directly in front of the throbbing bass and hit full front with the music. The ear plugs could only do so much- faced with this much power they left her susceptible to the artifact's might. And with a snarl she was up on her feet, whipping out her wand. She had some people to make pay.

She couldn't remember the rest of the night.


Hermione awoke to the sound of chirping birds and bright light coming in through the window.

"She's up!" Dora announced happily when she saw Hermione awaken. Her happy face entered Hermione's field of vision. Hermione moaned in answer.

What had happened? She knew she was in a bed in Grimmore manor, but last she recalled she was in a club. So then what?

"How do you feel?" Bellatrix asked. She was standing by the door, arms crossed across her chest.

"Like I've been trampled on by people," Hermione groaned out truthfully.

"Because you were," Bellatrix confirmed without any humor.

"What happened?" Hermione asked as she sat up. Everything hurt and she could feel the bump on her head without even having to feel it. It pounded along with her pulse.

"You got exposed to the music. And while you were out, taking on the crowd with your magic, I knocked out the DJ, broke his booth and confiscated his record so he won't be doing that again. And then I wrestled you to the ground."

That explained the bruise on Bellatrix's cheek. It must have been healing from whatever troubles occurred. Hermione wondered if it was from the DJ or from herself.

"I must say, you are quite a handful when in a rage. You almost got me," Bellatrix admitted and it shouldn't have made Hermione feel honored she had almost hurt her teammate but it did. Because it meant she was getting better at fighting.

"Kingsley gave you the day off to relax," Dora said. "And tomorrow too, if you should need it."

Hermione shook her head. "I'll be fine. Just need some rest and I'll be back on the team. Besides, I know Bellatrix would kill Blaise if I left the two of them alone together." She was already getting up out of bed.

Bellatrix humphed but didn't deny this.

And ever since that case, whenever Hermione heard death step music, she couldn't help but feel a bit riled up.


Things moved on as normal. Hermione was currently acing her afternoon classes and couldn't wait until she progressed to the harder one's. Poor Ron kept taking the same classes as Hermione and struggling in them. She was all too happy to help, however, and stayed in the library with him, working late into the night.

Ever since their interrupted date, Ron wanted them to go on another one. Hermione wasn't entirely sure she wanted to go on one, but he was just so insistent and he had that kicked puppy look on his face when he offered the idea.

Technically she owed him one because the last one hadn't worked out. "Alright," she caved. "But only a quick one. I'm swamped with work, both class and from my job."

"They give you work at your job?" he seemed perplexed by this.

"Sometimes things carry over." Like filling out reports and shifting through news to catch anything artifact-y. "I'll let you know as soon as I'm done with everything and then we can go."

"Another date with Ron, huh?" Dora questioned when Hermione had told her about it at work. The brunette was loud and after she stated that a loud snap came from across the room where Bellatrix was sat. In her hand she was holding the broken shards of a mug. Underneath it hot coffee pooling.

"Oh, shite, are you okay?" Dora rushed over to help Bellatrix, Hermione hurrying after.

"I'm fine," Bellatrix said roughly, shrugging away their concern. "Bugger off, will you?" She took out her wand and fixed everything, even the cut on her hand. "Just got a strong grip."

When that was okay with, Dora fussing over a fickle Bellatrix, she and Hermione resumed their conversation. "I thought you didn't like him?"

"I don't, not like that at least. But our last date did get ruined by a case so I figured it was the least I could do to indulge him." But after that, she would make her lack of interest clear to him.

Wednesday, the day of the date arrived, and it was pretty mundane. They went to get dinner and visited a special dessert place before heading back, making small talk about everything and anything. It was pretty late now, and it was time for them to part ways.

"Thank you Ron, for everything," Hermione smiled. She also had to tell him this was going to be a one off thing but before she could, he was stepping closer to her, a certain look on his face. Oh. He was going to kiss her. She was sure of it.

How the fuck did she back out of it? Before she could say something, someone else did for her. "Oi, did she say you could kiss her, knobhead?"

They both jerked apart to see that Bellatrix was standing against a lamppost not far away. She was in all black and though her body was languid on the structure, it was clear from her face she was pissed off about something.

"Um-what?" Ron blubbered out.

"Really, you'd choose him? He's so slow, even a sloth would be faster," Bellatrix grit out before she leaned off of the post and began to walk away. Hermione was confused and shocked.

Why was Bellatrix acting like a jealous lover? It didn't make sense! "Bellatrix-!" she called out after her retreating back but Bellatrix had already apparated away.

Hermione wouldn't let this stand! Without even saying goodbye to Ron, she hurried away. It took Hermione a bit longer to find a floo network and use it, so when she got back home Bellatrix was already locked up in her room. "Bellatrix!" Hermione pounded on the door. The wards were down, but Hermione was banking on Bellatrix opening up the door for her. If not, she was blowing it down.

"What?!" a cranky Bellatrix jerked open the door after Hermione had nearly banged a hole in it. Hermione huffed.

"You were incredibly rude! Did you follow me on my date and then sabotage it?" Hermione demanded, hands on hips.

Bellatrix grit her teeth, not refuting that point. "I already told you what I thought about him. Don't waste your time on him-"

"That's not for you to decide! Stop behaving like a child!"

Bellatrix stuck out her tongue which did not help and then slammed the door shut. When Hermione went to go knock on it, she found herself being repelled backwards. She landed on her rump with a thump and would have loved to give Bellatrix a taste of her own magic, but she figured she'd do that when she saw Bellatrix at the office tomorrow.


Bellatrix refused to talk to Hermione about anything, stringently ignoring her by doing work that she couldn't be bothered with. And when she, Bellatrix and Blaise did go hunting down a minor artifact, Bellatrix seemed to find fault with how close Blaise walked next to Hermione sometimes and pushed her way in between. Hermione couldn't make heads or tails of why Bellatrix was behaving this oddly. She had been fine a couple days ago.

When Hermione met up with Ron a while later after work, she found him unsmiling.

"Why didn't you just tell me you were dating her," Ron said, a sour look on his face.

"Excuse me?" Hermione's brows went up as did the pitch of her voice.

"That woman who interrupted us."

Hermione wanted to laugh at the absurdity of all this. "I'm not- we're not together. Not like that. I mean, she's my work partner, and we live together, but that's it. We're not romantically involved," Hermione waved her hands, flustered by this accusation.

Ron didn't look convinced. "Then why the bloody hell was she there? Nearly insulting the shit out of me?"

Hermione gave a watery smile, trying to come up with an excuse. "Um, we work in a dangerous field and maybe she thought you were someone who wanted to hurt me. Not that you would," Hermione hastily put in, "but we've had a lot of close calls recently and she's a bit shaken up as I am."

Ron grunted, not looking convinced. "Well, keep her away from me. She seems bloody mental."

Hermione thinned her lips. "She's not crazy. She's a genius in her field."

"Right," Ron said, not believing it and Hermione felt irritated by this. She wanted to protect Bellatrix. She truly was an amazing and skilled woman but she was acting weird these days few days, and Hermione didn't know why. Was it like Ron had said? Did Bellatrix...like her?

The thought made Hermione flush. She liked Bellatrix too. Admired her, mainly. But did she have deeper feelings for her? She didn't mind the hand holding or the spending extra time. It felt nice to be around Bellatrix even if her prickles might scare away other people. Hermione knew they were mainly just for show.

Should she ask Dora about this? But no, she didn't want the girl to know yet. Bellatrix was her aunt, it might make asking for romantic advice from her awkward.

"Mione?" Ron called out and Hermione was brought to the present. "You alright there? You zoned out?"

"I'm fine," she shook her head. She and Ron were on their way to class and she had nearly bumped into someone, so deep in her inner musings. But, she was a bit giddy. Bellatrix seemed to like her, maybe even in a romantic manner. And maybe Hermione liked her the same way.

She smiled to herself as Ron looked on at her in silent intrigue before they went into the classroom.

Chapter Text

Hermione imagined her summer to be a bit less hairy than what it was currently shaping up to be. She, Blaise and Bellatrix were following up on a concern of Luna's that an artifact had fallen into the wrong people's hands. And by wrong people, it meant sick twisted people who were suspected of several charges of kidnapping.

"This artifact is how they've been able to so easily do away with them," Luna tapped on the photo they had of the object. It looked to be a small statue, tribal in nature, and depicting some fierce looking warrior face carrying a spear and staff.

"What does it do?" Hermione questioned, ever eager to learn more about this magical world she lived in.

"It makes the user into a werewolf."

"Werewolf!" Hermione gulped.

"Yes. Which is probably how they've been able to spirit away so many unsuspecting children," she explained sagely and with a gravity. "It's why you have to be extra careful. While this artifact doesn't imbue the user with the ability to pass on the curse, werewolf bites are still nasty things to treat."

"Right," Hermione said, slightly shaken. She had faced countless other oddities but for some reason, facing a werewolf bothered her more than it should.

"Don't worry, I'll be there to protect you," Blaise winked at her and gave her a smile.

"Focus on protecting your own sorry ass," Bellatrix grunted out as she gathered her jacket and put it on her shoulders. "Let's not dally any longer. We have somewhere to be."

By this point Blaise was used to Bellatrix's barbs so he barely even gave it much thought. The two of them walked off and Hermione followed after them, for once a bit reluctant to be on this mission.

And her reservations prove to be true because things quickly go to shit.

"I thought it was only going to be one werewolf!" Hermione cried out and ducked as the beast jumped over her head, claws so close to having come and clipped her.

"Why would you ever expect our job to be easy?" Bellatrix shot back, more calmly fighting off the mangy beasts around them. There were ten that Hermione could make out, which was ten too many. She cursed under her breath as she shot a stunning spell at one of the werewolves that had backed up behind Blaise, teeth bared and ready to dig into his throat.

Bellatrix had already taken two down and they weren't moving. Hermione hoped that they weren't dead because they needed to interrogate them on where the artifact was and how it had turned so many, and most importantly, where were the kids!

Hermione swiveled around, wand at the ready when she heard another growl. She hit the wolf with a hex before he could get close to her, and then she threw herself to the left right as another wolf found it's way next to her. She threw herself a bit too hard and couldn't get up on time as it approached her, drooling hungrily. She cried out a jelly leg jinx and he suddenly found himself unable to get up. As she stood to her feet, she summoned ropes and steel chains to tie him up. She had just finished when the wolf from before, recovered and rushed at her. She didn't notice at first, because her back was to him, and he didn't growl out in victory until the last moment. She turned around, wand raised but his teeth were faster.

The werewolves fangs sunk into her flesh. Hermione screamed. The pain was more painful than anything else she had ever felt. Under the weight of the beast, she fell down. She forgot all about using her wand as her human instincts kicked in and she struggled to pry his jaws off of her with her hands. All she succeeded in doing was getting blood on her hands.

Her cry of pain attracted Blaise and Bellatrix both. But as Blaise shouted out Hermione's name, and made to go towards her, two wolves came out of nowhere and blocked his path, backing him up into a corner. He swallowed nervously but began casting spells on them.

Bellatrix was faster, and more skilled. She tore through the battlefield, burns sizzling in the grass from where spells had hit it. Hermione kept crying out in pain and panic. Her eyesight was peppered with black spots. This fucking hurt so much. His teeth sank in harder and she could feel the squelch of blood and marrow as her bone popped.

She didn't know how long she blacked out, except that she did, and when she came to, Bellatrix was next to her as Hermione kept crying out in pain over and over.

But even her screams were drowned out by Bellatrix's cry of fury. "GET OFF OF HER YOU MANGY MUTT!" And then Bellatrix was on him, ripping him off of Hermione and tossing him off to the side with her bare hands. She didn't stop there. She took out her wand and began blasting him with spells. "Secumsepra!" she screeched out over and over again as the man howled in pain, blood splashing everywhere.

Hermione scrambled to her feet, wincing as she put weight on her leg. "Bellatrix. Stop it, you're killing him! Stop it!"

But it was too late, his howls had stopped. He had stopped twitching and when Hermione saw what was left of his body, she felt her stomach turn. He barely resembled a human, all his insides now out and a pool of congealing blood around him. His glassy eyes stared up at the sky.

"Oh fuck," Hermione groaned out as Bellatrix turned to her. There was something in Bellatrix's eyes that Hermione hadn't seen before. A madness that consumed her whole pupil.

"We're getting out of here," Bellatrix said, blood dripping from her clothing. Then she grabbed Hermione by the upper arm and they were gone, leaving Blaise behind.

Hermione felt barely conscious for most of what happened next. All she knows is that she's brought back to the department. Luna and Dora are in a flurry over what's happening.

Hermione can barely make out the words as she supports herself against Bellatrix's warm body, leaning off of her broken and ravaged leg. There's a question about Blaise but Bellatrix shrugs it off. Hermione's head is pounding and swinging and she closes her eyes. Gentle hands take her and she closes her eyes, trusting them to help her.

She wakes up in St. Mugo's in who knows how long. But it's dark out now and it wasn't when they first went out on the mission. She sits up, throwing back the covers and examining her leg. The bone is healed already, and all that remains are bruises and a ragged scar down her leg which she hopes will heal. She flexes her leg; it works, but it hurts to use it so she doesn't.

The room is empty. What happened to Blaise? He was left to fend for himself with those wolves. And what happened with Bellatrix? She had gone mad! Killing that man in cold blood. Something wasn't right. She wasn't acting like herself.

"I'm glad to see you up," Luna says as she crawls in through the window and nearly gives Hermione a fright. "Luna, for Merlin's sake, can't you use the door?"

"No visitors allowed at this hour. But I had to make sure to be here when you woke up." She finished coming through and closed the window softly behind her.

"And what happened...?" Hermione asked, dreading the answer.

"Blaise is fine. We didn't nab the artifact but," she shrugged. "There is always next time."

"And what of Bellatrix?"

"Ah, yes, her," Luna said, sitting down on the bed by Hermione. "I think she's been affected by an artifact."

"Another one?"

"Yes. It's not an odd thing to happen. We've all been affected by them a couple times by now," Luna said. "You've been lucky it hasn't happened to you yet."

"I don't know about that," Hermione grumbled out. She was worried about her partner right now. "What artifact?"

"It seems to be she was affected by Cupid's arrows, which would explain her behavior," Luna stated sagely. "She was able to fight it off for so long, but seeing you get in trouble and hurt, triggered it and it exploded full force."

"But she wasn't hit by an arrow. She didn't say she was nor have any wounds. You know how great of a fighter Bellatrix is," Hermione stated even as her mind churned past events over and she arrived at an unsavory conclusion.

"Even if she wasn't hit by it, a simple scratch from his arrow would be enough for the poisonous magic to work and infect her, albeit at a slower pace."

"I do recall...she stepped on an arrow. I didn't think much of it because we had bagged the artifact already."

"That would do the trick," Luna confirmed with a wry expression. "We need to administer a potion to her too."

"And how would we do that?"

"Simply. We just get her to drink it. Unfortunately, she's not in the right state of mind right now. We have her locked up at the department and without her wand, but...she's quite mad to be locked up and we don't know how to approach her. We could knock her out and administer the potion then, maybe..." Luna rubbed her chin.

"She's my partner. Let me handle this."

"No, that would be a bad idea. You were around her the most when the Cupid's arrow affected her. It's you she wants to fuck right now."

"Oh," Hermione's face went very red and suddenly there was a buzzing in her head. Bellatrix, wanting to fuck her? Oh Merlin. She didn't know what to say. She felt flustered.

"Are you okay?" Luna asked, noting Hermione's sudden lapse and her red face.

"Hm, fine. Just...um, I think the medicine is making me feel hot right now."

Luna tipped her head like she didn't buy this. "Anyways, don't worry yourself right now. The potion needs to be brewed and we still haven't done that yet. So, rest up, and when the time comes we'll find a way to save her." Luna patted Hermione's knee and left the same way she'd come in.

But Hermione couldn't sleep anymore. Mainly because she was worried over Bellatrix. And she could not stop repeating the way that Luna had told her Bellatrix wanted to fuck her.

Her face turned beet red once more and she groaned and buried her face in the cool pillow.


Hermione came back to the department two days later. Her leg felt much better and she had no difficulty using it, though it still felt a bit sore given everything that had happened. Dora wrapped her into a warm hug when she saw her. "I'm so glad you're back!" she exclaimed. "We've missed you."

"How's the leg?" Blaise asks and it's hard to tell if he's upset at how they'd left him to fend for himself. When Dora pulls away, Hermione goes up to him. "Blaise, I'm so-"

"You don't have to apologize. You didn't do anything wrong. Bellatrix did," he scowled deeply. "But the batty bitch is locked up now."

As if on cue, they hear Bellatrix screaming from the other end of the room. "I'm going to kill you all!" Hermione winces. Oh, that does not sound good and it gives her flashbacks to what happened when Bellatrix had that awful run in with the pureblood ring.

"Is the potion ready?" Hermione asked. Dora nodded her head.

"Luna's putting the finishing touches on it. But then we should we good to go."

"How are we delivering it to her?" Hermione asked.

"We'll knock her out and hopefully it'll work."

"I want the honors of doing that. I owe her for leaving me like that," Blaise groused.

"She didn't do it on purpose. The whole time she's been affected by this," Hermione explained, standing up for Bellatrix. She felt bad for her partner. Hermione had failed in protecting her yet again. Maybe she wasn't a good partner at all. Maybe Bellatrix had been right to want Tom back. He'd given his life to protect Bellatrix and all Hermione had given her was a headache and much worse.

"Luna's going to do it. We'll be waiting outside, to make sure she doesn't need a helping hand." Dora said.

Luna came out of a private room not a second later, holding up several vials of the gray liquid. It looked disgusting. Hermione felt bad that Bellatrix would have to drink this. "Here, one for all of you." She handed them out, like they were giftbags.

"Why do we need them?" Blaise asked, studying his reflection in the vial he twirled between his fingers. "We weren't affected by the arrow."

"No, but this is just in case," she said, smiling vapidly.

In case of what? Hermione wanted to ask but decided not to. Luna surely knew what she was doing. The blonde clutched her own vial in one hand, and her wand in the other. Then she headed to where they had locked Bellatrix in. Blaise, Hermione, and Dora all waited at the end of the hallway, just in case Luna needed help.

The blonde walked into the room, and closed the door behind her. All was quiet. Too quiet. Hermione didn't like this. Her hands began to grow clammy. "Maybe we should go and check up on Luna?" she suggested.

As soon as she did, the door blasted off of it's hinges. That couldn't be good.

"Fuck," Blaise cursed out and pushed Hermione harshly aside, harsh enough that she slid out of the view of the open hallway and to the side. She sat up to see Blaise go flying into the wall across the room and crumple there, not moving. There was a woman's cry and then Dora must have fallen too as the whiz of spells died down. Hermione only saw her hand flop down still.

Bellatrix must have somehow gotten the better of Luna even without her wand. How had that happened? It didn't matter; all that mattered was that Luna had all given vials just in case. Almost as if she knew this would happen. With shaking hands, Hermione uncorks the vial and pours it into her mouth, as she hears the slow click of Bellatrix's shoes as she draws nearer.

"Hermione~" she sings and Hermione finds herself shivering at that tone. The brunette knows what the Cupid's arrow does to afflicted people. It makes them love mad. It makes them love, until the point of killing the person they are enamored with. Hermione just hopes Bellatrix isn't at that stage yet.

Bellatrix rounds the corner and finds Hermione still on the floor, frightened eyes wide. Bellatrix taps Luna's wand to her cheek, pleased. How is she still so attractive even when she's so scary, Hermione will never know. But now is not the time to think of such things.

"Already on the floor. Ready for me?" Bellatrix hums, swaying her hips as she approaches. Hermione's heart races and she resists the urge to swallow the potion in her mouth. She doesn't say anything as Bellatrix sinks to her knees and straddles Hermione's waist like they've done this a thousand times. There are bags under her eyes from no sleep, and her hair is more chaotic than normal. "Do I need to restrain you or will you be a good girl for me?" Bellatrix purrs and the dulcet tones are making Hermione's breaths pick up for other reasons now.

She nods her head that she will behave and Bellatrix leans in, eyes lidded as she presses a kiss to Hermione's trembling lips. It's a soft kiss, not what one would expect of a woman far gone on an artifact. But soon the kisses pick up in urgency, until Bellatrix is asking for entrance to Hermione's mouth and Hermione has to remind herself to focus on the mission. This her chance, she thinks, and as quickly as she can, she grabs Bellatrix by the shoulders and spins her around so she is on top now, Bellatrix's back on the floor. She kisses her hard, allowing the potion to flow from her mouth into Bellatrix's. The black haired witch's eyes go wide and she struggles against Hermione's hold. Hermione has grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the floor to prevent Bellatrix from being able to use the wand in her grasp. And she uses her body weight to flatten her down. Bellatrix bucks her hips up and tears her mouth away, coughing at the vile taste of the potion.

"What the fuck are you doing?" she asks in a rough voice. She's swallowed most of the potion down which is good. Better than Hermione expected.

"Um, helping?" she smiles sheepishly as she watches Bellatrix's eyes turn a lighter shade. They're becoming brown again and Hermione sits up when Bellatrix sits up too. She's eyeing the brunette like this is all her fault or something like that.

"What is going on?" she asks, face paling as she realizes something is wrong.

"You well, uh, got affected by another artifact," Hermione explained, allowing Bellatrix to stand up this time.

"Was it the Cupid's arrow?"

"Yes."

"Fuck," she curses. Bellatrix looks widely around, spotting a knocked out Dora. She rushes toward her niece. Feels for her pulse and lets out a sigh of relief. She carefully scoops the woman up in her arms, scowling the whole time. "Well fuck me," Bellatrix grumbles out and Hermione flushes at that because if she hadn't gotten the potion made in time, would that have had happened? Would Hermione have let Bellatrix do that to her? Or Bellatrix allowed Hermione to do to her?

Oh boy. Hermione shook her head to clear away such thoughts. Now wasn't the time for it.

"I did this?" Bellatrix asks and it's in a soft voice as she puts Dora on the couch. Luckily, Dora has no outward injuries. It must have been a stupefy.

"Uh, yea. To everyone, but me," Hermione says, clearing her throat.

"Blaise probably deserved it," Bellatrix retorted.

"No, he didn't. He's done nothing but been nice to you this whole time. And you keep being rude to him." Hermione put her hands on her hips, glaring at Bellatrix. Hermione hadn't liked Blaise at first, but only because he'd been replacing Bellatrix. Bellatrix, had no reason like that. So why did she dislike him?

"I just don't trust him," was the simple answer. "Help me get the others. We need to make sure I didn't damage them too bad."

"Right." Hermione goes to pick up Luna whose already stumbling out of the room, a bump on her head that is huge.

"Is- did everything work out?" she asked sleepily, rubbing it.

"Yea, Bellatrix is back to normal." Hermione is happy to report this.

Luna smiled. "I knew you'd save her, Hermione."

"Who said I saved her?" Hermione challenged, not liking the meaning behind Luna's words. But the blonde said nothing. Hermione sighed out. Looked like it was just another day for the department. And yet, something had changed between them all today.

Chapter Text

Hermione can't stop thinking about the kiss. She can't. It's liable to drive her mad and she can't tell anyone about this because she doesn't want anyone knowing how conflicted she is about this whole experience. And she knows Bellatrix feels conflicted but is it for the same reasons? Hermione doesn't know. And she's afraid to find out. Least her crush be crushed.

Because yes, she'll freely admit it, within the safety of her own mind, that she has feelings for her partner and not of the platonic kind. She just doesn't know what to do about it yet. As if scared away by showing any kind emotion or romantic, Bellatrix stays away from Hermione as much as she can during their work hours. And then after work, she leaves the room as soon as she can when Hermione enters.

Dora has noticed this, how could she not, when she lives with them.

"It's just a phase. She's probably embarrassed," Dora explained and Hermione groaned but complied. After all, what else could she do? Argue with Bellatrix about this? No, that would only make things worse. Time, time was what was needed.

Unfortunately in this case, time and space only made things worse.

Hermione was awoken in the middle of the night by an owl that thudded into her window. She woke up, startled, and reaching for her wand but not needing to when she saw it was just an animal. She opened the window, took the letter and sent the owl back off. It was from Luna and it urged urgency. Quickly, Hermione magicked on some clothing and ran to the fireplace. Dora was there, hastily tying on her wizarding robe.

"What's going on?" Hermione asked, hoping Dora would know more than she did.

"I don't know. But Auntie's not here, so something tells me it's not good," Dora said and they entered the fireplace. They got to the department and found it was absolutely trashed. Desks broken, papers on the floors, holes in the walls, and white ash falling from the never ending ceiling. Hermione carefully walked around some glass, wand in her hand. Dora pulled out her wand too.

"Luna?" Hermione called out, voice tentative. What had happened here? Had they been ransacked?

Blaise appeared behind them with a squeak of his shoes. His hair was a mess and he pushed it out of his eyes. "What's going on?" he questioned, whispering harshly.

"I don't know," Hermione whispered back and there was a strange twinkling coming from around them. There was a ding of an elevator and the trio turned on their heel, ready to fight whoever had caused this. But it was just Luna, face dirtied by black soot and she was holding up Bellatrix who was leaning heavily on the smaller blonde. Hermione's heart immediately lept into her throat. Had her partner gotten hurt? Again?

Hermione felt like the worst partner ever.

Why was she never there for Bellatrix when it mattered?

"Luna...?" Dora trailed off but the blonde shook her head.

"We're okay. For now." She used her wand to righten a thrown down chair and set Bellatrix down there. The woman had a haunted look on her face and she avoided everyone's eyes. "But...we won't be for long. An artifact's been activated."

Blaise, Hermione and Dora's faces paled. "Which artifact?" Blaise questioned. His grip on his wand tightened. "Is this what caused damage to the office?"

Luna sighed out, wiping her sooty hands on her dirty clothing. "The music box."

"And what does it do?" Dora questioned.

"Nothing good, that is for sure. We have until the melody stops playing to capture it."

"Or else...?" Blaise waited for Luna to fill in.

"We have a week," she said sternly. "We shouldn't worry right off the bat."

"And if we fail within a week?"

"Then the effects are permanent," Luna told Hermione grimly.

"And what of Bellatrix? Did she get zapped by yet another artifact?" Dora looked on at her aunt in worry. The woman had not reacted to anything yet. That was most worrying.

Luna looked evenly on at Hermione, as if the brunette should know the answer to this. But Hermione didn't know anything. She was just as out of the loop as everyone else. "Dora, make Bella some tea. Blaise, help clean up the office and look for any clues that could be helpful in locating where the artifact went. And Hermione, I need to talk to you."

Hermione swallowed nervously and allowed Luna to take her to a side room. For extra measures, Luna put a silencing spell on the door. "This involves you, Hermione."

"How?"

"Bellatrix...well, she hates feeling things if you haven't noticed yet," Luna said dryly. "So, after her little stunt with Cupid and how she went stark raving mad on bedding you, she felt out of her depth."

"I know, which was why I gave her space. I didn't pressure her or anything and I kept my distance. I felt embarrassed by it all too. She's not the only one."

"Yes, but..." Luna sighed out as if frustrated that she had to explain this to Hermione. As if Hermione should know this by now. "Anyways, you need to be careful. The music box has the properties of being able to get rid of annoying emotions. Which was what Bellatrix wanted to do so that she wouldn't feel embarrassed about what happened. Except, it went wrong, as all things do with artifacts."

"Did she really hate the idea of doing that with me so much that she had to do something so stupid as using an artifact!" Hermione gasped out, offended. Her feelings were hurt. Was Bellatrix disgusted by her?

Luna cocks her head to the side. "Sometimes, people get rid of feelings because they want something too much."

Hermione frowned. What did that mean?

"Look, that's not the issue right. The issue is that the artifact split Bellatrix in two. The one left here, in this office, is her good self. All her less savory traits are in another copy of her. One that's running amok currently. And something tells me she'll want something to do with you."

"Me? But what have I done?" Hermione exclaimed.

Luna sighed again, as if Hermione was being dumb on purpose. "We'll have to keep an extra eye on you. There's no telling what her 'darker' version will do to get to you. So, we have to keep you safe and out of her grasp. And get her back in the box."

This did not sound good. But Hermione wanted to help; not be a hindrance. She nodded her head briskly. "Okay, whatever you think we need to do, I'll do it."

"Good," Luna said.


After the office has been cleaned up, Luna and Blaise stayed behind to make plans on how to track down this rogue Bellatrix. Hermione had a hard time grasping the fact that there were two of them now. How could Luna know for sure? Hermione knew she should take the blonde at her word: surely there was enough of magic Hermione saw to know this was very capable of happening. What she couldn't grasp was why Bellatrix had turned to an artifact to help. What did she feel for Hermione that she couldn't stand feeling?

Hermione burned to ask, but she didn't know how. Right now Bellatrix seemed like an empty shell of herself. She was quiet and she watched everything with a curious stare, like a little girl. Hermione didn't even know how to approach her. It was confounding.

Right now, she, Bellatrix, and Dora had come back to the mansion. They figured it was best to take the day off. And to keep an eye on Hermione. Hermione didn't think she was in danger from Bellatrix unless it was her dark past coming back. But even then Hermione had handled herself well enough when it had happened. So now what?

"Uh, Bellatrix," Hermione cleared her throat and tried to grab the woman's attention but Bellatrix jumped up and hurried away upstairs.

Well, there went that conversation. Dora noticed Hermione wilting and put a supportive hand on her shoulder. "She'll come around. Just give her time. It's odd being split in two."

"I gave her time last time and look what happened! She went and did this to herself!" Hermione exclaimed and rushed up the stairs after her partner.

She caught the back of Bellatrix going into Hermione's bedroom. Huh, why was she going there?

Hermione hurried after, closing the door on them so Bellatrix could not run from this conversation. "Bellatrix, what are you doing here?" Hermione asked and the black haired woman froze in front of the open drawer before closing it and turning around.

"Nothing," she said coyly.

She looked pleased for some reason. Which was preferable to the whole mood she'd been in this day. "Okay, whatever. I don't care that you're in my room. But could you please explain to me why you did what you did? What did you split in two?"

"Not here," Bellatrix jerked her head to the side. "We should go somewhere ears can't pry."

"Can't pry? But we're in your house-"

"Get away from her!" a voice erupted from behind Hermione as the door banged open. At the other end, was Bellatrix, wand raised. Hermione's eyes widened as she found herself stuck between two Bellatrix's. Oh, so it had really happened.

"Oh, you found me," the other Bellatrix said teasingly.

"I knew you'd be close by, and that'd you'd only show your face now!" Bellatrix roared.

Bellatrix tsked. "Seems, she's ruined our fun. Time to go Hermione," and other Bellatrix lifted her wand fast like a whip and sent spells flying at Bellatrix over Hermione's head. Hermione ducked when the first one whizzed past and she then felt a cool hand grab her as Bellatrix yelped and blocked the spells- clumsily- before Hermione was apparated away.


Hermione was deposited on a cold hard floor. She scrambled to check her pockets for a wand but with a simple flick of the wand, Bellatrix had her tied up. "Hey!" Hermione cried out angrily. "What do you think you're doing-!"

Bellatrix silenced her by placing the wand against her lips. "Sh, not now. I spent the whole day making you a surprise. Don't ruin it by acting uncouth." This she said angrily.

"You're the one who bound me, and took me here!" Hermione pointed out angrily. A surprise? What kind? And what exactly was in this Bellatrix's head? Was she going to hurt Hermione? The uncertainty made everything worse.

"The spell will wear off, and by the time it does, I expect to see you downstairs. And trust me, you don't want to miss this, do you? You don't want to miss it at all," Bellatrix assured with a click of her tongue and then she left the brunette on the dusty floor.

Hermione struggled pointlessly in her binds. Eventually after some time they wore off and she stood up, working her sore joints. She took stock of her situation. It seemed she was in an abandoned mansion. It was dark outside, so it had to be several hours away from home. Did she dare to go down to Bellatrix? Did she dare to trust her?

Hermione didn't even have her wand with her. She'd left it at home.

Shit.

But what if Bellatrix hurt herself? Hermione owed it to her partner to fix things before they got anymore worse. It was because Hermione had neglected to talk about the after effects with the Cupid artifact that this had happened. Should she play along? She glanced at the dress that lay on the bed, sucking in her bottom lip as she thought.

No, she would do this. For Bellatrix. She would take down her 'evil' half and save her once again. It was the least she owed her. It wasn't like anyone else could right now. She quickly dressed, finding the outfit was the right size.

Determined, she walked out of the room and down the stairs where the only light came from.

"What is this?" Hermione asked timidly and with suspicion as she entered a grand hall. The tiles were gray marble with black tiles placed in between to form a a pattern of a skull upon the floor of which they would be standing on. Tall pillars of gray marble held up the ceiling and the space was empty, grand windows on the side depicting horrid imagery. Of headless men and women, of dancing skeletons, and of werewolves contorting, stuck between their half human and half creature form in pain.

"I threw you a ball," Bellatrix announced grandly, throwing her arms up to encase the whole room. "I know every time you've been to one, it's been horrid. And you've so wished to see this part of pureblood culture for it's one of the few good qualities. If not Inferi, then insane blood purists are mucking everything up for us. So, I wanted to give you a proper one."

Hermione looked oddly on at whom she'd dubbed Dark Bellatrix. That was...sweet? And considerate. But no one was here. "Um, thank you," Hermione said cautiously because she did not know exactly what Dark Bellatrix's motivations were. She was a wild card, swinging from mood swing to mood swing as if this was a game of emotional parkour.

At least this explained the dress Hermione had been given to wear. It was a dazzling and pure white and skin tight on the chest area, almost melting into her skin. This exposed her collarbone and made her neck look swanlike. Giving her a grace she normally felt she lacked. The front was shorter and the back trailed behind her, with what looked like to be small stars infused into the ending fabric so she left a path of light wherever she went.

Dark Bellatrix too was in a ballgown that looked like sin on her. It nearly covered her from head to tie, except for strategically cut out sections. There was a triangle of skin over her ample chest area, a slit up the side of her leg and the shoulders were low cut. The sleeves ran up to her hands, looping around her middle finger and were decorated with red swirls that were so thin that they were barely visible.

Dark Bellatrix twirled her wrist. Instantly the whole place light up. Torches burned brightly, an orchestra materialized and ghostly images of people dressed in finery filled the hall, chattering lightly. Hermione's jaw popped open a bit in awe at this. There was so much raw power that Dark Bellatrix used. Wordless magic too. She must have siphoned it all from Light Bellatrix.

Dark Bellatrix tilted her chin back arrogantly, knowing she had impressed Hermione. The orchestra struck up a tune. And then Bellatrix was striding up to her, hand extended not in an offer to dance but in a command to.

Dark Bellatrix was dangerous. To be so close to her would be like Hermione putting herself willing inside a cage with a starved tiger. But Dark Bellatrix wasn't going to give her much choice, hand extending possessively towards the brunette. The many heavy rings on her hand shone in the light and they were cold to the touch as they rested against Hermione's palm as Bellatrix grabbed her, a bit too closely and with her one hand resting low on her hip. That devious look was on her face; her deep burgundy lips were stretched wide in amusement and confidence in whatever her plan was next. Hermione tried not to be nervous in the face of it.

It was just a dance. She could get through this, and maybe try to bargain with Dark Bellatrix a way out of this since the woman seemed to be in a pleasant mood today. Taking a deep breath, Hermione gathered up her confidence and bravely straightened her back. If she had lasted this long in this untamed woman's clutches than she could last a bit longer till she either found a way out or until the department rescued her.

The melody started up and with it all the ghostly dancers around them began to get into pairs and start swaying to the song. Hermione had no clue how to ballroom dance so she let Bellatrix lead the way, though given the woman's tight grip on her, there was no way Hermione would even be given a chance to lead.

The melody was sweet at moments but then grew dark and twisted; corrupted. Almost like it was trying to be good, trying to fight against its own dark impulses and failing. It was an almost sickening waltz.

The two took up most of the dance hall space, Dark Bellatrix having no concept of space at all. They rushed through some of the ghost dancers, that sending cool chills down Hermione's back as it was done so. Dark Bellatrix cackled nastily at being able to do that and then rapidly charged them over to the other side.

And as Dark Bellatrix roughly span her around, so quickly and harshly that Hermione could only cling to her for support to keep her head steady and her feet from tripping over each other, she could make out some of the heads of the dancers around them were being sniped off like in rhythm to the music, reflected in loud sniping noises.

Hermione's lips went into a horrified 'oh' but she wasn't given a chance to comment on it for she was being pulled and pushed to the beat of the music and to Dark Bellatrix's whims. It was almost like Hermione was some toy for Dark Bellatrix to have her fun with until she got bored. Hermione was then dipped so suddenly, she lost her breath and just as suddenly snapped back up, right into Dark Bellatrix's tight grip, their faces so close together that Hermione could see her own reflection in the dark pools of her eyes.

When there was a bit of a lull to the music, Dark Bellatrix kept Hermione pulled harshly to her chest, hand tight on Hermione's own and on her hip. "So, how does the ball suit to your tastes? Bellatrix could never throw something like this for you. She wouldn't dream of it." It was almost like Dark Bellatrix was urging Hermione on to pick her. But why?

"It was lovely," Hermione said, slightly breathlessly from the dance. Her heart was beating wildly and Dark Bellatrix revealed in that reaction. Her hand on Hermione's wrist inched down a bit lower and now Hermione's heart was beating wildly for another reason as Dark Bellatrix assessed her by tipping her head back a bit and biting down on her bottom lip.

That look sent a bolt right down to Hermione's core because it was so hungry. Almost like Dark Bellatrix would pounce on her at any second.

Hermione knew she was attracted to her partner. And being this close to her, with her looking that way at Hermione- Hermione knew this was all the evil parts of Bellatrix, but it was still Bellatrix and she didn't feel entirely alright with discounting it and trying to kill it like the others did. Even the nasty parts were what made up a person; one couldn't always be good all the time. It was wrong. No one was perfect. Not even Hermione was good.

"I know something else even more lovely," Dark Bellatrix said as the music began to drift off into something melodic and sweet. They had slowed their motions, now directly standing over the skeleton head markings on the floor. Dark Bellatrix hand came up to grab Hermione's cheek, thumb pulling down Hermione's bottom lip.

Hermione's heart was pounding in her chest. She shouldn't do this. She needed to resist this. Dark Bellatrix was probably only playing around with her feelings again. It was what she did.

She tried to jerk free but she was too late. Dark Bellatrix's lips crashed into hers, muffling a squeak of surprise from Hermione's mouth.

Sadly the kiss did not last long as doors crashed open and through them came Bellatrix and Dora. Dark Bellatrix pulled away from Hermione, but it was too late. Bellatrix had seen them kiss and she was pissed off.

Chapter Text

"Just on time, our guests have arrived," Dark Bellatrix said with a purr and with her wand slipping into her palm like mist she muttered a soundless spell. Instantly Dora and Bellatrix were both waltzing around the room to their own dismay.

"It was lovely to see you, Hermione," Dark Bellatrix said and pecking her on the cheek, she flashed Bellatrix a cocky grin before disapparting away.

Hermione was left to help her friends out of their frenzied dance.

By the time everything was cleared up, Dark Bellatrix was long gone and this time she didn't bother to leave any traces to follow her by. Which only aggravated Light Bellatrix for some reason. "Why are you mad at me?" Hermione asked Light Bellatrix who hurried off ahead, trying to outpace Hermione. The brunette detective only sped up her step, keeping pace. Light Bellatrix looked even more peeved by this.

"I'm not mad." She refused to meet Hermione's eyes and jerked her hand away when Hermione tried to grab onto her to slow her down.

"Yes you are. You're mad, and it's at me," Hermione stated, trying to figure out what was wrong.

"I'm not!" Light Bellatrix stubbornly insisted.

"Bellatrix, I think I've known you long enough that I know when you're royally pissed."

Light Bellatrix whirled to a stop here. Her chest heaved with emotion and heated words burst out of her mouth. "Why did you kiss her?"

Hermione was a bit taken a back by this, so she couldn't answer right away. "The other you?"

"Yes, her!" Light Bellatrix spat, looking uncomfortable with all this.

"She kissed me!" Hermione defended, coming to a slow realization. Bellatrix was jealous, of herself.

"But you didn't stop her! You just let her kiss you!"

Hermione couldn't help it. She had to let out an amused gust of air. "Bellatrix, in case you haven't noticed, she's you."

"She's not!" Light Bellatrix shrilled pointedly. "She's all the vile and dark parts of me. She's something I no longer wish to be."

"Be that as she may, it doesn't take away the fact that she's still you and I can't...I can't unsee that." Hermione explained calmly, trying to get Light Bellatrix to see reason. "She might be the bad parts but you're...you're not her without them."

"Are you saying I'm less of a woman without her? Even if my magic stores are lower, I'll still find a way to defeat and kill her. I swear it!" Light Bellatrix vowed. But even her anger did not sound like it once used to. That edge of danger, of mystery, of excitement and pure wilderness that had sat under Bellatrix's skin, waiting like a pet to be called and used when it was time to play dirty, was no longer there. And Hermione missed it.

She knew Bellatrix had done bad deeds in her past. Such as being responsible for the orchestration of a war that took many lives. But Hermione had taken lives before- for a different means and cause of course, all in the name of justice- but still, a life was a life and both of them were here now, working for this department, trying to save more lives instead of keep taking them.

That was why she couldn't hate Bellatrix's terrible side properly. Because like it or not, it was Bellatrix and to kill that part would be to forever change Bellatrix's character. Light Bellatrix couldn't see this. She thought this was a chance for redemption. But at what cost? She would lose herself, her magic. It wasn't like Bellatrix couldn't redeem herself without the artifact. She had done it before, turning her pureblood views on their head.

She could continue fighting down her bad vices if she only tried. Why was she giving up now?

"You can't kill her without her. She's that part of you. The cool, callous, slightly unhinged but powerful and no holds barred, woman."

Light Bellatrix threw up her hands in frustration. "Why don't you just bloody run off with her and just help her in her evil plans then, because clearly you're so infatuated with her!"

Hermione had never seen Bellatrix jealous before. It was flattering in a way. It made it seem like Bellatrix might even care for her in a non platonic way. Dark Bellatrix had kissed Hermione but it could all very well be a game to her.

Hermione shook her head. "Don't you see, Bellatrix, you aren't the same without her, and she's not the same without you. When I spent time with her, to me she came off as misguided, lost, and impulsive. She needs you to extract control on her life, just like you need her to be strong and not weak."

"I am not weak!" Light Bellatrix spat, stomping her foot in frustration as her fists curled up.

"No, you're not, so I don't know why you're allowing yourself to do this."

"To do what?"

"To let some artifact fix your issues for you. We've all got shitty little things inside us, always goading us to do bad. But just live on with them."

"You're telling me if you had the chance, you wouldn't want to cleanse yourself of all your sins, of all your troubles? All the mistakes you made?"

Hermione thought back a moment on this, sincerely answering, "no."

"You're lying," Light Bellatrix said flatly, not believing that anyone would willingly do this.

"I'm not. Mistakes are how we learn-"

"Some mistakes are too high of a price to learn," Light Bellatrix spat back.

Hermione shrugged, losing the anger that had been in her. She didn't want to argue like this anymore. She could see that neither Bellatrix, though split, had lost their stubborn streak. "I like you just how you are, Bellatrix. Faults and all. And I do hope that you can see that we, all of us at the department, and your family, love you how you are. No human is entirely blameless. But it's the ones who can make progress and move on from the mistakes who are truly strong." She finished softly on this note and then walked off. Leaving Light Bellatrix with her own thoughts.


The next two days were a wild goose chase for the office. Everyone was trying to find Bellatrix and doing a bad job of it. And the woman left teasing little clues, reminders that they were always so close and yet she was out of reach.

"Darn it," Light Bellatrix cried out in anger one day and the whole team looked at her wide eyed.

"Uh, you mean fuck?" Blaise asked and she shot him a sour look.

"Don't be crass, Zabini," she scolded. "Lady's shouldn't say something like that."

Dora and Hermione snickered as Blaise tried to hold a straight face. "What? Was it something I said?" Light Bellatrix looked on in confusion.

Ever since their fight, Hermione and Bellatrix had not been talking to each other. Which sucked, considering they had to work together to catch the other twin. But maybe what Hermione said struck too hard. Still, she felt they were on the edge of a revelation. And she needed to push farther to get Bellatrix to realize her true potential.

As Dora went over to join Blaise and Light Bellatrix in looking over a map, Luna and Hermione stayed aside. "Did you talk to her?"

"I did," Hermione said, watching in admiration of Light Bellatrix looks. The woman wore all white, which looked so uncharacteristic on her. And yet, she still looked amazing. Her curls were neater and pinned back with a butterfly pin. She wore no makeup, and she even spoke in a higher pitched voice. Hermione wished she had a camera on hand so she could take a photo of this and show Bellatrix later on what she looked like.

"I think you should talk to her again," Luna said as Light Bellatrix caught Hermione staring at her and shyly tucked back a strand of her hair before averting her gaze.

"She wont listen to me," Hermione dismissed. "I might have more luck in catching the other one and talking sense into her."

"Don't tell me you want to go out on your own and find her," Luna said, but with no anger or shock.

"Time is running out. And I can't bare to lose Bellatrix."

"You won't be losing her. But gaining another," Luna pointed out.

"You know what I mean," Hermione scowled. "Don't tell the others."

"I won't. But be back soon."

"I'll try," Hermione said and gave a wry smile. She took her jacket off of her chair and left, needing to find her partner's other half. She walked around for several hours, and it wasn't until evening began to hit that she finally found who she was looking for.

"You took your time," Hermione commented as Dark Bellatrix melted out from the shadows.

"I had to make sure you were alone. And that you would come to this area," Dark Bellatrix pointed a hand to a sign hanging over Hermione's head.

Finger's Love Hotel, it said and Hermione flushed, not having noticed it before.

"So, taking me on a date?" Dark Bellatrix placed a hand on her hip and jutted it out.

"I'm here to talk."

"How boring!"

"Not boring. I want you back as one person."

Dark Bellatrix arched a brow. "Why?"

"I...I like you, Bellatrix. And I would like you very much as one person so I could...you know, take you out on a proper date." Hermione was glad it was dark so her blush was harder to spot. She couldn't believe she had just said that out loud. But she had.

Dark Bellatrix didn't say anything for a long time and Hermione's heart pounded in her veins. She was nervous. She'd just confessed her long dormant feelings to Bellatrix. She tried not to show that.

"Then why not just stick with me? My other half didn't want these feelings. I think we could have more fun, just the two of us." Dark Bellatrix went to approach Hermione when loud running footsteps made her step back into the shadows. Hermione looked over to see Light Bellatrix racing down the street.

"Oi, Hermione why are you so reckless?! I've been looking the whole day for you. How could you just up and leave. Don't you know how dangerous my other half is?" Light Bellatrix asked. Hermione wanted to point out Dark Bellatrix wasn't dangerous but the woman was already gone from the shadows.

"You won't listen to me, so I have to take things into my own hands," Hermione said.

Light Bellatrix came to stop in front of her. "What do you mean?"

Hermione inhaled sharply, deciding to just get on with it. They needed to solve this issue and now.

"I know you also tore yourself apart because of the Cupid incident."

Light Bellatrix went pale in the face. Even her lips went bloodless.

"And...I wish you'd talked to me about it. You're my partner Bellatrix and I know after the kiss, things have been confusing for us." Hermione said gently.

This Bellatrix was more open than the other one. "You had no idea how I felt. I wanted you so badly and I could have done terrible things to get that. Even against your will. Because the arrow didn't care. And it was not at all how I wished to treat you. I never would go after you like that, even if you rejected me. And I didn't want you to see me like that," Light Bellatrix said, the words pouring out of her, eyes glimmering with tears.

Hermione felt herself go breathless. "Bellatrix...do you like me?" she dared to ask, to hope, to dream.

"I do. And I was doing a good job of hiding it. But then the stupid arrow came and I could have ruined it all," she wiped at her eyes with the back of her sleeve. Hermione couldn't help but think how cute Bellatrix was being right now. All honesty and shyness.

Hermione approached her, taking her hands in her own. "I like you too Bellatrix." She had so many questions about how this started, when Bellatrix had started liking Hermione. But now wasn't the time. "A lot. And I want to be able to like all of you. I know about your past; I've accepted it. But I also know that because you've been able to change you aren't as stubborn as you pretend to be and that you can change for the better. Will do anything, to save the world, and to take out the evils in it. You are talented, smart, prickly. But those are all parts of you I like. So, don't run from me. Don't run from our feelings," Hermione near begged.

Light Bellatrix shook her head, sniffling. "I didn't feel worthy of liking you. So I never-"

"It's okay. I understand," Hermione said, nodding her head. "Now we have to go catch your other half before you regret leaving her."

"But she's so strong. My magic is no use against her."

"There's two of us. We can take her on," Hermione assured.

Dark Bellatrix tsked from where she was sitting on a roof, observing all this. They swiveled around to face her. "You took all my fun away!" she complained. "I wanted to confess my dark and sordid desires for Hermione. All you did was weep about it." She stuck out a tongue in disgust. "It was so gross."

"Come down here," Hermione ordered like one did to a petulant toddler. She wasn't scared of Dark Bellatrix. She knew now that she wouldn't hurt her, because it was one thing that Hermione knew and it was that Bellatrix liked her. She must have tried to get rid of her desires for Hermione too in her 'darker' self, the one where all her bad traits she thought she had went. But, her feelings for Hermione could not be boxed away.

"Ordering me around, muddy?" Dark Bellatrix said and Hermione ignored the spiteful word choice.

"Come down here. I know you don't like this separation any better. So stop playing games and get back together with her."

"But she's so pathetic," Dark Bellatrix frowned.

"She won't be like this. You make her stronger," Hermione argued. "Please," she added on, before deciding a more coy approach might work. "If you do it, I'll make it worth your time."

Dark Bellatrix sighed out. "Well, it's not like I can make up any evil enough plans. They all seem to fall apart for me. Except for the ball. That was my one crowning achievement." She hopped down and Hermione watched with baited breath as the raven haired witch fell. She landed with no harm, coming up to Light Bellatrix. The saner version looked on at trepidation at the other but Hermione took out the music box that she had spirited away for this moment. Things had worked out exactly how she'd wanted them to. "Make nice," she warned and opened the box as the two woman clasped hands. There was a flash, a soft tinkle and then the music stopped. Hermione hide the box right away as a single Bellatrix blinked her eyes and touched her body to make sure she really was in one piece. Hermione smiled at this scene.

Bellatrix was back to normal now. Back to her normal self.

Hermione hugged her to her. The woman made an indignant sound but allowed the hug to happen, even tentatively wrapping her hands around Hermione's waist. "I'm glad to see you back."

"Yea, well," Bellatrix coughed out gruffly and looked away. "Someone here wouldn't let me stay apart."

Hermione smiled warmly at this. She felt now, for the first time ever, that all the walls between her and Bellatrix were broken and for once she and Bellatrix would be able to get along without the other woman imposing a barrier between them. And it felt nice. Even if it took several artifacts to get here.

 

Chapter Text

Hermione let out a scream when she felt something skitter across her foot as she sat under her desk. Immediately she jumped back and pulled out her wand, wondering if it was that damned shrunken head. But no, she couldn't see it.

"What's going on?" Dora asked, coming up to Hermione's side as the brunette peered wildly around under the desk, using Lumos to light it up. She could not find anything.

"I felt something crawling across my foot. And not for the first time. What is going on? Is an artifact lose or something?" Hermione questioned.

"Oh, no, it's actually seems we might have a bit of a pest problem."

"Pest problem," Hermione's face paled at the thought of that having been a cockroach or rat on her foot.

"It's why Bellatrix and Blaise haven't been in this morning. They're busy-" just as Dora began to say that, there came an explosion from her left, followed by flying rubble and lots of smoke. Blaise was coughing wildly as Bellatrix shrilled at him. "I thought you were supposed to get rid of them, magical creatures boy," Bellatrix scowled. "Why are there more?"

"Maybe they're attracted to your crabby attitude," he shot back.

So, that mission wasn't going well. Hermione wasn't surprised. Bellatrix and Blaise together were not a good pair.

"I guess you didn't get them all?" Dora asked, ignoring the half blown up wall to their office.

"Hm, you guessed right," Bellatrix said, stepping over the rubble and into the room, the front of her shirt and black slacks covered in white powder. Her eyes landed on Hermione and she looked away, a light flush on her cheeks. She coughed to get rid of it. Hermione felt a similar blush coat her cheeks.

Ever since she and Bellatrix had come out about their feelings for each other, things had been a bit awkward between them because they didn't know what to do next. Their interactions were shy and stilted and they didn't talk as often anymore. Hermione didn't really like this, but she didn't know how else to progress. She really wanted to go on a date with Bellatrix but how, when they were both too out of sorts to do anything?

"How did we even get them? None of the artifacts have such a power," Dora questioned.

"Beast boy must have brought them in," Bellatrix said, jerking her thumb back at Blaise. He scowled as he stepped into the room, several scarabs skittering into the room too. Scarabs? Where the hell did scarabs come from? "I knew he was filthy. It's probably because he doesn't shower."

"For the last time, it wasn't me!" he exclaimed angrily. His fist clenched tightly on his wand.

"You sound awfully upset for someone who claims to not be guilty," she snarked back, unapologetic.

"It's because I'm not guilty that this is pissing me off!" he cried out. He worked his jaw, before turning on his heel and walking away to who knows where.

"You shouldn't antagonize him so much," Hermione decided to speak up.

Bellatrix shot her a look but it missed it's usual zeal. "I don't like him. I don't trust him." Then she walked off too in her own direction.

Great. Now they were both pissed off.

"Don't worry about them, they'll come around," Dora said smiling before a scarab landed on her shoulder. It was blue and huge. She frowned, and flicked it off her shoulder. "Ugh, this whole place is infested with them," Dora complained. When she wasn't watching one of them crawled up her pant leg. "I'll write an owl. I think we need professional exterminators for this." She went off to do just that.


The office had to be closed down for three days in order to properly clean it up. Luna and Dora were both on site to make sure the workers didn't mess with anything they shouldn't, and to supervise them. This meant Hermione and Bellatrix were stuck in the mansion, and without the chatter of Dora to buffer between them, it became tense once more. They couldn't even be in the same room together without it becoming suffocating with unspoken words.

One or the other always made a hasty exit so as not to draw out the situation.

Eventually though, Hermione could not stand it any longer. "Bellatrix, we need to talk," Hermione said as she let herself into the library, shutting the door behind her. Bellatrix who had been skimming through a book, tensed up, but eventually relaxed. "About what?" she asked, attempting at being casual.

Hermione inhaled deeply, before gathering up her courage and speaking. "A date."

Bellatrix whipped her head around, finally facing Hermione for the first time since the brunette came in. "A what?"

"It's when two-"

"I know what it is," Bellatrix retorted but not sharply. "You want to go on a date with me?"

"I don't see why it's so shocking. We had dinner before. It was nice," Hermione said, her courage wilting a bit. She tried not to show it, meeting Bellatrix's black gaze intently. This was the first time they'd looked at each other properly, eye to eye, for more than a few seconds.

"It was nice," Bellatrix affirmed, "but I don't understand why you're not running for the hills."

Hermione tipped her head to the side here. "And why would I?"

Bellatrix chuckled humorlessly. "Because of the curse. The curse of the department."

"And...?" Hermione waited for the older woman to fill in. Bellatrix sighed, as if this was a heavy burden to her, and she shelved her book neatly, taking the time to do this, drawing the anticipation out.

"Anyone who gets close to me dies," she said at last in a bone dry whisper.

"But...isn't that the case for everyone?" Hermione questioned, not quite seeing how this was any different. "That's just how life works."

"Hm, not for me. I too was naive about it all, not wanting to believe it, chalking things up to fate. But it's not that," Bellatrix said heavily, sitting down in a plush armchair. Hermione stayed leaning against the wall. "Everyone who has ever expressed romantic interest in me dies. It's almost as if I am cursed to never have love. And it's so much worse now that I actually return those feelings." She gave a bitter chuckle.

Hermione furrowed her brow. "I'm still not sure I understand why you think-"

"Tom Riddle died. He was my partner. And he told me he was in love with me. I didn't harbor those same feelings for me," she began slowly. "And then a month later Apophis took him. And the same thing happened twice many years before to two colleagues you don't know."

This all sounded terrible, but Hermione knew the high burnout rate of this job. She wasn't surprised that something like this had happened. And Hermione knew that the department had a nasty habit of cursing those stayed long enough with it. However, she didn't think this was Bellatrix's curse. So naturally, when she spoke, she expected the derision she got from her partner.

"I don't believe it for a second," Hermione said, determination blazing through her.

"Then you are stupid if you do not think so," Bellatrix hissed out, rising up. "You live in a world of magic, not reason-"

"I'm not going to give up. I've never felt this way for anyone before and I would be an idiot to pass up this chance-"

"No, you are an idiot for taking this chance-"

"-and maybe things will be different this time. Have you ever considered that perhaps if you're in love with the person who loves you, the curse might not work?"

This shut Bellatrix up, given how her jaw hung open wide. Apparently it wasn't something she'd considered. "Huh," she said at last, shifting on her feet.

"So, give it a try."

"It's still too risky," she grumbled out but lacking her previous vitriol.

"Just give us a chance before you say no," was all Hermione added on. Then, she left the room so that Bellatrix could think this over.


"You know, you could relax. You don't have to be vigilante," Hermione said with a small smile; amused but also slowly becoming irritated.

"I have to," Bellatrix shot back. "Or else-"

"-or else something could happen to me, yes yes," Hermione rolled her eyes. "I've heard this a thousand times by now."

"Don't make light of this," Bellatrix said grumpily though she did put her wand back up her sleeve. Hermione had made the arrangements for dinner, making sure it was somewhere in the wizarding world. They were going to a fancy restaurant known for it's colorful drinks. "Danger could strike from anywhere. I have to be ready to react at a split second's notice."

"I can handle myself. I have magic now," Hermione tried to assure.

"Tom was even more talented and well acquainted in this world than you, and yet..." Bellatrix trailed off pointedly. Hermione let out an aggravated sigh. Instead of being able to enjoy being out with Bellatrix, they were having an argument. Bellatrix seemed to sense she was pushing Hermione's buttons, so she stopped. Instead, she reached over and took Hermione's hand in her own. Her hand was cool and smooth; Hermione's was warm and soft.

"I'll shut up about it. For now. But truly, you cannot blame me for wanting to protect you. I don't want any harm to come to you," she explained gruffly. "Even when you first came to the department I didn't want to see you hurt. You were so naive and new to this world and I didn't think you deserved to be here."

"And what about now?" Hermione asked, genuinely curious to hear Bellatrix's inner thoughts which she so rarely said out loud.

"Now, you certainly have more experience under your belt, but I still think you shouldn't be doing all this."

"And what of Dora and Luna? Are they not innocent too? Too good for this job," Hermione said, a touch sharply, because why couldn't Bellatrix see this? That Hermione belonged here. Hermione thought she belonged in the human world but she never had, always feeling off and not able to connect to others. But here, she felt as if she'd been born in the wizarding world, as if she never should have left.

Like a lost lover returning home to their loved one.

"Luna and Dora are different cases," Bellatrix explained. "I too would not want Dora working here, but at least I can keep an eye on her and make sure she is safe from more dangerous options. And Luna, well," here she chuckled like someone who knew a secret. "She is more than capable of taking care of herself."

Hermione didn't know what else to say to this and so she was happy they finally arrived at the restaurant. Both of them had dressed up nicely for this evening, both of their curls down. Bellatrix's bounced and how did they look so full and shiny when Hermione could not get her own to look like that?

"Magic," Bellatrix breathed out as if she'd read Hermione's thoughts.

"You have got to teach me the spell," Hermione said, because she had yet to find one in the books she'd read.

They sat down at the table, both of them now becoming visibly nervous. Hermione hadn't been on a date in a long time, at least not with someone she actually had feelings for romantically. And Bellatrix was nervous because of the supposed curse she felt she had. To ease the tension, Hermione turned to the one thing she knew they had no difficulty talking about: work.

"Where do you think those scarabs came from?" she asked as a waiter brought them water and menus.

"I still cannot find a way that they snuck into the office," Bellatrix said taking a sip of water and easing up her shoulders. "They shouldn't be able to get in anyways. We have wards up to prevent such pests from coming in in order to protect the artifacts. Which means they had to have been brought in."

"Brought in," Hermione echoed, worried and intrigued.

"Yes." Bellatrix nodded her head in the affirmative.

"By who? And how? I don't think anyone would willingly bring them in."

"And that's where you would be wrong," Bellatrix said, peering through the menu and selecting her dish. The both of them took a quick break to order their dishes and then got back to talking. "Scarabs were creatures often found in Egyptian legends. They stood for symbols of the soul. However, in our case, whenever there is something to do with such Egyptian wares- the Shabati and now the Scarabs- that can only mean-"

"Apophis," Hermione breathed out, stomach curling in dread.

Oh, this was not good. It was very not good.

Bellatrix gave a humorless smile. "Which is why I am very concerned."

"But what is the purpose of them being there?" Hermione's hands fidgeted with the napkin on her lap.

"Well, so far they have not eaten any of the artifacts, nor have they attempted to corrupt them. They're sort of...just there," Bellatrix shrugged, unable to arrive at a conclusion either. "Which to me is even more concerning."

"How did Apophis plant them in our office? Is he getting stronger?"

"That is also a grim possibility," Bellatrix confirmed with a sober nod of her head. "I'm more worried about who brought them to our office."

"You think it was one of us?" Hermione questioned.

"Yes," Bellatrix said, eyes flashing darkly. "And I know who it is. Blaise."

Hermione sat back at this, letting out a huff of air. "I know you don't like him, but to go so far as to make baseless allegations-"

"They are not baseless," she snapped out. "He worked with the department of magical creatures. If anyone would know anything about them, it would be him."

"Okay...supposing I'll humor this theory," because Hermione saw no reason as to why they shouldn't trust Blaise. He knew nothing of Apophis and the trials they faced against the Egyptian god of chaos so, "why would he bring them in? And if he brought them in, why would he be trying to stop them?"

Bellatrix twirled a knife on her fingertips like it was a wand. "He's a spy, simple as that. He could have been planted there by Apophis. And despite trying to destroy the scarabs, he's been unable to do so. Strange, given his prior engagements and qualifications."

Hermione rubbed the bridge of her nose. Truly, Bellatrix disliked him so much that she would go to such lengths? To accuse him? "Apophis doesn't have any agents working for him."

"That we know of."

"Yes, I concede that point. But," here Hermione paused minutely, "what human, wizard or not, would want to work for him if he's bringing upon the end of the world?"

"Humans, magical or not, are contentious creatures. We will believe in the most ridiculous of rubbish. Yes, even I," Bellatrix admitted, "as we all know my past history too well. Which goes to show it wouldn't be entirely unimaginable for him to be working for Apophis."

Again, Hermione didn't readily believe this, but she humored Bellatrix for now. "And what would be his motivation for working for Apophis?"

"That I do not know yet. But I will figure it out, and I will prove to you all that he is the traitor in our midst." Bellatrix finished speaking just in time for the food to arrive.

The two of the, hungry, dug into the meals and made small talk about Hermione's ongoing education at Hogwarts, her future goals, some news about the muggle world, and they even debated facts about merpeople. Truly, Hermione felt like there was nothing she couldn't talk about with Bellatrix and though they had their squabbles, it was never a bore talking to her.

Bellatrix insisted on paying for the meal, and they left the restaurant to a world draped in dusk, hand in hand. The evening had been nice; it had been them. Not overly sweet and not overly chaotic. Just, nice.

And it would be nicer if Hermione could get what she'd wanted from Bellatrix for quite some time now. A kiss.

She wanted to taste the older woman's lips and envelop herself in her heated embrace. Her cheeks flushed just thinking about it and before she knew it she had pulled Bellatrix to a stop under a lamppost. Bellatrix took one look at Hermione's face and knew where this was going. She took a distancing step back, face torn in conflict. Her eyes flickered down to Hermione's lips and then away, as if trying to convince herself this wasn't what she wanted too.

"I never took you for a coward," Hermione taunted, knowing it would rile Bellatrix up, as it did.

"I'm no coward," she growled out and pushed forward, catching Hermione's lips in her own. The kiss wasn't by any means romantic. It was rough, brash, and over far too quickly. But it still made Hermione's stomach curl in on itself, made her heart leap up in joy. Bellatrix took a step back, casting wary glances over her shoulder as if expecting something to jump out and hurt Hermione for this. But when nothing did, she relaxed, hiding her wand once more.

Hermione tried to speak up and say something but found she could not. Before she could gather the brain power to do so, an owl arrived over their heads, dropping down a note. Bellatrix snatched it up and opened it, her lips pulling downwards. Hermione peered over her shoulder, letting out a small groan. "Why is it we can't even have a peaceful date night," she questioned.

Hermione, Bellatrix,

Help is needed in the Department of Mysteries.

Luna

"Because, this is what working for the Department is like," Bellatrix answered off handily. She folded up the letter and tucked it inside her open jacket. "We must hurry back. It can't be anything good."

Hermione's face matched Bellatrix's grim one but without another word of complaint she hung onto Bellatrix as they apparated over to the office.

Chapter Text

How has it gotten worse?" Hermione grumbled as in the lowly light office of the Department of Mysteries, she found herself standing in a room swarmed with scarabs. It was like they were magically multiplying. They covered the walls like wallpaper and the ground crunched as Hermione stepped on them.

"With magic I am sure," Bellatrix answered and let out a jet of fire from her wand tip. It burned the ones on the floor in front of her to a crisp, the smell horrendous. But at least they were gone and the others scurried away. "Come, we don't have much time to waste," she said and grabbed Hermione's hand to tug her along. Hermione didn't mind this pushy attitude as long as she got to hold Bellatrix's hand. And what even where they right now? Dating? Lovers? Girlfriends? Perhaps it was too soon to think on this after one date.

They went down the elevator to where the warehouse was. Here there was less scarabs, but still some skittered around and the sound made the hair on the back of Hermione's head stand up. It was disgusting. They were disgusting. She watched as Bellatrix undid the wards on the doors and they slide open with a creak. Hermione followed in, the doors shutting behind her.

She followed wordlessly behind Bellatrix, arriving to where they found Luna frowning and deep in thought. "Luna, what's going on," Bellatrix barked out.

Luna turned to her. "Steve came across something concerning. One of our artifacts is missing."

"Missing!" Bellatrix shrilled out. "What do you mean?"

"It's simply gone from it's shelf."

"How?" Hermione inquired, feeling that familiar feeling of dread settling down in her lower belly.

"Was it the scarabs?"

Luna shook her head no to Bellatrix's deductions. "I examined them. They aren't magical in that regard."

"Then how are they multiplying?" was the question the dark haired witch asked next.

"That doesn't matter right now. What matters is getting the artifact back," she indicated to the empty shelf in front of her. "And no, it wasn't the scarabs who took them. A person must have taken them."

"Blaise," Bellatrix growled out under her breath. Oh no, Hermione could tell where this was going to go next. She clamped a hand down on Bellatrix's arm. "You are not going to his house in the middle of the night and accosting him-"

"Then what are we to do?" Bellatrix declared angrily.

"Get the artifact back," was Luna's simple answer. "I'll stay behind and with Steve torch the scarabs and make sure none of the other artifact are gone. You two focus on recovering the one we're missing already."

"When did it last go missing?" Hermione asked.

Luna rubbed her chin. "Sometime this late afternoon and up to now."

"That's a five hour period that it has a head start on us," Hermione grumbled, dismayed.

"Use the globe, it should show you if it's acting up," was the answer.

"And if it's not acting up, how are we to find it?" Hermione posited. Luna gave a small shrug at this.

"If it's not acting up then I cannot offer more help with that."

Bellatrix and Hermione left the warehouse, the dark haired woman seething silently. "We could find the artifact if you let us talk to Blaise."

"We have no proof he did this."

"But we also have no proof he didn't do this," snapped Bellatrix. She had a point there, but Hermione refused to blame Blaise for this just because he was the newest member here.

"He didn't do it. I know he's new-"

"Newness has nothing to do with this," Bellatrix snapped out, hands itching to grab her wand. She let out an aggravated huff. "Let's see if we can find any leads on this missing artifact and find it."

The two of them went to their desks and took out files on the missing artifact. It was a pumpkin ornament that apparently created hallucinations to those who used it on Hallow's Eve. They scoured their files, trying to deduce a possible explanation to where it had gone. They periodically checked on the globe but nothing popped up, meaning the artifact was not in use.

Luna came up at some point during the night, a grim expression on her face. "It seems we have more than one artifact missing."

"Well fuck me sideways. How did this happen?" Bellatrix groaned out, looking even more aggravated.

"I am not sure."

"Was anyone there that wasn't supposed to be there?" Bellatrix inquired.

"No, only people of our department where there," Luna replied. Bellatrix stood up, putting on her jacket. "I'm going to have to have a chat with everyone then."

"Just a chat, I hope," Hermione said with an edge to her voice.

"I know how to interrogate others," Bellatrix snipped, running a hand over her tired face. They were all tired right now. "Luna, call Blaise and Dora here too. I'm going to examine everyone and see if I can find any clues. If we have-"

"-five-"

"-bloody hell, five, artifacts missing, this is something planned and most dangerous," Bellatrix concluded and went off to find Steve first to interview. Hermione sighed heavily. This was not at all how she'd expected her date night to go. Perhaps Bellatrix had been right in a way, that there was no place for romance in this department.

But that didn't mean Hermione would give up without a fight on it first.

"I'm sorry your night ended like this," Luna said apologetically.

"It's fine," Hermione sighed out, turning back to her books, pulling out new files on the newest missing artifacts. "Let's just make sure the world is a safe place."

Dora and Blaise popped into the office ten minutes later, looking tired as it was 4 in the morning right now and far too early to be up. "What's this all about?" Dora asked, flattening her hair which was sticking up comically.

"Bad stuff. Artifacts have gone missing," Hermione reported, eyes pink from reading so much.

Dora jolted at this, her hair turning white. "Oh, that's terrible! How did this happen?"

"Bellatrix thinks it has something to do with the scarabs."

"They spirited away the artifacts!" Dora yelped.

"Well, no. Someone did, rather. Someone among us," Hermione pointed out. This only made Dora look even more concerned.

Suddenly the ceiling above them rumbled, making them unsteady on their feet.

"What the bloody hell was that?" Blaise asked when it stopped and he could get his bearings. The noise above had been inhumane. It made all their hair stand on end. Hermione wondered just what other troubles lay for the department now.

Only Dora did not look concerned. "Oh, I guess it's time again."

"Time again?" Blaise shrilled. "For what!"

"They couldn't pick a better time," Bellatrix grumbled, coming to greet them. Apparently her talk with Steve had ended and now she was up to talk to someone else. "Honestly, don't they know we're in the middle of a crisis?"

"We can't ignore them," Dora argued, her hair turning to it's usual pink. "You know the deal."

Hermione wondered what they were talking about.

"I know," Bellatrix nodded her head, before a smile overtook her pretty features. "No, this is perfect," Bellatrix purred, waving them off. "Blaise and I can get to be all buddy buddy now while the two of you go off." She threw an arm around his shoulders; he gulped nervously. "Isn't that right, friend?"

"Sure thing," he muttered, fixing his suddenly too tight tie.

"Are you sure you won't need us down here-" Hermione began.

Bellatrix waved a hand and cut her off. "No need to worry, yet. The artifacts are gone and won't be found so easily until one of them is regrettably activated. For now all we can do is try to guess where they've been taken."

"Right," Hermione nodded her head. She knew this, and yet she felt wrong about leaving especially when they were in the middle of a crisis.

"Cheer up, it won't all be so bad. Where we're going, we might actually be able to spot the artifacts!" Dora suggested, able to be so cheery despite the dismal situation.

"Yea, where are we going?" Hermione asked. Bellatrix steered Blaise away for a chat, while Luna went back down to check on any other missing artifacts. Dora pointed up at their endless ceiling, a pure point of black.

"Up there. You're finally going to see," Dora said with a smile, and Hermione felt both curiosity and adventure seize her. There was something up there? Well she wasn't entirely shocked as this was the department of mysteries. But, how were they going up there?

As if reading her thoughts, Dora reached up a hand. A rope came tumbling down from the abyss of nothing and right into her hand. "How did you do that?" Hermione asked.

"Oh, I didn't do anything. We can only access the upstairs when it's time."

Hermione didn't bother to continue asking; soon she would see for herself what was up there. She watched as Dora climbed up the rope and Hermione followed after her. She watched the office get smaller and smaller under her until she was climbing in straight darkness. She couldn't even see Dora who was a couple of feet from her.

"Dora?" she questioned nervously.

"It's alright. Just keep going. We're almost there."

Hermione's arms were beginning to feel very sore and her hands rubbed raw on the harsh rope. She wondered if there was a spell she could use to help with this? But just as she was contemplating pulling out her wand, suddenly the space around her grew very bright. She squeezed her eyes shut against it, her eyes not used to the light after so long. She kept going up until she felt herself reach the end of the rope and opened her eyes, to find herself crawling out of a hole in the clouds. She stood up on the cool yet solid surface, her ankles disappearing into the white. Her eyes opened wide.

Wow.

Despite all she'd seen in the magical world, there were still some things that took her breath away. Dora smiled at her. "I too was breathless when I saw this at first. It's really amazing, ain't it?"

Hermione looked out at the whole world on the clouds. She could make out the outline of a castle in the distance and as she looked down she saw the tiny blocks that made up her city.

"How is this even possible?" she breathed out. And despite being this high up she did not feel cold or unable to breath.

"Magic," Dora said with a shrug.

"Has it always been like this?"

"More or less. No one in the department really knows how these two places are connected. Any documents on it have been locked away long ago so it's pretty much a secret."

"And what exactly are we to do up here?"

"Politics," Dora said with a wry grin. "There's a bunch of giants up here who we get in touch with ever so often."

"Giants, living on clouds," Hermione murmured in wonder. Surely, what other secrets did this magical world hold?

"It's usually easy stuff. Nothing too crazy, hopefully. But don't speak too much. The giants only like a certain way of talking. You can leave that up to me."

"Right. I'll follow your lead then," Hermione nodded along.

"And try not to stare too much," Dora said. "They really don't like that."

"Got it," Hermione said, and followed gingerly behind Dora as they marched across the clouds to the castle in the distance.

"Oh and don't worry about falling through. It's solid ground, thanks to magic."

Hermione knew that and yet there was a part of her that was too afraid to not look down in case she accidentally misstep and fell down.

After three hours of work deciphering whatever it was that was going on, Hermione felt ready for a good long nap. Her head was hurting and she had no clue as to what had just happened. "What was all that?"

"Politics," Dora said with an easy going shrug.

"Politics," Hermione echoed dryly. "Then why were we forced to argue over a gold egg laying hen that apparently is the future of this kingdom?"

"Giant's have...different priorities than us," was all Dora could say to this. "But, don't think too deeply on this. Giant's have logic not on the same level as us."

"Why are we required to help them? This in no way helps us."

"No, but it's just the way of things," Dora stated easily. "And we can't say no. Otherwise we'll face the giant's wrath if we do not deal with their problems. And let me tell you, the world does not need a giant infestation right now."

"No, it does not," Hermione agreed.

"But, on a more interesting note," Dora hip bumped Hermione who almost stumbled and fell, "how was the date with Auntie Bella?"

Hermione flushed. "How did you know about it?"

She'd thought her and Bellatrix had been discreet.

"I found Auntie stressing in front of a mirror for hours deciding on what she was going to wear. She never does that. The one time she did was when it was for the funeral of one of her enemies and she wanted to show up as smugly dressed as she could."

Well, that sounded like her.

"It was..."

"Brief?" Dora guessed.

"Yea, we got called away to the office and couldn't do much after dinner," Hermione said with a hint of bitterness.

"Ah, you were planning to do something with her?" Dora teased. "Something more?" She waggled her brows.

"Should you really be asking for details, considering this is your aunt?" Hermione pointed out.

"You're right. I shouldn't," Dora pulled a disgusted face. "I'm sorry though that your date was kinda ruined."

"It was fun while it lasted. And there's always next time. Unless Bellatrix claims the curse excuse again."

"She did what?"

"She said she was cursed to be unlucky in love. That whoever loved her died."

"That's...dreary!"

"I told her it was bullocks though."

"Hmmm..."

"You don't agree?" Hermione had been certain that Dora would agree with her.

"I won't lie to you, it could be true. Everyone that's ever loved her is dead."

Now Hermione felt spooked. "Surely it was just cause of other reasons and not the curse?"

"We don't know what the curse is. Kingsley does. You should ask him if anything," Dora pointed out.

Hermione heaved out a sigh, mind heavy. They had come back to the hole where the rope was. "We descend the same way we arrived." Dora explained.

"Wait, before we go, I just want to try the artifact locating spell. Maybe something will come up from all the way up here." Hermione approached the edge of the cloud, careful to not be too close to the edge. She waved her wand and uttered out the spell. She watched as the magic bobbed and weaved through the air, lighting up in two spots not too far away. She smiled. "There's two artifacts nearby!" This gave her hope that they could solve their problems.

She was about to turn to Dora to share this news with her when she felt something shove her hard in the back. She gasped, eyes opening wide as her feet left the cloud. She arched her head around to see Dora was standing a few feet from her, hair black and with shock on her face.

Hermione's mouth made a shape to call out Dora's name but no sound came from her. And then she was free-falling thousands of feet downwards.

Chapter Text

How funny, this situation was. So funny, that it wasn't funny at all. The wind whizzed past her head, choking her as she free fell. The cloud she'd been on was growing smaller and smaller as the ground approached.

Her mind was racing and panic filled her. She didn't want things to end this way. She did not. She still had so much she wanted to do. She closed her eyes, tears flying from them. No, she had to focus. She had to calm down. There had to be a way out of this. She had magic, for Merlin's sake. That had to be useful for something in this situation.

Taking deep calming breathes as much as she could in this moment, she tried to clear her mind. And focused on something that could help her. When an idea came to life in her mind, she created a bubble around herself. This protected her from the wind and she felt herself able to breathe better once again.

She was still falling, rapidly and scarily fast. There was a spell that could stop her fall. She knew about it. But would it work from this high up? And she did have to time it right too.

But what other option did she have? The buildings were getting bigger; at the rate she was going, she'd touch down on the ground in about a minute or so.

Gripping her wand in her sweaty hand, she inhaled sharply and prepared to cast the spell. She had to do it right. Not too high up so she would stuck in midair and still fall down, but not too low so that she wouldn't have enough time to stop.

Closer, and closer now- about forty seconds to touch down. She counted down about ten more and then dissolved the bubble around herself and cast the spell with all her might! "Arresto momentum!"

She felt her body slowing down, aching as her atoms were forcefully tugged back. She grit her teeth at the pain, slowing and slowing down, but not fast enough to come to a complete halt. She smacked into the pavement of the dark alleyway, groaning in pain as lights flashed before her eyes. She laid there for a while, not caring how dirty the ground was. The important part was she was impossibly alive.

She rolled onto her back, rubbing her hurt forehead. She'd smacked down with the force of someone falling two stories. Not enough to cause real issues but enough to bruise. Still, that was nothing in comparison to having her life.

When she felt the racing of her heart calm down, she stood up, finding her legs shaky. She cast a quick Ekipsy spell on her injuries before she made her way back to the department. She doesn't really remember the walk over, everything kind of distorted right now and weird.

But the familiar sight and smell of the department helps calm her down strangely. Until she sees her co-workers.

Dora was full out sobbing. Hermione didn't even know what to say to her. They all looked stricken, as if they thought she was dead. It was Blaise who spotted her first. "Hermione!" he breathed out, teary eyed.

Dora looked up and latched onto Hermione, crushing her to her when she saw she was okay. Together they sunk down to the ground. "I thought you were dead!" she wailed, barely making sense through her thick tears.

Hermione was in too much shock to speak much, merely numbly wrapping her arms around her friend. Bellatrix similarly approached her, pushing aside her pride to join the hug going on. Soon Luna and Blaise were next and Hermione felt so warm and comforted.

"I'm...I'm fine," she said shakily. "I...I'm fine," she concluded upon.

"What happened," Bellatrix asked and though her eyes were red and watery, her tone was brisk like.

"I just...I don't know," Hermione said as they pulled away from her.

"I'm going to make her some soothing tea," Luna said, tugging Blaise with her so he could help her and give them some space.

"I was standing on the cloud and I was pushed off. As if by invisible hands. And Dora was there-"

"And all I could do was watch. I'm a failure!" she cried out, breaking out into sobs again. Bellatrix placed a comforting hand on her niece's shoulders. "It's alright, no one was expecting-"

"It's not alright. I should have done something!" and she sobbed harder.

Bellatrix let out a heavy sigh. "I told you about the curse Hermione. I told you not to-"

"I know," Hermione cut in quietly. "I know."

"Tea?" Luna came in, carrying the tray. They all sat down by the couches, holding onto their mugs of hot tea. No one really spoke or said anything, Hermione still too tuned in on the sensation of falling and falling. She rubbed her neck, feeling like she was choking. Dora's cries had quieted down and her hair had turned a lighter shade of blue. Luna was silent too, staring up at the ceiling. Blaise looked very much like he wanted to say something but refrained from doing so, shifting his feet around. And Bellatrix looked pissed, deep in thought.

"You're quitting the department," she said at last, everyone looking at her.

"You can't be serious-" Hermione began.

"This is for your own safety. You're in danger because of me!" she shouted, rising to her feet angrily.

"It was one incident-"

"And how many more must there be for it to get through your head that we can't do this?" she pointed between her and Hermione.

Hermione sighed out, not needing an argument right now. "Luna, get me in touch with Kingsley."

Bellatrix took this as a sign of victory, and Hermione did not feel like correcting her. Kingsley replied back quickly, his door appearing in the wall for her to go into. No one else followed her in.

"Your letter was dire. What is going on?" he asked her, sitting behind his desk, voice even.

She plopped down into the chair in front, tired. "What isn't going on is the better question."

"Start with what you can," he told her gently.

"I-" she wasn't sure where to start but she started with the scarabs. "Sir, we are having a current infestation-"

"I know about that," he waved it off. "And I know about the missing artifacts. I trust you are working hard to get them?"

"Yes, of course!" Hermione affirmed diligently. They would get them back; they could not fail.

"I trust then you have something else to ask me?" he said, looking very much like he knew what this was about even without her saying anything.

She fidgeted in the chair, wondering how she could phrase this delicately. But she found there was no way to do so, so she just went for it. "Bellatrix's curse...does it have to do with romance?"

He raised his brows. "Romance?"

"She thinks she's cursed to never know love and for anyone who expresses interest in her ending up killed."

He laughed at this, a full bellied laugh. She sat and watched him laugh, not sure if she should join in.

"Of course she would think that," he shook his head, trying to temper down his amusement. "I can assure you, that is not her curse. I thought all this time she knew what her curse was, but it seems she is mistaken and I must rectify it for her later. However, you are not in any more or less danger than before, Hermione." He winked at her. "I assure you, you can continue your...pursuit."

She flushed at this. It was not her intention for people to know about her and Bellatrix just yet, but it seemed things did not remain a secret for long in the department of mysteries.

"If that is all, I won't keep you," he told her. "I'm sure you are very busy right now. And so am I."

She knew when she was being dismissed and so she bid him a goodbye and left.

"Another artifact is gone," Luna reported dourly when Hermione came out of her meeting with Kingsley. The door behind her disappeared.

"How!" Bellatrix threw her hands in the air.

"I don't know. No one who shouldn't be there is there. It's only us," she explained.

"I guess I have to do another round of interrogations," Bellatrix stood up. Blaise stood up too.

"Hold up, how do we know it's not you?" he said.

"Me?" Bellatrix's voice went shrill in offense. "Why would I be the one stealing the artifacts?"

"I don't know. But you're the one interrogating everyone which would be a good way for no one to interrogate you!"

"I wasn't bloody stealing artifacts!"

"Then what were you doing last evening!" he demanded.

Bellatrix's jaw clamped shut here. She did not seem to want to impart this so Hermione did.

"We were out for dinner," she said tiredly, massaging her temples. She really needed a nap after everything today.

"And how do I know you're not in it either, Hermione," Blaise turned to her, eyes narrowed.

"Seriously?" she questioned, growing tired of this mistrust. It was like an illness touching everyone.

"Let's not fight, everyone. I'm sure there is a way to explain all this away," Dora began, trying to calm everyone's nerves.

"Yes, let's use a piensieve. That ought to show who can be trusted and who cannot," Blaise sneered.

Bellatrix set her jaw. He noticed this too keenly. "Ah, hiding something?"

"I have nothing to hide," she said resolutely. But they both kinda of did. Their date. And their kiss. Hermione didn't want others seeing this. But if she had to prove her innocence...

"I'll go first," she said bravely and Blaise's face softened on her. "You had a rough day. Why don't you go last-"

"No, I'll do it first. That way you'll know both I and Bellatrix are telling the truth since we spent the whole evening together." By doing this, she would spare Bellatrix the embarrassment of having her private memories shown. Hermione knew the woman hated sharing her memories. She'd learned that the hard way when she'd fallen accidentally into her piensieve.

"I suppose I can't argue with that logic," he stated and waved his wand, indicating for her to go to the side room so he could check. The rest filed in so they could also see this memory. Hermione wondered what their reaction would be to it. Dora already knew, but Luna and Blaise didn't. She hadn't really come out to them.

Holding her breath, she allowed them to see her memories. Blaise came out, face impossibly neutral. She could not tell if he was displeased or not. She knew he didn't like Bellatrix- would Hermione's involvement with her make him hate her?

Luna looked more happy, but then again she always did have a dopey expression on her face. Bellatrix looked tense and didn't even give anyone a chance to comment before barking out that it was Luna's turn to share her memories. Hermione couldn't wait to tell her what Kingsely had said- that her curse wasn't of the romantic kind. And that they could be together!

It was at least the one piece of good news on this long, hard, day.

After Luna, they went to Dora. And what they saw there, made their blood run cold. Dora, humming along as she took the artifacts off of the shelves and opened a portal, throwing them out through that method, randomly depositing them somewhere in the world. And then her, on the cloud, taking out her wand and casting a spell at Hermione that sent her off the ledge.

It was Dora all along. They all turned to her, deeply betrayed. Dora has paled, all color leeched from her hair.

"You tried to kill me," Hermione breathed out. She was shaking and her heart hurt.

"I swear...I swear I didn't do any of those things. I don't remember doing them!" Dora cried out, sweating and teary eyed. "I swear! I don't know nothing about that!" She looked like she was going to be sick; confused and hurting at the same time.

"Incarous," Blaise cried up and she fell to the floor, unable to move because of the invisible binds.

"What do we do now?" Luna asked as Dora began to softly cry.

Bellatrix clenched her jaw. She must be hurt even more; it was her own niece after all. "Leave it to me," she said at last, voice rough and took Dora to a separate room.


They paced around in the office, not sure where to proceed from this. How could Dora do such a thing to them? And why? It didn't make sense.

"I'm sorry," Blaise whispered to Hermione as she poured herself a mug of hot coffee.

"For what?" she asked, not in the mood for conversation with anyone right now.

"For...what happened to you. To Dora hurting you."

That sent a stab of pain through Hermione but she tried to swallow it down. "I'd rather not talk about it right now," she said harshly and he nodded his head in understanding. Bellatrix burst out of the room Dora was held in, carrying something in a jar. She looked a bit frazzled, energy rolling off in waves on her.

"What's that?" Hermione asked, eager for action, for anything to do other than this standing still.

"A scarab," she said, holding up the jar for all of them to see. They crowded around her, Dora slowly exiting the room behind, looking a bit dazed from the extraction procedure and scared of how she would be received now. "This was inside Dora, making her act the way she did."

What a relief! While it certainly was awful such a thing had happened to Dora, at least she was okay now, and they no longer had to worry about her.

"How is that possible?" Luna asked. "Scarabs can do such things?"

"Of course they can. Scarabs represent the soul. So it only makes sense they can attach to one's soul and control it. I was lucky I got this bugger out before it became a permanent fixture there." Bellatrix offered up a twisted smile and set the jar down. Hermione felt the air crackle with tension. She knew Bellatrix was about to do something very rash, and she didn't think she could stop it.

Just as she finished having the thought, Bellatrix had whipped her wand out and blasted Blaise so hard he went flying through the air like a ragdoll. "You knew scarabs could do this, and yet you didn't say anything. That means you knew information and were covering it up!" she roared out as an admonishing cry of 'Bellatrix!' left Hermione's throat. She reached out a hand to pull Bellatrix back but the woman elbowed at her and Hermione narrowly missed taking an elbow to the stomach.

"You fucking bitch, you don't give up do you," he sneered as he stood up with a grunt, and suddenly his face turned ugly. He wiped the blood streaking down his nose with the back of his hand. "When did you start suspecting?"

"The first day since I saw you," Bellatrix said. Hermione and Dora gasped loudly, while Luna tranquilly looked on.

"I guess there is a reason you're one of the best agents," he said with a shrug. "But not for long if I have my way." And he sent an Avada Kedavra right at her. She deflected it without even blinking.

"Get out of the way," she growled to Hermione and the others.

"I can take him on!" Hermione exclaimed.

"No, it's not that. His ass is mine!" Bellatrix shouted out, her wand striking through the air.

"Oh, I've been waiting for this moment. When I could finally lash out at you, you insufferable bitch!" he shouted out, doubling his attacks as Hermione dragged Dora, who was still a bit out of it because of the magical procedure, with her. Luna followed behind, crouched, as bits of debris went flying through the air.

Hermione took them to the elevator. "Luna take care of her. I'm going to help Bellatrix."

"Bellatrix doesn't need your help," Luna said.

"No, maybe not. But I also really wanna kick Blaise's ass right now," Hermione said. She felt stupid. So incredibly blind. Bellatrix had been right all along about him, because of course she was. She was one of the best detectives in the magical world. How could she not know all along. And Hermione had defended Blaise to her, and now...now she had been wrong.

She rushed back to the fight scene and heard Blaise bellow out in pain. She saw the room was a mess and that Bellatrix had him pined to the floor under her. His arm, with his wand still in it, was halfway across the room, dismembered from the rest of his body as blood poured from his shoulder.

Her arm was barred against his throat, choking him lightly, her wand pointed at his forehead. "Tell me you piece of shite, what does Apophis want? What was the point of this?"

"It's the same answer each time, you bint," he coughed. "Chaos."

"What is he going to do next? Are there more of you?" she demanded.

"Fuck you," Blaise said and before their very eyes he shrunk into a snake. He slithered out of his clothes to try and escape but Bellatrix cast a quick cage spell on him and he was locked up and under their control. At last it was all over. The spy was caught, Dora was saved, and while the artifacts hadn't yet been recovered, they would get to that eventually.

"Bella-" Hermione turned to apologize to her but Bellatrix waved it off.

"Save your breath. This, isn't over yet. This is just the start of Apophis's tricks."

Chapter Text

The month after all that wrapped up was rough. Hermione and the rest of them barely got any sleep trying to hunt down the lost artifacts. Hermione felt numbed down by Blaise's betrayal. She couldn't understand what would make a man do such a thing as work for Apophis, for the active destruction of the world.

Bellatrix for her part looked very cheery. It was like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and part of it had to do with Blaise being gone and the other half with what Hermione had told her about the curse. Kingsley had confirmed it for Bellatrix, the fact that she was not cursed in love and so now the two of them were openly dating. Hermione should be happier about this and yet, her joy was tampered down by worries of what would come. For some reason she could not shake off a particular sensation. She felt a sense of impending doom approaching them.

"What's got you all so worried," Bellatrix asked, stopping by Hermione's desk with a mug of coffee for her to help her through her searching of the texts. Hermione took it gratefully. Ever since they'd started officially being together, Bellatrix became more affectionate. She'd hold Hermione's hand, give her kisses on the cheek while at work, and bring her food stuffs to keep her going. It was wonderful to be cared for in such a manner. It was as if the edges Bellatrix wore were smoothed down. She was still prickly at times but it was just part of her charm at this point.

"I don't know," Hermione said honestly. She tapped a finger on the open page of the book. "It's...you ever get a feeling in your gut that something is going to happen but you don't know when or what?"

Bellatrix nodded her head sagely. "I do, and I have been feeling this same way for a while now. But I choose not to dwell on it. Worrying will not help and it will only wear me down when my mind and body need to be kept sharp."

That was a solid piece of advice, Hermione had to make sure to follow it.

"Why don't we go somewhere fun?" Bellatrix suggested and Hermione was taken aback by it.

"You? Suggesting we go somewhere fun? While we have work-"

Bellatrix let out a small chuckle at the shock on Hermione's face. "Can you blame me? I haven't had the chance to openly shower anyone with my love for so many years. I'm out of practice; let me train myself and familiarize myself with it."

Oh, that explained why Bellatrix seemed to walk so lightly now. Why she had the ghost of a smile on her lips so often. And why she was even kinder to her niece, accepting her hugs too.

"What was your true curse?" Hermione asked, curious. She'd held out so long on asking, that she could not help but ask now. Bellatrix's mask of happiness faltered, if but for a second, but Hermione noticed it. Bellatrix however, did not answer. She pulled Hermione up by her hand. "Come, let's not waste anymore time."

Hermione knew when a question was being avoided so she decided not to push the issue. Instead, she allowed Bellatrix to lead them out of the department and up to the outside world. "I've done some looking- and mind you, the artifacts can wait. None of them have been activated thus far so it's a good sign- and I found this place I think you'll love," Bellatrix said quickly and Hermione allowed herself to be taken there by the hand.

They apparated to get there more quickly and ended up in front of a huge bookshop, one that Hermione had not been to before. It was humongous from the outside with steam coming out from some bells and whistles it had there.

"Wow," she breathed out and Bellatrix ate up her expression eagerly.

"It's even more amazing inside. You can have anything you want from there. My treat," she insisted, opening the door for Hermione to go in. Hermione's eyes remained wide as she took everything in, from the rows of bookshelves that went up to the ceiling, to the full sized moving train inside, to the snow falling from the ceiling that did not stick, to the smell of various candies in the air. It was marvelous. Hermione wanted to live here.

"Anything I want?" Hermione turned to question Bellatrix who nodded her head yes.

Hermione tugged Bellatrix closer to her by her belt loops so they were face to face. "What if I want you?"

The question is coy; Hermione bites her lower lip. Bellatrix's eyes sparkle with mischief and joy. "You already have me." The statement is punctuated with a kiss that grows deeper until a throat being cleared nearby pulls them apart.

"Okay, I'll look for some books," Hermione says, cheeks flushed at being caught like this, and she moves on, Bellatrix trailing softly behind her.

They arrive at the cash register an hour later, Hermione levitating several books behind her. Bellatrix pays and they head back to the office, while having the books mailed back to the mansion. Dora and Luna don't seem to mind that they were out at all, especially not when Bellatrix reveals she bought gifts for them from the bookstore as well.

"Auntie, you should be in love more," Dora says, her hair flashing a bright pink.

"You only say this because you want free gifts out of me," Bellatrix clicks her tongue in reproach.

"No, I'm saying it so maybe you'll throw us a holiday party to impress Hermione."

"We don't normally have holiday parties in the department. You know how busy that time of year gets for us anyways," Bellatrix said but Dora looked up at her with hopeful eyes.

"Just a little?" she pouted. Bellatrix grumbled and turned to Hermione who shrugged. "I wouldn't be opposed to a little cheer."

Bellatrix breathed out warily. "I suppose it's fine then with me."

"Yay!" Dora jumped up and hugged her aunt around the neck tightly. Bellatrix endured the hug for a couple seconds before extracting herself from it.

"No promises, however. Things might be harder to do this year because of the investigation," she warned. Ever since telling Kingsley about the literal snake in the department, he had launched an undercover investigation to see if there were other members of Apophis working for him in the ministry. So far he had yielded more results but these sorts of things took a while to dig up.

And even with Blaise they'd had no leeway. "I ran some tests, but he's just a simple snake now," Luna had said. And so they'd left him in his cage, figuring it would be best to keep him here so they could keep a close eye on him.

For now, Hermione would take Bellatrix's advice and try not to worry about things out of her control. She had a nice new stack of books to read and she was eagerly looking forward to curling up with a good book on her bed, Bellatrix snuggled up to her.


For four months, that feeling of impending dread did not leave Hermione's gut. It stayed there, made itself at home, and she let it because what else could she do? After the scarab attack, nothing Egypt related had struck their office or them, and for that she was grateful. Grateful but on edge.

"If you keep worrying like this, your hair will turn gray," Bellatrix insisted as she came up behind Hermione and wrapped her arms around her in a comforting hug. Hermione felt some of her tension leave her.

"I have magic to fix that, don't I," Hermione had retorted and turned around in those arms to kiss Bellatrix. Girlfriends seemed to be the wrong term for them. Too immature. Partners. Now there was a word that seemed to fit them best.

Their kiss deepened and their hands began to roam. Recently their relationship had taken a much heavier and physical turn for the better. But, they didn't have a lot of time right now. The awkwardness of Dora walking in on them once had still not left Hermione. And the day after she'd found a book on her desk on spells to help with privacy.

She'd flushed so red she thought her head would explode.

It had been worse, however, when Bellatrix's estranged sister walked in on them too. The insults that had come from her mouth- well, not for long. Bellatrix had taken to shutting her up with magic, before yelling her ears off about her prejudiced points of view. After that they'd kept to the part of the mansion they'd claimed as their own and Bellatrix stopped insisting they take all their meals together. Hermione was grateful for that. Putting up with Bellatrix's family was not fun. Draco, at least, was somewhat palatable and Hermione found herself getting along with him on intellectual conversations even if she didn't agree with all his points. But, he'd been humbled by potentially losing his parents to jail and so he was now working hard to prove his own worth, separate from their merit.

Clothes are torn off quickly, Bellatrix locking the door and silencing the room with a flick of her wand. Their bodies hummed with excitement, moving towards each other, flushed skin touching flushed skin. They'd done this dance before, had memorized each inch of the others skin. Their bodies moved on autopilot, as their lips sought each other out.

For once they were quiet; only in moments like these really. The seconds as their bodies grew adjusted to each other, for once Hermione's inquisitive mind blanking on any questions while Bellatrix's scathing tongue was too busy to insult. Only seconds of quiet, before little moans of pleasure would slip free from their lips.

Even in bed Bellatrix was put together, unflappable. She took the lead, pushing Hermione down into the covers, straddling her waist with glee. Hermione didn't mind this. She enjoyed having Bellatrix on top of her, and enjoyed her bossy nature even more. Whereas on the work field it could dig under Hermione's skin, here it only caressed the skin, enticing her to let go of her own control.

Hermione was content with being on top too, thought it was a hard battle to fight, Hermione having to wrest control from Bellatrix through a combination of skill and luck. And when she was on top, it was a won deal. She took pride in it, and took what she wanted from Bellatrix.

Right now, she was content to let Bellatrix top her, pining her arms to the bed covers as her lips swooped down like hungry vultures, nipping and biting at Hermione's skin until it was red and raised. Hermione tried to keep her hips from bucking up but it was hard to control it, feeling her mind grow foggy as her pleasure began to increase.

"Bella," she gasped out, done with this teasing, even as Bellatrix was not, hands massaging Hermione's breasts and pinching the peaks.

"What is it?" she hummed, grinning delightfully. Her lips were swollen and Hermione wanted to dig her teeth into it.

But she knew Bellatrix would not allow her. At least not until she'd had her turn first.

"Ask and I'll give it to you," Bellatrix hummed rocking her hips lightly into Hermione's own.

"Please, touch me," she begged, hating the pleading quality of her voice.

Bellatrix smirked, and leaned in, brushing her nose against Hermione's. "Hm, that's not how we ask."

Hermione flushed red. She knew what Bellatrix wanted her to say and how; it was always so mortifying to do it that way.

"Please, could you fuck me hard?" Hermione made out of tensed lips and chuckling, Bellatrix finally slid down her body to answer this request.

Hermione forgot all about her embarrassment two seconds later when she felt Bellatrix's tongue on her clit, bringing her to that peak she oh so craved and needed.

Three rounds later found them lying in bed, Hermione more spent than Bellatrix. Bellatrix had insisted on servicing only Hermione this time around, saying that Hermione needed the relaxation more than she did, and that if anything, Hermione could get her back later.

Hermione was too tired to argue this point, knowing that Bellatrix was doing her a nicety and it would be wrong to refuse it when Bellatrix rarely did nice things.

They were making small talk, cuddling together, when a sudden thought crossed Hermione's mind. Before she could stop herself, she had spoken it.

"Are you still looking for a way to bring Tom back?" Hermione blurted out. She didn't know what possessed her to ask about this. Clearly Bellatrix was not expecting this line of questioning. With the way Bellatrix tensed up, Hermione sensed the answer would not be good.

"You're going to try to stop me from doing this, aren't you?" Which meant she still was looking for him, but not openly. Not as frequently as before.

"No, I'm here to help you. Help you find a way to bring Tom back." And Hermione meant this. She truly would help Bellatrix get through this.

Bellatrix blinked in shock, not expecting this. Everyone had tried to stop her and here was Hermione, doing the opposite.

"Even if that means I'm going to be replaced, I still want to help you. Because for right now, I am your partner and you've helped me a lot and I want to do the same for you. Because that's what partners do."

"Hermione, no one is going to replace you. You'd be my partner. Both of you would. And we could use Tom's help. Something dark is coming."

"I know. Show me what you've got so far."

They get dressed, Bellatrix bringing Hermione to a heavily warded door in the basement of the mansion. Inside the room is small and dark, but with a wave of her wand, Bellatrix lights up the room with ease. There's open books laying on the table, circles on the wooden desk where cups had stood for a long time.

"I've found a way to bring him back. And I have most of the needed tools. But...I'm missing one crucial piece." She picks up one of the open books, hands it to Hermione. The brunette reads the print there.

"The philosopher's stone?"

"Yes, it grants immortality to it's user. Only problem is, it's locked away in Hogwarts."

"Hogwarts!" Hermione's gone there so often. How was it something this valuable was locked up there and no one knew?

"Yes, in the mirror of Erisad. Which is a mirror that shows your desires. It's trapped there. But since I desire to have the stone, there's no way I can get it."

"Wait, how does that make sense," Hermione pinched the bridge of her nose.

"It does. Because that's how it's kept safe. Want it, and you can't have it. Don't want it, and you can have it. Which is why I need someone else to get it for me. Its what has delayed me so badly, preventing me from progressing past this point."

"And you want me to get it?" Hermione asked.

Bellatrix gave a smirk. "No, I want you to not get it for me."

Oh boy, this was going to be headache inducing.


The plan is simple. Find out where the mirror is being held, and get the stone. Hermione, the detective she is, finds the mirror's location out in two days time, and under the guise of going to class, enters the school and goes immediately to where the mirror is being held. Getting the stone out of it, will be much trickier. But Hermione is certain she can pull it off. She needs to, for Bellatrix's sake. And though she knows that reviving Tom is against what Luna and Dora want for the department, Hermione is Bellatrix's partner and partner's help each other through thick and thin.

As she pulls the curtain off of it, she takes a second to admire the beauty of it, trying to empty her thoughts off of the stone. However, she needn't have done that.

Staring into the mirror of Erisad, she forgets about her mission for a long moment, seeing instead her other desires playing out. And what are those? An image of her being celebrated as the head detective in her work, an image of her and Bellatrix with wedding bands on their fingers. Its a lot to take in, and she stumbles from the mirror, needing a moment to absorb all this. Her ambition in being a good detective is no shock. But wedding bands? She wants to marry Bellatrix?

Is that true?

As she searches deep inside herself, she realizes it is true. To some degree at least. She can see herself marrying Bellatrix because they just speak to each other so well. There's also that hint of fuel to create sparks between them, and they both are hard-workers.

She doesn't dare tell Bellatrix about this. At least not yet. It's a bit much to take in. She brushes off her robes to try and gather herself when she feels a lump in her pants pocket. She reaches in, curious and gasps at the amber stone that comes out.

It's the stone.

Somehow, she's gotten it.

Chapter Text

Despite having everything needed to help Tom, they can't put anything into motion. This is because a huge case with an artifact just so happens to break out. And when they finally manage to wrap that up, another artifact pops up and they have to fly halfway across the world to fix it. And before they know it, the holidays are here and Bellatrix unfortunately has to throw a ball at her manor for the holidays. As heir of the family, she has no choice but to do so.

And how much she does not want to do it, is very apparent given the way she moans and groans about it every half hour as her house elf runs around, sprucing things up.

"Oh don't be a sour puss," Hermione chides, deliberating between a green or red dress. "This is a great chance to see more witch traditions."

"We're just celebrating Christmas. It's a muggle tradition not a wiccan one. A tradition that's become so effusive that it's even become part of our culture, and you know how uppity witches and wizards are about muggle things," Bellatrix scowled as she used her wand to put on the finishing touches of make up.

Everything was practically ready downstairs and the guests were slowly but steadily arriving. Hermione could catch faint snatches of Christmas music played by the orchestra. It was going to be yet another grand ball. This time everyone from the department had been invited too.

"I know," Hermione said, at last settling down on a red dress. It would match Bellatrix's green dress better. They'd be color coordinated rather than matching. She put on her dress, careful to not disturb the make up and hair that she'd already prepared. "But this is going to be quite literally, a magical Christmas for me. And it's our first holiday together, officially." Hermione smiled and Bellatrix turned around, her own face breaking out into a smile when she saw what Hermione was wearing.

"I'd much rather spend it just the two of us, roasting chestnuts by the fire or whatever that is," Bellatrix said.

Hermione chuckled lightly at this. "You've been listening to muggle music?"

"I wanted to see what the big deal was. We have our own wizard versions, which are...very creatively different," she commented casually.

"Well, are we ready to go down?" Hermione asked, holding out her hand. Bellatrix took it and together they walked down the majestic stairs in the center of the dance hall. The whole place smelled like a pine forest, with candles floating in the air above the heads of the guests. A huge tree was in the middle of the room, the star on top dancing with the music. It was decorated with various silver and green ornaments and garlands. The orchestra was around the tree, dressed in all black. They were playing a jaunty tune right now.

Buffet tables were lined up by the side and on the other side were couches for guests to sit down on.

"Any duels this year?" Hermione asked, because Bellatrix had not given her any details about this party other than for Hermione to be there.

Bellatrix smiled, her lipsticked grin wide. "I don't have any scheduled ones this year, but if someone pisses me off, I can't make any promises about holding back."

"Hermione, Bellatrix, hello," Luna approached them, waving to them. She was wearing a Santa suit with green face paint on her. Tufts of green hair stuck up and she still had her signature glasses on her face.

"Are you dressed as the grinch?" Hermione asked, not surprised because this was Luna.

"Yes! I have heard so much about it. I thought I would dress up as one and steal the presents from this party."

"There are no presents," Bellatrix said.

"Hmmmm," Luna hummed and then walked away, probably in search of proving Bellatrix wrong.

Hermione sure hoped Luna wouldn't find her gifts because she didn't want Bellatrix knowing about what she got her.

"Do you want to dance?" Bellatrix asked as the music switched to something more slow.

"I would love to," Hermione said, accepting her arm. Bellatrix took the lead and Hermione let her. The last time Hermione had danced like this with Bellatrix was when the dark haired witch was split from her own self. There had been an underlying tension that time, a sense of danger and uncertainty from what Bellatrix had wanted from Hermione. This dance was different. Comforting, safe, and fun.

They whirled around on the dance floor, smiles on their faces, eyes looking into eyes.

As they finished the dance, they pulled to a stop by a pillar. As if by magic, because it was magic, a mistletoe appeared over their heads. They both looked up, before looking down at each others lips.

"Well, if the mistletoe so decrees, I guess we have no choice but to kiss..." Bellatrix declared coyly and Hermione placed her hands on the older woman's waists, leaning in. both their eyes fluttered shut momentarily as their lips connected in a chaste but warm kiss. They pressed their foreheads together afterwards, grinning widely. It had been three months together and yet, it still felt so fresh and exciting.

"Bellatrix, Hermione!" Kingsley's voice bellowed out and they pulled apart as he approached them.

"Kingsley, I didn't know you were going to be here!" Hermione exclaimed. She'd never seen the man outside of his own office.

"I do like to leave my room every now and then," he laughed, dressed in a night blue suit, holding a glass of champagne in his hand. "Spectacular party, Bellatrix. As expected of you."

Bellatrix snorted in good humor. "I don't have a choice, do I?"

"Now, I hate to be interrupt you two lovely ladies dance," he said, his expression sobering up a little, "but I was hoping I could talk to Bellatrix about work related issues."

Oh, what could this be about? Hermione felt her mood sour a bit. Of course, she couldn't forget could she, what her work entailed. There was never really a day off, was there? But why did he only want to talk to Bellatrix and not her? Had she not earned his trust? His respect? She put just as much work into her job as did Bellatrix.

Had Hermione not proved her worth as a partner?

Bellatrix nodded her head to Kingsley's request. They walked off somewhere, heads bent together towards a quieter corner.

Hermione sighed out and went to go get herself a flute of champagne. She downed one, then took the other and went in search of Dora. She knew the girl was around, but where? She walked the whole room around when she saw someone coming towards her. She couldn't help the scowl on her face. It was Narcissa. She had to be here because she was family. But why was she making way to talk to Hermione?

The blonde looked to be filled with righteous anger.

"Hermione," she hissed out and Hermione internally sighed out. She was in no mood for her.

"To whom do I owe the pleasure of you bothering me?" she drawled out, barely finishing her sentence before Narcissa was powering on.

"I can't believe a filthy muggle like you has seduced her. You've ruined her!" she hissed out vehemently and at this point Hermione rolls her eyes, so fucking done with Narcissa's high and mighty attitude. The woman doesn't want to change from her small minded ways. Bellatrix had; and it was what made her so much better than the blonde in front of her, even if Narcissa had more money and the 'perfect' family.

"Oh get over yourself," Hermione scoffed. "Your sister will be more of a woman than you'll ever be, and frankly it's pathetic how you keep stalking me and following me around to keep talking to me. You must really like me to do that."

Narcissa's face became one of revulsion. "I would never- I despise you!"

"Whatever," Hermione dismissed and walked away, hearing a screech come out from Narcissa's lips at being ignored like this. She decided to get some food for herself and Bellatrix when the woman came back. She was halfway done when Bellatrix came back, plopping down into the seat next to her.

"So, what was that all about?" Hermione asked, wondering if Bellatrix would tell her. Probably not.

The older witch grunted, picking up a pot sticker and shoving it into her mouth. "I don't want to ruin your day."

"It'll be ruined with me worrying about what it is anyways," Hermione pointed out.

Bellatrix let out a long drawn out sigh. "Kingsley found more Apophis spies in the department."

Hermione's eyes bulged out. "There's more of them?" her voice went up before she remembered to shush herself. "Who would actively want to ruin the world?"

"It's more of a rebirth thing through chaos," she waved a hand in answer, "is my guess on what is going through their heads. But, he found about three more, all in different positions in the ministry. Naturally, he wants them out, but he can't let them know he knows. And, he wants to know how exactly they are recording information for Apophis and if they've done any sabotage, like Blaise tried with us."

Hermione could feel a headache throbbing at her temples. The artifacts were the least of their worries now. Apophis and his forces were getting more and more dangerous each day.

"There's not much we can do about this right now," Bellatrix said, patting Hermione on her hand. "Don't think too much about this. When the time comes, we will be ready."

"How can you be so sure?" Hermione asked. They were only witches going up against a primordial force.

Bellatrix lowered her voice before leaning in, furtive glances to make sure no one was looking in on them. "We have the sorcerer's stone. We can bring back anyone from the dead now."

That did not make Hermione feel better, because it meant Bellatrix was preparing for death. Reasonably Hermione knew that was an option. That things would get that bad. She hoped it wouldn't have to. Because she had grown to care for everyone. And to lose them...now she understood Bellatrix's drive to bringing her partner back.

Hermione was sure she would do anything to protect them.

Noticing Hermione's dour look, Bellatrix squeezes her hand. "See, I shouldn't have told you. Now you're worrying."

"I'm always going to worry," Hermione answered, because that gut feeling, which had dissipated today in joy of the holiday party, was now back and in full force.

"Well..." and Bellatrix let her finger trace a circle on the back of Hermione's hand. "I could take your mind off of things?" she asked coyly, eyes lidding.

They disappeared from the party for an hour and when they came back, Hermione was noticeably much happier for the rest of the evening.


With magic, clean up was quick the next morning. Although to be fair, it was more in the late afternoon. Bellatrix and Hermione had taken this chance to both sleep in and take a lazy day for themselves before inevitably they would have to go to war with the evil snaking through their world. After clean up, they retired to go have a meal.

"Luna has actually stolen our presents!" Dora exclaimed when they came in for breakfast. She looked frazzled, wearing a nice fluffy robe.

"Huh?" Bellatrix groused out, still a bit slow on the uptake. She hadn't had her coffee yet.

"Why did she do that?" Hermione groaned out. It was Christmas morning. She wanted to give Bellatrix her gift! And give Dora her's too!

"She took the role of being the grinch far too seriously," Bellatrix pinched the bridge of her nose.

As if on cue, the fireplace in the living room turned on, Luna's head, in the green flames. "Good morning. I have all your gifts at the office. If you want them you'd better come here." And then the message was over.

"Why do I feel like she's got something planned?" Dora grumbled, running a hand through her green and red striped hair. The trio quickly dressed and then arrived at the department. They could hear soft music playing and the smell of warm cooked food greeted their nose. They went inside the main office to see that Kingsley and Luna were both already there.

"Merry Christmas!" Luna cheered, spreading out her arms.

"Luna, did you set all this up?" Hermione asked in wonder, looking around. There was a table in the middle, set with a roast ham as the centerpiece. A pile of presents lay under a small tree with singing angel ornaments on it. Snow crunched underfoot, falling from the ceiling and when Hermione looked up, she saw that the ceiling was now a winter landscape, complete with snow, pine trees, and a frozen pond.

"I had some help," she said with a shrug. "I wanted us to have a private party. We've earned it."

"Luna you are amazing," Dora said, childish excitement on her face. "I call dibs on the frozen pond first," and she rushed up to the rope hanging down from the side of the wall. Hermione watched as she climbed up. But the more she climbed up, the more she got closer and closer until in front of Hermione's own eyes, Dora stood on the snowy landscape, upside down like the rest of it. She waved and shouted something but Hermione couldn't hear it.

"Let's go ice skating too," Bellatrix said, similarly as excited as Dora by this, but hiding it better. Not good enough for Hermione not to notice.

"I guess the food and presents can wait," Kingsley commented, holding out his hand. "Luna, will you be my skating partner?"

"Yes," she said.

Hermione followed Bellatrix's lead and they climbed up the rope, a dizzying sensation falling over her as gravity and her orientation switched. She dropped down on the snow, finding that this landscape was not cold at all. How had Luna even achieved this? It must have taken so long to go it!

Dora was already skating, doing twists and turns. A pair of skates was waiting for each of them, and they quickly put them on. They were just the right size.

Holding onto Bellatrix's hand, they entered the ice together, Hermione a little wobbly with her balance. She hadn't skated in so long. Kinglsey and Luna were right behind them, and very quickly it became apparent that Kingsley was quite familiar with skating. He began showing off, doing three point turns, skating backwards, and even doing jumps and leaps in the air.

"I didn't know you were a professional," Hermione said as they watched and cheered him on.

"When I was younger. It was a hobby of mine before I went into the ministry," he told them.

They spent some time skating, laughing when Dora or Luna would fall. Hermione fell a couple time too but she barely felt the pain. At last they came back down and got to enjoy their delayed breakfast. The food was still warm, kept so by magic.

And after a very filling meal, it was time for presents. Hermione gave all her presents to everyone else first, even having one for Luna prepared and Kingsley. But it's Bellatrix's gift that truly cares deeply about and if she has gotten it right.

She spent a lot of time on it. And she hopes that Bellatrix will like it.

Shyly, she approaches Bellatrix, gift in hand. It's wrapped rather small but neatly. Hermione enjoys wrapping her presents nicely and with muggle means. Bellatrix had been too impatient to not use magic on making her presents look presentable. Hermione had already opened up her gift from her partner. It had been several very expensive books, all of which Hermione would add happily to her shelf.

"So?" Hermione asked, approaching her as they stood by the Christmas tree, the rest of the department talking about other things off to the side, allowing the two of them to have a moment together. "Ready to get your gift?"

"I already have everything I could want," Bellatrix said with a light smirk, looking right at Hermione as she said this. "What could you have gotten me?"

"Something to bind us together," Hermione said, allowing Bellatrix to open it up. Her dark eyes went wide as she found what was inside of it. "A ring?" she questioned.

Hermione flushed, shaking her hands. "Not a wedding ring or a proposal or anything like that. I just wanted us to have matching rings so we can have a little reminder of us with us at all times." She showed Bellatrix the smaller and golden matching ring on her index finger. Bellatrix smiled and slipped her silver version on.

Then, she laced their fingers together, drawing their foreheads to rest on the other. "Thank you," she whispered. Before their lips could join together, Luna was calling their attention. "Come, it's time for dessert!"

"Hm, I'd rather your lips be my dessert, but later," Bellatrix said with a wink as she lead them both back to the table to rejoin their friends.

Chapter Text

It isn't until the whirlwind of holidays are over that they finally get a chance to go and complete their search for Tom. The magic needed to revive him is old and complicated and though Hermione itches to help and learn more about it, she also wants to just get this all right, so she leaves most of it up to Bellatrix.

The two of them work on this in secret, neither wanting to alert Dora or Luna to what is going on. It's a cold blistery January evening when they sneak out to go to Tom's grave, the materials they'll need tucked into a satchel slung across Bellatrix's shoulders.

First, the more gruesome part of this- digging up his grave. Luckily they had magic to do all the dirty work, Bellatrix instructing with her wand the motions of the shovel. The dirt piled up, at last revealing the coffin. Hermione's stomach churned with nerves, and she looked over at Bellatrix to make sure she was okay, that she wasn't having doubts or that she couldn't go through with this.

"Are you okay?" she asked when she couldn't read Bellatrix's face.

"I'm fine," was the gruff response. Bellatrix took a deep inhale and then opened the coffin with a wave of her wand.

They both stared in mute horror where Tom should be lying in the grave.

Nothing but dirt greeted them.

"Why is he not in his grave?" Bellatrix asked in a trembling voice. "Where is he?"

And Hermione, had no answer to that.

"What the absolute literal fuck-" Bellatrix began to rage in her confusion and anger.

"Hello, Bellatrix," a suave voice says behind them. Hermione's only ever heard the voice once in a memory that is not her own. But it's unmistakable. They both turn around and see Tom standing behind them. He looks normal, as if he hasn't just returned back from the dead.

"Tom," Bellatrix chokes out, with affection and longing for an old friend.

He smiles at her but they do not embrace. For all her joy, Bellatrix is cautious of this, as she should be. "What the hell is going on?" she demands, eyes teary.

His grin at her fades and he looks off to the horizon. "It's...a long story. And I think it's best we go somewhere warm so we can talk it out. If you'll follow me?" and he leads the way out of the graveyard. They follow him, mindful of their wands. Something is not adding up, but Hermione notices with startling clarity that the impending dread in her stomach is no longer there.

Something's snapped. And it has all to do with Tom. But why, and how, is the better question.

She turns to catch Bellatrix's eyes but they're focused on Tom, trying to discern any moves or harm he might bring to them. They follow him to an inn, Tom leading them to the back of the room. It's still open at this hour, with two people up front, slumped over their drinks. He makes them sit somewhere in the back. He takes the booth, they take the seats. He smiles at them, looking very much alive. He's a handsome man, with dimples in his cheeks and curly locks shorn short that drip down a bit into his brown eyes.

"How are you alive," blurts out of Hermione's mouth before she can stop herself. They haven't done the ritual yet. There is no way he could be. It makes no sense.

He gave a bit of a wry smile here, not answering her right away. "Bellatrix, I was hoping I could see you one last time before I had to go. But I could never quite figure out how to go about finding you, and speaking to you. People don't come back from the dead on their own."

"No, they don't," Bellatrix said, face pale. It looked like she still didn't know how to process this and Hermione held onto her hand under the table to bolster her.

His eyes shifted from them to the space around them, and when he deemed it safe, he leaned in, "Bellatrix, mind casting a privacy spell? What I have to say...stays between us all."

Bellatrix nodded her head tightly and did as asked. Then, Tom began to speak. "There are many things of concern to address, but I believe for you the most pressing matter that will have the most influence, is the fact of Apophis. When I died, I sacrificed myself for the good of this world. In that way, he was bound for a while longer, buying you all time. With me no longer dead, for at least a month now, you are running out of time, fast," he told them, and Hermione felt her stomach drop to the floor. This was not good. This was terrible. What could they do? But Tom wasn't done talking. "Another concerning factor, and I know this one will be hard to believe- I myself entirely forgot about it till my death jogged my memory. I remembered my mission, which was to come to your dimension and take back the artifacts that had been thrown away from my dimension."

He saw their blank stares and hurried to fill in, "I am an entity from another world. I'm not...exactly human like you are. To kill me takes more effort than just poison, though I can be killed. Apophis did me only a temporary harm and my death state was actually a state in which I was recovering. However, I did not know any of this, because when coming to this dimension of yours, it scrambled my memories along the way. Now that I remember, I need those objects you've been collecting. You see, in my dimension, different from yours, these objects are not malignant things. However, because of the magic in your world, it seems to have interfered negatively with the magic of my dimensional objects and they thus cause harm. They were thrown here by an enemy of my and I came to recover them. I merely want to take them back so they won't cause harm to your people anymore."

"So, you're not human," Bellatrix barked out, as soon as he was done.

"No," he said with a small chuckle. "I know this is a lot to take in. it's hard to even explain-"

He was right about that. Hermione felt flipped on her head. This was so much to take in.

"I've seen some weird shit in my decades working for the department," Bellatrix said gruffly. "This...at least makes some sense."

"I'm so glad you believe me, Bellatrix. I knew you would understand." He took her hand in his. Hermione's eyes were wide. Why the hell was Bellatrix believing him so readily? This all sounded like some contrived lie!

"I need to get my things back and go home. But, I also do want to help you with Apophis. I know my powers now. I can be of more use," Tom said, letting go of Bellatrix's hand. "But, I think you two might need some time to digest this- at least she does," Tom raised his brow at Hermione who was pale. He rose to his feet. "I'm ready whenever you are."

"I'm always ready," Bellatrix said with her usual assurances but allowed Tom to walk off. Hermione immediately opened up about what her thoughts were.

"He could be an agent of Apophis, sent to trick us-"

"It's him," Bellatrix said emotionlessly, like to feel was too much for her right now.

"How do you know-"

Sharply she looked at Hermione. "I know these things, Hermione. Just as I know that Blaise was not right the whole time. This is Tom. A bit different but still Tom. Tom who I thought was just a wizard but it actually so much more," she sighed out. "Besides, I am more than happy to be rid of all the artifact's in the world. It removes evil and pain...and that's a good thing. Why wouldn't we want that for this world? It's been our whole mission."

"But we'll be handing it over to him. He could use it to hurt others. To turn them against us-"

"He won't-"

"You're not even listening to me!" Hermione shrilled out, annoyed by Bellatrix's stubbornness.

"You are a terrible judge of character," she said harshly. "If something was wrong with Tom I would have sniffed it out before. The fact that I didn't, meant he truly didn't know his own powers when he was working as my partner. That he had indeed forgotten them. And that only now he knows and wants to take back his toys to his world."

"His world," Hermione scoffed. "Other dimensions-"

"-do exist," Bellatrix filled in tiredly. "You work in the department of mysteries. Surely this is nothing weird by now."

Hermione thinned her lips, soured by this conversation. "This is too much, too quickly. We need time to think and regroup."

"We don't have the luxury for that. You heard Tom. He's been resurrected for a month now. Apophis could have done untold damages by now that we know nothing of!" she argued.

"And how is giving Tom his toys back help with anything? He'll leave and then we won't even have their power to utilize to help us."

Bellatrix paused at this, as if Hermione's words had reminded her of something. She slammed a fist into her hand. "Of course. The artifacts!" and then she apparated away.

"Fuck!" Hermione screamed out loudly. "Thanks for leaving me behind." But of course Bellatrix didn't hear her. She was gone.

Bellatrix didn't come back until later in the day when Hermione was in Grimmore Manor pacing around back and forth. "Where did you go to?!" she demanded angrily, rounding on her partner right away. Bellatrix answered with a wry smile.

"I went to the department and then I went to see Tom. You gave me an idea. A measure of hope, if you will," she declared and there was that usual maniac energy around her that usually signaled she was going to burst into action.

"Hope for what?" Hermione asked, confused.

"For the future."

Hermione didn't understand what Bellatrix meant. All she knew was that was scared. Taking down artifacts- those problems paled in comparison to what was going to happen anytime. Like a guillotine hanging over their heads, reminding them they were at it's mercy.

"This whole issue with Apophis, it's drawing to a head. What are we going to do about it?" Hermione asked in distress. She put her hands to her head. "I don't want to lose all this. I don't want to lose you."

"And you won't," Bellatrix said assuredly. Her eyes were dark, deep in thought. She was planning something. Something dangerous. Hermione didn't like this. Goosebumps erupted along her skin. "Bellatrix...tell me. What are you planning to do?"

Bellatrix set her jaw, looking very much like she wouldn't be honest, but she surprised both of them when she spoke. "This. I'm going to use this." She held out the pocket watch of Kronos.

Hermione's eyes went wide. "That's dangerous! We don't know how to control it- barely, and who knows what dangers time travel can do-"

"Tom told me about this watch. It can do much more than just time travel. It can shift through dimensions too. Other dimensions," she reported, looking at the object in her hand. It looked so ordinary like this, with the lid closed. But open it up and there was an eye there, ready and all seeing. "This eye can see into anywhere- during any time or part of history."

Hermione struggled for words; all she knew was that this was very dangerous. And she was worried. "So...so what? Are you going into the past or the future- what are you going to do with it?"

Bellatrix gave a twist of her lips. "I won't be alone. Tom will be with me. He'll help me out. One last mission as partners he said, right before he leaves." She pocketed the watch. Even carrying it like this was a risk, for it could become activated. But it had to be done. Soon she'd meet with Tom and all of this would be over.

It could have been over so much sooner had she only known. But maybe things were supposed to end up this way. "Stopping Apophis again, will only mean we are continuing the cycle. I want to end it, once and for all. And what better way to do that than to send Apophis into an empty dimension, one where he can no longer hurt anyone."

This idea was insane! And yet it also made so much sense.

"I want to go with you-"

"out of the question-"

"I'm your partner-"

"I don't want you hurt. Besides, this is my send off for Tom. I got him back and now he's leaving again. I just want one last thing with him," Bellatrix said roughly.

"And why can't I be there-"

"This is dangerous magic, Hermione," Bellatrix hissed out. "Tom can only control the watch enough for two people. Bringing you on would risk everything. Risk you," she stressed and shook her head. "Just drop it, please," she begged and Hermione bottled her words up. To argue now would do no difference. Bellatrix was set to do this; Hermione could not stop her. Should not stop her. After all, the plan should it reach fruition would benefit the world so much. And that was their jobs as detectives of the mysterious department. To save the world no matter what it took.

"When are you going?" Hermione just wants to know this one last thing.

"In an hour. Tom's getting everything ready," Bellatrix answered gruffily. If this was to be the last time they would see each other in who knows how long, then Hermione wanted to make the most of it. She took Bellatrix's hand in her own; it was shaking slightly.

"Come upstairs with me. Let's forget about this all for now."

Bellatrix wordlessly agreed with a soft kiss.


Hermione couldn't bare to see Bellatrix leave with Tom later that afternoon. She feared if she did she would break down and beg her not to go. That she would physically fight her to keep her safe and here. So she stayed in their room, among the rumpled sheets, naked skin shivering not from cold but from worry. Eventually she gets dressed and goes downstairs to see Dora there, staring blankly at her cup of tea. It's cold now. Turned to ice, much like Hermione's veins have.

"They left," Dora said, her hair a blue shade. Her eyes are watery and Hermione avoids looking at them otherwise her own will water too. "She's so reckless- we don't even know if we can trust Tom. And they barely planned anything and-"

"I know," Hermione says roughly, looking out the window. "We just have to hope for the best."

"Did she say when she would be back?"

Hermione shakes her head no. They won't even have the luxury of knowing when to stop worrying.


A week passes. Then two. Hermione stills goes to the office, does her paperwork, then leaves. Things feel normal. Except their not. Bellatrix's cluttered desk is without her, and Dora can be spotted staring at it too, both her and Hermione deep in worry. Kingsley pops in once or twice to check on morale. But he never comments; if he knows anything about Bellatrix he doesn't mention it.

Luna is busy packing up all the artifacts for Tom. They can't be happier to be rid of them. Certainly it's not all of them. The department knows a few are still out there, floating around.

It's on the third week, when Hermione is seriously contemplating somehow finding a way to cross dimensions herself and find Bellatrix that there's a loud crash. She jolts up from her seat and finds that one of their walls is partially busted in because of two bodies. Tom's and Bellatrix's.

They look a little bit worse for the wear, bags under their eyes, old blood stains on their clothing. But they're alive most importantly. Hermione runs up to them, Tom holding out a hand to stop Hermione.

"She's hurt. You'll startle her."

"Hurt where!" Hermione exclaims as Tom holds Bellatrix up to him.

"Nothing serious. Some debris got her. She'll heal," he reports, lugging her to her desk. Dora and Luna are there as he sits Bellatrix down on her chair gingerly.

"Miss me?" she asks and they all let out relieved sighs.

"What happened?" Luna questions as Tom pulls up Bellatrix's shirt to reveal a piece of metal sticking out. Instead of taking out his wand, he lifts his hands and presses them to the wound. Bellatrix hisses in between her teeth when he yanks the metal out with no warning, and then heals the wound with blue light.

"Took us a while to track the bastard down. Then we had to trick him, activate the watch and leave him in an empty dimension before booking it out of there. Had a bit of a tussle with him, but Tom held him off. Did you know Tom's some sort of fucking immortal being?"

Tom gets up from where he had been kneeling by her, bloodied metal in his hands. "I wouldn't say that. I did die once. Kind of."

"We have got to learn your magic," she grumbled out, eyes fluttering with tiredness.

"I'll fetch you both some potions to help revive you," Dora said, smiling brightly. She too was holding herself back from a hug, instead racing off.

"I'll notify Kingsley. If Apophis is indeed gone..." she trailed off, hurrying away.

"So...you did it," Hermione said softly.

"Couldn't have done it without you putting that idea in my head," Bellatrix grunted out. "And without Tom's help."

"It was the least I could do. After all, you all so kindly collected my objects for me. Makes it much easier to bring them back. And speaking of bringing them back, I think I must take my leave."

Bellatrix frowned. "So soon?"

"I've already been gone for too long. This was supposed to be a simple mission."

"Before you leave, I have some questions," Kingsley said, arriving from his usual spot in the wall.

Tom, Bellatrix and Kingsley spent the better part of three hours talking. Hermione was just happy Bellatrix was back. She had worried so much. Every horrible possible scenario had taken root in her mind. And she was fine. The world was fine.

It was all saved. Bellatrix truly was a hero.

Dora dropped some tea off for Hermione to drink, to help steady her nerves. She gave her a smile in return.


The rest of the day was a blur, everyone working together to help get Tom ready to leave. They barely had time to talk about how Apophis was locked up. But Hermione figured with Bellatrix finally safe, they would have all the time in the world.

At long last, Tom was ready to go back to his world; despite not knowing him well, Hermione felt sad on Bellatrix behalf. He was her partner, and she'd only gotten him back after trying for so long to bring him back.

He seemed sad to be leaving too, but he had no choice but to do so.

"Keep this," he digs around in one of the crates and plops down a crystal ball. The fog inside swirls. "This can communicate between long distances, no matter how far. It's part of a set; I'll keep the other half so we can talk to each other. Spares me the journey to your world and the potential memory loss, while also allowing us to know if there are any other loose artifacts I've missed."

"And how will we send them to you?" Luna asked.

"You're smart," he tapped his temple. "You'll figure it out."

"How are you even heading back, especially with all this cargo?" Dora pointed at all the crates around him. He dug into his overcoat, pulling out what looked like a slim black remote. "Transporter. Only charged up enough for a two way trip. I was only supposed to get in and get out but..." he shrugged at this.

"I'm going to miss you," Bellatrix told him, affection in her eyes.

"You were a damned good partner. Thank you," he told her.

"It was nice to meet you," Hermione added, because he had kept Bellatrix safe during their mission and that was all that mattered.

"Nice to meet you too," he told her with a gentle smile.

"Good luck," Kingsley said and they all stepped back as Tom stood in the middle of all the boxes and pressed a button. He and the objects shone blue before they disappeared in a zap. And just like that, Tom was gone to his world, along with his objects.

"What are we going to do now?" Luna asked in the silence of the department. It felt so empty without all the usual trinkets. Felt so changed now.

Kingsley let out a loud sigh. "It seems we'll have no more purpose for this department," he said rubbing his chin. "We have no artifacts to look over; any others we find can be dealt with on a freelance schedule rather than needing full time detectives."

"Are you trying to tell us you're firing us," Bellatrix said with some humor.

"Not firing...just going to relocate. Send me any positions in the ministry you might be interested in and I'll find you a placement," he told them. "Honestly, I never expected things to end like this. So peacefully. I was sure we were going down in a blaze."

"Of glory?" Dora questioned.

"Of chaos," he supplied.

"There's still agents of Apophis left over in the ministry. I don't suppose you need someone with the skill and tact to take them out?" Bellatrix asked, arching up a brow.

"I do. An Apophis assassin. I like the sound of that," he said, rubbing his chin. Then he clapped his hands. "Rest of you deserve a nice break. Really, no rush in picking up new jobs. Take a vacation even, if you want. I must leave now. Loose ends to tie up," he said and then went to his office door. H stepped inside and the door vanished, taking him back to his real office.

"I can't believe...it's all over," Hermione breathed out. She'd entered this world of magic and mystery two years ago. She'd expected it to last for a long time, to be on the force for decades. And yet, it was all over.

"It's never truly over," Bellatrix hummed as she picked up the crystal orb, their way of contacting Tom. "There's always something to do. Some evil to fight." She narrowed her eyes as if trying to see if she could make him out. "I doubt we'll be bored for long." She set the orb down. "Do you know where you want to transfer to?"

"Honestly, I have no idea. I just know I can't go back to the muggle world," Hermione said.

"We could take a vacation," Bellatrix offered.

"Where?" because it did sound appealing.

"With you? Anywhere."


They take a three month vacation in Greece, enjoying the sights, the culture, and the food. They are in no rush to come back, just taking every moment to indulge in the fact that their time is no longer measured by an impending disaster. The world is saved from a danger it never even knew of.

But such was the work of the department detectives; never known and completed from the shadows.

"You still set on taking out those Apophis agents?" Hermione asked when they came back to Grimmore manor.

"Someone has to do it. And what better person than me?" Bellatrix said. "Did you finalize your decision with the department of magical creatures?"

"Yes."

"I can't believe you want to work there," Bellatrix said with a scoff. "You'll be chasing down newts and shoveling Griffon shit most likely."

"I'd like to learn more about them," Hermione said with a shrug. "I wonder how Dora and Luna are doing. Haven't gotten an owl back from them yet."

Luna had gone on to do intelligence work for the ministry. All very top secret. They knew nothing of her job except that she was good at it. And Dora had gone on to become an auror. It had always been her dream to be one; she'd never had the courage to go through with it. She did now and against her parents wishes too. But she said she wanted to be like her bad ass aunt, taking down incomprehensible evils.

"I think they're doing just fine," Bellatrix said as she set her luggage down.

"I'm glad," Hermione said with a soft sigh, drawing back the curtains to look on the green landscape that stretched beyond. The sky was a soft blue. Bellatrix went to stand behind her, putting her chin on her shoulder. "The world has been quiet."

Tom had settled back down in his world, and there hadn't been a single peep of an artifact in their world. Apophis too seemed to be permanently rid of, unable to escape his prison. And the watch of Kronos remained in their world, locked up behind many vault doors and wards. It was there, just in case. Hopefully, they would never need to use it.

"Yes, quiet," Bellatrix hummed. "And for once, I think I enjoy it this way."