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Through Sand And Sea

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Expecto patronum,” Hermione whispers, stepping into the lift.

It’s late, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures long empty. But it has taken her long enough to get the centaurs to finally write down a formal request. She’s not giving up yet, no matter how late she’s going to be for Friday drinks with Ginny. For the third time in a row. Ginny’s going to kill her.

Her otter hasn’t made an appearance, just some feeble white smoke. She grits her teeth. Come on, Hermione.

She thinks instead of the moment she finally found her parents in Australia, how relieved she was. She thinks of when she restored their memories, terrified they would be angry with her, but they just smiled at her and hugged her tightly. Their family whole.

“Expecto patronum!”

Her otter appears, and a joyful peace settles over her. She watches it fly around the small space for a moment and presses the button for the ninth level. The feeling never gets old.

Then she clears her throat. “Send this message to Ginny, please – Sorry, I won’t be able to make it tonight. Work stuff. But have fun with Luna, and maybe we can have coffee on Sunday. Owl me.”

Her otter whizzes off through the walls, and the lift falls lower and lower, the floor’s blurring past. She takes a steadying breath and grips her wand tightly in her suddenly sweaty palms. Without her patronus, the ghosts of the past are drifting in.

Shield your mind, Hermione. Occlude your thoughts. You can deal with them later. This is just a normal workday.

She fiddles with the roll of parchment in her expanded pocket. Cryptic centaurs. Their writing is mind-numbingly convoluted and nonsensical. Hermione loves a good riddle, but not for twenty feet of parchment on what should be procedural documentation and proof of property rights. She still hasn’t quite figured out how to argue that someone can own the rights to a prophecy. Should it belong to the prophet, or those that it speaks of?

And whilst she can see their point that divination is their rightful domain, with many elder centaur seers regarded as direct channels to the divine, their prophecies not to be shared outside the herd, let alone with wizardkind…there needs to be some kind of governing body. Regulation. Why else would the prophecies appear in the Hall to begin with?

It makes her rather uncomfortable that the Hall has begun filling itself again. Slowly but surely, shelf after shelf magically appearing deep in the depths of the ministry. She hates that room. That whole floor.

And that’s why she’s only just bucked up the courage to do what she should have done hours ago and gone down there.

The doors ping open, and she rolls back her shoulders, setting her jaw and marching determinedly along the torchlit corridor, through the door, and straight across to the door opposite. She’s researched the rooms enough by now to know exactly how to get to the offices without encountering brains or veils of death. She’s not doing that again.

She still finds it strange that the door opens straight into offices and desks, directly through from the Time room at the far end. With the outer door likely to spin at any moment, she hasn’t ever been able to figure out the social etiquette down here. Normally, she would knock before entering.

In fact, normally she wouldn’t bother anyone at this hour, but, well…unspeakables are an unusual breed. They’re always just…there. At any time. Maybe Luna’s right and they are vampires…

She shakes herself from the ridiculous thought, and looks around. Well, that’s just perfect. The one time she has a reasonable request and wants to get out of here before midnight, there’s nobody around.

She walks over to the nearest desk. There’s a note.

 

Wandering soul, if it is prophecies you seek, then seek them you must; for though your search will be fruitless, it will not be for nought.

 

More confounded riddles! This is why she’s not in Ravenclaw. The constant mind games would drive her batty! If people would just say exactly what they mean, things would be sorted out a lot faster and more efficiently.

She looks around at the other desks. No more notes.

Grumbling to herself, she shoves the note into one of her expanded pockets and heads further into the room. Prophecies are through the other end. She remembers that from fifth year.

She can’t help holding her wand at the ready as she passes through the Time Room. Her senses are on full alert, and the scar across her chest seems to tingle in memory. She’d almost died in this room. If she hadn’t cast that silencio on Dolohov…

She shudders at the thought.

Quickening her pace, she finally reaches the expansive Hall of Prophecies. And holds back a laugh. The pitiful number of prophecies, tucked away in a corner, is somewhat comical. Oh dear. What a mess they’d made of the place all those years ago.

She wanders over to have a closer look.

Bane was right – they do almost all seem to have been made by centaurs. None from Trelawney, at least, thank goodness. Her last one caused more trouble than it was worth.

Hang on.

Hermione Jean Granger & Bellatrix (née Black) Lestrange – Firenze to Bane (Hogwarts Herd)

What?!

No. That can’t be, it—

But these prophecies are new! And Lestrange is definitely dead.

Hermione’s heart begins to hammer, and she clutches at her arm subconsciously, leaning to steady herself on the shelves.

Calm down, Hermione. Breathe. Occlude.

She lets out raspy, dragging breaths, staring down at the black stone floor.

She’s dead she’s dead she’s dead she’s dead.

She can’t hurt you now.

And yet…

Her eyes are drawn back to the prophecy.

It has to be an old one. It’s the only explanation. Maybe it says Bellatrix will torture her and then die…or that Hermione would impersonate her, but it would fail…or that they would duel at Hogwarts before Molly kills her.

Her eyes slowly move down to the plaque on the shelf - they’re organised by date now as well as alphabetically. It makes much more sense. Of course Hermione would have also…

Oh no.

2004

Last year.

How is that possible? What’s it going to say, Hermione attacks her corpse?

It could just refer to Lestrange. Maybe a new law…some kind of family compensation…

It’s a bad idea to pick it up. Prophecies are self-fulfilling. It could drive her mad. Look at Voldemort, or Snape.

She picks it up.

Firenze’s voice echoes throughout the room.

 

The stirring sand could foundations sink, if bones are not left buried. A battle lost, lest drunk on love, imagined chains held steadied. And if, these two, through sand and sea, do not drift asunder, then both, now lost, shall be returned, though not without the other.

 

…well.

She doesn’t know what she had been expecting but…

…though not without the other.

Fantastic. She knows exactly which prophecy that part reminds her of. Way to go, Hermione, you had to pick it up. You had to come here, you couldn’t have just gone to drinks like a normal person.

Sand and and sea and bones and…drunk on love? What in Merlin’s name does that mean? She certainly holds no love for the witch, and the idea that Lestrange would have any love for her at all is laughable. Even if she wasn’t long dead.

Because she is. Dead.

How—?

Now what?

She slips the prophecy into her pocket, looking around self-consciously. Nobody’s around…as the note suggested. And the prophecy is about her. It’s hers. She can take it if she wants.

Hmm, that does seem to make up her mind on the whole prophecy ownership debate. It’s obviously hers, not Firenze’s. Although he’s definitely going to be getting a strongly worded letter about this whole—

She tuts to herself. Just stop thinking for one minute and get those legs moving. Time to leave, Granger.

Her shoes tap against the floor as she hurries from the hall, back into the Time Room, one hand in her pocket holding the prophecy and the other reaching around for the scroll. She needs to remember to leave it on a desk so she doesn’t have to come back on Monday and do this all over again.

And that’s why, when something pushes into her from behind, she has no hands to steady her fall.

She lets out a shout, crashing into a cabinet, glass falling around her. And the world goes dark.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione blinks her eyes open, squinting against the light and groaning as she staggers up from the floor. Everything is glittering. She raises a hand to her head. Ouch. Gods, her head is thumping, what—

The time turners. They’re back. How are there time turners? They’d destroyed them all, they can’t have reinvented them in just ten years…could they? No. No they hadn’t been there earlier; she would have noticed. Then how—

A thunderous crash interrupts her thoughts. She pulls out her wand and heads back towards the door to the Hall of Prophecies. Maybe whoever had hit into her is still there.

She peeks around the door, and her mouth falls open in disbelief. No…

Thousands of prophecies are crashing to the floor, splinters of glass filling the air and the sound roaring through the room. And yet, under all the noise, she can just about make out voices. Shouts and screams. Wandfire.

No no no no it can’t be.

She ducks behind a grandfather clock. A clock that shouldn’t exist anymore.

“…Come on, Neville, hurry, we’re nearly there.”

Hermione hurriedly casts a notice-me-not charm and a muffiliato on herself, backing away towards the entrance door, watching in horror as first Harry and then herself and Neville run through the door to the Hall of Prophecies.

Luckily they’re looking the other way and haven’t spotted her, too busy with the door.

“Colloportus!” her past self gasps as the door slams shut.

Okay. Okay, Hermione has to leave. She can’t see herself, she just can’t. She can’t affect the timeline. Oh, this is dreadful!

She sprints for the other door, knowing that the others will decide to do the same at any moment and needing a head start.

The door is still open, and she throws herself through it, rolling sideways so she’s no longer visible as she hears voices. The Death Eaters have found them.

She sits against the wall, heart pounding.

She’s travelled through time. This is…this is horrific. She doesn’t have a time turner! How will she get back? How will she not be spotted by anyone? No one can see her. Nothing can change; it would be catastrophic. Everyone here is a key player in the war.

Oh she wishes she had Harry’s cloak right now.

Shouts of stupefy and the sound of toppling desks come from the doorway, and she desperately tries to remember what happens next, where she should hide. Maybe she should leave through the entrance…

 Yes. No. Oh, she can’t think properly, it’s all too sudden.

No. The entrance is long and narrow with no exits, leading straight to the lift. She could easily run into the Order, even Voldemort. Who knows how long he was waiting out there?

But she can’t stay here.

She gets to her feet in the circular space, staying out of sight of the Time room. All of the other doors are shut, one engraved with an ‘x’ . She’d done that. That’s the Brain Room. Probably not the best idea, she knows Ron was attacked by a brain, even if she was unconscious at the time. So not that one.

Shouting comes from a nearby door, followed by a crash and a scream.

“Ron? Ginny? Luna?” she hears Harry yell out, followed by her own terrified “Harry!”

She desperately wants to help them - they all sound so young, so helpless -  but she can’t. The consequences would be dire.

Speaking of which. She’s about to get caught. She needs to choose a room. Now.

Okay, Ron and the others are in that room, not far from the Time room. They then end up with the brains, so what’s left?

She runs towards a random door, throwing it open and closing it behind her as she hears heavy footfalls. The next two Death Eaters. Dolohov and Jugson. Her past self is about to be cursed unconscious, which means she has no idea what happens next.

She turns around in the silent room. Oh.

The veil.

Well, she does know what happens in here. So she can’t stay.

Think, Hermione. What other rooms do you know about? Some safer ones. Process of elimination.

The Department of Mysteries studies Time, Space, Death, Thought and Love.

So not Time, that’s out. She’s in Death. Thought must be the Brain Room.

So that leaves Space and Love.

She opens the door a crack and peeks through. Harry and Neville are standing in the centre of the circular entrance room, her younger self flung over Neville’s shoulder. Merlin, she looks dead.

Oh gods, the crosses have all faded from the doors. Okay, the Time Room was three along, so the entrance is three in the other direction. And—

Ginny, Ron and Luna come falling through a door opposite her.

“Ron!” Harry croaks, dashing towards them. “Ginny — are you all —?”

“Harry!” says Ron, giggling weakly, lurching forward, seizing the front of Harry’s robes, and gazing at him with unfocused eyes.

What is wrong with him?

Luna looks her way, and she hurriedly shuts the door as Ron falls forwards, laughing.

“…what happened…think her ankle’s broken…four of them…room full of planets” come the muffled voices through the door.

Okay. Sounds like the Death Eaters have the Space Room. So she has to go into the Love Room as soon as they leave.

A shrieking voice fills her ears. “There they are!”

Bellatrix. Oh no. Oh—

Her breathing gets faster, and she feels herself slide down to the floor, adrenaline flooding through her leaving her hot and cold and shaking.

Filthy mudblood! How did you get into my vault?

She curls up in a ball. We didn’t. It’s a fake. Please. I don’t know, I don’t know I—

Tell me the truth! Crucio!

The floor is cold against her face. Cold wood. No, stone. Her chest is so tight. She begs Bellatrix to get off her, but she won’t listen, she—

She opens her eyes. She’s alone.

Bellatrix isn’t there. Oh.

She slowly gets to her feet, wiping the sweat from her brow.

Stay with it, Hermione. You need to get out of here.

There’s no sound through the door now. She cautiously slips out, listening to shouts and spellfire coming from a door that must lead to the Brain Room, so the Love Room must be…this one!

She tries the handle. Locked. Just like she remembered.

“Alohomora,” she whispers. Nothing.

She looks around. Nobody.

She takes a few steps back from the door. “Bombarda!”

The door jolts, and a resounding crack echoes through the corridor, causing Hermione to flinch in anticipation, but the door remains unharmed.

She leans her forehead against it, groaning. “Please…” she whispers. “Please open, I can’t be seen. The Order will be here at any moment.”

“And what…do we have here?”

Sweat trickles down her back and her breath gets stuck in her throat.

No no no no. Not her. Anyone but her.

She doesn’t even dare turn around, curling in on herself protectively against the door.

“Come now, pet, show Bella your face…don’t be fwightened.”

Hermione’s wand is still in her hand, but she’s frozen. Useless. Her nightmares brought to life.

The woman tuts. “Doesn’t matter. I know who you are. That hair of yours is rather distinctive. You’re the ickle mudblood girl, Potter’s Know It All friend. He’s quite attached to you. Perhaps he’ll trade…your life, for the prophecy.”

Her thoughts are whirling, long repressed memories springing to the forefront and blurring through her mind. Everything’s fuzzy.

Occlude. Rationalise. You are not a schoolgirl anymore. You’ve lived through more. Learnt more. You can bloody well open the door at least and get away from her.

What’s the most powerful way of sealing a room?

Blood magic.

How do you counteract blood magic?

More blood magic.

Her left hand is pressed against her chest. She’s wearing a necklace.

She slowly tilts her wand towards her neck, focusing on a wordless transfiguration. Difficult, but not impossible.

She feels the necklace transform in her hand. A dagger.

“Well girlie? Nothing to say? I expected more fight from a Gryffindor.”

She has to distract her somehow. She needs time to carve the rune.

She pushes away from the door slightly, knife awkward in her left hand, pressing into the wood as she begins talking, pitching her voice higher so Lestrange won’t get suspicious about her age.

“Why do you want the prophecy? Why is it important?”

The woman scoffs from behind her. “So you are a Know It All. Questions questions questions. Draco is right. You are a teacher’s pet.”

Okay. Keep her talking. But don’t mention Voldemort. She might decide to just kill her, or petrify her to drag her body to Harry for the prophecy.

“Why have you been running around? The only exit is here…why not guard the door?” Hermione asks, as casually as she can.

The rune is almost complete. She hopes simply ‘open’ will be enough; the dagger keeps slipping in her sweaty palms.

“You dare tell me what to do, mudblood? How dare you speak to your betters this way!” Lestrange shrieks.

Finished! Now she just has to cut her palm and—

“Maybe it didn’t occur to your freakishly enlarged monkey brain, but we can’t waste our time waiting whilst children hide away amongst the mysteries! Incarcerous!”

Hermione suddenly finds herself bound and gagged, sliding to the floor, only just managing to wipe her bloody palm across it as she falls. It doesn’t open. She must need more blood.

The dagger. She dropped the dagger as she opened her hand. It must be near her somewhere.

A hand grabs hold of her hair and wrenches her around, pulling a muffled yelp from her gagged mouth as it rips at the roots.

She stares up into Bellatrix’s glaring eyes. Which widen in shock when they see her face.

Hermione’s wand is still in her hand. She points it up at the witch.

Stupefy she thinks with all her might.

A weak jet of red light flies out. Bellatrix blocks it with a distracted flick of her wrist and snatches the wand from her hand before she can so much as blink. She’s Voldemort’s right-hand for a reason.

“…Your face…what happened you…how old are you, girl?” Lestrange whispers.

Hermione rolls her eyes at her. Gagged, remember? She reaches around the floor with the tips of her fingers for the fallen dagger. It must be there somewhere.

Lestrange rips the gag from her mouth. “How. Old.”

Hermione shrugs. “I think I’m sixteen, but I used a time turner for a while, so I might be seventeen by now.”

Bellatrix frowns. “Then what’s wrong with your face?”

Think, Hermione. Why would she look ten years older? “The Time Room! I crashed into something in the Time Room. A cabinet. Think it aged me or something.” Or sent her back in time, but the other witch doesn’t need to know that.

Bellatrix opens her mouth in question, still frowning, but Hermione’s done it. She’s found the dagger.

And instead of cutting herself, she leans on her left hand and gets enough momentum to jolt up and to the left, plunging the dagger into Bellatrix’s side.

Take that! You disgusting, evil excuse for a witch. See how you like it!

Bellatrix lets out a gasp of shock, which quickly turns into a growl as she lunges forwards at Hermione. Uh oh.

Hermione grips the dagger as tightly as she can, stabbing anywhere she can reach as they struggle against the door, Lestrange scratching at her and fighting for the dagger with a wild fury.

And then they both let out panicked squawks as the door swings open behind them, and they’re falling.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione loses her grip on Lestrange and the dagger, her limbs flailing out instinctively to catch herself as she falls through the air. Well, her hands. Her arms are still pinned to her sides by the rope.

She hears the other witch yell out an arresto momentum, but it’s obviously only for herself. Hermione continues to fall, her wand probably sat uselessly in Bellatrix’s robes.

She can’t even see the ground, falling backwards, and her heart drops to her stomach. She hopes it’s not stone. Please at least be—

She’s submerged in a thick liquid, drowning in it. She tries to open her eyes, but it burns, and she quickly squeezes them shut.

Okay Hermione, you’re about to die. You have to lift the incarcerous. It must be weak by now; it doesn’t last forever. Her chest tightens, she’s sinking. She’s sinking and trapped and she can’t move and—

Stop panicking and do it. Wordless, wandless, magic. Or you will die.

Relashio! She thinks. Relashio, relashio, relashio. Emancipare, please!

Her arms come free and she would sob with relief if she wasn’t still drowning, her lungs burning. She thrashes towards what she prays is the surface.

It has to be. She’s nearly there she just knows it. She outlived Voldemort. She won’t die like this.

Her hands break the surface and she splashes up, huffing out a breath and—

And she’s dragged onto a stone floor.

“Where are we, mudblood? What did you do? How have you trapped us? What…amortentia?”

Hermione gasps in a breath, and then another. Wait. Amor—

She quickly wipes the liquid from her face before it gets in her mouth, blinking her eyes open.

Lestrange is crouched before her. The room is like a cave, dark and lit with only candles. A soothing crashing fills her ears. Lestrange is still gripping her upper arm like a vice, but Hermione can turn slightly to look around at—  

A waterfall of amortentia crashing into a large pond. Lestrange is right. That pearly sheen could be nothing else. And the smell! It’s…her head is going fuzzy, overwhelmed by the most wonderful, soothing, nostalgic smells she can think of.

And then her head cracks against the stone floor, Lestrange pinning her down, wand to her throat.

“I don’t ask twice, mudblood. Why. Can’t. I. Leave.”

She can’t leave?

Well the door must be rather high up…

“I don’t know. I’ve never been in this room before, I swear. Did you try aloho—”

“Yes I tried it! How did you open the other door? They must both use the same mechanism.”

Other door?

So there is one down here.

“I— I don’t know why it worked, it only happened when you— it was an accident I—”

The walls are closing in again. This is too familiar, Lestrange crouched above her, crooked wand drawn, eyes frantic.

She curls her arms over her face to protect herself, twisting inward.

Bellatrix grabs her arms, panting. “Stop. Wriggling. Answer me. There is no time for this. Tell me what you did, mudblood. My Lord is waiting.”

Hermione lets out a sob, breathing ragged and lost in the dark, eyes scrunched shut.

Bellatrix shakes her. “Tell me! Tell me how to leave!”

She lets go and Hermione thuds back onto the stone floor.

“Crucio!”

Hermione screeches, lungs burning and spine twisting until it feels like it will pop apart.

No no no no

No!

She wrenches her eyes open and throws herself at the crouching woman, elbowing her in her already wounded side so she loses her balance, with a grunt. Not again. This is not happening again. She is not going to lie there and let the witch torture her.

Hermione shoves into her again, screaming with years of built up rage, watching as she falls back towards the pool, feet skidding for purchase on wet stone and mouth open in shock.

That’s it. Amortentia.

The other witch finds her balance, but before she can steady herself completely, Hermione dips one hand into the pool of amortentia and pulls Lestrange towards her with the other.

Lestrange opens her mouth in outrage, and that’s when Hermione strikes, smacking her love potion filled hand over the witch’s mouth.

Lestrange’s eyes widen in horror.

Oh yes. From now on, Hermione is in charge. Amortentia isn’t just a love potion. It causes obsession. An obsession for whoever administers it. Now Lestrange will do everything in her power to please Hermione. It’s perfect.

The other witch is still frozen beneath Hermione’s hand, apparently catatonic at the thought of loving a muggleborn. Hermione just grins at her.

And then her eyes seem to…change. Glaze over. Get darker.

Hermione swallows. Now what?

The idea made sense in theory…but she’s not sure she wants to see it play out.

She cautiously removes her hand and backs away from the woman. Who smiles at her. It would be a nice smile if it wasn’t for the rotten teeth. And the person attached to them.

Hermione shudders. It’s just plain wrong, Lestrange looking at her like that.

“Uh…Lestrange? How are you feeling?”

The other woman tilts her head to the side, a confused look spreading across her face. She almost reminds Hermione of a puppy.

“Why are you calling me that, Hermione?”

Wow. Now that feels really weird. She didn’t even know Lestrange knew her name. She’s always just mudblood, girl, pet.

“Umm…because it’s your surname. What would you like me to call you?” Best to play nice. The woman is volatile at the best of times.

But Lestrange just smiles once more, sauntering closer. “You can call me whatever you like, what do you want to call me? What do you want me to do? I’ll do anything for you, I swear it. Whatever. You. Want,” she grins. And then winks.

Hermione backs up another step and swallows. Okay, this is a bit much. She’d wanted obsessed, but…

Given the woman’s track record with obsession, she should have known this would get intense fast.

“Uh, okay, Bellatrix, I’d like— right now I just need to think for a moment. I like thinking about things. Alone. I need some time alone. So just…wait for me. Just a moment.”

The other witch pouts at her. “I don’t want to leave you alone! I want to be with you. Always with you.” She stamps her foot. “I can think too! I can help you, let me help you, please!”

Alright. The witch is clever, maybe she can help. But with what? What do they need to do?

Well they have to get out of here…and then…

Oh dear. Bellatrix has to kill Sirius. That has to happen tonight. As much as she hates it, as much as her heart breaks for Harry at the thought, Sirius is a wildcard. If he survives…

She reaches into her pockets for her wand before it hits her. Well, two things hit her. One, Bellatrix has her wand. Two, there’s a prophecy in her pocket.

 

The stirring sand could foundations sink, if bones are not left buried. A battle lost, lest drunk on love, imagined chains held steadied. And if, these two, through sand and sea, do not drift asunder, then both, now lost, shall be returned, though not without the other.

 

Stirring sand, hourglass sand. Time travel. She could sink foundations…so the past. She could break the timeline if bones are not left buried, that must mean Sirius.

So what does it tell her to do?

Someone grabs her chin and she jerks back to reality as dark eyes gaze into hers from a sunken, waxy face. “You’re ignoring me! You hate me! What did I do wrong? Tell me!”

How is this witch still yelling at her?! You’d think a love potion would mellow her out a bit.

“I don’t hate you. I’m not ignoring you, I’m thinking about what you need to do for me. You’ll do something for me, won’t you Lest–Bellatrix?” she says soothingly, hoping to calm the woman slightly.

The witch is so close. A hand strokes across her cheek gently.

And then a soft kiss is pressed to Hermione’s lips before she can move.

Wha—

Hermione scrambles backwards.

“Oh yes! Anything! Name it, and I will do as you say, follow every word that falls from your lips.”

Blargh. Hdjk. What just—?

Hermione shakes herself. Just…block that memory out. Forever. And hurry up and decipher the prophecy before she gets sulky and kisses you again.

Okay. Nothing can change. Sirius has to die. And then…A battle lost, lest drunk on love…Well. She knows exactly who’s drunk on love now.

A battle lost, lest drunk on Love, imagined chains held steadied.

Imagined chains. Chains of servitude? Of imprisonment?  Bellatrix is already drunk on love, so who can steady her chains? Voldemort? He’s not very steady…

“Tell me what to do!”

Oh. Oh no. Hermione has to—?

Her heart clenches. Why? Why did this have to happen? It was over. The pain, and the killing, was over. And now she has to make more horrible decisions? Has to cause a man to die?

She sighs, nodding to herself in resignation.

Fine. She has to. Time cannot be rewritten, not really. Perhaps Hermione did this all along…

She looks up at the witch. “Okay, Bellatrix, I have an important mission for you, so listen carefully and do exactly as I say. It will make me very happy if you do this for me.”

Bellatrix skips towards her, smiling widely and reaching for her hands. Hermione grits her teeth and lets her take them.

“Right. I’m going to use my blood to open the door, and then you are going to run, as fast as you can, to the Death Room. The room with the veil, do you remember it?”

An eye-roll. “Of course! I know where all of the rooms are, silly. Rookwood told the Dark Lord everything about the department. I memorised the floor plan and all of the objects he mentioned. This is the only sealed room.”

…right. Now who’s the Know It All?

“Okay, good, umm…well done. So, once you’re there, you have to fight Sirius and stun him so that he falls into the veil. After that, Harry will chase you. Don’t hurt him, just run. Harry’s my friend.”

Bellatrix frowns. “If he’s your friend then maybe I should help him. I don’t want you to lose a friend.”

“No!” Hermione shouts, and Bellatrix flinches.

“No,” she says more softly. “Nobody can know about…you and me. It’s a secret. You have to act like you did before. Exactly like you did before, so no one gets suspicious. Just, run to the atrium, and leave as soon as you can.”

And…then what? She can’t just let her go now. She’ll remember all this. Change what she does next. Tell Voldemort.

Maybe she can keep Lestrange somewhere, just for tonight. Just while she thinks of a plan. Where can they go? A safe house?

Not Hermione’s house, that’s for sure. Or any of the Order houses.

Oh. Maybe there is one they can use.

“And when you leave, meet me at a place called Shell Cottage. Just shout it into a floo, and I’ll be there waiting.”

Somehow…

How is Hermione going to get out of here?

She needs her wand.

Lestrange tugs on her hands, pulling her close and then wrapping her arms around her neck, hugging her tightly. Hermione suddenly has a faceful of frizzy hair. Looks like the gods are playing ‘get a taste of your own medicine’ today. As well as some even sicker games.

She brushes some hair away from her mouth. Bellatrix hugs her tighter.

“I don’t want you to go. What if you get hurt? Stay with me. I can protect you,” the witch in her arms whines.

Hermione holds back a slightly hysterical laugh. Oh, she’d love to see the look on everyone’s faces if Lestrange started protecting her in battle. They might faint on the spot.

“Can I have my wand back please?” she murmurs into the witch’s ear.

A sigh greets her. And then a kiss against her jaw. Hermione grits her teeth and stubbornly ignores it. Not happening not happening not happening.

She pulls away, and Lestrange hands her back her wand from who knows where.

“Thank you. Now, let’s get out of here. You have a mission to complete.”

Before the potion wears off.

Or Sirius makes it out of here alive.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Having her wand safely back in her hand is quite the relief. Everything keeps getting more and more off balance, and the familiar feel of warmly humming wood in her palm is soothing.

She moves away from Lestrange, reaches under her own robes to rip a button from her shirt, and transfigures it into a vial, slightly guiltily. She doesn’t really want to drug her again, it’s an ethical nightmare, but this much amortentia is too good to pass up under the circumstances. And if she’s going to have to spend more time with the woman, this Bellatrix is better than a Bellatrix that wants to kill her.

Vial filled, she turns back to said witch, opening her mouth to ask her where the door is.

Oh.

She’s clutching her side. Hermione forgot, she—

“Bellatrix, how badly are you hurt?”

The witch stumbles towards her.

“Come, my love, the door is this way. I’ll show you. I’ll do everything you need me to do.”

Well that’s not an answer. Hermione lets herself be dragged towards the door though. It can’t be that bad if she’s still pulling Hermione around.

They reach the door, and Hermione engraves the rune. With her wand this time, it’s much easier.

Now for the blood.

She casts a tergeo to clean herself as she’s still soaked head to toe in amortentia, and then places her cut hand against the door, prodding at it until enough blood falls.

It doesn’t open. Hmm. Time to test her theory.

She turns and looks at Lestrange critically, searching her skin for cuts. She’s annoyingly unscathed, at least where Hermione can see. How had her blood gotten on the door the first time?

“Are you bleeding anywhere, Bellatrix? We need your blood too for the door, but I don’t want to cut you if I can help it.”

She does. She’d love to stab the witch again. But it feels a bit wrong to do it whilst she’s drugged.

The witch smiles. “You don’t want to hurt me? You care about me?”

Hermione reluctantly nods, not making eye contact. “Answer the question Lest– Bellatrix.”

Lestrange huffs. “Fine! I am bleeding. A lot. But it’s under my clothes, so unless you want to take off my dress…”

No no.

Argh, there’s no time for this!

She looks the other witch in the eye, pleading with her. “Bellatrix, we have to hurry, this is important. I need your blood to open the door and then you have to run to the veil room. Straight away. There’s no time!”

What if the battle is over? What if Voldemort never arrives? What if Fudge doesn’t see him? Then no one will—

There’s a slicing sound, and then the smack of a hand against wood. The door creaks open.

And, before Hermione knows what is happening, she’s being kissed. Quite thoroughly. Her lips even start to kiss back she’s so surprised by the intensity. It’s been a long time since someone has kissed her at all, let alone so desperately.

Lestrange pulls away. “I have to go. Stay safe. I’ll meet you at the cottage, like you said. I’ll do everything you said, I promise.”

And then she’s sprinting out the door and away.

Hermione is still frozen in the doorway.

She raises a shaky hand to her lips. Oh, this is the weirdest day. She’s had some strange days over the course of her life - with Harry and Ron around, nothing ever goes smoothly. But this day takes the cake. Maybe a whole patisserie of cakes. She has to get out of here.

And apparently this door also leads to the circular entranceway. Somehow.

She hears footsteps and pulls the door almost shut, peering out. The Order. So it’s not too late, they’re just arriving. Thank Merlin.

And they don’t come her way, probably knowing this door is always sealed. She just prays Mad-Eye can’t see her through the door.

They all spread out, taking different doors, Mad-Eye and Tonks heading into the brain room without glancing in her direction.

She has to leave. They’ll do a whole sweep of the place eventually, plus she now has to meet Lestrange at Shell Cottage as promised. She’s going to have to risk the lift. What an idiot.

She casts another notice-me-not charm and a muffliato on herself just in case, not that it will be much use if anyone spots her. Oh. Why didn’t she think of—

She waves her wand over her hair, transfiguring it darker, straighter and shorter. She doesn’t really want to mess with her eyes, but she casts an engorgio on her nose.

That might help. And she’s ten years older, she has to remember. Dressed in business wear. Once she’s in the lift, she’s just a ministry worker. She even has a badge to prove it.

She slowly opens the door. Nobody.

Okay. That one.

She takes a breath, and then hurries for the entrance door, bursting through and running to the lift. No Dumbledore. No Voldemort. She’s going to make it.

She wrenches the lift doors open and slams her hand on the level for the atrium. She has to go there. It’s where all the floos are.

The lift lurches upwards.

Come on. Hurry hurry hurry. This feels a lot longer than the way down.

The doors ping open and she throws herself into a run towards the nearest fire.

And then the fire roars to life, turning green, and she smacks right into the person leaving it.

“Oh, my apologies. It appears you are in much greater need of this floo than I.”

Oh bloody hell.

Dumbledore smiles down at her, eyes twinkling. Oh, she forgot how much she missed him.

“Now, I would love to stay for a chat. I’m sure you have many interesting stories to tell. But I think it best that we both hurry off to our respective emergencies, don’t you agree?”

She nods dumbly at him, and he gives her one more knowing smile before striding off.

Does he—?

There’s no time to puzzle out what Dumbledore knows, Hermione, that could take a lifetime.

She tosses some floo powder into the grate and steps in.

“Shell cottage!”

Fire whirls around her, and then a familiar living room comes into view and she breathes a sigh of relief. It’s still connected to the floo network, it’s not being used by the Order yet.

She lights all the lamps around the room with a lumos and looks at the nearest armchair longingly. She wants to collapse into it, close her eyes, and pretend this is all a dream. She’s exhausted.

She sighs. There’s no time for feeling sorry for herself yet. Come on, Hermione. Time to set up the wards.

Or…

Will Lestrange be able to get in if she’s warded it off?

She walks over to the front door, pushing it open against the wind and protecting her eyes from the sand. She definitely needs wards. She has the most notorious, most terrifying Death Eater coming her way.

What is Hermione doing? Isn’t she supposed to be smart? This is madness!

She casts an anti-apparition ward, and then goes back inside, shutting the door behind her and leaning her head against it with a thud. Change of plan.

Pointing her wand at herself rather than at the sky this time, she murmurs every ward, charm and jinx she can think of that protects from harm, in every language or variation that springs to mind. She can make the place untraceable once the witch arrives, but first she needs to ensure that no matter what happens, she won’t find herself at the end of another crucio ever again. She’s done being the witch’s crying rag doll.

Protego totalum…protego hexia…protego horribilis…fianto duri…

It’s so risky casting these kinds of charms on herself. She’s probably seriously damaging her own magical integrity - there’s a reason they’re usually cast at the sky. But she’s about to be alone, ten years in the past, with her greatest fear. Her boggart is certainly not Professor McGonagall anymore.

And no-one even knows she’s here.

She looks around with a shudder. Even after all these years, having visited Bill and Fleur many times, she can’t help but associate this place with— with what happened. At Malfoy Manor. The…gods the memory of it. The nightmares. Fleur had done her best, cared for her, let her cry and talked to her, but…

She shakes herself from the memories and walks into the kitchen, chanting protection spells once more, and starts searching around in the cupboards. Empty. Well that’s just perfect. She was hoping there might at least be some tea to calm her—

The floo sounds from the living room. Hermione freezes, hand gripping the cupboard.

Footsteps.

Arms go around her waist from behind, and Hermione lets out a shaky breath. The love potion must still be in effect.

And then a wand presses into her neck.

“Now pet, you and I need to have a little chat, don’t you think?” a voice rasps.

Hermione’s stomach drops and her eyes fall shut. Oh no.

She swallows. Stay calm, Hermione. She can’t hurt you. “Yes, I suppose we do. I was just looking for some tea, but it seems—”

“Incarcerous!”

Nothing happens.

“Petrificus totalus! Confringo! Crucio! Stupefy! Expelliarmus!” The witch growls, getting increasingly louder.

Hermione sighs with relief. It’s working. The protections charms are working. Her skin buzzes with magic, but still nothing happens.

Lestrange drags her over to the kitchen table. “Sit. Talk. My patience is wearing thin, mudblood.”

She shoves Hermione into a chair, standing over her and leaning on the table, crowding closer.

“Now explain—” she lets out another growl of frustration. “Now what’s wrong with your face?! Answers, girl! Or my dear cousin won’t be the only one who dies tonight!”

Sirius is dead? Oh thank goodness!

Uh…not that she…nothing against the man…

“So you did it? He fell through the veil?” she asks cautiously.

“Yes,” Lestrange grits out. “Thanks to your slimy mudblood hands and stupid orders, the idiotic traitor is dead. Not that I care. He is on your side after all. So. Why have him killed?”

She—

What should she say?

Maybe…

The only way this will work is if they have a common goal. A reason for Lestrange to keep her secrets. She’s revealed too much, shown herself, her plans, her hiding spot.

Lestrange wants Voldemort to win the war…she wants to protect her noble house…she wants to win, to triumph.

To live. Bellatrix dies.

Hermione feels her face start to tingle as the transfiguration wears off, her hair growing and nose shrinking.

Lestrange may be completely insane…but she’s also clever. She was once the brightest witch of her age. Hermione had looked it up. She’s not mad enough to mess with Time…is she?

Okay. She can always try to obliviate her if this goes wrong. Or just knock her over the head.

“I— I assume you’ve heard about the consequences of time travel?”

Lestrange’s mouth falls open. And then snaps shut. And then she cackles, dragging a chair out from under the table and plopping down heavily into it as she laughs to herself.

“Oh. Oh muddy, what have you done? You stupid mudblood. This is exactly why you people shouldn’t set foot in our world. Time travel. You– your face!”

Hermione folds her arms and scowls. “I didn’t plan this. It was an accident. Someone pushed me! Believe me, I was perfectly happy in my own time, I’m not stupid enough to—”

Her mouth snaps shut. Lestrange is looking at her, well, strangely. She must have said something—

Oh dear.

“You’re happy in your time? When are you from? You certainly look older, years older. And you’re happy? That’s not possible. None of you filthy mudbloods should be happy under the Dark Lord’s reign. I presumed you travelled back in time to fight for your blasted good cause. If you’re happy…”

Right. Time to pull out her last resort.

“Accio prophecy!”

It floats out of her pocket onto the table. Hermione clears her throat. “I found this tonight. Well, not tonight tonight. Tonight my time. It had my name on it…and yours. I think you should hear it.”

Bellatrix snatches it up off the table greedily and it glows to life in her hands.

 

The stirring sand could foundations sink, if bones are not left buried. A battle lost, lest drunk on love, imagined chains held steadied. And if, these two, through sand and sea, do not drift asunder, then both, now lost, shall be returned, though not without the other.

 

Firenze’s voice echoes through the room. And then silence.

“Both now lost,” Lestrange croaks. “That’s not possible. I am not lost. The Dark Lord cannot lose. He is too powerful.”

She glares at Hermione. “That is not possible! I must die to further his cause, that’s it, isn’t it? Tell me what happens!” she roars.

Then, in the next second, she’s suddenly calm. It’s boggling. “Wait, no, you’re useless. I’ll see for myself. Legilimens!”

Hermione realises with a jolt that she spent so long protecting her body from harm, that she’d completely forgotten about her mind.

She only has time to let out a horrified gasp, fumbling to bring up her mental walls, before the room disappears, and she’s plunged into memory.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione's childhood flickers past before her eyes, slowing slightly as she senses disgust from the woman sharing her mind. Fear and confusion as Hermione goes to the dentist, the doctor’s, flies on an aeroplane.

Get out! She thinks, conjuring up walls, thorns, earthquakes. Anything to shove the unwanted presence from her head.

Ha! As if a little mudblood could stop me! Let’s see what you’re hiding…

Argh the witch is too powerful. She’s an accomplished legilimens. It’s like trying to stab at water.

Her memories continue to speed past at an alarming rate, making her dizzy.

Fine. She wants to see. Watch.

Hermione ignores the other jumbled thoughts, and goes straight for a specific memory, making it clear and vivid as she remembers every detail.

They’re in the Great Hall, watching as a younger Hermione ducks a slicing hex, bringing up a shield as she duels with an older but healthier, rejuvenated looking Bellatrix, Ginny and Luna by her side.

Bellatrix dances easily between their spells, ducking and dodging and twirling up shield after shield as though to her own beat, still managing to send them jerking out of the way of unforgivable curses and deadly hexes. Hermione is just readying an attack when Bellatrix’s grin widens, and a green jet of light flies at Ginny, who only just manages to move out of the way in time.

Hermione senses the Bellatrix in her head watching curiously.

“Not my daughter, you bitch!”

And then there’s Mrs Weasley, barging them all out the way and glaring at Bellatrix, wand drawn.

“Out of my way!”

Both the Bellatrix in her head and the Bellatrix in front of her let out identical cackles.

Oh please, the weasel mother? What’s she going to do, bite me? Birth another litter of weasels on me?

Hermione watches in delight, thinking smug thoughts.

Watch closely, Lestrange, she’s going to kill you in a minute.

A scoff echoes around her head.

“You—will—never—touch—our—children—again!”

Here it comes. Hermione loves this part.

Bellatrix lets out an exhilarated laugh, and Mrs Weasley jams her wand forwards, hitting her with a spell squarely in the chest.

For a split second everything freezes, and Hermione’s brain shakes with foreign shock.

And then Bellatrix topples down dead.

No. No, what is this trick? You’ve tampered with your memories, you sneaky mudblood you—

Voldemort lets out a roar of fury as his lieutenant hits the floor, unmoving, and he fires off curses at everyone in sight.

“Protego!”

Harry appears from nowhere. Oh he looks so young. She always forgets he was just a boy. Sweet, brave, Harry. She should really send him an owl, it’s been a while since—

Potter is alive in your time? You’re lying. The boy should be dead. The Dark Lord would never—

“There are no more horcruxes. It’s just you and me. Neither can live while the other survives, and one of us is about to be gone for good…”

Harry and Voldemort are circling each other now, a silent crowd watching in anticipation from the sidelines.

Neither can live while— what does he mean, mudblood? Why is Potter so important?

Oh. Of course. Voldemort doesn’t know yet, they haven’t heard the end of the prophecy.

Doesn’t know what?

And before she can stop it, they’re being dragged in front of another memory, Harry sat nervously before her past self and Ron in Fred and George’s box-filled room at the Burrow.

“The Prophet’s got it right,” Harry says cautiously, sat in bed, breakfast tray on his lap. “That glass ball that smashed wasn’t the only record of the prophecy. I heard the whole thing in Dumbledore’s office, he was the one the prophecy was made to, so he could tell me. From what it said,” he takes a deep breath, “it looks like I’m the one who’s got to finish off Voldemort—”

A jolt of fear and outrage hits her mind at the mention of Voldemort’s name.

“—it said neither of us could live while the other survives.”

Shocked silence fills the room, and Hermione’s head. A black cloud of smoke surrounds them as past-Hermione is punched in the face by a jinxed telescope, but Hermione barely even notices.

Her whole being is throbbing with the intensity of rage, and denial, and guilt, and fear, and despair that is radiating out of Bellatrix and into her mind. She feels sick, it’s—

She tumbles backwards out of the chair and onto the kitchen floor, drenched in sweat and panting. Lestrange is on her feet, eyes wild, wand sparking.

“I have to leave. I have to kill the boy. He has to die. If what you showed me is true—”

No!

Hermione blasts a stupefy at her. It’s flicked away carelessly, hitting into a bookshelf, paper exploding out at them.

“Stop! You can’t! You can’t change time, please! At least— at least think it through. You might be able to change something, but only if it’s not noticeable.”

She hurries to her feet as Lestrange tries to disapparate, fails, and then heads towards the floo.

She can’t!

Hermione throws herself at the woman’s legs, grabbing hold of her feet.

“Harry can’t die! Because he doesn’t! It would change everything, you’ll create a paradox. If he dies, I’ll never work at the ministry, and I’ll never come here and tell you!”

The witch kicks at her, hitting her in the face. It doesn’t hurt, just glances off because of the protection charms, but she does lose her grip as she flinches back instinctively.

“That’s your problem! Neither can live while the other survives. My Lord cannot die, I will not allow it!”

“Petrificus totalus!”

The witch ducks the spell, reaching for the floo powder.

“Accio floo powder!” Hermione cries.

The pot flies out of Bellatrix’s reach and soars into Hermione’s waiting hands. She hurriedly shoves it deep into her expanded pockets.

And Bellatrix throws an ornament at her head, sprinting for the front door.

“He’s a halfblood!” Hermione shouts. “Your Lord, his father was a muggle!”

Bellatrix whips around, unsteady in her anger. “Lies!”

Hermione frantically shakes her head. “I can prove it! Just look in my head, everyone in the future knows. His real name is Tom Riddle, just like his father, a muggle.”

Bellatrix growls and takes a shaky step towards Hermione.

“You are lying. I’ve had enough of your rambling, mudblood. I’m going back to my Lord. I’m telling him all about the prophecy, he’ll be very pleased with me. To hear what I’ve seen.”

Hermione gapes. “You can’t tell him about the future! Do you know how many magical laws we’ve already broken tonight? It’s time travel, we have to fix this, the world could blink from existence at any moment! You must understand the paradox you’ll be creating!”

The Butterfly Effect. If Lestrange changes anything that will stop past-Hermione going down to the Department of Mysteries on that particular Friday, at that exact time, leaving at that exact moment…time causality will shatter. The end of the world.

“Silencio! What have you done—"

“Please! You have to listen, we—"

—mudblood? How are you stopping me?”

“—just work together, and you might be able—"

“Crucio! Just shut up! Shut your filthy mouth! Silen—”

And then Bellatrix’s face goes deathly pale. Even more pale than before, which is almost impossible. She’s practically a skeleton draped in skin as it is.

“—to survive…somehow…Lestrange? What—”

The witch collapses onto the floor, unconscious.

Bloody Hell.

For a moment Hermione just catches her breath, lets her brain kick back into gear. And then she tiptoes forwards.

What happened? She looks dead…

She’d better not be dead. She can’t die yet.

Hermione sucks in a breath, and then leans down to take the witch’s wrist. A faint pulse. Still alive.

Okay, the gods have given her a brief window. Move, Hermione!

She runs out the front door into the wind and the cold, pointing her wand at the sky and casting every spell she can think of to keep people out. She can’t be discovered. Especially if Lestrange does manage to escape.

Anti-apparition, check. Now she needs anti-intruder. Anti-muggle.

She runs back to the door and begins carving runes. Protect.  Anti-Enemy. Conceal. Who says ancient runes is a useless NEWT? All that late-night reading is paying off.

She goes inside and shuts the door behind her, eyes falling to the corpse-like body on the floor.

Okay, time to deal with the next problem and put her healer’s hat on. She’d shadowed Madam Pomfrey for a few weeks in eighth year out of curiosity…and after realising in her time on the run how useful healing spells are. Other than dittany, murtlap and the episkey spell, she’d been rather out of her depth.

She kneels down next to Lestrange. Just a patient. Just a patient. Be professional.

First, check pulse and airways.

Her pulse is still weak, but it’s there. And her chest is moving up and down.

Okay, just in case. She pulls open the witch’s jaw. “Anapneo!”

Alright. Airways clear.

Now Madam Pomfrey would talk to the patient and use a diagnostic spell. She can’t quite remember the wand movement, is it…

“Diagnostico!”

Nothing.

Or maybe…

“Diagnostico!”

Aha! Different coloured lights shine from different parts of Lestrange’s body.

Let’s see. Nothing black except coming from her left arm, the Dark Mark, so that’s good. Not too serious. A lot of Red though, what does that…and blue and yellow and—

She groans and tugs at her hair. It’s been too long since she’s had to heal someone. She’s forgotten everything!

Well. There is the muggle way, of course. She had been avoiding it, but…

She knows Lestrange has been stabbed. Multiple times. Oops.

And she’d said she was bleeding ages ago, back in the Love Room! The stubborn—

Hermione grits her teeth and starts unlacing the woman’s corset.

Stupid. Pureblood. Ancient. Fashion. Choices.

She gives up and goes to the kitchen, rattling through the drawers for some scissors or a sharp knife. She would do a slicing hex, but not that close to her chest. Too risky.

She finds a large pair of scissors and kneels back down, cutting through the witch’s corset and dress as much as she can and then ripping it open.

Professional. Not looking. Just a body. A…very skinny, pale body.

She really is malnourished. How does she have the strength to stand, let alone…

Well. Clearly she was using pure spite. And it’s worn off.

“Wingardium Leviosa!”

Lestrange hovers into the air, and Hermione pulls off her dress. It’s sticky and dark with blood. She hadn’t noticed before because her clothing’s all black…

What has Hermione done?

Part of her wants to just cast episkey at all the wounds, but that’s only for surface cuts. There’s probably internal bleeding.

She walks towards the nearest bedroom, Lestrange floating along behind her eerily.

Clean the wound to stop infection? But how to stop the bleeding? And what about all the other colours?

She needs potions. Definitely a blood-replenishing potion at least…

She lowers the witch onto the bed.

“Incarcerous!”

Her wrists and ankles become tied to the bed in case she wakes up. What else?

Where is her wand?

She runs back out into the hallway and searches amongst Bellatrix’s now ripped and blood-soaked clothes. There!

Good. Now where can she get potions? She’ll need a lot…

She sinks down into an armchair and sighs. Lestrange could die. And Hermione’s not equipped for this.

She needs a professional healer. Someone she can trust to keep a secret…

Oh. Two options. Both awful.

One, Severus Snape.

Two, Narcissa Malfoy.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione begins to pace around the living room. Oh, this is not good. How can she contact either of them? And what will she say, to just heal Bellatrix and not ask any questions? Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just a sixteen-year-old kid who’s supposed to be at Hogwarts right now, except I look ten years older and I need you to save the life of a Death Eater. Who I’m with for no reason, in the middle of the night, in a cottage I shouldn’t know about miles and miles from school.

She could just owl them for potions anonymously…

No, too slow, and they might not reply. Plus she needs more medical expertise than that, people don’t normally drop down almost-dead for a minor reason.

She sighs and rubs at her eyes.

No. This is risky…and rather hypocritical after what she said to Lestrange… but whoever comes here will have to find out the truth. There’s no time for an elaborate plan.

She’s going to have to let them in on the time travel secret.

Shit.

Alright. Be logical. Pros and cons.

Pro, Snape and Narcissa are both accomplished occlumens. They can hide this from Voldemort, and anyone else who might get in the way.

Con, Snape might tell Dumbledore.

Pro, even if Dumbledore knows, he probably won’t try to change time, and might actually help her.

Con, Snape hates Bellatrix. And Bellatrix wants to kill Harry. Snape might interfere.

Pro, Narcissa is Bellatrix’s sister. She’ll want to save her.

Con, Narcissa might be too scared of Voldemort to defy him in any way.

Con, she might even help Bellatrix to kill Harry or trade information to get back in Voldemort’s good books and save her family.

Con, she is a blood purist, and is disgusted by Hermione’s very existence – at this point in time at least, she has changed in the last ten years. But right now, there’s no way she’ll listen to Hermione.

Con, they’re both Slytherins.

Pro, they’re both Slytherins.

Slytherins do everything in their power to achieve their goals.

Snape’s goal is to protect Harry, Narcissa’s is to protect Draco and for her family to survive the war.

Hermione needs to keep Harry alive…

Narcissa will save Bellatrix, but overall…

Hermione and Snape have the same goal.

…is Snape rational enough to not turn them both in to the Order?

Oh. Be a Slytherin, Hermione. You’re surrounded by snakes, and you have blackmail material.

Lily.

“Expecto patronum!”

“Go to Severus Snape as soon as he is alone and tell him this message – Your aid is urgently required at Tinworth beach. Bring your potions bag. If one life isn’t saved, the fawn shall never become a stag. Quickly!”

Her otter twirls off through the window.

Oh, this better be the right decision.

A groan interrupts her thoughts. Bellatrix.

She draws her wand and creeps into the bedroom. The witch is still tied to the bed, eyes squeezed shut, but tugging at her wrists. Is she awake? Should she petrify her? What—

Oh. Her Dark Mark. It’s reddening around the edges. He must be summoning her.

Bellatrix lets out a cry and then slumps back, head rolling off the edge of the bed. Sadistic bastard. How can she follow the man so devotedly? It’s sick!

…Serves her right though. Now who’s arm is hurting?

She casts another incarcerous…and then reluctantly adds a warming charm. The room is cold, and the witch is laid bare. The last thing she needs is Lestrange getting pneumonia or something.

She looks away, lighting the fire in this room too, and then hurrying out towards the front of the house.

Time to meet Snape.

She opens the cupboard in the hallway where they normally keep cloaks and shoes. She’d left her outer cloak at work, and it’s so windy tonight. There is a cloak! Probably belonging to Great Aunt Muriel and covered in mothballs, but…

She shrugs it on with a sigh, casting a warming charm on herself and walking out the door. “Colloportus.”

Not necessary with all the charms in place, but it feels wrong to just leave the place unlocked.

The beach is deserted. He could be disguised…

She makes her way over towards the shore, out of reach of her protection spells. It must be nearing daybreak soon.

Hermione wraps the cloak tighter around her against the chill, looking up at the Moon and the stars and letting out a slow sigh, her breath foggy in the night air.

Still the same. For a moment, she can almost pretend that she’s back in her own time, visiting Bill and Fleur.

“Don’t. Move.” A deep voice drifts through the wind, close behind her.

He came.

“Alright. It’s alright, Professor. I’m glad you’re here so soon, I thought you’d still be at the meeting.”

“…Miss…Granger?”

She slowly turns around to face him.

His face is blank, wand drawn, potions bag in hand.

He raises his wand higher. “I said. Don’t. Move.”

“Ask me something, Professor. Something only I would know, to prove it’s not polyjuice.”

He frowns. “I do not know you that well, Miss Granger, nor vice versa.”

She groans. “Then narrow it down! It’s me, I promise! Use legilimency if you have to. There’s no time, just ask!”

He sneers at her, face pale and drawn in the moonlight.

“What was the name of the creature that attacked me on Halloween in your first year?”

She smiles. “Fluffy. A three-headed dog, also known as a cerberus. He bit your ankle when—”

“Enough. You are certainly just as tiresome as Miss Granger. Another question, who did you encounter in the Shrieking Shack?”

“Oh! First Sirius, then Professor Lupin, yourself, and Peter Pettigrew. At first he was a rat called Scabbers. He’s an Animagus, just like the rest of the Marauders.”

His wand lowers. “And how do I know you aren’t Potter, or one of his other little friends playing a joke on me?”

Hermione rolls her eyes. “Because they’re all in the hospital wing right now, or with Dumbledore…either way, they’re at Hogwarts, too hurt or young to traipse off to Cornwall.”

“As are you…or you should be.”

“I am.” She steps closer to him. “Lumos.”

His eye twitches as her face becomes more visible, the differences more obvious, and she smirks up at him.

“It’s rather complicated, Professor, as you can now see. I am here and there. That’s part of the problem. And we’re going to have a universe-exploding problem in a minute if you don’t come and save Lestrange before the stubborn woman follows her cousin through the veil.”

She turns her back on him and trudges up through the dunes towards the house, hearing steps through the sand behind her. Excellent.

Reaching the edge of the wards, she turns back to him and holds out her hand. He sneers at it.

“You need to get through the wards,” she grits out. He remains unmoving. Paranoid Slytherin.

She hesitates for second, uncomfortable at the idea of touching him – he is rather intimidating still, she has to admit – but then she just tuts to herself and grabs his elbow, tugging him forward, the cottage coming into view.

Well, at least she knows the concealment charms work. She hurries through the door with a quick alohomora, throwing her cloak onto a chair as she heads for the bedroom.

“Now, there’s a lot to explain, and no time to do it. I’m not sure what to do with her really, but she can’t die yet so—”

“What are you waffling on about, Miss Granger? Why on earth would Bellatrix Lestrange be holidaying with you in Cornwall when—”

He pauses as he steps through the doorway to the bedroom. And then turns to smirk at her.

“Why, Miss Granger, what have you been up to?”

She just glares at him.

He raises an eyebrow and sweeps over to the bed, opening his bag and then casting a diagnostic spell.

“Malnourishment, dehydration, and severely underweight, as expected from Azkaban…muscle spasms, aftereffects of the cruciatus curse…”

His eyes slide to Hermione.

She frowns. “That wasn’t me! That was Harry! And Voldemort, possibly.”

He flinches at the name, but continues. “Severe blood loss, internal haemorrhaging…these appear to be stab wounds, Miss Granger.”

She wrings her hands. “Well, okay, that was me, but she was attacking me! I had no choice!”

“…traces of amortentia…”

Oh Morgana’s tits!

She ducks her head as his smirk sharpens.

“…I can explain. It’s not what it looks like.”

“Hmm. So you don’t usually slip witches amortentia and then strip them half-naked and tie them to a bed?”

Her head jolts up. “No! Of course not! Just get on with it and heal her.”

“And why should I? As I’m sure you are aware, she is a Death Eater, and quite a significant one at that. I hope you do not believe the rumours that I serve the Dark Lord. Why should I help her? Why not call the aurors right now and be done with it?”

Argh! She steps closer to the bed, checking the woman’s pulse. She’s frighteningly still. “Because you’re not really helping her! I’m not even helping her, and you’re not helping me either! I’d much prefer it if she dropped dead, believe me. None of us want to be in this situation, but she has to live, or there’s a chance events will change. Harry could die. You’re doing this for Lily. And so that we don’t create a time paradox, but I’m guessing Lily is more important to you than that?”

A wand stabs into her neck.

“What…do you know?”

She pushes his wand away and stares him in the eye. This is too important for her to be scared of him anymore.

“Everything. I’m from the future. A future where we defeat Voldemort. A future where you tell Harry everything, moments before you die. A future where he plans to name his next son after you, or a daughter after his mother. I want that future to still exist, and for that to happen we have to preserve the timeline. Lestrange doesn’t die. Not yet.”

His wand falls and his eyes close. For a moment he almost wobbles, and she fears he might faint.

And then his eyes snap open and he sweeps over to the bed.

“Vulnera sanentur…vulnera sanentur…vulnera sanentur…episkey…Miss Granger, a sleeping draught, if you would, before she awakens.”

She hurriedly accio’s one from his bag, and forces Lestrange’s mouth open, pouring it in and clamping her mouth shut, hoping she doesn’t choke on it.

Snape nods at her and then begins to rub some kind of paste over the witch’s wounds, and Hermione takes a couple of steps back, falling into a chair, suddenly exhausted.

The adrenaline must have finally worn off. The witch is asleep. Hermione is safe, she can relax.

A sob escapes her mouth, and she clamps her hands over it, tears beginning to fall. Snape looks at her with a mixture of confusion and disgust on his face, but she ignores him. In fact, she closes her eyes and leans forward, her head in her hands.

Why did this have to happen? She thought she was done fighting, and now she’s back on the brink of war. And alone. She doesn’t even have Harry, or Ron. They’re at home with their families right now. Or they will be. What’s happening in her time? Has anyone even noticed she’s missing?

She’s felt a bit like she’s drifting lately, absorbed in work but flailing in her social life. She’s just…she’s been alone for a long time now. At first, it was okay. When she broke up with Ron, it had been awkward at first, but over the years they’ve found their friendship again, their rhythm. They were too different for a relationship to really work. Too young. They both see that now, and everything has been so good for a while. So, so good. She had her childhood friends back. Time to enjoy being with them all, without a war to worry about.

But lately…it’s clear that everyone else is moving on, settling down, starting families.

And Hermione doesn’t want that, not yet. She’s still figuring herself out, what she wants to do, who she wants to be. It’s partly why she broke up with Ron in the first place. He was ready for the nine-to-five life…and she wanted so much more. She wasn’t finished learning, experimenting, changing the world. Couldn’t he see that there was so much that needed to be done? How could he stand it, the monotony of their lives?

And then, somehow, over the years, her life became even more monotonous. She couldn’t escape it, no matter how hard she tried.

Well, looks like she wished too hard. Monotony is looking rather good right now. What she wouldn’t give to be home, at peace, free.

“Miss Granger?”

She looks up, wiping at her cheeks. She’s not even embarrassed. Her hang-ups are nothing compared to Snape’s.

She shakes her head at the man sadly. “It’s been a long night, Professor. Just put us both out of our misery and look into my head. I don’t think I could explain it to you if I tried.”

He raises an eyebrow at her, and slowly directs his wand her way. “…Legilimens.”

And they watch the whole evening. Right from when Hermione finds the note in the Department of Mysteries to now. He keeps any thoughts to himself, his presence invisible, unlike Bellatrix’s. She still can’t help cringing at the whole amortentia debacle, wishing her reactions had been fast enough to duck those kisses.

He releases her, and she steadies her breathing, back in the bedroom.

“I see…so Black…had to die?”

Hmm? Oh, Sirius.

She nods at him tiredly, holding back a yawn. “It’s how it happened before. I couldn’t think of another way…plus there’s the prophecy. Drunk on love, imagined chains held steadied. Maybe it’s my fault he died the first time too. Who knows how time travel works?”

He pinches his brow. “This is quite the predicament…from the prophecy it appears you are right in tying yourself to Lestrange, but in practice this shall be rather difficult to enact.”

She groans. “It’s a bloody bollocking mess! Merlin’s balls! This is horrific! Someone has it out for me up there, some trickster of fate. Maybe it’s Fred. Or Sirius. Fred and Tonks and Sirius and all the Marauders. Well it’s not funny!” she yells at the ceiling. She’s lost it. This is too much.

Oh. And she’s probably said too much. She turns to meet Snape’s eyes guiltily.

He looks old and tired. “I…all of them? They all…and myself?”

She gives him a sad smile. “All of you,” she whispers. “But we win. He’s gone. All of the Dark Marks are gone. Greyback is dead. Both the Lestranges.”

He licks his lips. “The Malfoys?”

“All alive and well. Draco is happy, reformed. His parents divorced. Narcissa is a healer now, she used their family funds to build a new wing in St Mungo’s. They visit Andromeda sometimes, and Harry too occasionally. I’m not sure what Lucius is up to…he escaped to France, but he’s being monitored according to Ron and Harry. Some kind of watch list. So far he’s just drunk a lot of wine.”

Snape slumps down, sat on the bed next to Bellatrix. And then he laughs. She can’t quite believe her ears. Snape! Laughing!

He doesn’t laugh for long, drifting into silence and running a hand over his mouth.

“So it’s all worth it,” he mutters to himself.

Hermione lets the silence settle. Lets her thoughts run wild and her mind relax, her eyes meandering around the room, drifting over books and pictures. Watching Snape gaze into nothing and Bellatrix’s now bandaged ribs rise and fall.

She swallows. “What do we do about her?” she whispers. “They know she’s missing. And there are things I know she’s going to do. She has to.”

Snape sighs. A long, weary sigh. “I know. I know, and I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

She must have fallen asleep at some point, because she wakes up curled in the chair and still dressed, sunlight warming the room.

“Tempus,” she mumbles. Eleven in the morning? She must have needed the sleep.

She stands up, stretching out her back, and walking over to the bed cautiously. Snape must be back at Hogwarts by now. And Bellatrix is still in a dead sleep…

She feels her heart begin to pound as she stares down at her. Can’t hurt you. In a coma. She’s not going to jump up and grab you, Hermione, don’t be ridiculous.

Oh. A note on the bedside table and rather a lot of potions. She recognises the scrawl from her years at Hogwarts.

I shall return tonight at midnight. I believe a fidelius charm may be of use to you. We shall speak more later. For now, administer the potions, one of each in the morning and evening — S.S

Her eyes slide to the potions. Let’s see…

Blood replenishing, some kind of muscle relaxant, bone strengthening…and what she assumes is a restorative draft for the malnourishment.

How has she ended up as Lestrange’s primary healer? It’s rather ridiculous to find out that all this time it was Hermione who saved her life. Hermione who restored her good looks.

Not good looks. She doesn’t mean— She just means that she looks a damn sight worse now, straight after Azkaban, than she did later on in the war when she wasn’t in hiding. That’s all. It’s just…aesthetically. In comparison.

Hang on, what had she been thinking? There’s something, oh!

The woman would have died if it wasn’t for her! She owes Hermione a life debt! Now what does that mean?

Well. It’s a place to start with keeping the witch in line.

After potions for Lestrange and breakfast for herself, of course. Now that the woman is sound asleep, and Snape isn’t arriving until midnight, Hermione finally has a second to think. To eat. To feel half-human.

To wash Lestrange’s blood off her hands…

She distracts herself by making a mental shopping list whilst tipping potion after potion into Lestrange’s mouth, not wanting to think about it too much. It’s strangely intimate. And she’s terrified the woman will either begin choking or suddenly wake up.

She doesn’t do either of course, just lies there peacefully. That’s even more strange, seeing the witch at peace. Lestrange is always on the move. Always full of energy, either bottled up ready to burst, vibrating, or stabbing out at the nearest person, tearing the world apart.

Hermione rolls her shoulders and stretches once more. Merlin she’s aching. It’s been a long time since she’s had to fight tooth and nail for her life.

Time for a hot bath, some fresh clothes, and a trip to the village shop. If she can find some money…she should have asked Snape…

Maybe she should have summoned Narcissa instead. She definitely has some galleons to spare…

She drifts upstairs to the bathroom, already puzzling out her money problems. The first of what she is sure will be many problems today. She pushes the door bathroom open with a sigh.

 


 

Washed and refreshed, and in new robes transfigured from an unfortunate curtain, she heads downstairs and pulls on Aunt Muriel’s old cloak. It smells rather stale.

“Scourgify.”

Nothing happens. How strange…

Well. Maybe the cloak is protected against alterations.

And then her robes turn back into a curtain.

Ah! Hermione clutches the cloak around herself and hurries upstairs to the room she had gotten changed in. What is happening?

“Accio clothes!”

Her clothes from yesterday remain crumpled on the floor. She’s starting to panic now.

Oh no. No no no she’d left the protection spells on herself all night. She must have completely drained her magical core!

She pulls on her clothes from yesterday. She needs to see a healer for this! This is terrible, what if she’s lost her magic? What if—

Stop panicking. If your magic isn’t working, then the protection wards on yourself must have fallen, so you’re no longer being drained. Your magic will come back. It has to.

Oh this completely ruins her plans for today! She’d decided to apparate straight to Diagon Alley and transfer some money from her muggle savings account. Her parents had set one up for her to access once she was twenty-one, and she was hoping Gringotts would take her age quite literally rather than going by her birth date – magic is a lot more literal about these things than computer monitored filing systems.

Her stomach grumbles at her.

“Yes, I know! I’m thinking!” she mutters to herself.

Oh no.

If her magic has run out…have all the wards fallen? She bangs her way down the stairs again, out of breath now.

The runes should be okay. Those hold for years, centuries. They’re ancient for a reason. If the pyramids are still active, then the cottage should hold up for a few hours.

She’ll have lost the anti-apparition and anti-intruder wards, but that can’t be helped.

So, food.

The problem with Wizarding households is everything relies on magic. She won’t find a car or a bike around here. She’s going to have to walk into Tinworth.

And then what?

She reaches into her expandable pockets. No, still just a prophecy, a scroll, a note, floo powder, and a love potion.  She’d left all her money in her outer robes at the office.

She puts the floo powder back on the mantlepiece above the fire, not even able to use that without magic.

Fine. No money. No magic. Trapped in the past with no friends, where no one she knows can recognise her without further complicating matters, trying to stop a world-ending paradox. And with only Sleeping Beauty for company.

Not beauty. Sleeping Demon. She’s definitely more Maleficent than Princess Aurora. She’d loved that film as a child. She now finds the whole sleeping thing a lot more creepy.

She wanders over to Lestrange’s room, readying herself before leaning around the door.

She is looking a lot better. A bit more colour to her at least. Less corpse-like.

That makes it a bit worse. It feels like she might just wake up at the slightest sound...

Focus, Hermione. Breakfast.

Oh please say the woman had some money on her…it’s very unlikely, but…

She turns her gaze from the bedroom to the front door.

The bloodied clothes are still lying on the floor in the hall. Snape hadn’t exactly cleaned up before he left then.

She walks over and crouches down, grimacing. Pure blood it may be, but still just as disgusting as anyone else’s.

Let’s see, corset, dress…pockets? No. Guess pockets haven’t been invented yet in whatever era Lestrange is living in. Backwards mind, backwards body. So…where did she keep her wand this whole time? Or Hermione’s wand when she took it?

She doesn’t want to know.

Wait. Before the Women’s Rights movement, when pockets began to appear, women used to keep their money and other belongings in purses tied to their wrists or the inside of their dresses. Thieves would often cut them lose. That’s why anti-theft charms and hexes were invented.

She checks the inside of the dress more carefully, hoping she’s not about to get a nasty curse coming her way. It would be just like Lestrange if her clothing bit back.

Aha! A purse!

She cautiously draws the string open. No hex so far. Guess no one would dare steal from the witch. She’s her own anti-theft hex. She peers inside….

And drops it with a start. She’s going to be sick.

She runs to the kitchen sink, only just making it in time before sweat breaks out on her forehead and she begins retching, her stomach heaving.

Tell me the truth! You’re lying to me! How did you get into my vault?

She clutches the edge of the sink, the room spinning.

I don’t know I— Get off me, just stop! It, it hurts.

She clutches her arm to her chest, staring out the window at the sea. Window.

She’s not trapped. She can leave. She—

She runs out the front door, letting it slam behind her in the wind and tumbling down the dunes towards the waves. The sand is flying into her face and the salt air stings, her eyes watering.

And then she’s just crying. Screaming into the wind and the sea and collapsing into the sand, gripping it in clenched fists and watching the sand fly through the air.

“I want it to stop! I can’t do this anymore! I want to go home!”

She curls her knees up and hides her face from the sand, and the wind, and the world.

She doesn’t want to be here. She’s worked so hard to move on from this place.

The silver dagger.

She has the dagger. In her purse. Just lying there.

The dagger that cut that word into her arm. The dagger that kills Dobby.

Oh.

She slowly lifts up her head. Will it work?

“Dobby? Can you hear me?”

For a moment, nothing. And then the crack of apparition.

“Miss Hermione? You be calling Dobby, Miss? Oh!”

Hermione pulls the elf into a hug. “Oh Dobby! Thank you! Oh I’m so happy to see you!”

The elf turns pink and pulls back from her, tugging at his ears.

“You is very kind, Miss. Always kind to Dobby. Dobby is still being wearing the clothes you made him.”

He looks down at his feet. He’s wearing mismatched knitted socks.

Hermione smiles and wipes at her eyes. Oh she missed him!

“Oh! You is crying! Dobby isn’t noticing, is you hurt? Bad Dobby! Bad bad bad—”

He looks around for some way of hurting himself, but with only sand, he’s a bit lost. He dives for the ground, slamming his head towards the dune, but Hermione catches him by the shoulder and pulls him back.

“No, Dobby, stop. I’m not hurt, I just need your help. Can you help me?”

He stops struggling and turns to face her, eyes unbelievably wide.

“Oh yes! Dobby always be helping Harry Potter’s Granger. You is a good witch. Dobby knows it.”

Perfect! See, this is why she works for the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical creatures. Her whole word is crumbling, and here’s Dobby, someone Lestrange wouldn’t dignify with a name, clothes, sees as dirt beneath her foot. And he is so powerful he can save Hermione without even trying. He deserves so much more.

“Thank you, Dobby, that’s very kind of you. You see, my magic isn’t working at the moment, and I’m rather hungry and cold, and I need some things. Could you take me to my house, my parents’ house? I need to collect some things. And then I might need to go to Gringotts as well and get some money.”

“Of course Miss, where do you be living?” He holds out a hand.

Hermione takes it with a smile. “Picket Post Close, Martin’s Heron. And we’ll need to be invisible. It’s a muggle area, and I’m not sure if my parents will be home. What day is it today?”

The question doesn’t seem to confuse him, he just nods. “It’s Wednesday, Miss Hermione. The Nineteenth of June.”

Okay good, her parents will be at the practice, and there’s still at least a week until her teenage self comes home for the summer. Oh.

“Oh Dobby I’m sorry, you’re not needed at Hogwarts are you? I can wait if you still have things to do today.”

“You is asking if Dobby is free? You is very kind, Miss, but Dobby is always being free. Mister Dumbledore tells Dobby this. He says Dobby can stay at Hogwarts, but Dobby is still being a free elf.”

“Of course, yes, sorry. Then I’d be most grateful for your help.”

Dobby nods firmly, and the beach disappears, her feet smacking onto tarmac.

Well, that was a lot smoother than normal apparition. She’ll have to ask him how that works; she could actually breathe through that, rather than feeling like she was being squished through a tube.

“We is being invisible if you be holding onto Dobby, Miss.”

No car in the drive. So they are at work.

She walks up to the front door, still holding Dobby’s hand, and reaches under a flower pot with the other for the spare key. She’s told her parents a million times not to leave it there, but now she’s rather glad they’re not too safety conscious, trusting the neighbourhood watch and the wards the Order put in place last summer.

The door unlocks easily enough, and she quickly steps into the hallway, pulling Dobby in with her and shutting the door behind them with a sigh. Finally. Some semblance of home. Time to make a list and find an old trunk. It would be a lot easier with magic, but…actually, she might have to rely on Dobby for some more favours.

She smiles down at him. Oh what an afternoon they have planned. She’s going to have to pay him back for this somehow. How many socks can she knit?

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione sighs in relief as they crack into existence, back in Shell Cottage. Finally, all sorted. Her new possessions appear around them – food in the kitchen, books on the bookshelf which magically expands to accommodate them, and she assumes she has some robes as well as casual jeans and tops in a trunk upstairs.

“Is there anything else you be needing Miss Hermione?”

Oh, Dobby! If only there was something she could do for him.

“You’ve done more than enough, Dobby, thank you. And you’re sure I can’t pay you? Or repay you another way? I’ll be sure to knit you that scarf you mentioned, but if there’s anything else I can do—”

“Dobby is not wanting anything more! No, you is a friend! Helping Harry Potter and his friends is not needing repaying.”

She chuckles. Of course.

“Well then, I’ll let you get back to the kitchens. Give my best to Winky and the others.”

At this he looks slightly uncomfortable. “Dobby…maybe it is best if Dobby is not mentioning you, Miss Hermione. They still be remembering the clothes…”

“Oh. Yes. Well, don’t worry about that then. Have a nice day.”

He disappears with a pop.

So much for house-elf relations and welfare. She still just cannot figure out how to right that without meeting extreme resistance from all sides. It’s very frustrating.

Still, for now she has bigger problems. Time to put the kettle on and get reading. Now, where to start…

She hums in thought as she begins making tea. The Muggle way, she hasn’t chanced any magic yet.

Getting home, at first glance, appears to be the main issue…but that will be useless unless she can find a way to fix the timeline and get Lestrange back on track.

Then there’s the prophecy. It said she can only return if they don’t drift asunder. That could refer to the timeline…but it seems more likely, given the next line, that it refers to for some reason working together with Lestrange. Yet another impossibly difficult task.

Then both, now lost, shall be returned, though not without the other.

She has a horrible feeling that it doesn’t mean returned to Voldemort, but actually means Lestrange will be returned to life. She’d mentioned it to the witch as a passing thought, grasping at anything to make her stay, but now that she thinks about it, how else would the woman be lost and then returned?

Should she ignore the prophecy? Focus on how to convince her to go back to Voldemort but keep Hermione’s secret and leave her be? On finding a way home?

She sets the teapot, a cup, and milk down on the table, and then heads towards the bookshelf. Maybe she should just reread all her books on time travel for the time being. Lestrange can wait.

 


 

She squints at the page. It’s becoming impossible to read now. What time is—

“Tempus.”

Nothing. Oh that’s extremely worrying.

She holds her wand steady, just feeling the wood, breathing slowly. She can feel something. An energy. So she has some power still, under the surface.

She walks over to the window so that she can see her watch in the moonlight.

Eleven o’clock! How did that happen? She’s only been reading for…seven hours. Gosh. She really is a bookworm.

Oh no! Lestrange’s potions!

She stumbles down the hall in the dark to the back of the house, bumping into a shelf on her way and cursing the lack of electricity in the Wizarding World. Dark Ages indeed.

She reaches Lestrange’s room, and whilst the moon isn’t visible through the window, there is some starlight, and her eyes have adjusted slightly to the darkness by now.

She shivers as she makes her way over to the bed, fumbling to pick up the potions. The fire has died out. She can’t quite see the catch holding the cork in place, her fingertips searching to open the first vial. Oh this is ridiculous.

She reaches for an oil lamp on the bedside table instead. She has magic! She is a witch.

“Incendio!”

Nothing.

She positions her wand closer and feels for her magic, gripping her wand more firmly.

“Incendio!” A slight spark.

Oh. Well she can probably manage a spark, just to light the oil. She’s seen Lestrange do that accidentally before. Her eyes slide to the witch on the bed.

Okay, anger. Let your anger out.

“Light you bloody thing! I am sick and tired of everything being difficult today! I am alone and away from home and I have more important things to deal with than not being able to see in the dark!”

Anger, anger, rage, come on. You are fucking pissed off! Feel it. Argh!

Sparks. The room glows to life in the lamplight.

Aha! Hermione does a little jig on the spot in glee, a laugh escaping her lips.

Then she clamps a hand over the mouth. Don’t turn completely into Lestrange. Maybe madness is catching.

She looks down at the woman again. Definitely looking a lot better. She almost looks normal in the hazy orange light. Like she’s just gone to bed, peacefully asleep. Her hair looks shinier and—

Hermione pulls her jaw open to begin feeding her the potions. Her teeth look better too.

Snape really is a skilled potions master.

“What should I do about you then…?” Hermione whispers to the sleeping witch.

…these two, through sand and sea, do not drift asunder…

She needs her. For some unknown, prophetic, fateful reason, they have to stay together in this. But how? Lestrange will never help her. Especially to get back to a future where her side loses and she dies.

Maybe she shouldn’t have told her the truth.

Oh well, can’t change that now…

She sits down on the side of the bed, staring at the witch. It almost helps, actually …to see her so vulnerable. So small. She’s not the big scary monster right now.

How did she become that way? Is it purely madness? Because for being mad she is rather logical, tactical.

Andromeda and Narcissa have both turned away from their pureblood upbringing. Is it possible…

She scoffs. Yeah right. Don’t kid yourself, Hermione. She’ll want you dead again as soon as she opens her eyes.

No, she either needs to make herself indispensable to the witch, or force her to obey. Trap her somehow.

She swallows. She has a feeling Lestrange won’t like being trapped. Her obedience has never really been forced upon her. She is quite vocal on her decision to follow her Lord, proudly showing her face, revelling in her notoriety.

In fact, she’s quite the contradiction. Proud of everything pureblood and traditional, and yet she, the eldest sister, essentially decides to ignore her husband and any wifely duties to instead join a rebellion and become the most ruthless fighter the Wizarding World has seen in centuries. If she wasn’t so obsessed with Voldemort, blood purity, and torture, she’d be a bit of a feminist icon.

So. Historical debate. How do you topple a powerful woman’s belief in the patriarchy?

She wants power. Show Voldemort to be weak, his plans foolish.

No. That didn’t work. He was a madman by the end, and it only made Bellatrix more desperate, madder.

“Well, well. What a romantic tableau.”

Hermione jumps as a voice comes from the doorway. Snape? It’s midnight already? And what is he talking about—

Oh. She’s been gazing at Lestrange for a whole hour.

She wasn’t gazing at her. Her mind just wandered. She wasn’t focusing on anything.

She folds her arms at him. “I was just thinking. This is tricky. I need to figure it out.”

He smirks at her and folds his arms back, swishing his cloak around him.

“…In the dark…in the lamplight?”

Why does he insist on—

“It’s dark because I haven’t got my magic! I was hoping as a potions master you might be able to offer some advice, but if you’re just going to mock me I won’t bother asking.”

He frowns and sweeps closer to her, muttering out a diagnostic spell.

“Severely compromised magical core…you are lucky you did not lose your magic indefinitely. I’d expect such bonehead ideas from Potter and Weasley, but I assumed you wouldn’t be stupid enough to cast protego maxima and the like on your person.”

“I had to! She could have killed me! She’s tried enough times before.”

“And so you decided to nearly kill yourself instead. Ingenious.”

She slumps her head back to rest against the headboard. “I know. I know, it was stupid. I…I was scared. I wasn’t thinking rationally, are you happy?”

A pause. She looks up.

“I have informed the Dark Lord that she is ill with spattergroit, and in my care so as not to infect the others. He appears to have accepted this as fact, although her sister remains suspicious. You have a month, maybe two, to get any use out of her that you need…or can persuade her to offer.”

She smiles gratefully. “Thank you. I know that must have been quite the risk. I…I’m still not sure how to…what to do about her. But I think maybe…do you know anything about life debts?”

For a moment he just stares at her, expressionless. She opens her mouth to ask him again, when he abruptly whirls around, leaving the room.

Now hang on a— how rude! She hurries after him, able to see now that he has lit fire. He heads towards it, as if to leave.

“Professor, please! If you know anything that can help me— we have to! She can’t tell anyone what we’ve done, if we can control her in any way—”

He whips around and looms over her, jaw clenched. “Listen here you little— Lestrange will never be controlled, so forget about that this instant. A life debt is not to be used or bargained with. It is old magic. Unpredictable, but immensely powerful. You may be correct in assuming such a bond has been created, her life was saved due to your interference. But these are not classroom rules you can memorise.”

Hermione shrinks back, but he just crowds closer. “I’m not going to lecture you, there is no one book on the matter. She will only know when she feels it. It will be uncomfortable, tug at her unconscious mind. In what form, I do not know, and I’m sure she will not tell you. She will resist. She will fight against it with all her being. And I think we both know how capable she is of fighting, of ignoring mental and physical pain. Of choosing her own master. It. Will. Not. Be. You.”

He’s panting at this point, spit flying in her face. What in Godric’s name…She takes a step back.

And he…calms. Steadies himself. Reconstructs his usual disdainful expression until it slots seamlessly into his features. She needs to learn how to do that. She hasn’t been able to fool anyone since she got here!

“Um…yes. No. I never wanted to control her. I just…how do I stop her telling him about this. We can’t leave her asleep forever.”

She backs into the sofa and cautiously sits down, hoping he’ll take the hint and stay to discuss things. There’s too much to unravel by herself. Her mind is fizzing.

Thankfully he does take a seat in a chair by the fire, steepling his fingers and staring at her. “As usual, Miss Granger, you are complicating matters with your idiotic Gryffindor tendencies. You will not need to stop her doing anything of the sort.”

What? “But that’s crazy! She was about to tell him before she collapsed, you saw, in my memories, she was leaving to tell him!”

Snape raises an eyebrow at her. “Was she?”

Umm…

Huh?

Hermione frowns. “Well…yes. She said so. And she was leaving to kill Harry, at least that’s what she said.”

He nods at her. “And how would she have done that? Potter is at Hogwarts. He is protected by the strongest wards in Wizarding Britain, Albus is at his side. Lestrange was weak. Barely able to stand.”

“Well yes, but she’s mad! She doesn’t care if she dies for her cause, she just wants You Know Who to win.”

“Yes. And so…”

So what? So she wants him to win. And she has to kill Harry to do that. She heard the prophecy, she looked inside Hermione’s head, she saw…

“She saw the future. She saw herself die, fail. And then…I felt it. She was scared. Horrified.”

Snape smirks. “And what else scared her, Miss Granger?”

What else? Nothing scares Bellatrix.

Except…

“She was scared when she saw my memories. My childhood. Muggle things she didn’t understand.”

Snape raises an eyebrow at her. “She was scared, saw her own death, and then…ran away. Injured. Already defying direct orders from the Dark Lord, and with no knowledge of her whereabouts. Unable to fight you. And you still think she was leaving to attack? I thought you were smart, Miss Granger. Clearly…not.”

Hermione scoffs. “So, what, Professor? You’re saying she ran away because she was scared? She didn’t seem scared to me.”

Snape glares at her. “We are Slytherins. We are not so Gryffindor as to reveal every feeling, every inner doubt, on our faces. Why show fear to an enemy, a threat, when you can show strength, power? Her magic was useless against you. She was trapped. Trapped with someone whose every action, whose very being, is alien to her. I have no love for the woman, but I can certainly empathise. You need to learn to read people, if not their minds, then their actions. Or do you want to be fooled by everyone you come into contact with? The fate of the world is on your shoulders. You have a mind. Use it.”

Hermione clenches her jaw at the uncomfortable truth. She never has been very good at reading people. That’s why she likes books. They say exactly what they mean, most of the time. Give you step by step instructions, arguments, facts. You have to check their sources…but they don’t lie to you nearly as much as people. She’d thought she’d improved since she was a child…but it looks like there’s still a lot more to learn.

“I…hadn’t thought of that. You’re right. I…will you teach me? I know there isn’t a book or anything, but…or at least tell me what to do. How to approach her.”

He just folds his arms. “And what makes you think I have time to be your personal tutor? Follow your beck and call? Your every whim? I’ve told you enough. Use your mind. Imagine yourself as her, not what you would do if you were her. There’s a difference. Find it. Owl me when your magic is back, and I will secure you as secret keeper. Until then, you’re on your own. The necessary potions are in the kitchen cabinet.”

And with that he gets to his feet, striding into the floo and away.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

It’s been two more days, and Hermione is getting restless. Frantic. Alternating between sitting slumped at the kitchen table surrounded by books and walking along the seafront to drown her thoughts in the roar of the wind.

She still doesn’t know what to do about Lestrange, or her way home, and her magic still hasn’t come back. Other than some angry sparks, she’s essentially a muggle. Which would be perfectly fine if she wasn’t in a Wizarding town and trying to find a way to time travel.

And she keeps listening to the prophecy. She’d memorised it after her first hearing, but it’s the only hint she has about this whole mess. Maybe there’s a clue she’s missing.

She hasn’t found one yet, and it just keeps reminding her that she will have to wake up Lestrange.

She can wake her up at any time now. Snape had left her a potion to counteract the sleeping draught, and her wounds have all healed.

But she can’t. No matter what Snape said, Hermione can’t read her. She doesn’t know what to do! She’s tried every plan she can think of to convince the witch to keep her secret, but there’s nothing.

She’s actually been avoiding the room altogether, staying in the living room and the kitchen, only going in twice a day when she absolutely has to for the potions.

She spins the prophecy between her hands on the table. She has to figure this out. As Snape had reminded her, the fate of the world rests on her shoulders.

Think, Hermione. If there’s one thing you’re good at, it’s learning and planning. Snape had said he wouldn’t lecture you, but he already did, in a way. Learn from the master of manipulation. What did he say?

Don’t trust what she says, trust what she does, what she feels. Empathise with her. Imagine yourself as her.

Hermione shudders. Does she have to? It was horrible enough polyjuicing into her body all those years ago, now she has to delve into her mind? Her psychological make up?

Well. Once again, there isn’t much choice in the matter. Time to begin a preliminary analysis. Time to empathise.

 


 

It’s been another two days. Two days of remembering every detail of everything the witch as ever said and done. Her expressions, her body language. Anything that might help. No detail is to be left unscrutinised. Hermione isn’t holding back her Know It All tendencies. It’s time for the final NEWT exam, and Lestrange is the subject. The essay. The last, and most challenging question.

So of course, she’s now sat at the kitchen table, wearing the same clothes as yesterday, drinking far too much coffee and surrounded by parchment. Rolls of parchment. Scrunched up balls scattered on the floor. Diagrams and timelines of possibilities. Quills and ink and felt tips and post-it notes.

And a final draft.

Because Hermione thinks she might have found the solution. It was right before her eyes the whole time, it’s just too insane to actually process.

Snape said don’t trust what Lestrange says, trust what she would do.

And Lestrange had instantly understood what was happening when Hermione mentioned time travel.

Hermione gets to her feet, finger to her lip. And begins acting out a memory.

They’d been at the table…and when Lestrange heard about the time travel, she’d stopped being angry and…laughed…and sat down. In shock? Because she was tired? In disbelief?

So she does understand the consequences. She told Hermione she was stupid for messing with time. Bellatrix isn’t stupid. So…she won’t mess with time! She knows the world will end! And then Voldemort would die too, she’d never accomplish her goals, her cause.

She said she didn’t care, said it was Hermione’s problem…but that was when she was about to collapse and desperate to leave.

So. Lestrange doesn’t want the timeline to change either…at least not noticeably. She’s still a Slytherin, she’ll definitely try to spin things to her advantage. Find a way to survive, maybe fake her death…or Voldemort’s.

She shudders. Now there’s a problem for a later date.

Bellatrix knows that she has to alter the timeline imperceivably. Cunningly. Like when Hermione had saved Sirius and Buckbeak – nothing looked like it had changed to anyone else. No-one but her, Harry, Dumbledore and Sirius knew the truth.

But to do that now…Lestrange needs information. Needs to know everything—

The same as at the Ministry! She said she’d memorised everything about the place. She only seems impulsive and in control because…she shapes the world around her into her comfort zone. Does things she knows. Goes places she knows.

That’s why she hates the muggle world! Why she hates Hermione! Hatred comes from fear. She’s never known anything Muggle, and she’s been told that it’s disgusting, dangerous. She’s avoided the Muggle world her whole life…

So she doesn’t know anything about it! She is a Know it All like Hermione, she just has one weak subject, and she hates not knowing about it.

Now this Hermione can deal with. Understand. If they both have the same goal of not changing time, then they can work together like the prophecy says. She just—

Hermione walks over to the bookshelf to grab some more rolls of parchment. This needs a lot of planning. When Lestrange doesn’t know something, her first response is to torture the information from you until you give it. Well. It’s a very risky strategy. Very Gryffindor, but…

She sits down at the table, making some room. What if Hermione just gives her everything she wants? Let’s her do whatever, tells her anything? She’ll have to keep Hermione’s secrets, and not change anything from what Hermione knows as fact until she goes back in time in 2005.

So. Oh dear. Hermione will have to put complete trust in the other witch’s intelligence. In her survival instincts. Give over control of the mission.

Hermione hates losing control. She’s always the one with the plan, telling the boys what to do.

But she’s going to have to change. Adapt. Snape is right, Lestrange will never be controlled. Especially not by Hermione.

And maybe…at the same time…

It’s time for Lestrange to get some Muggle lessons. If Hermione can be subtle…Lestrange might accidentally learn some things. She is a Know it All after all, the brightest witch of her age. Hermione can empathise with that easily enough.

Hermione grins to herself. Time for a planning session. And once that’s done, it’s time to awaken the sleeping dragon.

This is absolutely barmy. A completely madcap scheme…

Good job she’s a Gryffindor.

 


 

So, the next morning, when the sun is only just beginning to show its face through the rain and the lingering mist, everything is ready.

She’d decided that she can’t show any threat or aggression. That will send a crucio her way.

Which means no trapping the witch. No restraining her. Hermione will simply wake her up and leave a note explaining that she is free to do as she wishes, but that Hermione hopes they can work together to uphold the timeline.

She will leave Lestrange the prophecy as a reminder, and a promise to show her any memories of the future that she wishes to see in order to not change anything. That way, Lestrange will need her alive and mentally competent.

She’d also added a P.S about the whole spattergroit lie. It would be really bad if anyone saw her right now; for one thing, Snape’s cover would be completely blown.

It has taken her a while to perfect the letter, but she thinks she’s found the best approach. She’d had to rewrite it several times, always becoming too detailed or patronising. She has to remember, this isn’t Harry or Ron, she’s not teaching Lestrange anything, or giving advice.

She’s surrendering.

Which is terribly uncomfortable, and feels plain wrong in the face of such blood purist, prejudiced nonsense but…

Hermione has to put her pride aside. In terms of fighting ability and experience…Lestrange wins. If she has to give up control to save the world, she’ll do it. Lestrange won’t bend, so Hermione will. Before everything breaks.

She’s been awake for hours now, ready hours early as usual. In the end, she couldn’t stand it any longer, and took one last walk along the beach, up along the cliff.

And stops. At the very top.

Can she do this?

She stares out across the ocean, warm from her hike but wrapped tightly in her cloak, hugging it to her for comfort, rubbing the fabric between her fingers.

Is this the right thing to do? Can she really just…surrender herself to a monster? A madwoman? And trust her to do the right thing?

She starts to tremble and takes a step back from the edge.

Why her? Why— hasn’t Hermione been through enough? Why is more being asked of her?

This could be the last day the earth ever sees. If the witch doesn’t listen…

And she could kill Hermione. This might be—

Is she ready to die? For the tiniest chance of saving the world?

She lets out a shaky breath and wipes some tears from her eyes. “Harry did it,” she whispers into the wind and the open ocean. “You can do it too, Hermione. Face your monster. Give up control and…and if the world ends, if you don’t make it, you have some friendly faces waiting for you up there.”

 


 

Hermione stands outside the bedroom door, heart racing. She can do this. She has the letter and the prophecy. She has copies of the letter in other parts of the house in case the witch burns it on sight without reading it.

She has the potion to awaken her.

She just prays it’s not too fast working.

She pushes open the door and walks over to the bedside table, placing down the letter, the prophecy, and the witch’s wand, not yet looking at the bed.

This is bonkers. She should definitely not do this. She should leave her asleep and do this alone.

Her eyes fall on the prophecy. Oh, she hates divination. But…

The prophecy is already coming true. The first part already happened! She can’t ignore that.

She wrenches her eyes from it and slowly turns to the bed. To Bellatrix.

She’d asked Dobby to bring her some of Lestrange’s clothes yesterday. A dress and an outer robe. She’s left it on the bottom of the bed, along with her purse.

She clenches her jaw and uncorks the potion, opening the witch’s mouth for what will thankfully be the last time.

She takes a sharp breath. Here it goes.

She swiftly pours all of the potion into the woman’s mouth, only pausing long enough to see that she didn’t choke, before she’s sprinting from the room, straight to the front door and out into the sand.

Oh Merlin that was terrifying. She doesn’t even dare look back, just runs as fast as possible over the sinking sand dunes towards the town. Her lungs are burning, legs aching, but she doesn’t stop. Just groans through the pain and carries on, ignoring her laboured breathing until she reaches the town and goes into the first café.

She collapses into a chair. Oh gods. She’s dying.

What did she just do?

Stupid, Hermione. You’re not Harry. Why on earth would you—

It’s logical. She has her reasons. It’s the only way.

Is it?

She pulls her cloak off. She’s bloody boiling.

People are staring at her. She rolls her shoulders back and pulls a menu towards her. She’s going to need a lot of tea to calm down. And maybe some cake. Lots of cake…

For breakfast. She forgot how early it is, it’s barely gone eight. She’s lucky the café is open.

A waitress comes over, looking at her uncertainly.

“Umm, hi,” she pants. “Just umm, just one second. Maybe some water actually. That would be wonderful.”

The waitress rolls her eyes and walks back towards the counter. Hermione just collapses her head onto the table with a groan. This is going to be a very long day.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione managed to spend two hours at the café before her warring thoughts got the better of her, forcing her to her feet and out the door. Much to the relief of the other customers and waiting staff. She may have been muttering to herself rather loudly.

She’s nearly back at the cottage now, her feet dragging, desperately wanting to run for her life again in any other direction. Her very soul is screaming at her not to do this. But she must. For the fate of the world.

She crests the final sand dune and—

It’s not there. The cottage. What? Are her concealment charms back in action? Is her magic back? It hadn’t worked a few minutes ago in the café.

She walks over to where she knows the house used to be. Nothing. Not even a trace of— ah!

Hands appear from nowhere and grab her by the front of her cloak, pulling her forwards and throwing her to the ground.

Her hands fly out to catch herself, just managing not to get a face full of sand, and then she’s being wrenched onto her back, a gnarled wand in her face.

She gulps up at Lestrange. Yep, her plan is beginning to feel extremely idiotic right now. The witch looks furious, hair and dress blowing in the wind, glaring down at her, the cottage now visible behind her.

Hermione’s heart begins to jackhammer, and everything starts to blur, her ears ringing. She tries to concentrate on her breathing, hands digging into the sand.

Keep calm, Hermione. You don’t have to fight her. Not this time.

The waves crash and the sand blows around her face.

Lestrange doesn’t move.

Uh.

Why hasn’t she said anything? That’s not like her. Is it her? Or is it someone else in polyjuice?

Hermione just stares up at her.

Then Lestrange kicks her in the stomach. Hard.

“Ah!” Oh gods. She can’t breathe. Please say she isn’t going to—

She kicks her again, this time in the back as she rolls sideways. A cruel grin creeps across her face.

What should…should she defend herself? She can’t just become a punching bag!

Lestrange crouches down, wand against Hermione’s throat, just below her jaw. Hermione takes a shaky breath, clenching her teeth against the reaction to pull away.

Stay calm. She can’t kill you. She needs information.

She looks into the gleeful face before her…and watches as the smile slips, turning into a pout.

Lestrange huffs out a sigh and stands. “You’re no fun! Where’s your fight gone, Gryffindor? Don’t you want to play?”

Yes! It’s working! Talking is a lot better than aggression. And…

Hermione slowly sits up, wincing, and studies the witch. Could it be? Is this a stalling tactic? Or even curiosity?

“I don’t want to fight, no. I’m too worried about the paradox I might create.”

Stay neutral. Don’t blame her for anything, don’t ask for help or mention working together. Not yet.

“Yes, you’ve been very naughty, messing with time.  Don’t think you should be trusted with it. Maybe I should tie you up and sort this out for you before you destroy the whole world with your muddy little hands.”

Tie her— oh dear. She hadn’t thought of that.

“You don’t need to tie me up. You’re right, you know much more about this than me, probably. I won’t do anything to alter the timeline, I just want to get home so nothing bad happens.”

The witch cackles. “Oh the poor little Mudblood is scared and wants to go home! You should have thought of that before you lied your way into our world. You think you’re a real witch? A real witch knows not to interfere with time magic, filth!”

Argh she is so—

Hermione gets to her feet, shaking sand from her robes. “I didn’t! I didn’t do anything, something happened to me in the Department of Mysteries. Someone pushed me! I was leaving, I know how stupid it is to change time! Why would I—ah!”

She’s slammed against the side of the house, jagged stone digging into her back.

“You dare argue with me, mudblood? I’ve read your simpering little letter. Do you think we’re going to be friends now? That because of some prophecy we’re suddenly equals? You are nothing more to me than a walking, talking pensieve. So tell me. Tell me everything you know and then I will decide if it’s worth keeping you alive.”

Hermione lets out a shaky breath. Don’t let her scare you. You have a brain, use it. De-escalate.

She inhales slowly, softening her features. Like Snape did. Except more friendly. “Yes, of course. I can show you what happened, if you’d like? In my memories? Where would you like to do this?”

She brushes some hair out of her face and looks at the woman calmly instead.

Lestrange frowns at her and takes a step back, head tilted, wand spinning between her fingertips. “Inside.”

Okay. Hermione nods at her cautiously, and then turns her back, heart racing, to walk in through the front door. All the hairs on the back of her neck are standing on end. All of her instincts telling her not to lose sight of the witch. To keep the predator in sight.

But she just swallows and heads over to put the kettle on. If she doesn’t want this to be a fight, she has to show that. Apparently slytherins read actions and body language as well as playing word games.

She’s so glad she’d ended up in Gryffindor.

She fills the kettle and takes a cup from the cupboard. “Would you like something before we start? Tea? Coffee?”

The scrape of wood on tile floor comes from behind her, and Hermione holds back a flinch.

Lestrange scoffs. “Why would I want anything you’ve touched with your filthy fingers?”

More taunting. So…she’s trying to stay in the familiar. She’s uncomfortable. Unsure…

Or just hates Hermione’s guts.

Stay casual. Friendly casual.

Die die die you awful woman! Touch me one more time and I’ll kick you in the head, stab you again and aim for your heart.

And breathe. Friendly conversation. Giving up control. “Okay, it’s your choice. What would you like to see in my mind? Or I can just tell you about the future. Anything you want to know. Oh! Is there anything you don’t want to know? It is easier not to change your actions if you don’t know anything that should happen, but I’m afraid I’ve ruined that already, sorry.”

She goes and gets the teabag and throws it in the cup, walking over to get the milk, hands trembling, avoiding looking at the witch for the time being.

“Why are you doing that?”

What?

Now she does turn to the woman. She’s sat on top of the table, kicking her legs, narrowing her eyes at Hermione. The kettle whistles.

“Umm…what do you mean?” Hermione walks over to carry on making her tea, distracting herself, turning around once it’s ready to lean back against the counter and blowing into her cup.

The witch hops off the table and walks closer. And closer. Hermione tries to keep her breathing steady and not react.

Bellatrix takes the cup of tea from her grasp, putting it on the side, and then pushes up against her. Hip to hip. Nose to nose.

Hermione’s eyes dart back and forth between the dark ones before her as she cringes back. What is she doing? This isn’t the same as before, what is that expression? More intimidation? Trying to make her snap? Push her?

She really is looking a lot healthier. There’s colour to her cheeks, her lips. Her eyes brighter, face less gaunt.

Stop staring, Hermione. It’s strange.

She looks away to the side at her tea, sat there steaming.

Lestrange tuts. “Why are you not using magic…where is your wand?”

Oh. Hermione’s licks her lips, trapped against the sink and really wanting to move before she admits…

“It’s in my pocket. I’ve damaged my magical core, it’s…it’s taking a while for my magic to recover. So far I’ve managed some sparks…that’s it.”

She reluctantly turns her head. And meets a burning gaze. And then a hand plunges into her pocket.

Hey— ow! Hermione jolts automatically at the unwanted invasion, only managing to smack her head into Lestrange’s forehead. This is why people need personal space!

“Where?”

Hermione rubs at her head and reaches into her other pocket, pulling out her wand for the witch to see.

“This pocket. Look.”

She turns sideways slightly, giving herself a bit of room for the wand movement, and focuses on her cup of tea. “Wingardium leviosa!”

The cup vibrates, just the tiniest amount, and then nothing.

Hermione sighs.

The witch pushes away from her with a laugh, waving her wand so that the cupboards begin to open and shut, an orange flying towards them into the centre of the kitchen and peeling itself in mid-air.

Okay, ha ha, very funny. No need to rub it in. Show off.

Lestrange snatches the peeled orange from the air and then hops back up to sit on the table, beginning to eat.

Showing off…and hungry. And more relaxed.

Good. They’re on track.

“So your magic is gone. As it should be. Just shows how weak it was to start with, you probably stole it. Or your filthy parents did. Now everything is as it should be.”

Ignore the taunt.

Hermione shrugs. “I think it will come back soon enough, I can still feel my wand buzzing, so my magic must be there. And I’m sure I’ll need magic to travel back to my time…however that will work. Do you think it’s worth asking the centaurs? They did make our prophecy after all.” She takes a cautious sip of tea.

Lestrange glares at her. “I don’t need your advice, mudblood!”

She slashes her wand through the air, and Hermione feels something burn across her cheek.

Ah! She flinches, only just managing not to scald her fingers as some tea splashes over the edge of her mug.

Oh Merlin, it—

She curls herself around over the sink, bringing a hand up to her face. Ah! It stings! Did she cut her? Or burn her?

Fine. Take a breath and move past it, Hermione. She splashes some water on her face and then turns back around.

Lestrange just grins at her, a slice of orange clasped between her teeth, giving her a wide orange smile. Child. Hermione fights not to glare at her. Twisted madwoman.

The witch rolls her eyes and swallows. “You’re the mad one. Why should I run off to talk to some horse about the stars?”

What! Did— did she just read Hermione’s mind? She breaks eye contact. You need eye contact for legilimency.

“Nuh uh, none of that. Look at me. You promised. Be a good girly and show Bella what she needs to see, or I won’t ask so nicely.”

Hermione closes her eyes with a sigh. And then cautiously looks back up.

Lestrange’s wand snaps into her hand in a flash.

Here they go.

“Legilimens!”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

As it turns out, Bellatrix wants to see everything.

And she means everything, from Hermione’s first time meeting Harry on the train, back in first year, all the way to the end of the war, and then skipping to the last few days here in the past, at the Ministry and in the cottage.

Hermione had expected her to be obsessive about Voldemort, about her cause, but this has caught her rather off guard. It’s like she’s the witch’s own personal TV screen and she has the remote. Skipping the boring parts, fast forwarding until Hermione’s head is fuzzy, and re-watching her favourite bits over and over.

It does worry Hermione that she’s revealing all of the Order’s secrets, all of her own personal secrets, thoughts, and fears. Even that she won’t be useful once Lestrange has seen everything.

But there’s nothing she can do. She can’t fight it, not really. Hermione has dabbled in the arts of legilimency and occlumency over the years, but she’s not a master. It would take an enormous mental strain to even attempt to go against her, and she’s not sure she wants to risk it.

Look what happened to the Longbottoms.

And besides. She did promise to show her whatever she wanted.

She just keeps reminding herself that the witch is technically dead and buried. And she can’t tell anyone Hermione’s secrets without changing time, there’s that too. So, yes, Lestrange has a lot of blackmail material and personal information. So what? It all works out in the end. It has to.

And so she watches as the years pass, watches as her life unfolds, day by day. Let’s herself relax and reminisce. She’d forgotten how much she’s changed, through the years. How young they all were. The clothes! The hair! How dreadful!

And Lestrange watches too, a presence in the back of her mind. Always there. Laughing, grumbling. Asking questions and making cutting remarks.

They watch Hermione as she makes plan after plan, all of the late nights in the library, in her room. Watch her figure out friendships and romance along the way. Watch her laugh until she cries and cry until she laughs.

And as much as Bellatrix scoffs and tries to skip past it, as much as she sneers at Hermione’s past…there’s no avoiding it. Hermione grew up with the war. Her life was the war…in a way. Or at least fighting Voldemort. Helping Harry to survive. Every little piece of information about Harry, about the Order, about Voldemort and how they stopped him…is tangled together with Hermione’s life.

So yes, Lestrange laughs and mocks. She bickers, pokes at Hermione’s weaknesses.

But she also listens to everything. Sees everything. Hums in thought or asks questions, her running commentary becoming comforting in a way. As the years go on, through the fighting, the darkness and the fear…a familiar presence. Someone who talks over a horror film, reminding you that it’s not real. That you’re safe.

Some of her comments are even quite funny in a bizarre way, snide remarks about Snape, Lucius, Umbridge, Lockhart.

And then there’s her emotions. Emotions that the witch doesn’t seem to be able to hide, always filtering through, washing over them both until Hermione is feeling them too. Hatred, yes. Disgust. Fear…curiosity, amusement. Sadness.

The years drift by, and suddenly, it’s the end.

Hermione comes back to reality with a gasp, falling onto the floor, cold tea spilling over her.

It’s dark. How long have they been in Hermione’s head? Merlin she’s thirsty.

She staggers to her feet, muscles aching, and feels around in the cupboard for two glasses, filling them at the tap and coming to sit on the table next to a dazed Bellatrix. Hermione hands her a glass distractedly, still not used to the real world.

She has her thoughts back to herself. She can feel the wood of the table. She’s alone in her head…how odd. She almost misses…

Gosh, this is bizarre! Maybe they broke some kind of record for the longest legilimency ever.

She glances at the witch sat on the edge of the table next to her. Even Bellatrix looks out of it. She’s drinking the water!

Hermione concentrates on grounding herself. Breathing.

Oh. She really needs the bathroom.

She finishes the glass of water and quickly stands, tucking the chair back under the table.

“Umm…I’ll see you in a bit. I really need to go to the loo, and I might have a bath whilst I’m there.”

Bellatrix just stares into the distance.

Okay?

Hermione hurries off to the bathroom, feeling around in the dark until she can fumble the door handle open to her room and grab a towel.

Once in the bathroom, she feels around for her wand and directs it at a candle. Maybe she can try…

“Incendio!”

Nothing. She grits her teeth. Use the rage.

“Incendio you bloody thing! Incendio!”

A spark! But it doesn’t light.

Argh! Why won’t her magic— “Incen—”

“Lumos.”

Hermione whirls around as all of the lights come on around her, and gulps at the sight of Bellatrix leaning against the door frame.

The witch looks her up and down, and then stalks forwards into the small room.

“Too slow, mudblood. My turn.”

She yanks the towel from Hermione’s hands and then shoves her out the door, slamming it shut as Hermione falls against the banister, catching herself.

Wha—?

She bangs on the door, and then twists the handle. Locked. “Bellatrix! I really have to pee, let me in!”

A laugh comes through the door. “Then piss outside, there’s a good pet. Don’t dirty the floor now.”

Hermione grits her teeth, pointing her wand at the lock. “Alohomora!”

Nothing.

More laughter from the other side of the door. “The little muggle can’t open a door. How pathetic. I think I’ll take my time with this bath.”

She hears the sound of running water. Oh no she really has to pee now.

“If you let me in I’ll…I’ll make dinner! You must be hungry too, I’ll make dinner for us.”

Silence. And then some splashing.

The door clicks open a crack, and Bellatrix peers through. Hermione steps back against the banister, heart pattering and confidence waning without the barrier between them.

“You would have made dinner anyway. I saw your little plan to be nice to me. To do whatever I tell you.”

Oh. Oh dear, complete transparency is very awkward.

“I…yes. Probably. But I can make you something in particular. That you like. You’ve seen everything about me, you know what I can cook…is there anything you’d like?”

More silence.

And then the door opens fully and ah!

Hermione jerks her head to the side, flustered.

She’s not wearing any clothes.

A cackle from the doorway. “Well? You had no problem ripping my clothes off before. Why so shy? Oh yes, you like witches, don’t you, mudblood? Now don’t go getting ideas. I’m not interested in filth like you.”

What?!

“I don’t— argh hold that thought.”

She pushes past the woman and hurries into the bathroom, door shutting behind her. She is so desperate.

Laughter follows her. She concentrates on peeing and then washing her hands.

Shit. She’d just shoved the witch. How did she forget— she’s dangerous, Hermione! She’s not just a bickering voice in your head anymore.

Which reminds her.

She opens the door, looking carefully over the other witch’s shoulder.

“I don’t like witches. Where did you get that idea? You just saw my whole life over the past however many hours. I’ve never been with a witch!”

Bellatrix steps into view, raising her eyebrows at her. Hermione hastily moves out of her way and stands back against the banister again.

“Exactly, mudblood. I saw everything. There’s no hiding from me.”

She smirks and walks back into the bathroom, leaving the door open but getting into the bath.

“Now go make my dinner. I’m sure nothing you make will be very good, so it doesn’t matter what it is. It will have to do. And no calling that creepy little elf to do it for you, or maybe I’ll kill him early.”

Argh that horrible, disgusting, sadistic—

Hermione stomps down the stairs.

Maybe she will make something awful for dinner. Just to spite her.

She makes her way towards the kitchen, glad to see that Bellatrix has lit the lights down here too.

She starts grabbing different things from the cupboards. She’s going to just make pasta. It’s simple, and she doesn’t have the time or energy for anything else, not really.

And she’s made it so many times now it leaves her brain free to think.

She feels like they were gone for years…

It’s actually strange not having the other witch in her head. Not hearing her thoughts, feeling her reaction.

She—

Maybe even some of the hatred is gone. She doesn’t know how, but…

It’s like Bellatrix has been with her her whole life. She knows it’s not true, but her brain can’t help—

Maybe there’s a reason people don’t use legilimency for that long. It blurs the line between the reader and the target. Two minds intertwined.

And if these two…do not drift asunder…though not without the other.

Oh.

It’s just hitting her that…Bellatrix now knows her better than anyone else on earth. True, she skipped over Hermione’s childhood and home-life, didn’t pay attention to a lot of her everyday activities…

But that’s more than her own parents know about her.

There are so many things that…

She’s seen her crying alone, seen her get her heart broken, seen her terrified for her life.

That was the worst part. When they got to Malfoy Manor, watched Hermione be tortured. It had been…to have the memory right in front of her as well as the monster in her head. It was…

Actually, it wasn’t as bad as she had imagined. That’s what was frightening. It was like watching it happen to another Hermione. A clone. They’d both just seen the year on the run, they both knew Hermione was telling the truth about the sword.

She could sense a certain…embarrassment? From Bellatrix. The witch had been wrong, desperate, scared. They hadn’t lingered on that moment for long. It was a failure to the woman. As much as it hurt Hermione, she hadn’t stopped to gloat as expected.

It had been…odd. She hadn’t predicted it at all, waiting for the moment, anticipating it, and then…it was skipped over.

That’s what made it even the more horrible. That such a significant, traumatic event in her life, that Hermione would never forget, was just…breezed over.

The woman is so unpredictable. Snape can tell her to use her mind all he wants, apparently Hermione will never get it. Maybe it’s a Slytherin thing. Everything the witch does or says is—

Like saying Hermione likes witches. Where did that come from? She saw Hermione cry over Ron, go to the Yule Ball with Viktor. Kiss Ron. She’d skipped through the years after the war, but she must have noticed Hermione dating Ron.

Maybe she actually is insane. Hermione had kind of forgotten about that. Everyone knows that Lestrange is, well, strange.

And she is! What kind of adult witch sits on tables and plays with oranges? Tells people not to pee on the floor and parades around naked?

She pours the finished sauce in with the pasta.

Of all the people to have to live with, to stop the end of the world with, why her?

That stupid prophecy! She’s definitely going to have a word with the centaurs about this!

She starts grating some cheese.

She doesn’t like witches. She doesn’t. When has she ever fancied a witch?

Ginny is just a friend. So is Luna. They’re the only female friends she has.

Well, there’s Fleur, kind of. She’s more of a family friend, one of the Weasleys now.

And she knows Fleur is attractive. Everyone knows that.

And Ginny is quite charming in a way. She’s funny, and confident. Those are attractive qualities.

And Luna is sweet. Kind. Mysterious, always catching her off guard with her wisdom.

These are all just good qualities. There’s nothing— They’re just friends. She hasn’t ever—

Ginny is always teasing Hermione that she had a crush on Professor McGonagall but that’s—

She respects her. Sees her as a mentor. A role model. The things that the witch can do with magic is astounding! The things she knows about transfiguration—

Ah!

Hermione jumps as the saucepan flies off of the hob and away behind her. What the—

She spins around. The bowl of grated cheese hovers away towards the table too. And some plates. Bellatrix is sat smirking at her.

“Told you, mudblood. I can’t trust you with anything. Burning pasta? What were you daydreaming about? I hope it wasn’t me.”

Hermione tries to calm her racing heartbeat and then groans, walking over to slump into a chair opposite her. “No! Of course I wasn’t thinking about you!”

The woman’s smirk widens into a sly grin. “So you were thinking about someone else, I see.”

What?!

Hermione spoons some pasta onto her plate. “You can’t know that! I could have been thinking about anything! I do have a lot to think about at the moment.”

She starts eating.

Silence.

That’s unusual. Bellatrix is hardly ever quiet. It’s unnerving.

She steels herself and looks across the table at the witch. Who is frowning at her.

“What is it? It’s not poisoned or anything.”

The witch continues frowning at her. “Try to lie to me.”

Umm…

“Umm, alright. I poisoned your dinner.”

The witch rolls her eyes. “No, you brainless— lie about anything. Two truths and a lie. Try to fool me.”

But—

“But that’s impossible! You know everything about me! What is the point?”

“Do it. Or I’ll hex you. I won’t ask again.”

What on Earth is this about?

“Umm…alright. I…my favourite season is autumn, my favourite subject is transfiguration, and my favourite drink is firewhisky.”

She looks down at her plate, not wanting the witch to cheat and read her mind.

“You were thinking about McGonagall.”

Her head jerks up in shock.

“That wasn’t the game! That wasn’t fair! How did you—”

A chuckle. “Such a Gryffindor. It’s not fair. You shouldn’t trust people to play fair. This is going to be a problem. You’re going to have to be confined to the house. Or maybe I’ll just kill you.”

What? The pasta suddenly loses its taste and she swallows harshly.

“What? Why? Why now all of a sudden? What— what did I do?”

Bellatrix pushes some pasta around her plate and then sighs, accioing some wine from the cupboard, nose crinkling as she sees the label but pouring herself some anyway.

“You can’t lie. You’re terrible at it, always have been.”

“What about—”

“Yes, I know. Your little club. Lying to that pink toady woman. I went to school with her, you know, she’s not that bright.”

Hermione grumbles around a mouthful of pasta.

“No, you’ve barely been in the past for half a week and you’ve already told absolutely everything you know to your worst enemy. It doesn’t get more stupid than that. And not only that, but you’ve told Snape too, the slimy bastard. I always knew he was in Dumbledore’s pocket. No, you can’t hide for shit, muddy.”

Hermione squirms in her chair. This is the second time this week she’s had her weaknesses shouted at her.

“I…at least you’re hidden. And Snape will do anything for Lilly, and he’ll die in a few years, so—”

“So he has nothing to lose! And neither do I, seeing as I die too!” the witch yells across the table, her voice echoing through the room. There’s just the sound of the wind and the waves as everything falls still.

And then Bellatrix slowly rises to her feet, wand in her hand and sparking.

The lights begin to flicker, the tabletop shakes and the plates rattle. The wine glass tips over and then rolls onto the floor with a smash.

Accidental magic.

Hermione slowly stands up too, beginning to back away into the centre of the kitchen

“I have nothing to lose. I will lose. Everything.”

No no no. Hermione scrambles backwards as plate after plate flies from the cupboard to smash on the floor.

“You think I care about the world? About the universe? You think you understand me?”

The glasses begin to shatter and the windows crack.

Get out, Hermione.

She can’t. She’s frozen in shock, heart pounding and breathing ragged. She can’t move.

Water bursts from the tap and begins to spin in droplets through the room, soaking them. Bellatrix just stands firm, wand vibrating and crackling in her hand.

“You dare put this on me! Make me choose!” she bellows. “You show me my death! The death of my master, my cause, my life, and ask me to fall down in defeat? To painstakingly recreate my own doom, or see the end of the universe? All for the minute possibility that, just maybe, I might be able to survive? As if that makes it all worth it?”

She walks forward through the whirling storm, crunching through glass and shattered plates to stand in front of a terrified Hermione, eyes crazed.

“You foolish witch! You stupid, self-righteous, misguided— how did you know?!” she shouts.

And then her eyes fall shut.

She stands as close as ever, panting, breath harsh as it sweeps across Hermione’s face.

“How did you know I wouldn’t let the world crumble?” she rasps.

And everything stops. The room stands still. The water falls to puddle on the floor, slowly dripping from the surfaces. Everything stops and it’s just the wind and their ragged breaths in their ears.

“How did you know I…I could destroy everything,” she croaks.

Hermione doesn’t know what to—

She looks scared. Actually scared. Sounds scared. She knows that voice by now.

She—

Hermione swallows. “I didn’t. But I trusted the prophecy. I knew we had to do this together somehow and…I knew you were clever. I knew you were strong. And I knew nothing could ever control you. Not even the end of the world would stop you. So you were my best chance. The world’s best chance.”

Lestrange opens her eyes and Hermione clears her throat uncomfortably. “Logically speaking. I do like logic. It’s all I have. As you said, I’m not very good at lying, grey areas, reading people. It was the only logical argument that didn’t end with myself, and then the world…gone.”

Lestrange just stares at her.

Hermione smiles weakly, the water soaking into her socks.

What a mess.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The lights have flickered out. Hermione isn’t sure why, surely the witch can hold a lumos, no matter how upset she is.

And she is. Upset.

Hermione really is bad at reading people. Snape was right, she needs to use her mind.

How would the woman not be upset at everything she just saw in Hermione’s head? It was the end of a war. A crushing defeat for Voldemort and his followers. And now Lestrange has to deal with this whole mess too? Of course all that anger and fear was building up somewhere. She’d felt it.

What an idiot. Bloody hell, way to go Hermione.

…Now what?

Bellatrix is…terrified. Lost. Her whole world as shattered as this room. She really has given Hermione all the necessary visual clues.

Hermione’s eyes drift through the room, taking in the chaos.

And when Bellatrix is scared, angry…

Oh no. She attacks.

The storm isn’t over. She’s just in the eye of the hurricane.

She needs a distraction, anything, something to catch her off guard so she can get out of here and fast.

A wand slowly comes up to press into Hermione’s throat.

She swallows. Too late.

“Cru—”

No, she can’t! Hermione can’t go through this again. But she doesn’t have her magic. What can—

Shut her up! Stop her!

And then Hermione does something very stupid.

She kisses her.

Lunges forwards and kisses her desperately, takes the cruel word from her mouth.

This worked when Bellatrix did it, back at the ministry, left Hermione dazed and distracted.

Lips freeze beneath hers.

Good. No curses yet. She just needs to—

She tangles a hand into the witch’s wet hair, and pulls her closer with the other, tugging at the witch’s lip urgently and feeling her just beginning to respond. Hermione’s heart is pounding. It feels…

It’s working. She’s not pulling away. Now if Hermione can time it right, she can maybe make it to the door before—

“Bellatrix? Miss…Granger? Am I interrupting?”

She jerks back with a yell, feet skidding on wet tile as she turns towards the living room.

“Expelliarmus.”

Bellatrix’s wand flies into Snape’s waiting hand.

Well. Just shows. She had distracted the witch.

“Snivellus, you slimy traitor! Give me back my wand!”

Snape just raises his eyebrows at them. “Lumos.”

The light returns. Wow, the kitchen really is a mess. And…Bellatrix is soaked through, dress clinging to her, hair plastered to her head, stuck up in strange places. Hermione probably looks just as bad. She shivers.

Well, this is all very awkward.

She decides to just ignore everything for now, walking towards Snape, who watches her closely, and then past him to sit in front of the fire. It’s getting chilly.

Bellatrix storms after her and grabs her before she can quite sit down, throwing her to the ground with a thwack. Hermione’s chin hits the wooden floor hard and she yells out in pain, rolling onto her back.

Bellatrix kneels on her chest. “How dare you—”

“Reparo maxima…tergeo maxima.” Snape’s low murmur comes from behind them. Is he…tidying?

Bellatrix growls and her head whips around. “Stop cleaning, you overgrown house-elf! What is wrong with you? You…”

She trails off. Hermione can’t blame her. It is a bit…out of character. Wait. She strains to look too, frowning.

And then grabs Bellatrix’s arm to get her attention.

She thrusts her hand down to grip Hermione’s throat, ready to strangle her, but Hermione just looks her firmly in the eyes, oddly calm. Listen. How do we know it’s Snape? She thinks.

The other witch’s hand loosens. Good. She can hear her.

Why would Snape be cleaning? It’s so odd! She thinks again.

Bellatrix moves her hand and knee off of her, to Hermione’s relief, and leans down.

“Leave this to me, no talking,” she murmurs in Hermione’s ear.

Leave it to—

Well…Okay, probably for the best. Sneaky isn’t her strong suit. She nods.

And then Bellatrix pulls out her silver dagger and holds it to Hermione’s throat.

Hermione’s breath hitches. She’s definitely not going to have any trouble staying silent. She doesn’t dare move, can hardly think. Her hands brace on the floor, palms sweaty.

Just a tactic. She still wants Hermione alive…doesn’t she? She needs to get it back into her head that she can’t trust the witch! What is wrong with her? She should have gone straight out the door instead of trusting Snape to protect her…or Bellatrix not to hurt her.

“Give me my wand, Snape, or the mudblood dies.”

It’s fine it’s fine it’s fine. Distract yourself.

She can’t see much from her position on the floor. It’s infuriating.

“I admit I’m rather confused, a moment ago you were kissing the witch, and now you bargain with her life? I’m afraid I don’t follow. Perhaps you could explain some things to me.”

…Well that doesn’t solve anything. Is it Snape or not?

Bellatrix pulls them both up from the floor, the knife getting dangerously close to her neck. But at least she can see better now, pulled against Bellatrix and held from behind. She pulls her head back, away from the blade.

“I don’t have to explain anything, Snivellus. I know how much you love filthy mudbloods. So sad you lost the last one. Give me my wand before you lose this one too.” She presses the knife in harshly and Hermione lets out a whimper at the sting.

“What are you talking about, Bellatrix? Why should I care if the girl dies? Go ahead. And then perhaps we can begin discussing things. There is much still to talk about, wouldn’t you agree?”

Hermione feels Bellatrix go very still behind her.

And then she drags them sideways, knocking the floo powder into the grate and pulling Hermione into the fire. “Black estate!”

What the—

Fire whirls around them, and then she’s shoved out onto a cold wooden floor.

“The bastard! I knew he couldn’t be trusted. And now he has my wand!”

Hermione stumbles up from the floor with a groan. “So it was Snape? Then why did we leave—hey!”

But Bellatrix is already reaching around in Hermione’s pocket. She pulls out Hermione’s wand and looks at it in disgust, holding it with the tips of her fingers.

Hermione darts a hand out to snatch it, but the witch is too fast, moving it out of her reach and marching off down the corridor, lighting the way as she goes.

Hermione runs along after her. This place is…

Huge. And creepy. Like an Elizabethan Mansion but with magical creatures mounted on the walls between moving portraits.

Was that a phoenix?! That’s barbaric!

“So? Why are we here? All my stuff is back at the cottage! It’s just Snape, he’s on our side!”

“Tiggy!” Bellatrix screeches, coming to an abrupt halt.

An ancient looking house-elf appears with a faint pop. Hermione skids to a stop before she can bump into the pair.

“Yes, Mistress Bellatrix?” Its voice is a soft rumble, so unlike Dobby’s or Winky’s that it surprises her.

“I’m expecting a breach of the wards at some point over the next few days. Inform me at once if anyone attempts to pass, no matter who they are.”

“Of course, Mistress Bellatrix. In fact, Tiggy must inform you, Tiggy is seeing Mr Lestrange at the edge of the wards this morning, Mistress.”

Bellatrix snorts. “That’s nothing to worry about and you know it.”

The house-elf’s face cracks into what astoundingly appears to be a toothless grin. “Indeed, Mistress, but Tiggy is knowing how much this is pleasing you to hear.”

Bellatrix hums and then carries on down the corridor past the elf. “Bring some tea. I’ll be in the library,” she calls over her shoulder, turning left and out of sight.

Hermione is still stood gaping at the house-elf, who looks back at her with a chuckle and pops away.

Did Bellatrix just…joke, with a house-elf?

Is she the imposter?

Hang on.

Library?

She runs down the corridor after the witch, ignoring the scowling, shushing portraits, and turns left into…

Wha—

This is—

Morgana’s tits this is—

Her feet carry her further into the circular room until she reaches a central fireplace and a very long dining table. She falls into a chair, only just conscious of the heat warming her wet skin as she gazes around. This is incredible. Like a—

“A beehive. This is—”

The room, while at first appearing to be a tall, bell-shaped, dome, on closer inspection is made up entirely of hexagon shaped corridors, with books lining every wall. The corridors along the ground level leave the wooden floor bare, but higher up even the bottom sides of the hexagons seem to be made up of books, with no stairways or places to stand. Every inch of space taken up.

Except for this warm centre. A brightly burning fire surrounded by tables and chairs of different heights, materials and sizes.

She turns her astonished eyes to the woman opposite her, who has at some point dried herself, and is ignoring her completely, flicking Hermione’s wand in different directions so that books fly towards them from different hexagonal corridors.

“How do you—”

“Broom.”

“Did you create—”

“Yes.”

“How is it—”

“Expansion charm.”

Hermione frowns. “How are you—”

Bellatrix slams a book down on the table and turns to glare at her. Hermione winces. She really should be more careful with such an old book. The spines are fragile and the glue—

“Because, I’ve had the recent pleasure of being inside your head. For years. I know you sickeningly well. Don’t faint at the size of my library.”

Hermione scowls. But she is feeling a bit lightheaded. All this knowledge…

“So that’s why we’re here? For the books?”

Bellatrix pulls another book towards her and begins flicking through at great speed.

“It wasn’t Snape,” she murmurs.

What!

“What! Then who was it? What are you looking for? Why not fight them? You’re powerful enough to—”

“Silencio.”

“Hey! Oh…I can still talk!”

Bellatrix glares at the wand, and then points it at Hermione. “Silencio!”

“Umm…it must still see me as its owner. The wand chooses the wizard. Or witch, in this case.”

Bellatrix growls. “Then it will choose me, or end up on the fire. Silencio!”

Hermione swallows. How sentient are wands? Will it understand that?

She decides to keep her mouth shut, just in case.

Bellatrix goes back to reading, pulling another tower of books towards her.

Oh, Hermione is just itching to ask more questions! And read the books…but they could be jinxed. She’d learnt that lesson long ago. Some books bite back.

She peers over at some of the titles…

They’re all in French or German or Greek or…is that Italian? Latin?

She’d taught herself Latin. Very useful seeing as it makes up most incantations. What does that say? Art…unseeing art…conjuring invisible art? That can’t be right. She’s a bit rusty with her cases.

She reaches towards it. Bellatrix smacks her hand away without looking up. “Cursed. You’d be dead by morning. I wouldn’t care of course…but the book would become permanently invisible, and I haven’t finished that one yet.”

Hermione winces and sits back. So she was right. Deadly books.

The library is starting to feel a lot more dangerous.

A pop interrupts her thoughts. Tiggy, with a tray of…that’s not tea.

That’s a lot of potions. And a bar of chocolate.

Is…is Tiggy…still all there? Should she say something? She doesn’t want to get the house-elf in trouble. Or risk opening her mouth and finding out if the silencio worked.

Bellatrix just reaches for the chocolate without comment and ducks a book flying overhead, casting a swift protego at another that is letting off lightning bolts menacingly.

This is a madhouse!

The elf disappears once more, taking the tray with it.

What?

“Why did it have to be time travel?” Bellatrix mutters to herself around the large slab of chocolate. Her table manners are almost as bad as Ron’s. “How will he…he won’t but he…interfering old coot!”

Old coo—

“It was Dumbledore?!” Hermione yells, unable to hold her tongue a second longer.

Bellatrix shrugs. “Perhaps not, but who else would Snape let pretend to be him? Who else would Snape tell about the cottage?”

“You think Snape let the person polyjuice as him?”

Bellatrix slowly looks up from the book, and eyes her as if she’s insane. Then she points the bar of chocolate at her. “Of course. It’s Snape.”

So? He doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would let anyone pretend to be him.

Hermione just stares back, frowning in confusion.

Bellatrix groans. “You are so terrible at…it’s Snape! A potions master! A triple-crossing bloody spy! You think he wouldn’t have precautions against polyjuice? Would let someone beat him at his own game? I hate the slimy bastard, but he’s a key player on both sides for a reason. You think his weakness is potions?”

Oh. Well she hadn’t thought of—

Argh bloody slytherins! It’s like there’s a whole invisible world she’s only just finding out about where you can hate someone, but still know everything about them. Either literally or figuratively read their every thought.

Bellatrix smirks at her. “Speaking of which, you need to learn to occlude your mind, muddy. You’re an open book. And I need to check something. Legilimens!”

Ah! Oh.

Memories of Dumbledore. Of course! If he knows, then he might have left clues in her memories, said something nonsensical that makes sense in hindsight. He was always doing that.

Let’s see…

Oh. But…how is that possible? Has she never been alone with Dumbledore before? Never, between the end of fifth year and the end of sixth year when he passed away? She’d thought maybe…

Was he avoiding me on purpose?

There’s some frustrated confusion from Bellatrix, and then the witch seems to change tactics, replaying Hermione’s interactions with Snape over the past few days.

And she’s back in the library. She manages to not fall out of her chair this time.

And then Bellatrix jolts to her feet, smacks her hand against the side of the fireplace, and launches herself up onto the table, sprinting at full speed along its length, hurdling books as she goes.

What—

She reaches the end and doesn’t stop, hurtling off the tabletop with a laugh. She’s going to crash to the—

Something speeds out of the fireplace, and as the witch jumps, meets her mid-air, coming up beneath her.

A broom.

She doesn’t know what model, but it’s fast.

Bellatrix blurs through the air and off down a corridor before Hermione can blink.

What?

She keeps a broom in the chimney?!

What kind of—

It’s wood! The witch is bonkers! This whole place is—

Hermione slumps forwards against the table.

She’s too tired for this. And aching. Everywhere. What time is it? How— What’s the plan? What on Earth is going on? Why did they even come here? Who cares if Dumbledore knows? He won’t mess with time…

Will he?

Over the years, she has become slightly…wary of the man. He…means well. Mostly. But what he did to Harry…

Harry deserved a better childhood than that. Love. Care. Protection. More than just wise words coming too little and too late.

Dumbledore won them the war but…he sacrificed Harry to do it. And Snape. And Sirius. Lupin. All the little lost boys who came running to him for help. At their weakest.

And Dumbledore may have offered them a home, a mentor, forgiveness…but he kept them weak. In the dark. He made sure he was still the most powerful. In control.

It’s all about control.

What if he decides to control this?

Hermione grimaces. Her life is already being controlled by enough mysterious forces. Heck, it’s hard enough letting Bellatrix take control. She doesn’t want Dumbledore adding his own games into the mix.

This could be bad.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione holds back a yawn, head in her hands and elbows resting on the table.

“Tiggy?”

The elf appears with a pop. And then crosses its arms and glares at her. “Yes?”

Oh. Not even a Miss? Maybe they know she’s not a pureblood and are just as bad as Bellatrix when it comes to muggleborns.

She sits up properly.

“Umm, hello, Tiggy. My name’s Hermione. Hermione Granger. I…I was hoping you could tell me which books aren’t cursed. So I can read some.”

The house-elf stares into her eyes. Hermione tries to remember to blink.

“You is not touching the books. They is belonging to Mistress Bellatrix. Tiggy is not letting you steal them.”

Steal? “I don’t want to steal them! I want to read them, to help Bellatrix! We’re trying to find information about…time travel…I think.”

What even is Bellatrix researching?

The elf narrows its eyes at her, and then slowly reaches out a hand.

Oh. Umm…

She takes the hand, gently.

And then grips it with all her might as she finds herself hanging off the edge of a cliff, only the elf stopping her from plunging into the inky black ocean far below.

“Ahh! What are you doing? Help me!”

“Why is you in the library?”

The sound of waves crashes around them. Hermione tries to find a foothold on the cliff edge, but there’s nothing to grip, and some stone crumbles and falls.

“I told you I– well I don’t know! I just followed Bellatrix, she wouldn’t tell me what she’s planning!”

“You is following Mistress? Spying?”

Hermione feels sick, her head spinning in shock and heart pounding.

“I wasn’t spying! I’ve been living with her, she’s using my memories for some research. Please!”

The wind whips her hair over her face, leaving her blind, hand slipping as she panics.

She needs to think. To figure out what the elf wants. House-elves are loyal. This one is old. It must have been with Bellatrix for a long time. And it joked with Bellatrix, so it isn’t scared of her. Doesn’t hate her.

“I’m trying to help her! I won’t hurt her, I promise. She took me here.”

“Tiggy is watching. Tiggy is seeing Mistress try to silence you. Not let you touch the books.”

The elf lowers her further and she swings against stone, scraping her free hand as she tries to grab on.

Very protective elf. Okay. Maybe…

“I know, she’s stubborn. She’s trying to do this all by herself, she thinks she can fix this alone, but she can’t! She’s strong but she needs help. I’m just trying to help her. She’s scared, but not of me. Of something else that we need to figure out together. I won’t let her silence me, and I’m not leaving her. Take me back!”

She grits her teeth and glares up at the elf.

Who grins at her gummily. “Oh, Tiggy likes this one. Yes, this one is being very good.”

And in an instant, Hermione finds herself sat back where she started, in front of the fire.

The elf clicks their fingers, and she’s completely warm and dry, and then clicks again and a pile of books separate off from the others to sail to a stop in front of her.

“These will not be cursing you, Miss Hermione. You be helping Mistress Bellatrix now. But not with Time Travel. With hiding. Invisibility. This is what Mistress Bellatrix be looking for.”

Hermione is still shaking, gripping the chair and steadying her breath. What kind of insane—

Tiggy disappears with a pop, and Bellatrix flies out from one of the corridors. Not the one she entered, and with a pile of books hovering along behind her.

She jumps off the broom as she nears the floor, which shoots back up the chimney, and walks over to sprawl across an armchair, closer to the fire. Hermione just watches her for a moment, waiting for her heartbeat to calm down.

What was—

How did—

House-elves are much stronger than she’d expected. How in Merlin’s name did— The magic! The power!

Lestrange huffs and throws a book high into the air, reaching for another one and turning sideways to dangle her legs over an armrest.

She’d known house-elves were powerful, of course. Even days ago, Dobby had done so much for her without blinking an eye. He’d even—

Oh!

Hermione jolts to her feet, her chair skidding back. Bellatrix turns to scowl at her, almost upside down in the chair at this point.

Hermione’s shakes her head, ducking a flying book at the last second and then smiling. “If we need to preserve the timeline and not be seen…you want us to be invisible, don’t you? Well…what about house-elves?!”

Bellatrix rights herself in the chair and frowns. “What about them? This isn’t your ridiculous spew thing again, is it?”

Hermione walks over, grinning now. This could work! “They have different magic to us! They turn invisible all the time to do household tasks without getting in the way! If we learn to do what they do…no one would see us! Not even Dumbledore! We’d be able to go anywhere!”

Bellatrix’s eyes light up and she closes her book with a snap, throwing it in the air as she stands. Apparently the books around here can find their own way back. It flies off down a corridor.

“Finally, mudblood, not killing you is starting to pay off! I was beginning to doubt that prophecy, but— Tiggy!”

Oh no. Can’t they find another house-elf? This one is terrifying!

Tiggy appears with a pop. Hermione gulps and takes a step back, bumping into Bellatrix who shoves her away with a glare. Oops. Who would have thought she’d ever be more afraid of a house-elf than of Lestrange? What a strange week.

“Tiggy, tell us about house-elf magic, right now. About how you turn invisible, how do you do it?” Bellatrix says excitedly, brushing past Hermione to stare down at the elf in fascination.

Tiggy smiles up at them…eyes narrowed. It’s suspicious. Bellatrix doesn’t seem to notice.

“Oh yes, Tiggy be helping you, Mistress. But…Tiggy cannot be teaching you. You be needing a professor. A master. And…you will not be liking this, Mistress Bellatrix.” The smile doesn’t falter.

Bellatrix folds her arms. “And what won’t I like, Tiggy?” she grits out.

The house-elf smirks. Actually smirks.

“Well Mistress. To be learning House-Elf Magic…you must be learning to be a house-elf. You be going back to school. With the elflings.”

What?!

Lestrange’s mouth drops open in enraged disbelief, and Hermione lets out a startled laugh. Elf school?

Oh this is amazing.

And hilarious. Bellatrix’s face! Oh she is not happy about this.

“You sneaky little— this is a trick! A game! You’re just trying to humiliate me! How dare you. I should have killed you years ago, had you stuffed with the rest of them at Aunt Walburga’s or—”

“—or cut off Tiggy’s ears as a lesson. You is needing some new threats, Mistress Bella.”

Bellatrix stamps her foot and growls. “Don’t call me that! I’m not a child anymore. I’ve told you to call me Bellatrix—”

“—in front of company. This Miss Hermione is not counting as company—”

Hey! How rude!

“—and you be behaving like a child, Mistress Bella. Tiggy is telling you, Tiggy is not being scared of punishment. Of dying. Tiggy is old. Tiggy is living only to help and serve Mistress Bella. You is needing me still, so Tiggy is helping. This is not being a trick. This is being the truth. You is already learning to be a witch…now you is learning to be a house-elf.”

Wow. Oh dear, that was rather…humiliating.

Hermione accidentally makes eye contact with Bellatrix. The witch raises her wand at her. No! Anger leads to cursing! What can—

“Tiggy dangled me over a cliff! They’re only trying to protect you, believe me. It was terrifying.”

The wand lowers, and anger morphs into amusement. “Really?” Bellatrix turns back to the elf. “Did you really threaten the mudblood?”

Tiggy nods gleefully. “Oh yes Mistress, Tiggy had to be sure. This one was being very scared. She be screaming, pleading with Tiggy.”

Bellatrix cackles. “You haven’t exploded your gobstones yet then. Good. You can…take us to this elf school…I suppose.”

Bellatrix holds out her hand to the elf, who tuts and folds its arms.

“It is being late! You both be tired. Tiggy is making supper and then you is both going to bed. No arguing.”

Bizarrely, Bellatrix doesn’t argue back. Just walks over to a chair and sits down, pulling a book towards her. “Fine. Tell me when it’s ready. And take the mudblood somewhere, I’m sick of her questions and staring.”

Staring? “I don’t stare! I’m just looking because you’re the only other person in the— whoa!”

She steadies her feet on carpet. In a bedroom. Tiggy raises an eyebrow at her. “You do be staring. You is strange, Miss Hermione…this is good for Mistress. You be staying with her now. Tiggy is telling you.”

Well. That is definitely an order. This elf’s stare could rival McGonagall’s in its intensity. Hermione shivers.

Tiggy disappears with a pop, and Hermione collapses on the bed with a groan. Bloody hell.

 


 

Hermione wakes up with a yell, falling with a thud onto carpeted floor. It feels like it’s only been minutes since she’d finished supper and gone to bed, but it’s light now in the bedroom, so it must be morning already.

“Hurry up, mudblood, or I’m leaving you behind.”

Hermione sits up slowly, rubbing at the back of her head and stretching out her back. Did Bellatrix just hover her off the bed? Ow!

“What’s happening? We’re leaving? Why— oh. Elf school. I’d forgotten all about that for a second.”

She rubs at her face, standing up and getting her balance. All of her muscles are complaining. And her stomach.

“We’re not having breakfast first?” she asks cautiously.

Bellatrix just rolls her eyes and grabs Hermione’s upper arm, dragging her out of the room and along the corridor. “No time. If we have to go to bloody school to get away from Dumbledore, then I swear to Salazar you are using that Know it All brain to fly through all their ridiculous hoops as quickly as possible.”

She starts pulling her down the stairs, it’s taking most of Hermione’s concentration not to trip and stumble.

“Has Tiggy told you anything else? I’d rather be prepared,” she manages to get out.

Bellatrix grumbles something under her breath.

“Pardon?”

“It normally takes the elves three years to complete education.”

What?!

They come to a stop in front of the hall fireplace.

“Three years?! We can’t disappear for three years! You definitely can’t. You still need to—”

“We are not staying there for three years, Merlin’s beard. No, we already know the fundamentals of magic and Wizarding society. I’m giving us three weeks. Tops. I’ve been away from my Lord for far too long already. So get that brain in order and take off your clothes.”

Oh okay.

Wait.

What?

She stares at Bellatrix in disbelief.

Bellatrix starts undoing her corset.

Hermione covers her eyes. “What?! What are you doing?!”

“Clothes, mudblood! Off! Or do you not know the first rule of House Elves? I told you. We have to learn fast. Follow all their stupid rules. No clothes.”

But that doesn’t mean—

Hermione lets out a squawk as she feels hands lifting her robes. She opens her eyes and swats Bellatrix’s hands away. “Stop it! Okay, okay, I’ll take them off. We’d better find sheets to wear or something. It won’t be so bad. Like a toga.”

She pulls her outer robes off over her head and then starts unbuttoning her shirt underneath.

And looks up to find Bellatrix staring at her whilst tying a sheet around herself.

Hermione swallows. “Uh, what is it?”

No reply.

She tries to ignore the staring and throws her shirt on the floor, undoing her trousers. It’s becoming uncomfortable though. “Bellatrix? You’re staring at me. Do you mind…”

Bellatrix scoffs. “I’m not staring at you, mudblood, don’t you worry.”

 She turns away and lights the fire, poking it with a prong.

Hermione tugs her jeans off. Well she was staring. Obviously. So what is she talking about?

She looks around for a bedsheet and then scowls. “Bellatrix, that’s not funny, where’s my sheet?”

Bellatrix studies her fingernails. “Oh, you don’t have one? Oh dear. How on earth did that happen?”

Hermione opens her mouth to argue and then stops. Don’t get baited. Be a Slytherin.

“Okay, fine, if you want some more time to stare at me, I’ll wait. Maybe you’re the one that likes witches.”

Bellatrix slowly looks up. Hermione’s heart begins to pound and she cringes back, wrapping her arms around herself protectively. That might have been a bit too gutsy, more of a Gryffindor move than anything Slytherin.

Bellatrix’s eyebrows raise mockingly at her sudden lack of bravado, her lip twitching at the corner. “I didn’t say I didn’t like witches, mudblood, I said I wasn’t interested in you. And I was staring at your ugly muggle trousers, if you must know. I’m not interested in your filthy body. I’ve seen all of your memories, remember? I’ve seen enough of you for a lifetime.”

Hermione looks away. Oh. Well that— well the jeans thing makes more sense but— Bellatrix likes witches? How has she never known that? It…she didn’t say it like it was a secret. She just assumed, being a pureblood and all…is that why she doesn’t like her husband? Does she like wizards too or…?

And what does she mean she’s seen Hermione’s body? Unless Hermione has looked at herself in her memories…when did that happen? Was there a mirror in a bathroom or something? That’s very specific for Lestrange to be looking at—

“Tiggy! Get a sheet for the mudblood too.”

Stop it, Hermione, focus, don’t let your mind wander, for Godric’s sake!

She takes the sheet from Tiggy as the elf appears with a pop. “You need to stop calling me that.”

“What did you say?” Bellatrix snarls. “I can call you whatever I want, filth. You’re lucky I’ve decided not to kill you, for now. You’d best hold your tongue, because once I have all the information I need—”

“I know. I mean for the elves. Elves call each other by their first names. Language is very important, the same way as Tiggy calls you Mistress. Names are a part of the rules.”

She ties the sheet around her clumsily. She might have to ask some elves how to do this a bit better.

And then she looks up at Bellatrix. Who is glaring at her, fuming, Hermione’s wand letting off sparks in her clenched fist.

Hermione just shrugs. “We have to. As you say, if we just follow the rules, it will go faster. No clothes. First names. Complete obedience…oh. And no wands.”

“And punishment for disobeying,” Tiggy adds sombrely. “Tiggy knows this is being hard, Mistress Bellatrix, but you is having to be punished for mistakes. You is sure you is wanting to go? Both of yous?”

Bellatrix puts Hermione’s wand on the mantelpiece and then holds her hand out for the elf to take with a sigh. “Oh I’m used to punishments, Tiggy. You know that,” she murmurs darkly.

The elf’s ears droop and they nod to themself, turning to Hermione. “And you, Miss Hermione?” They offer out their other hand.

Hermione exhales slowly, and takes it, raising her eyes to meet Bellatrix’s. “If punishment is what it takes to learn…then yes. Yes, I’ll go. I won’t let a bit of pain stop me.”

Neither one breaks eye contact, and with a crackling pop, she’s surrounded by darkness.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Complete and utter darkness. And a dripping noise.

“Umm, Tiggy? Bellatrix?”

“Tiggy,” a voice squeaks from somewhere ahead of her, although it’s hard to tell as it echoes. “You is bringing the witches for their duties training? They is being ready?”

“They is agreeing, Hodgy. This is being unusual, but it be involving Time Magic. Tiggy is already discussing this with the masters. It is for protecting wizardkind, so it is being allowed,” Tiggy’s voice rumbles from around her right knee.

Oh. She hadn’t really thought of how Tiggy agreed this. Is this some kind of secret society? Is that why it’s so dark?

“They is knowing the rules?” the voice she assumes to be Hodgy squeaks.

A chuckle. “They is knowing, but they is not always remembering or wanting to listen. Obedience duties is being most difficult I’s thinking.”

Multiple gasps echo across the…room? Cave?

“If they is not obeying, then they bring shame to the house-elves. I is thinking they are not ready!”

No!

“No! I…we’re ready to learn. I promise. We…we will obey or we will be punished.”

Hermione’s voice echoes in the silence.

“Be quiet mud- Hermione, house-elves don’t speak out of turn,” Bellatrix whispers harshly from her right.

Oh dear. She’s right. Does she…is she supposed to punish herself now?

She decides to just stay silent.

“Hmm…they is both trying, Hodgy thinks. And they is new elflings, they is still learning. Come. Master Spitsy is agreeing to teach them in the light chamber, he even is moving the vines.”

Hermione feels Tiggy take her hand once more.

“They is not being with the other elflings?”

Giggling laughter echoes around them. “Oh no! They is scaring the elflings…and besides, their eyes are being too small, their ears too small. How will they be seeing? Listening, in the bigger chambers? You must be seeing, Tiggy, they is like old blind elves.”

How rude! So what if they’re not adapted to living in caves?

A chuckle from Tiggy. “Oh yes, that is why it is being funny to leave them with the elflings…but I knows you is not sharing Tiggy’s sense of humour. I’s be taking them to the light chamber, thank you, Hodgy.”

And then Hermione has to shade her eyes from piercing sunlight, blinking away stars.

“Tiggy be leaving yous with Spitsy now. Good luck, Mistress Bellatrix, Miss Hermione.”

And there’s another soft pop of disapparition.

Hermione slowly lowers her hand and squints her eyes. So it is an underground cave system…but this area seems to have eroded at the top, sunlight streaming in at the high centre leaving a lit area the size of the Great Hall and shade for a dozen meters or so around that. It’s warm at least, which is good, seeing as all they’re wearing is bedsheets.

Where in the world are they? And…are those grapevines?

Bellatrix is already walking forwards to look at the plants. “Bellatrix! Where are you going? What if it’s a test?”

Bellatrix ignores her. Hermione jogs after her with a sigh.

They are grapevines. So…oh! Elvish wine! It’s a vineyard.

“I sees you is finding the grapes.”

They both whirl around at the voice and see—

A small, middle-aged looking house-elf wearing a potato sack. His face is angular and thin, but he appears friendly in a way that some people do, just by their eyes, or a tilt to their head.

“Is it for elvish wine?” Hermione can’t help but ask.

The elf strokes his chin. “Before I is telling you, we is introducing ourselves. I is being Spitsy, but yous be calling me Master Spitsy. I is being your surrogate master before you is finding a real Wizarding family. Always be using Master as a sign of respect. Now, your names, please.”

Right. Master. She glances at Bellatrix, hoping she won’t blow this. “My name is Hermione, Master Spitsy. Nice to meet you.”

The elf nods, and then they both turn to Bellatrix.

She sighs. “Bellatrix…Master Spitsy.”

The elf nods. “Good. Now, I is teaching you differently to the other elflings. You has less time, you is having more experience of wizards…but less of elves. Today, Spitsy be giving you tasks. Yous is obeying.”

Hermione swallows. Okay? That seems…fair?

The elf claps. “Bellatrix!”

Bellatrix frowns and slowly walks towards him. “Yes…Master Spitsy?”

And suddenly the kindness is gone. The elf glares up at her. “You stupid elf! Come quickly when your master is calling. I haven’t got all day!”

Hermione gasps in horror. Oh no…

Bellatrix grits her teeth, clenching her fists, and faint cracks appear in the stone beneath her feet.

Oh she might get them expelled on their first day at this rate. This is awful! How—

And then the witch’s face goes blank, timid. She lowers her gaze to the floor and ducks her head, hands coming behind her back.

“I’m sorry, Master Spitsy. I was slow and stupid. How should I be punished?”

Oh. This…so she does have some self-control.

It doesn’t seem right. Where’s the pride? The energy?

Spitsy sighs dismissively. “There’s no time for that right now, just be quicker next time. I need you to weed the plants.”

To Hermione’s amazement, Bellatrix bobs into a slight curtsey. “Yes, Master Spitsy,” she says clearly, eyes still trained to the floor, and then walks quickly but calmly towards the grapevines and kneels down, beginning to pull up the weeds by hand.

Hermione just watches in confusion.

“Hermione!”

Hermione hastily steps forwards, not wanting to make the same mistake as Bellatrix. “Yes, Master Spitsy?”

“There you are. Are you clean? I need you to stomp the grapes.”

Umm…is she clean? She hadn’t had a shower this morning, and she isn’t wearing any shoes so…

“Um, no Master Spitsy, my feet aren’t clean. But I can wash them before I stomp the grapes?”

Spitsy glares up at her. Oh dear. “You disgusting, filthy little creature! How dare you not stay clean at all times. You bring shame to our noble house!”

Has he been taking lessons from Bellatrix or something? This feels oddly familiar. At least Hermione’s used to calming her temper and not snapping back by now.

She follows Bellatrix’s example, seeing as it worked out okay for her. She looks down at the floor. “I’m so sorry, Master Spitsy. I should have stayed clean. How should I be punished?”

“Punished? You cannot do your duties! You are a disgrace! Maybe I should give you clothes!”

Hermione’s eyes jolt up. “No! Please! Don’t give me clothes, I’ll…I’ll clean my feet straight away and start my duties, please! And I’ll…I won’t eat tonight. As punishment.” Please not clothes! She only just got here.

Oh. She now feels rather embarrassed at how she tried to trick the Hogwarts elves into picking up clothes. She’s staring to see where they were coming from…

Spitsy seems to consider this, and then nods. “Alright then. No dinner. Clean yourself. Now.”

Now? But she doesn’t have a wand. And they haven’t taught her elf magic yet.

She looks over at Bellatrix, who has turned slightly from the plants to glare at her.

So helpful.

“Well, elf? I’m waiting.”

Okay Hermione, you can do it. Wandless scourgify.

She stares down at her feet, feeling out for her magic.

Oh no. She forgot, her magic isn’t back. Who knows if she’d be able to do this with a wand, let alone–

Just try. “Scourgify,” she mutters.

Nothing.

She swallows, looking at her feet and picturing them becoming clean. “Scourgify!”

Still nothing. Oh no! She’s failing a test! She hates failing tests, especially on her first day, and she’s the worst in the class now.

“Scour— …gify.”

What? Her feet just…cleaned themselves…mid-incantation.

She slowly looks up at Spitsy.

“Good. Go stomp the grapes, you’ve wasted enough of my time.”

Oh thank Merlin!

She gives him a hasty nod. “Yes, Master Spitsy.”

How did that happen? Her eyes go back to Bellatrix as she hurries towards a large wooden tub of grapes off to the left of the vines. Did she…?

She climbs into the tub and begins stomping. Spitsy ignores them both and goes to sit in the shade.

Bellatrix looks up at her.

You can thank me later, mudblood. A voice snarls in her head, making her jump. She almost slips out of the tub. Bellatrix smirks at her.

Oh dear.

 


 

They spend the rest of the day gardening with Spitsy and attending to his needs, bringing him water and various items.

As he’s remained in character all day, and they’re not allowed to speak out of turn, Hermione hasn’t been able to tell him that she doesn’t have magic. She’s had to rely on Bellatrix stepping in, which she always does…after leaving it to the very last second.

But…Hermione supposes she should be grateful. The witch is having to perform non-verbal, wandless magic after all. It’s quite impressive that she always manages it.

And the other witch has kept up her timid, respectful, persona. At least when the elf is looking. She’s sent a few stinging hexes Hermione’s way, or let out her rage on some unfortunate weeds. She seemed to relish stomping the grapes a little too much as well…

But now it’s dark, and Hermione is exhausted. Starving. They haven’t eaten all day, is this what house-elves expect from wizards? And she’s getting cold! Sheets are not enough in the dark.

“Hermione! Bellatrix!” Spitsy shouts from the entrance to a tunnel.

Both witches run forward to meet him, hands out in the darkness as they leave the moonlit chamber.

“Yes, Master Spitsy?”

Silence.

Where is he?

And then a warm chuckle. “Yous is both doing well. Very well. I is giving you many challenges today. Wizards are not all being this strict, only few. I is showing you how to be strong elves. Thinking elves. Learning elves.”

Hermione sighs with relief. He’s back. The kind elf is back. And he’s praising them! So she didn’t fail her first lesson!

“But now you is needing food. Water. Rest. I thinks…maybe you is okay to go with the elflings. We is already telling them you is here. That you is being elves, not witches. Can Spitsy be trusting yous to act like elves? To not be ordering? Being equals?”

Hmm, well Hermione will. As for certain others…

She nods, knowing he can see her in the darkness. “Of course, Master Spitsy. We’re here to be house-elves. So long as we’re here, that won’t change. Right Bellatrix?”

A huff from next to her. “Yes, I’m sure we’ll all be the best of friends. Now tell me this, how are we supposed to see in the dark? I don’t fancy stumbling around blind in a damp cave all night.”

Now there’s the disrespect that she’s used to. It’s a bit of a relief, actually. A cowering Bellatrix was just…bizarre.

A small hand takes hers, making Hermione jump.

“There is being fires in the kitchens. Spitsy be taking you there. And you will not be needing light to sleep. You can be asking the other elves to guide you to your sleeping chamber for rest later.”

And suddenly they’re in an enormous kitchen. Well, it’s still a cave, but apart from that it could be a replica of the kitchens at Hogwarts. Maybe it is, for training purposes.

But that’s not what captures Hermione’s attention. They’re surrounded by the tiniest elves Hermione has ever seen. They’re almost all eyes, ears too big for their heads. And all silently staring.

“Elflings!” Spitsy squeaks. “These is being the new additions we is telling yous about. Now, is yous all remembering what Hodgy says to yous?”

There is some high-pitched whispering, and then one elfling is pushed forward. It tugs at its ears and shifts its weight from one foot to the other.

“Hodgy is— she is be telling…that they is elves, not witches. But they…they is not looking like elves, Master Spitsy. They is huge!” the elfling squeaks, eyes wide and hands reaching up to demonstrate how tall they are, not very successfully.

Some other elflings nod in agreement, others still staring in shock or hiding behind taller friends. Hermione puts her hand over her mouth to hold back a laugh.

And then she kneels down. They must seem like giants, and she remembers how scary Grawp was.

She sits resting on her knees. “You’re right,” she says softly, as quietly as she can, knowing their ears must be sensitive. “We don’t look like elves, and we are very tall. That’s why we’ll be needing your help. Could you teach us how to be house-elves?”

The elflings look between each other, unsure.

Bellatrix sighs, and starts to walk towards the other side of the kitchen near the fire, the elflings parting for her in shocked awe. “If you want to. We’re not ordering you or anything. Just think of us as ugly elves with tiny eyes and leave us to it. Now which of you has found the best thing to eat around here? I’m looking at you, fatty.”

What?!

“Bellatrix! Don’t be so rude!” Hermione gets to her feet, turning to Spitsy. “I’m so sorry. I think she’s just tired, or…well she is normally like this, but we did promise. Bellatrix, we have to be—”

“You be looking in the wrong place! The best foods is over here, Bellatrix!”

“Don’t be listening to Hurly! He is wrongs! He is liking the snails!”

“I is nots!”

“Is toos! Mixy sees Hurly eating the snails off the floor! Mixy sees!”

Hermione’s mouth falls open as a startled Bellatrix is suddenly surrounded by tiny elves, pulling her towards different cupboards.

A chuckle comes from near Hermione’s leg.

“Oh I thinks they is handling her just fine. Spitsy is hearing of ‘Mistress Bella’. He is knowing. Why you thinking Spitsy is playing ‘cruel master’?”

Hermione looks down at the elf. “You know her? So this was all…revenge?”

Spitsy beckons her down to his level. She kneels once more.

“Tiggy is caring for Mistress Bella since she is born. Spitsy is hearing much. Seeing much. I is not revenging, I’s promise. I is teaching. Showing.”

Hermione frowns. “Showing her what it’s like to be a house-elf?”

Spitsy considers this, tilting his head. “Yes…and no. Tiggy is saying that Mistress Bellatrix is born to be a house-elf…but is choosing clothes.”

What? “Are you saying she’s crazy? Like Dobby?”

Spitsy’s ears prick up. “You is knowing Dobby? I is knowing him well. He is often visiting the grapes when he is an elfling, listening to Master Spitsy’s stories of wizards. He is a thinking elf. A strong elf.”

Hermione smiles. “He’s an amazing elf. A good friend. He saved my life, I’m forever grateful to him.”

Spitsy smiles. “But you is calling him crazy?”

Hermione looks down, fiddling with her sheet. “I don’t think he’s crazy. But a lot of the other elves do. That’s what I meant…about Bellatrix.”

“Ah. Spitsy is not thinking she is crazy, no. No, Spitsy is agreeing with Tiggy. Mistress Bella is borns to be a house-elf. She is taught. She is ordered. She is punished. But she still be resisting. She be choosing freedom. She is borns to be a house-elf…but she is not being one. So Spitsy is reminding her of the lessons she is already learning from when she is young. So that she is learning faster.”

Oh. Well this is like what she’d been thinking a few days ago! Bellatrix isn’t the typical pureblood witch, she’s a rebel. Just look at her manners. Would you see Narcissa Malfoy sitting on tables or talking with her mouth full? Of course not! So if Bellatrix has had the same etiquette lessons…

Oh dear.

Hermione swallows. “Spitsy…when you say punishment…you weren’t being literal about the cruel master, were you?”

Spitsy looks away across the room, and Hermione follows his gaze, watching as Bellatrix finally manages to stumble her way past the clingy elflings and reach a table with some food, glaring at the more confident ones until they let go.

“Spitsy is being very literal, Hermione. She is obeying…or she is punished. And she is not often being obeying. Tiggy is often asking for healing plants…from when Mistress Bella is an elfling. She is a strong elf. A thinking elf. Maybe she is even a good elf…if she is finding a new master.”

Oh.

“She found a new master,” Hermione whispers. “The worst master of them all.”

Spitsy tugs at his ears sadly. And then his face morphs into a grin as he squints at Hermione.

“And you is the witch with the clothes! I’s be recognising you too, Miss Hermione.”

Oh no! Hermione groans. “I’m so sorry about that. I was young! I didn’t understand. I’d only seen cruel masters, mistreatment. I just didn’t want any elves getting hurt. I wanted them to be able to make their own choices…and then I took their choice. It was rather misguided.”

Spitsy just smiles. “You is learning to be a witch. You is making mistakes. This is okay. And now…maybe you is a thinking elf? Maybe…you is giving Mistress Bellatrix her clothes? I thinks she is needing a push to leave her master. You is good at pushing, Miss Hermione.”

Hermione smiles at him. “You are a good elf, Master Spitsy. Not everyone sees as you do. I’m only just learning to see myself…but I might be able to give her a nudge in the right direction. If I can clear out some of the blood-purist rot.”

He laughs. “She is being a Black. That is being some deep rot. I is wishing you luck in your gardening. Now eat! You is being hungry, tired! Go, before Hurly is eating it all or Bellatrix is getting annoyed.”

He disappears. And he has a point. She is starving, and someone needs to keep Bellatrix in line.

Um. She means…in a nice way. Not in a punishment way. Gosh, it’s all very dark. She almost feels sorry for—

“Get your arse over here mud– Hermione and help me fight these things off. I can’t get a moment’s peace, for the— Merlin’s balls, get your disgusting little fingers off my plate! Yes you! I’m looking right at your puny skull, aren’t I?”

“I is called Hurly.”

“I don’t bloody care what you’re called, get your snail fingers away.”

Hermione gets to her feet. Oh dear. She’d better get over there.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione creeps over cautiously, trying not to step on any elves on the way. Oh will they just, standing and staring is not–

“Excuse me, please! I am trying to get to the table. Can I just, is there a space or– oh this is ridiculous!”

She reaches the table, and gently pushes the elves next to Bellatrix so that they slide along down the bench and Hermione can slip in next to the witch. If there’s two of them, maybe they can actually manage to eat something between fighting the elflings off.

She’s only managed a few mouthfuls when an elf moves onto her lap, tugging at her hair curiously.

“You’re called Mixty, aren’t you?” Hermione grits out.

The elf nods happily.

“Well, Mixty, I am trying to eat. Get off me.”

Mixty ignores her, and Bellatrix snorts. “Not that easy, pet. Do you think I haven’t tried that?”

Hermione huffs, picking up the elf and putting them on the floor, turning sideways to shield her plate and scooching closer to Bellatrix to block her other side.

Bellatrix elbows an elf off the table and then copies her, leaning over her plate with a growl. “Can’t I just scare them? It would be bloody simpler. Throw some plates, yell, stamp about a bit? Threaten to chop off some toes?”

Hermione looks up from her plate with a grimace. Her face is very close to Bellatrix’s now as they both hunch over. They make eye contact, and she tries not to think about–

“What are you trying not to think about?”

Hermione breaks eye contact. Oh dear. That was close. She was trying not to think about Bellatrix’s childhood. That definitely won’t go down well, but she can’t stop–

“Well? You’re terrible at lying mu– Hermione. What are you hiding?”

Think, Hermione. Anything.

“It was nothing, just something embarrassing. You wouldn’t want to know. I’m going to start practicing occlumency, that way you won’t have to see all of my embarrassing–”

“What. Were. You. Thinking.”

Bellatrix grabs her chin, forcing her head round. Oh no. Think of something embarrassing, quick. Something to do with Bellatrix but not–

Bellatrix’s eyes meet hers, and Hermione panics. She just stares at her eyes, trying not to think about anything.

She thinks about the colour of Bellatrix’s eyes, about how dark they are. She tries to pinpoint where her pupils meet the irises in the dim firelight. Watches the shadows flicker across her face, the flames lighting up her cheekbones, making her eyes glisten. Thinks about how her skin looks porcelain, how red her lips look.

Thinks about how she’s kissed those lips. Three times now. How strange that is. How she doesn’t like witches, but this witch is so intriguing. So unexpected. Hermione loves a puzzle. She can’t help wanting to—

Bellatrix spins around to face away from the table and stands, startling Hermione out of her staring.

“You’re right. I didn’t want to see that. Keep your pervy thoughts to yourself.”

Pervy— oh dear. “That wasn’t— I don’t—”

“Legilimens, remember?” Bellatrix says, stretching and kicking a few elves out of the way. “No hiding from me, pet. Now one of you lot show me where I’m sleeping, it better not be on the floor.”

An elf runs and jumps to take Bellatrix’s hand, and they disappear with a pop.

What?

Hermione jumps to her feet. “You’ve already learnt to apparate? I need to go with her! She’s my…friend. Can one of you take me too?”

An elf hugs her ankle. “Hobsy be knowing how! I is a fast learning elf. I is taking you to your Bellatrix. Stay small.”

Stay small? Hermione crouches down, and Hobsy nods.

And then she’s in pitch-black darkness once more.

“—that the ceiling is so low? Bloody buggering— where are you?”

A hand grabs Hermione’s shoulder. “Ah! Bellatrix, it’s me! I think the elves have left. Are…are you alright?”

The hand lets go and then there’s some more muffled cursing in the darkness and a scraping sound. “So they’ve left us in an underground cave that we can’t see or stand up in?” Bellatrix grumbles. “Fantastic. Bloody brilliant. Where is—”

Hermione crawls forwards and bumps into Bellatrix again. “Sorry! How small is this cave? And is this it? Do we have beds…maybe we should call one of them.”

“We can’t call them! We’re elves now, remember? Not witches. We can’t start acting like mistresses—oh.”

Hermione trails her hand along the wall, trying to get an idea of how small the room is.

Why is it so quiet?

“Bellatrix? What is it?”

More silence. She carries along around the wall. This place is so small. About the size of kingsize bed if Hermione were to—oh.

“Bellatrix? Is this cave our bed? For both of us?”

More silence. It’s getting creepy.

And then some loud breathing. Gasps. Oh dear.

She crawls over to where the sound is coming from, and eventually bumps into a warm body.

“Bellatrix, it’s okay. You’re safe just— just lie down. Then it will feel like there’s more space.”

She reaches out for the witch, who is still panting loudly and flinches away from her at her touch.

Okay. Definitely claustrophobic. Maybe because of Azkaban.

“It’s alright, I won’t touch you again. Focus on your breathing. I’ll do it too, okay? In…out…In…out…”

It doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe she should call an elf. Or find a door.

Hermione carries on breathing slowly and trails her hand around the room until she reaches Bellatrix once more…who is hugging a large, thick quilt, from what it feels like. Bedding. So they are meant to stay in here.

Think, Hermione. Calm her down.

Hermione lies down on the stone floor.

“Lie down, Bellatrix. Come on, close your eyes and imagine you’re somewhere else. You’re good at that, aren’t you?”

She must be. She survived Azkaban.

“Imagine…imagine you’re in your library. You’re lying on a sofa. We never left. We stayed there.”

She hears a shuffling sound next to her in the dark, and then an arm brushes against hers on the ground. Hermione exhales in relief.

“You’re…on the sofa, by the fire. Some books are flying overhead, going back to their shelves. You just did a lot of reading so you’re tired. You’ve closed your eyes. Nobody else is in the house except me and Tiggy. I’ve stayed with you…you can’t get me to leave. To shut up. Your silencio isn’t working still, but you’re too tired to move. You decide to just get some sleep.”

“It’s cold,” Bellatrix rasps from next to her, making her jump.

“Yes, I did something stupid, let the fire go out. But Tiggy left you a blanket, to keep you warm and safe. You have it with you on the sofa.”

Hermione feels the quilt fall over her. It must be so big that it covers the whole room, there’s no way Bellatrix would willingly share with her. Is there?

Should she keep talking? Is Bellatrix okay? Maybe she should still call someone. It might be best to—

“Don’t. I’m fine. I can hear your brain whirring mud- Herm- mudblood.”

“I know. But I don’t like the silence, so…”

Bellatrix sighs. “Keep talking, Know It All.”

Hermione chuckles. “I don’t think you get to call me that either, especially now that I’ve seen your library. It’s incredible. Even better than Hogwarts. I think you must be a bigger bookworm than me!”

That was a bit bold, but it’s easier in the dark. Pretending everything is normal. That she doesn’t have to be scared for her life all the time.

“Oh no pet, you’re the bookworm. You would have spent your whole time at Hogwarts reading if Potter hadn’t gone and befriended you. The weasel boy was right, you were so annoying. You’re lucky Potter felt sorry for you.”

She rolls her eyes at the dig and deflects back. “Was annoying? You mean you don’t think I’m annoying anymore? How nice of you to say.”

Ow! “Was that a stinging jinx? To my face?”

“Only mild. I can do worse, you know.”

Hermione’s chest tightens.

Oh she knows, very well.

She pulls her arm to herself. What is she doing? How did—

This witch tortured her. Cut into her skin. She still has the scar, she can feel it, the ridge of each letter.

Why is that so easy to…not forget. Or forgive.

Ever since that day with the legilimency…it’s like they have this strange bond.

It might be the life debt too, if that exists.

“Bellatrix…”

She drifts off. What’s she going to say? Can you feel the bond between us? Do you still want to kill me? Do you still hate me for my blood?

“What?”

Hermione sighs. “Oh nothing. I was just thinking about the prophecy. I actually– It’s ridiculous but I almost …hope you survive…somehow.”

Some shuffling next to her, and the arm moves away.

“Oh, I’ll survive, mudblood. I’m not going through all this just to be killed by a Weasley.”

For some reason, rather than worrying her, that makes Hermione smile.

 


 

The little tasks with Spitsy continue into the next week, either in the light chamber or the kitchens, reciting house-elf law and treating him as their master as they clean, cook and garden.

It only takes two days before Bellatrix begins resorting to stinging jinxes to keep the elflings away while they’re eating, to Hermione’s disapproval but reluctant acceptance. And it turns out there is a door to the bedchamber. A trapdoor in the centre of the ceiling. Obviously.

They had immediately asked for separate rooms, and were told that all the bedchambers are full, but they are free to sleep with the elflings if they wish.

So no. Absolutely not moving rooms.

The days and nights begin to blur past, full of strict rules from all sides, and before they know it, it’s been a whole week. Hermione is exhausted. She doesn’t have to read anyone here. The rules are perfectly clear.

She never thought she’d grow to dislike rules.

“Hermione! Bellatrix! Come!”

They both run over to Spitsy, in the centre of the light chamber. Hermione grips her bedsheet tightly. She must have tied it wrong today, it keeps falling down.

“Yes, Master Spitsy?” Bellatrix gasps.

Gasps? Why is she so tired?

Spitsy stares at her, eyebrow raised in question. Bellatrix doesn’t say anything.

His face softens. “Alright. You nearly be finishing this portion of training. If you is doing this well, you is moving on to ‘Hearing the Call’. This is meaning apparition. Elf apparition, no wands.”

Hermione turns to grin at Bellatrix. They did it! They’re finally learning magic soon! Bellatrix meets her eye and then moves her attention back to Spitsy, determination spreading across her features.

With a pop, a wardrobe appears.

“Now, it is good you is not elves, because this is being very frightening for the elflings. This…contains clothes.”

He says it so menacingly, with such drama, that Hermione can’t help but laugh.

“Ah! This is being funny to you, Hermione, but Spitsy is thinking you will have the most trouble with this task. You is needing to listen to Bellatrix.”

Bellatrix?

The witch turns to smirk at her.

He opens the wardrobe and jumps to pull one of the hangers free. Oh. Wizarding clothing. Pureblood clothing.

Bloody corsets!

“I sees you is understanding, Hermione. And this why Bellatrix is being first. Showing you. These are being very formal witch’s clothing, only for the most important occasions. You is already knowing other clothes. This is being your challenge. Bellatrix is dressing you, and then you is dressing her. So you is needing to watch. To listen.”

Now both witches snap their heads to make eye contact. They have to dress each other? But Hermione doesn’t have any magic and…either way, it’s rather…intimate.

Hermione swallows, looking away. “Yes, Master Spitsy.”

Bellatrix walks over to the wardrobe and starts looking through the pieces of clothing, frowning.

“Bloody old. Even I don’t— but I can remember. Alright, Master Spitsy. Do you want this done with magic, or…?”

“I is not needing magic. You has had a long day. I is thinking you have done enough wandless magic. This is being draining for witches. I sees it.”

Oh. So that’s why Bellatrix is so tired.

“Alright then. I’m ready. Come her m–Hermione.”

Spitsy claps, startling them. “She is not being Hermione, she is being Mistress Hermione. You is teaching, yes. But she is also being your Mistress. I is not being the master right now.”

Oh dear. Hermione smiles weakly at Bellatrix and walks closer.

“Fine,” Bellatrix grits out. “And could I have a chair too. Or a stool.”

Spitsy smiles and clicks his fingers. A wooden stool appears. Hermione moves to sit on it.

Bellatrix grabs her arm. “Did I say sit, you little—?” She sighs, and her face softens, her grip softens.

“Stand here, Mistress Hermione, we will use the stool later.”

Okay. Yes. Just listen and learn. This is a tutorial.

Bellatrix stands in front of her. “I’m going to remove your…sheet, Mistress.”

Complete nudity. Oh dear. Hermione gives a jerky nod and grits her teeth, avoiding eye contact.

The sheet falls free, and Bellatrix keeps up a steady stream of instructions.

“There are no undergarments, traditionally. Most Purebloods nowadays would be a bit more modern, but in keeping with the period…”

She takes something from the wardrobe.

“This is a chemise. It’s like…a long shirt. Lift up your arms, Mistress, so I can guide you through the sleeves.”

Hermione does as she’s told and tries to just memorise everything Bellatrix is saying without thinking about how naked she is or how much Bellatrix will be touching her.

Bellatrix has stopped. She’s looking at Hermione’s arm. Oh.

Mudblood

Hermione automatically rubs at the mark and then sighs, rolling her shoulders back and then lifting her arms. “Come on, elf, I don’t have all day.”

This seems to break Bellatrix from her thoughts, and she pulls Hermione’s hands through the sleeves and lifts the shirt over her head, tugging it down.

“Sorry, Mistress Hermione. I’ll be faster.”

She picks something up off the stool.

“This is a hip pad. It’s attached to a long string and tied around your waist, like this, with the pad at the back to support the petticoats.”

She stands close, tying the thread securely at the front with sure fingers. Hermione looks down to check the placement, unable to help brushing her head against the other witch’s as she leans closer to look.

Bellatrix clears her throat. “You can wear a different number of petticoats, depending on how cold it is. I think I’ll do two today as it’s not too cold, Mistress.”

This is actually very interesting. If only Hogwarts had pureblood classes as well as muggle studies. Maybe she’ll suggest it to Headmistress McGonagall when—

“Arms up!..Mistress.”

Hermione cringes guiltily at Bellatrix, meeting her burning eyes.

Sorry.

Pay attention.

The first petticoat goes over head, Bellatrix adjusting it around her waist and then tying it at the back. And then the second. It’s heavy.

“See how the pleats are at the side, but it’s flat at the front? Make sure you get it the right way round.”

And she’s a good teacher. Full of surprises.

Bellatrix comes back from the wardrobe with…

Hermione sighs. “Is that a bloody corset?”

Bellatrix smirks. “A bodice, Mistress. But you will need to breathe in. I won’t make it too tight…I promise.”

She’d better not.

It’s brittle, and goes on like a backwards waistcoat. Bellatrix puts it in on her and then pauses, fingers stroking over Hermione’s shoulders absentmindedly before taking it off again.

“You’ll need to see. This one ties at the back, but I’ll show you how to thread it. It’s one single chord, starting at the bottom right and then threading back and forth through the eyelets.”

She holds it out so Hermione can see, and they both bend over it. “You have to pull it tight as you go, it’s much easier with magic but—oh Morgana’s tits, I almost forgot. I mean. Sorry Mistress.”

Hermione smiles. “That’s alright, Bellatrix. Bad language doesn’t offend me.”

Bellatrix pulls her by the hand towards the stool distractedly. “Okay, good. Thank you, Mistress. Now where is— oh there.”

She kneels down on the floor as Hermione sits. “Stockings and shoes. You have to do these before the bodice otherwise…well, you don’t have to, but sitting down in a bodice is really uncomfortable. I’d avoid it as much as possible, Mistress.”

She lifts Hermione’s foot and pulls the cotton stocking up to her knee. It’s rather awkward. She can’t help remembering that she’s not wearing any underwear as Bellatrix’s hands stroke up her leg. Hermione looks at Spitsy instead.

“No, look at me!”

Hermione hurriedly looks down as Bellatrix glares at her.

Don’t screw this up. We’d better pass this and get to the magic soon. I’m not really your house-elf.

Sorry

 Bellatrix nods. “This is a garter, it goes around below the knee and is buckles at the front. It stops your stockings falling down.”

“Then you put on shoes.” She lifts Hermione’s foot. Hermione has the bizarre thought of feeling like a cross between Cinderella and a small child.

Bellatrix quickly does the same with the other leg and Hermione stands.

“Okay, back to the bodice. Pull your stomach in, but not too much. Just…tense. Like someone’s about to punch you in the stomach.”

Hermione frowns, but does as she’s told. “Umm, no one’s punched me in the stomach before.”

Bellatrix shrugs. “Lucky you…Mistress.” She begins lacing the bodice. It is tight…but overall, not too bad.

Bellatrix comes to stand in front of her, studying her critically. Hermione tries not to fidget as her gaze travels over every inch of her.

“Good. Let me just tuck the chemise under and then you’ll be done.”

She moves closer and reaches under the top of the bodice, pushing the chemise down so it’s not sticking out.Now Hermione can’t help but shiver as cold fingers brush over her chest.

“You have to hide the top of the shirt, displaying the bodice is the most important thing. There.”

Her fingertips move off of Hermione’s skin, and she stands back.

To Hermione’s relief. She’s oddly flustered by the witch, not wanting to look at her anymore.

She looks at Spitsy instead. Who nods at them.

“Well done. You is passing. You is a good teacher, and a good elf. You is ready for magic. Now is your turn, Hermione, so you is undressing. Bellatrix, you is helping, and then you will be the Mistress.”

Bellatrix meets Hermione’s eyes and grins.

As it should be. Don’t fuck this up, pet.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

And Hermione doesn’t fuck it up. All of the steps are seared into her brain through a combination of curiosity and intense embarrassment. She remembers to call Bellatrix Mistress, and just gets on with it, avoiding eye contact and gritting her teeth.

The end result isn’t perfect, the bodice not laced very neatly and the petticoats a bit loose, but in the end Spitsy gives an approving nod, and says she’s passed.

“Tomorrow, you is both starting magic lessons! And tonight, Spitsy is rewarding yous. You is finishing early. Come. I is taking yous to a surprise. You be liking it, I thinks.”

A surprise? Hermione shares a dubious but optimistic look with Bellatrix, and they both reach for Spitsy’s hands.

And appear in a large cave, glowing with crystals and, more importantly, a pool of water. A steaming pool of water.

Hot springs? A bath? Oh thank Merlin.

Then her eyes slide to Bellatrix. Oh. More strange intimacy. And it’s slightly too reminiscent of the amortentia situation.

“Yous is both free to bathe. The elflings is being here later after studies…but I is thinking yous be more comfortable without them,” Spitsy chuckles.

Hermione steps forwards cautiously, looking into the water. It does look nice…

And then there’s a splash as Bellatrix dives in, sheet left behind.

Hermione jumps back next to Spitsy so she doesn’t get soaked.

“You is not joining her, Hermione?” Spitsy asks.

Somewhat mischievously. What is he up to?

She crouches down next to him. “Master Spitsy…are you…is there some special reason why you’ve decided Bellatrix and I should be as naked as possible today?”

He shrugs casually. “Being naked is being natural…being vulnerable…being revealing. This is also being true for magic.”

Hermione huffs. “It is also being true for other things. Are you setting us up? Because if so you are being crazy!”

He grins slyly at her. “You is the one thinking it, Miss Hermione. Spitsy is not saying anything…but he is watching. House-elves be good at seeing.”

Hermione groans. “Seeing what?”

Spitsy smiles cheerfully, and then disappears.

Hermione tuts and turns back to the water. She is feeling rather disgusting. She hasn’t had a bath in…dear Merlin, she can’t remember.

She looks around for Bellatrix, not spotting her, and then just pulls her sheet off and climbs into the pool, sitting on the edge and sliding in. Oh it’s so warm!

She sinks her shoulders under with a sigh. Oh it feels amazing.

She groans as she lets all of her muscles relax, closing her eyes and resting her head on the stone edge.

And then a hand grabs her ankle and jerks her under the water.

Blark! Kfdge!

She tugs her foot and splashes her hands through the water as she’s held under.

She’s sinking deeper and deeper. Her chest starts to hurt and she grits her teeth, kicking with all her might and, hitting nothing, reaches down to pry the fingers from their tight grip around her leg.

So now the witch decides to kill her?

She forces her eyes open. Everything is blurry but—

She’s managed a wandless bubble-head charm?!

She tries to struggle close enough to share the bubble around Bellatrix’s head.

Her lungs are screaming. She’s going to breathe in if she’s not careful. Her vision is going dark.

Bellatrix pulls back out of her reach, still holding her firmly.

She’s going to drown.

She can feel her own pulse, hear it in her ears.

And then she feels water speed across her face.

“For Salazar’s sake, mudblood, breathe in.”

What?

Hermione blinks her eyes open. It’s not blurry anymore. She can feel Bellatrix’s breath on her cheek.

“Hermione! Breathe! Now!”

She lets out a huffed breath and then sucks the air in. Air. She’s in the bubble.

“You stupid— are you a witch or not? Have you forgotten? You are not a muggle.”

Hermione has no idea what’s she’s talking about. She just steadies herself on Bellatrix’s shoulders to stop herself floating off and carries on gasping for air.

Her lips accidentally touch Bellatrix’s cheek and the witch flinches, adjusting her head. “We start magic lessons tomorrow. I’ve covered for you this far, mudblood, but from now on you’re on your own. So find your magic. Fast.”

Oh, so—

“That’s what this is all about?” Hermione gasps. “You’re trying to scare the magic out of me? That’s just a pureblood superstition! Neville got dropped out of a window by his uncle when he was a kid, and it didn’t help him!”

“Well I got dropped off a cliff, and I found my magic pretty damn fast, let me tell you!”

Silence. Deadly silence, just the sound of their breaths.

Oh.

Oh that’s—

“Don’t feel sorry for me, mudblood. It made me strong, unlike you. Pathetic. Can’t fight me even when you’re dying? No relashio? Can’t propel yourself upwards? Disapparate? Conjure a bubble, nothing? Even a stupefy or a stinging jinx might have made me let go!”

How old was she when—

Was anyone going to save her, or was she just left to fall?

Was it the same cliff Hermione was held over? That was terrifying.

“Are you listening to me?”

She wraps her arms around Bellatrix’s neck and hugs her, pressing her cheek to Bellatrix’s so she can still breathe in the bubble.

“Herm— mudblood! What are you doing?! Get off!”

Hermione pulls back to look into her shocked, angry eyes. “I’m sorry, you’re right! You are strong. A lot stronger than me. You must be very in touch with your magic to— can you show me? You’re a good teacher. I’m so scared that I’ve lost my magic. And you’re right, I really need it for tomorrow. Can we swim back up? Can you teach me?”

A huff. “Fine. But you will do exactly as I say and that includes not talking all the time. You have to concentrate.”

She nods, accidentally floating into Bellatrix again, bumping noses. How the witch is stood so comfortably on the cave floor, she can’t understand. A wandless bubblehead charm and possibly a cumbrous charm to weight her down? After a whole day of wordless, wandless magic? Isn’t the witch exhausted?

She’s not even swaying in the water. She could be on land for how steady she is, if it wasn’t for her hair floating around them. The strength, the willpower, it’s astonishing when she really thinks about it.

“Good. Now take a deep breath. We can’t swim like this.”

What? What had they been talking about again? Oh! She quickly breathes in, and then Bellatrix is swimming for the surface. Hermione propels herself up too, moving her arms hard and fast through the water. It’s not as deep as she’d thought, not too far.

Her head breaks the surface, and she’s dragged onto a stone floor. Now this feels exactly like the Love Room.

“Okay, let’s start now, before we’re surrounded by aggravating little elf nitwits or stuck in the dark again.”

Hermione sits up, crossing her arms to cover herself and looking around for her sheet. She leans to grab it.

“No.”

Bellatrix moves it out of reach, ties her own sheet around herself, and sits back down in front of Hermione.

Why not? She gets to her feet.

Bellatrix growls. “I said, no. Sit. Or do you not want to learn?”

Hermione sits down and folds her arms again with a huff. “What’s being naked got to do with learning? I thought I’m supposed to concentrate.”

“Exactly. You’re a prude. You hate being naked. You’re embarrassed. So accio the sheet.”

“I’m not a—”

“Is that accioing, or is that talking?”

Hermione looks down at the ground, grumbling.

Fine. She looks over at the sheet, imagining it sailing towards her. “Accio sheet!”

Nothing.

She glares at Bellatrix. Some teacher. Maybe she’s just trying to humiliate her.

“I’ve done it before! I don’t know why it isn’t working! Maybe my magic isn’t back yet.” She imagines the sheet floating towards her. This should work, she’s done it before under more pressure than this.

Bellatrix leans closer and searches her eyes, curiously.

“Ah. I see. You’re focusing on the wrong thing.”

Hermione tries not to fidget. The staring is…odd. Uncomfortable.

“Don’t focus on what the sheet is doing. You’re a witch, you know it will come to you. That’s a given. You’re not telling the sheet what to do, you’re telling your magic what you want.”

Oh. She’d never thought of that. Really? No wonder it works for Bellatrix, she always assumes she can do something, and she knows exactly what she wants.

“So I just have to…want it? But I do. I’ve wanted the sheet since I sat down.”

Bellatrix sniggers. “You can’t just want it. Imagine the chaos if every witch and wizard could do anything just because they wanted to. The people that would drop down dead, find their mouths sown shut, or their dicks cut off.”

Hermione grimaces. Did she have to use those examples?

“So how do I tell my magic what to do?”

Bellatrix shrugs. “Well the words help, that’s why non-verbal spells are so difficult. No, the wand just directs your magic, like…when you make a certain movement, it’s a code, telling your magic that you want a thought to actually take place. So without a wand, you need a different code. A connection. Your brain needs to make the association. It needs a trigger. A memory. An emotion.”

“Like the patronus charm!”

Bellatrix just stares blankly at her.

Oh. Right. Death Eater.

Her gaze falls to Bellatrix’s arm and then she shakes her head. “Or like crucio. You told Harry that he had to mean it…but you meant he should…imagine it?”

Bellatrix huffs. “He didn’t need to imagine it. I could see how angry he was. How much he wanted to hurt me. He had the want, he just needed the connection. Had to feel the pain he would be inflicting on me. For a moment something was whipping me…a belt maybe. And my throat was being crushed. Potter’s memories of intense pain. Of humiliation. That’s what he wanted for me.”

Hermione gasps “His uncle…”

Oh Harry. She clears her throat, not wanting to reveal all of Harry’s secrets. “Okay, so, memory. I’ll try that.”

She looks over at the sheet and remembers how it felt to wear it. The texture. The warmth. The protection. Thinks about how much she wants to hide herself in it. “Accio sheet.”

Nothing.

She groans and looks back at Bellatrix.

“It’s useless. Maybe my magic is just gone! Maybe I destroyed it with those stupid protection spells!”

“You haven’t, it’s there.”

“How do you know? I haven’t used magic in days. You’re right. I’m a muggle. A squib. I can’t—”

“I can feel it.”

Hermione looks down at Bellatrix. When did Hermione stand up? She’d been lost in panic. She must have started pacing, she always does that.

She can feel it?

“What?”

She slowly sits back down in front of Bellatrix on the stone ground, frowning. “You can feel my magic? How? Even I can’t feel it.”

Bellatrix leans back on her hands and looks at the ceiling. “I can’t feel your magic, but I…” She sighs. “I felt the bloody life debt. When you were drowning. It was nagging at me to save you.”

Oh. So there is a life debt!

Hermione grins. “So my magic must be there! It’s a magical contract!”

And then she leans her elbows on her knees and puts her head in her hands. “So that’s not the reason that I can’t do it. Why? I’ve done it before. When we were in the Department of Mysteries, I stopped myself from drowning. I cast a relashio on the ropes when I was drowning in amortentia.”

She looks up guiltily, still rather embarrassed about that whole room.

Bellatrix tilts her head sideways, frowning. “Do you trust me?”

What? She doesn’t…

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

Bellatrix cackles. “Well that’s why! The first time, you were on your own. Now…you’ve convinced yourself I’m going to save you. Do magic for you. You’re relying on me.”

Oh no! That can’t be it!

Bellatrix stands up, still laughing.

“Oh, oh you are completely nuts, mudblood! You trust me? Me?! You can’t even summon a sheet because you don’t feel vulnerable enough! You feel safe around me! What is wrong with you? I’m obviously being too nice!”

No! That’s not it! That’s absolutely ridiculous!

Hermione scrambles to her feet.

“I don’t! Accio sheet! Accio, you bloody thing, accio!”

Bellatrix just keeps cackling at her. It’s maddening.

“Shut up! Just shut up, you’re wrong! I hate you! I despise you, you disgust me. You are a horrible, horrible witch who killed my friends and cut into my skin. Cut disgusting words into me that will never leave. You horrify me.”

Bellatrix grins, tongue between her teeth. “Aha! There she is! The sneaky little mudblood who stabbed me. Didn’t even use a wand, just found something sharp and attacked me like the filthy muggle you are. I should have kept you in your place, in the dirt. Confringo!”

The floor explodes under Hermione’s feet and she’s is blasted back, skidding across the stone floor with a cry, scraping her back raw and thudding into a wall of crystal.

Her back. Oh god it—

“Aww, is the poor mudbaby upset? Maybe she’s forgotten what she is. Levicorpus!”

Her hands try desperately to grab hold of the floor, but it’s useless, and she finds herself hanging upside down.

“No shame, mudblood? Are you not humiliated? Defeated? Crying and bleeding? What else should I do, carve some more words into you? Drop you on your head? Maybe I’ll touch you. Would you like that? I’ve seen what you think of me. All your embarrassing little thoughts.”

She hates her! How did she forget—

“Stop it! Stop it, just leave me alone!”

“You dare plead with me!” Bellatrix bellows. “Diffindo!”

Ah! She feels a sharp slice across her arm. She has to get out of this. She has to leave this is—

“Difindo!” A cut across her leg.

“Relashio!” She has to fall free, she has to. “Relashio!” She’s trapped in here. Her heart is thumping, her body is stinging, aching, screaming. She wants to be free. Free from spell. Free from the cave. Free from her.

“Diff—”

“Protego! Relashio!”

She hears a splash as Bellatrix is propelled backwards into the water and then Hermione thuds onto the ground.

She has to get out of here. She has to leave. To disapparate.

She pictures the light chamber and spins on the spot.

And disappears with a loud crack.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione thuds to the floor in a heap next to the vines, head still pounding and ears ringing. Breathing ragged.

“Hermione? How is you— oh! What is happened?!”

She just curls into a ball and cries.

It happened again. She hurt her again she—

“Spitsy,” she gasps. “Spitsy she— I don’t know— why did she—”

She feels a blanket fall over her and catches her breath. You’re okay, Hermione. She’s gone.

Breathe.

She calms herself, and cautiously sits up.

Spitsy looks at her solemnly. “Bellatrix is doing this to you? Is hurting you?”

She rubs at her eyes, and then nods.

He sighs. “Then she is not being ready. She is not being a house-elf. She be leaving. I is telling Tiggy to be getting her.”

Wait but— the plan! What will they do?

“But, Master Spitsy, there’s a prophecy. I have to stay with her, I—”

“You has to be protecting yourself, Hermione. She is not allowed to be hurting you. You is allowed to be safe. Until she is learning to respect you, to be treating you properly, you is allowed to leave. Spitsy promises. Elves is always allowed to be leaving cruelty. It be the law…even if some is ignoring this.”

Hermione lets out a sob. “I thought…I thought I had to put up with it. For the greater good. Oh dear, oh I hate that phrase. What was I thinking, trusting her? Letting her become close to me.”

Spitsy wraps another blanket around her shoulders. “I is trusting her too. We all is trusting her…and Spitsy thinks she is changing…but she is being very lost. Not thinking properly. She is not knowing how to be treating people. This be very wrong. She is needing to learn, this is not being what we do. We is not being Blacks.”

Not being…“Not Blacks?”

She gets to her feet, wrapping one blanket around herself more securely and using the other as a shawl. It’s getting dark.

Spitsy nods up at her. “Oh yes. Blacks is being used to violence. To pain. They is thinking it is normal. Being strong. Being learning. Being powerful. She is having the wrong masters for too long. She is learning the wrong lessons. This is why she be hurting people. She be learning too much, not seeing clearly.”

He takes her hand, and they appear in the kitchen, in front of the fire. They’re alone for now.

She warms her hands in front of the flames, and Spitsy pops away, and then back, about a minute later. He starts cooking something.

“Oh you don’t have to cook for me. We’re both elves now. I can do it.”

He glares at her. “We is both being elves, and you is a hurt elf. A witch is being hurting you. Spitsy be cooking, and then he be healing you. I is ordering. You be obeying.”

She smiles softly at him. “Yes, Master Spitsy. Thank you.”

She sits down in front of the fire.

“I think she was trying to teach me, you know? She told me…that when she was a child, someone dropped her off a cliff…so she would learn to use her magic. I think you’re right. She’s so used to all that horror, the violence…it’s the way she learned. So she tried to teach me like that. It’s still wrong, but I understand. And I feel sorry for her. I do. I just can’t help it. Growing up like that…no wonder Andy ran away, Sirius, no wonder Narcissa hasn’t shown a flicker of emotion in her whole life except to her son.”

Spitsy hums. “Yes, they is all lost little elflings. Spitsy be knowing lots of stories. Spitsy be seeing Miss Cissy laugh! Seeing Master Sirius hide a frog in her bed, and she is laughing. This is being the truth!”

Hermione gapes at him. “Cissy? You mean Narcissa? That can’t be true. Even now…in the future I mean…she’s like a statue. She never laughs. Never smiles. I’ve had lunch with her at Andy’s. She doesn’t despise me anymore but…laughter? At a prank? Did you…umm...serve, the Blacks?”

He shakes his head, stirring some soup and then pouring it into a bowl.

“No. I is only a teacher. A master. A gardener. I is not serving wizards. But I is delivering the wine…and I has free time…to be invisible. To watch the little Blacks. They is amusing Spitsy. They is good elves…when their parents is not being watching.”

Hermione sits down at the table, and he passes her the soup, standing on the opposite bench and leaning on the table.

“One day, I is watching Master Sirius in the pond, catching a frog. This is being difficult. He is only small. No magic. The frogs is being fast. He be taking a long time, but he is being determined…so Spitsy is helping. Is…freezing the frog. So he is catching.”

Hermione begins eating the soup, letting herself relax and listen to the tale.

“He is being very happy, running into the back of the house, through the kitchens. Spitsy is following, invisible. Tiggy is seeing…but Tiggy is also having a sense of humour. So. Master Sirius is going all the way upstairs. No one is seeing. The adults are still being downstairs, and the little witches is being asked to be polite. To stay. To listen. They is…playing the piano, Spitsy is thinking. Which little witch, I is not knowing. Well, not Miss Cissy.”

“Master Sirius is being angry with Miss Cissy…I is not knowing why. So he is hiding the frog in her bed. Later, it is dark. She is being the youngest witch, so she is sleeping early. Spitsy is staying all evening. I is helping in the kitchen…and waiting to be watching.”

He hands Hermione some bread. “Miss Cissy is being small, but she is being brave. She is telling Tiggy to leave her alone. Let her undress herself. She is a big witch, she is not needing help.” He chuckles. “Such a funny elfling she is. Tiggy is agreeing…and Miss Cissy is doing it. She be ready for bed, putting the lantern on the table, and…the frog is croaking!”

He grins. “She is finding it and she is laughing. Laughing and laughing. She is naming it Mr Ribbet.”

Hermione laughs. “Really? What did she do with it?”

Spitsy stops smiling. “Oh…Spitsy is forgetting that…maybe the story is being over.”

He clicks his fingers, and the empty bowl vanishes, and then he beckons her in front of the fire.

“I is using healing plants. Potions. You is removing the blanket, Hermione.”

Hermione walks over with a frown, lowering the blanket and sitting on the floor. “Master Spitsy, what happened? Please tell me the story.”

He starts applying the salve to her back. And then sighs.

“She is putting the frog in Miss Bella’s bed.”

Oh dear.

Hermione swallows. “And…what did Bellatrix do to the frog?”

He moves round to put the salve on her cut arm.

“Oh, Miss Bella is not finding the frog. Is being her mother, Mistress Druella.”

“And what did her mother do?” Hermione whispers.

He stops, his ears drooping. “She be asking who it belongs to. Who is bringing a filthy creature into their bed. Miss Bella knows it is not being her…Miss Cissy be looking scared. Miss Bella be protecting her. Is saying Miss Bella hid the frog.

Oh. She hadn’t expected—

She has to ask.

“What did her mother do?”

He sits down to rub the salve on her leg.

“Oh, Hermione, she is—” he clears his throat.

“She is shaking Miss Bella. She is screaming ‘How dare you! You are a Black! No daughter of mine will bring filthy animals into her bed. Your bed is for you, and your future husband. Nothing else. Animals are for killing and eating. So that is what you will do, young lady. You will kill it, and you will eat it for breakfast. Raw. Do you understand? Maybe the sickness will remind you how sick you are!’”

Oh Merlin that’s—

Oh she feels sick.

“She…she ate it?”

Spitsy nods. “Oh yes. She is a strong elf. An obeying elf. She is being very sick, for days, but she is eating it at breakfast. She is cutting it, she be smiling at her mother. She be thanking her for the lesson. She is thinking she is a brave elf. Master Sirius is not knowing, he is leaving the night before. Miss Cissy is not thinking it is funny anymore. She does not be laughing. And she does not be showing her fear. She is a thinking elf now. And Miss Andy…Miss Andy is knowing she be needing to leave.”

 


 

When the elflings arrive for dinner, they’re a welcome distraction. Their noise and insistent tugging drown out Hermione’s thoughts, and she even decides to sleep in the same bedchamber as some of the less boisterous ones.

She still doesn’t get much sleep, but she can’t face the empty chamber. Bellatrix has gone. Been expelled. Spitsy said Tiggy came to take her away.

The next morning, she doesn’t eat much for breakfast, and is oddly nervous about her lessons. Spitsy arrives and takes her to the light chamber as normal. It feels…

She doesn’t know what to do. It all feels pointless now. Why is she hiding? She needs a way back home! Where is she going to learn to time travel? How will she ever—

What if Bellatrix makes a mistake? Does something different to in the past? What if Hermione’s younger self makes some small decision change and never goes down to the Time Room on that specific Friday at that exact time? It’s all too much!

“Hermione. I thinks you is not learning today. You is not being concentrating.”

She looks up at Spitsy. “Oh, Master Spitsy, I’m so sorry. I’m being so rude I just— I’m lost. I don’t know what to do.”

He tilts his head sideways. “You is learning to be an elf. This is not changing. You is wanting to learn so you has a way to hide. Be invisible.”

Hermione feels a lump in her throat and puts a hand over her mouth. “But I already feel invisible. I’m so alone. I miss my timeline. My life. My friends. I’ve always had other people to work through hard times with…even Bellatrix was— at least I had someone. It’s all on me now. It’s too hard.”

Spitsy glares up at her. “You listen, Hermione. Listen to Spitsy. You is a strong elf. You is a kind elf. You is a thinking elf. You is one of us. You has a plan, this is not Bellatrix. You is thinking of it. So you is learning what I is teaching, and then you is going somewhere else and you is learning how to be getting home.”

Then he pauses and shrugs. “And…if the world be ending…we is not knowing. No ones be blaming you.”

She chuckles and wipes at her eyes. He’s right. Buck up, Hermione. You have been relying on Bellatrix too much. And you’ve been letting her get to you. You’re not stupid, this isn’t your fault, and you’re allowed to talk and feel and move and exist. So start learning, Know it All.

“Okay. Okay, explain it again. I’m listening.”

 


 

Hermione stands very still in the darkness. Listening. With her mind.

It’s taken her a week to hear anything at all, but just minutes ago, for a moment, she thought…

“…mio…”

There! But where…

She concentrates in on it, just like Spitsy taught her. Gives herself to the sound. Her being, her soul, her complete obedience. She is needed, and she wants to help.

“Hermi…”

Oh so close! She keeps losing the connection. She still can’t see the thread. The other elves say you can see it. Why can’t she—

“Hermione!”

In the kitchen! She reaches for it with her mind, and disappears with a pop.

Reappearing in front of Spitsy.

“I did it! I mean…yes, Master Spitsy?” She schools her features.

The elf beams at her. “You is doing it! You is an elf, Hermione! You is Hearing the Call!”

She grins at him. “I can’t believe it! I heard you! I actually heard you and I saw the kitchen!”

He laughs. “Oh Spitsy knew it! You is a thinking elf, you is! Oh! You is needing to practice, quickly, in case you is forgetting the feeling. The feeling is being very important.”

He disappears, and she frowns in concentration, closing her eyes.

Feel the connection. Open yourself to it. Let your magic flow to take it.

“…mione!”

Oh that was…where is that?

“Hermione!”

Argh but why can’t she see— oh! He’s in the dark.

She lets herself be drawn to him.

And she’s in the dark. “Yes, Master Spitsy? Uhh…where are you?”

A hand takes hers. “I is being here. I is sorry I cannot be teaching you seeing lessons,” he chuckles. Then he clears his throat. “Hermione, I left my hat in the garden by the vines. Bring it to me now.”

Oh. Well that’s more difficult.

She almost spins around, but stops herself.

You’re not a witch, you’re an elf. No disapparating like that.

Instead she gives herself to her magic. Lets it flow. Feels the need to please, to serve, to obey. She feels the pull towards the light chamber…and follows it.

She smiles to herself in the sunshine. Now, where is the hat?

She walks over to the vines, looking around for it. Aha!

She picks it up. Oh shoot! How does she know where Spitsy is? She can’t remember—

No. You’re an elf. You don’t visualise, you feel.

Oh. Is this what Bellatrix meant this whole time? It’s just a variation of wandless magic?

Oh if only the witch knew that she’s just performing a weaker version of House-Elf magic.

Stop it. Don’t think about her. You don’t care.

She closes her eyes and feels out for Spitsy. He told her to come back. She’s taking too long. She needs to do this faster to please—

There he is!

She finds herself back in the dark.

“Oh good. You found it. Now return to the light chamber, you are dismissed.”

She concentrates again. Here she goes.

 


 

“And you is still not feeling it?”

Hermione sighs. “No, and I can’t see anything either. I only know we’re invisible because you told me…and when we walked past the water. Could you tell me what it feels like again?”

They both sit down in the shade of the vines, still holding hands to maintain the connection.

Spitsy frowns. “It is being…shy…but determined. You is wanting to do your duties without being stopped, interfered with. You is being proud of your work. Very serious. But…you is not always needing this feeling. It is being a wave, it washes over you. It is being the sea.”

…through sand and sea, do not drift asunder…

Is it a coincidence?

“The sea? How is it the sea?”

“It is being sea…or sand. Something is being covering you, heavy, firm, moving, pushing.”

Not a coincidence then. Sand and sea.

She swallows. “Master Spitsy…has Tiggy told you anything about Bellatrix recently?”

Spitsy looks at her curiously. “You is wanting to know? Because you is not needing her. Spitsy knows this.”

She chuckles. So protective. “I know. I was just wondering.”

He raises an eyebrow. “And you is worrying?”

She scowls and lets go of his hand to fold her arms. “Yes! About the future of the world, aren’t you? She could mess this up!”

“Tiggy is saying she be staying in the library. She do not be leaving. All week. She be accidentally setting fire to the broom. She is being an angry elfling.”

A laugh bursts out of her. “I knew she shouldn’t keep the broom in the bloody chimney! What does she expect?”

Spitsy looks at her slyly. “We be visiting…if you wants?”

Visiting? Her eyes snap to his. “You mean…you’ll take me to the library? I’ll leave?”

He slowly shakes his head. “I be making us invisible, you is taking us. You is finding the library. The elf way. No witchy spinning.”

He holds out his hand, standing.

She gets to her feet and takes it, closing her eyes. “Okay. Let’s see what she’s up to. Do I focus on her, or the room?”

“Whatever is pulling most, Hermione.”

She frowns. Why does he sound so smug?

She shakes herself and focuses. Feel the pull. Where are you needed? You want to Oh!

What is she doing there?

Hermione lets it tug her forwards—

And is suddenly stood right in front of Bellatrix. Outside in the mist.

Spitsy tugs them sideways as Bellatrix hurries forwards down the street, hood up and head lowered.

She turns to Spitsy, wide-eyed. She’s out in the open?

“It is being alright, Hermione. No one is hearing us.”

“Oh, thank Merlin. I can’t believe— Let’s follow her, quick! What is she even doing, where are we?”

They hurry after the witch, who is turning a corner down an alleyway…

It’s hard to run with such a height difference, but soon they turn the corner and—

Oh. She’s meeting someone. A witch, by the looks of it, though it’s hard to see through the white fog. And they’re…whispering. Arguing maybe.

Hermione drags Spitsy along. Who is it? What are they—

The unknown witch disapparates, and Bellatrix lets out a growl, disapparating straight after.

“Oh bloody hell! Well I’m not letting her get away that easily. What happened to hiding?” Hermione pants, skidding to a stop.

She closes her eyes. Where is Bellatrix? She wants to find her. She needs to. For her mission. Where is she— aha!

She—

She can see the thread! So that’s what the elves meant. There is a thread, drawing her to Bellatrix.

“I can see the thread, Master Spitsy!”

He chuckles. “I is thinking you might.”

Hermione grins, and follows it.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Wait!”

At Bellatrix’s shout, Hermione freezes. Can she see them? She holds her breath. Just the sound of the river running behind them.

And then a fox leaps from the undergrowth, a green light hits it, and it falls down dead.

Oh Merlin.

Bellatrix nudges it with her foot, shoulders falling in relief. “Just a fox. I thought perhaps an auror – Cissy wait!”

Cissy? Ohh

She looks over to where Narcissa had been standing, and is shocked to see her scrambling up the riverbank.

Bellatrix runs after her, and Hermione follows curiously. She’s told Narcissa she’s not sick? What are they even doing?

Bellatrix seizes her sister’s arm. “Cissy, Narcissa, listen to me!”

Narcissa wrenches her arm away and continues up the slope, not even bothering to avoid the rubbish strewn about the grass.

“Go back, Bella!”

“You must listen to me!

“I’ve listened already, I’ve made my decision. Leave me alone!” she grunts, reaching the top.

What decision? Hermione and Spitsy frown at each other and clamber after them up the slope.

The other witches have stopped at the top, looking through some rusty railings at…a muggle town? A very poor muggle town, surrounded by smog.

Hermione stands next to Bellatrix out of habit.

Who is sneering at the cobbled street. “He lives here? Here in this muggle dunghill? We must be the first of our kind to set foot—”

And Narcissa slips through a gap in the railings, hurrying across the road.

That can’t really be Narcissa Malfoy. What is she doing? Who lives here?

Bellatrix runs after her and Hermione groans. “Will they just stay still for one moment? Master Spitsy, I’m so sorry for dragging you around like this, but I need to make sure they don’t change anything about the past.”

They jog after them and Spitsy chuckles. “It is being alright. I is curious too. Miss Cissy is still being a funny elfling. And Miss Bella is showing she still be protecting. I is happy to see the little Blacks again.”

Bellatrix turns a corner, cloak flapping behind her, and Hermione follows, skidding to a halt as she nearly bumps into the two witches. Bellatrix has finally caught Narcissa by the arm again.

“Cissy, you must not do this. You can’t trust him!”

Narcissa tries to pull free. She looks awful. Exhausted. Drowning in despair. “The Dark Lord trusts him, doesn’t he?”

Bellatrix looks around furtively, eyes moving straight through Hermione.

“The Dark Lord is…I believe…mistaken,” she pants, struggling to keep ahold of her sister as she wriggles in her grip. “In any case, we were told not to speak of the plan to anyone. This is a betrayal of the Dark Lord’s—”

“Let go, Bella,” Narcissa snarls, drawing her wand and pointing it at Bellatrix’s face.

Oh no. Hermione feels around for her own wand, before she remembers that she’s an elf, and that Bellatrix must still be using hers anyway.

Bellatrix just laughs. “Cissy, your own sister? You wouldn’t—”

“There is nothing I wouldn’t do anymore!” Narcissa breathes, a hysteria to her voice as she brings her wand down in a slicing motion, and Bellatrix’s hand jerks back as though burned.

“Narcissa!” Bellatrix shouts in shock. “You have to trust—”

Narcissa whirls back around and moves to stand in front of Bellatrix once more.

Hermione’s brain is whirring. What plan? When is this? Why would Narcissa be so upset?

Oh!

Draco! This has to be the plan for Draco to kill Dumbledore!

She sighs in relief. “It’s okay, they haven’t changed anything, not yet,” Hermione whispers to Spitsy as the two witches glare at each other.

And then Narcissa reaches into her pocket and pulls out Bellatrix’s wand.

Wha—

How?

Oh dear. This does change things a—

“Don’t talk to me about trust, Bella. I know you haven’t had spattergroit, you weren’t showing any symptoms before you left. I’ve left you to your cottages and mudblood girls, so you are not one to talk.”

Bellatrix’s eyes go wide. “It was you?! I thought it was Dumbledore! How did you trick the slimy—”

“Severus knew that I was worried. He let me see you on the condition that I not tell anyone and continue my life as normal.”

“Severus? This is not normal, Cissy!”

She snatches her wand from Narcissa, who turns and makes her way down a street. “Says the witch kissing a mudblood! I think you have more explaining to do than me, Bella. Now either leave me be or come along, but don’t you dare stop me.”

Bellatrix follows after her, grumbling.

Oh dear. How embarrassing. Narcissa had turned up at the wrong moment and now things are all…

Well, at least she thinks they’re having an affair and not…

She cautiously looks down at Spitsy. And glares. “Oh don’t look so smug, Master Spitsy. It’s not what it sounds like.”

“Yous is kissing.”

“I was stopping her from—”

“Oh so you is kissing her, she is not making you?”

“No— I mean yes— I mean. Look, we need to catch up.”

He grins. “No, we is not needing to run. You is following the thread.”

Why is the thread to Bellatrix suddenly rather embarrassing?

“We still need to go before we miss something!”

“Ah, you be missing her already.”

Hermione ignores him, closing her eyes and gritting her teeth. Now where is…

There’s the thread. She barely needed to think. That’s…she’s not going to think into that too much.

She appears in a tiny sitting room next to Bellatrix, who is stood behind a sofa, where Narcissa is sat facing—

“Snape! So I was right. This must be when he makes the unbreakable vow. This is meant to happen, I wonder if Bellatrix knows? I think she must perform it. How—”

She jumps as with a bang, a hidden door appears from behind a bookshelf, and Wormtail of all people is revealed.

The sneaky little rat!

“As you have clearly realised, Wormtail, we have guests,” Snape says lazily from the armchair opposite the sofa.

Wormtail creeps into the room and starts arguing with Snape, but Hermione isn’t listening. She’s trying to remember everything she knows about the vow, about Draco’s task.

And about how legilimency works. Could she somehow talk to Bellatrix without anyone hearing? Everyone in the room is a legilimens…other than Wormtail. They must all be straining to shield their minds from each other, she doesn’t want to distract any of them.

“…bring us some drinks. The elf-made wine will do.”

“Oh, and there is being wine too! Spitsy is having a wonderful day, Hermione.”

Spitsy breaks through her thoughts, and she smiles down at him. “I’m glad. I seem to have caught you up in all this chaotic nonsense, so I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”

“Oh I is, I is not often— oh but this is being Spitsy’s wine! Is not being old…is being the cheapest, but is being good. Still very good. You is remembering how it be made?”

Hermione chuckles. “How could I forget? Bellatrix and I must have practically completed the whole process of wine making with all your little tasks that first week…Please tell me this isn’t the wine we stomped.”

He giggles. “Oh no, that is still being in the cave. Much too young, and is needing to be tested.”

Snape raises his glass. “The Dark Lord.”

They all follow suit and drain their glasses. Hermione grimaces. At least Snape is acting…and Narcissa, probably. And…oh how funny. Bellatrix is going to have to act her part as well, pretend she doesn’t know about Snape and the future. Three award-winning performances going on in this room. If only they all knew.

Is this what being a Slytherin is like all the time? The amount of secrets. It’s exhausting.

And Narcissa lets out a shuddering breath. “Severus, I know I ought not to be here, I have been told to say nothing to anyone but—”

“Then you ought to hold your tongue!” Bellatrix snarls. “Particularly in present company.”

Maybe she doesn’t know what is about to happen. Or is this acting?

“Present company?” Snape repeats sardonically. “And what am I to understand by that, Bellatrix?”

“That I don’t trust you! As you very well know!”

And for multiple reasons now. She’s scared he’ll go to Dumbledore. Or tell the Dark Lord she wasn’t really sick.

Narcissa lets out a sob and hides her face in her hands, and Snape takes the opportunity to smirk knowingly at Bellatrix. Sneaky Slytherin.

“Narcissa, I think we ought to listen to what Bellatrix is bursting to say…it will save tedious interruptions.” He raises an eyebrow at Bellatrix in challenge. “Well? Continue, Bellatrix. Why is it that you don’t trust me?”

“A hundred reasons!” Bellatrix shouts, and Hermione scrambles backwards as Bellatrix moves out from behind the sofa to slam her glass on the coffee table.

“Where to start! Where were you when the Dark Lord fell? Why did you never attempt to find him when he vanished? What have you been doing all these years that you’ve lived in Dumbledore’s pocket? Why did you stop the Dark Lord procuring the Philosopher's Stone? Why did you…”

She continues, question after question. Know it All. She’s obviously been bottling this up for a while.

How is she here? When did she ‘recover’ from spattergroit? And why play this pretend back and forth with Snape? Is it just for Narcissa’s benefit? How does she know about the plan for Draco, when did that start? Has she seen Voldemort too? When—

Stop it, Hermione. Pay attention.

To Spitsy, tugging her towards the wine.

“They not be noticing. Let’s be trying. You is not yet tasting, Hermione.”

“Spitsy we can’t! Narcissa is right there, she’ll notice!”

“Miss Cissy be crying, she not be looking.”

He reaches for the bottle and Hermione reluctantly leans forwards so he doesn’t accidentally let go of her. That would be unbelievably bad. If she wasn’t invisible—

Her leg accidentally brushes against Narcissa, who looks up with a start, reaching towards her.

No!

She picks Spitsy up off the table and backs away into a corner. Narcissa looks at her.

Looks at her?

“Master Spitsy, are we still invisible, can she see us?”

“We is being invisible, but she is being a seeing elf, a thinking elf. Her mind is being open.”

“So…what does that mean?”

It means I can hear you, Miss Granger

Hermione jumps as Narcissa’s voice whispers into her head. How is she performing legilimency without eye contact?

I can feel the connection. I learnt long ago that sometimes you need to read people whilst keeping your gaze lowered.

Will she stop that! This is so bad! Hermione should leave. Or occlude her mind. Walls walls walls. Strong walls.

Tell me. Why are you here? Are you spying on my sister?

No no no. Walls. Hurricanes. Whirlpools. Anything to keep her out. Oh no, water. Pools. Cliffs. Bellatrix.

You have a connection with her. Your minds are…I don’t understand it.

Through sand and sea…stop it, Hermione! Clear your mind.

You are not good at hiding

Argh will people stop telling her—

You’ve had dinner with Bella? You’ve been in her library? I’d thought…why is she so close to you? How?

Hermione frowns. It was just some pasta. It’s just a library. She wasn’t even allowed to touch the books, why—

She protected you from the books. The curses.

Okay, enough of this. How about they talk about Draco instead, hmm?

What do you know?!

Ah! Hermione squeezes her eyes shut as her head throbs.

Alright! No need to shout! He’s going to fail the mission, you need to ask Snape to do it for him. The Unbreakable Vow. Get Bellatrix to perform it on you both, it’s the only way!

How do you know? Why—

Hermione focuses her mind on the Light Chamber. She can’t reveal anything else. She has to leave. She holds Spitsy tightly and lets herself be pulled towards it.

And feels sunshine on her face. She lets out a relieved sigh.

“Ow my head! Oh Merlin, did you hear her too?”

She lets go of Spitsy and rubs at her temples

“Spitsy is not hearing, no. Elves minds is being too different. She is not reading Spitsy. She is being angry?”

Hermione walks over to the shade. “Not angry. Desperate. She wants to save her son. I helped her as much as I could without showing her too much. I just hope she can convince Bellatrix…well, she must. She must have before. Oh Merlin’s balls, was this me too? Was it me who— I can’t believe I’ve caused Bellatrix to kill Sirius and now forced Snape into killing Dumbledore!”

“Master Sirius is being dead?”

Oh.

She looks down at Spitsy sadly. “Oh, I’m so sorry, Master Spitsy. Yes. He…I had to…”

“Miss Bella is killing him?”

Hermione sits down, leaning forward on her knees. “The first time…in my time…they were fighting. A battle. A duel. He died. This time…I was there. I knew it was supposed to happen, had to happen. But Bellatrix didn’t know, she’d drunk a love potion, I had to…I had to tell her to kill him. Make her. Order her. She didn’t know what…she did it to please me.”

Spitsy’s ears droop and he clicks his fingers. A bottle of wine appears. He uncorks it.

“Master Sirius is being a good elf. A brave elf. A strong elf. He is making Miss Cissy laugh…convincing Miss Andy to rebel…he is also trying to give Miss Bella her clothes. She is always being ignoring him. So he is stopping trying, and is finding clothes himself. Master Potter is sneaking him his clothes.”

He takes a sip from the bottle and passes it to Hermione, who feels a tear slip down her cheek.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers.

He waits for her to take a sip. It tastes wonderful.

“Yous is all being lost elflings. We is all being elflings, in this big wide universe. Something being playing tricks with you, Hermione. You is seeing things you is not supposed to be seeing. You is looking in from the edges now.”

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione decides to tell Spitsy the prophecy. She just has to. He’s the only friend she has, and Bellatrix might think she’s stupid for sharing her secrets, but Hermione isn’t a Slytherin. She’s a Gryffindor, and Spitsy is a true friend. She trusts him.

And is in desperate need of guidance. The burden is weighing her down.

The next day, they get straight back to invisibility training. The sand and sea part can’t be a coincidence, Spitsy agrees. She has to learn this. Then she’ll deal with what Bellatrix has been up to.

So now she’s in the pool, in the water. When Spitsy had first suggested it, Hermione had been extremely reluctant. But Bellatrix is gone. The fear is irrational. So eventually, she agreed.

Spitsy stands on the side, instructing her.

“Now. I is giving you more tasks…but this time you is being underwater. You is feeling the water…but you is not letting it be stopping you. You has duties. They is more important than the outside. The outside will not be stopping you.”

“How can I ignore the water, Master Spitsy? I won’t be able to breathe, I’ll float.”

He taps his chin. “This is what Spitsy is thinking. Why this prophecy be saying sand and sea? Why is you being needing Bellatrix? Then I is remembering what you is telling me.”

Bellatrix? What did Hermione say? She’s been talking about the other witch quite a lot. What does he mean?

She treads water, frowning at him. “Why do I need Bellatrix? She hurt me in here. You said I don’t need to get hurt anymore.”

Spitsy sighs. “Not the hurting! What else is she showing you?”

Uhh…how to move a sheet? Kind of?

He sits down and dangles his legs in the water, meeting her eyes. “She is breathing in the water. She is not floating. She be in control under the water. You is needing to find this calm, this magic. Staying invisible is being overwhelming. You is needing to be determined. One goal. Nothing be stopping you.”

“A wandless bubblehead charm and a cumbrous charm to weigh me down?” she shrieks in disbelief.

He chuckles. “She be doing it, why not you? You is not really being an elf, Hermione. You is a witch. A strong witch.”

She nods to herself. “Alright. I’ll try. And once I’m down there…what do I have to do?”

He clears his throat. “Hermione, my store of wine is in the shallow of the pool. This is not good. It needs to remain cool. Move it to the deeper caves at the back. Right at the back mind, I don’t want anything snatching it.”

Hermione peers down through the steaming water. Oh. That’s a big crate of wine.

She clenches her jaw. Alright. If Bellatrix can do it, why not Hermione? They’re both the brightest witch of their ages. Hermione is powerful too. She fought a war. She won the war. Bellatrix didn’t.

She feels out for her magic, remembering how it felt to share the air bubble with Bellatrix. The relief, the freedom to breathe. “Operimentum aerbulla!”

She focuses on the feeling she wants. She needs it to obey Master Spitsy. Perform her duties. She wants it…and feels it. Remembers it. This is what Bellatrix meant.

The bubble appears around her mouth, and she swims down, breathing freely. She decides to leave out the other spell for now. One at a time. She can swim with the wine first.

She goes back and forth with the wine, trying not to lose focus on the bubblehead charm. It’s difficult. She keeps forgetting it’s there and losing it for a second, or getting distracted by the bottles and the swimming.

Once the crate is half-empty she comes up for air, exhausted and dragging herself onto the side.

“Hermione! Why are you stopping? It isn’t finished! Should I punish you?”

She pants up at Spitsy. “No I— I just needed a break I—”

“Is walking too much for you? You can’t perform your duties? You can’t move wine? You are weak. Weak and stupid. If you don’t get back down there this instant, I’ll give you clothes and be done with it. You are a disgrace!”

No, stop it! It just reminds her of—

“What is wrong with you, elf? Get up! Do as I say or leave. You are pathetic. Weak. Where is your strength? Your magic? A real elf would—”

No! Enough! Hermione feels a rage build within her, a rage that simmers and fades into a cold determination.

She is not weak! How dare he call her weak? She is Hermione Granger. She fought in a war. She saved the whole of Britain from an evil tyrant, on the run, in hiding, at the age of seventeen.

She hasn’t been that girl in a long time, but she hasn’t forgotten who she is. What she is. She is a witch. A powerful witch. The smartest witch in Hogwarts. How dare he—

“Operimentum aerbulla! Gravitas pondus!” she growls.

She will do the task. She doesn’t need a wand. She hasn’t used a wand in weeks. She’s not a muggle. She has magic.

And it will obey.

She rolls into the pool, sinking to the bottom, flat on the floor.

Too heavy. That won’t do. She needs her feet to be weighted down just enough to walk. She feels it. Feels heavy shoes…feet stuck in sand…a sinking step holding her feet down. She knows the feeling. Knows what she wants.

She hasn’t breathed yet. It doesn’t matter. She just has to move the wine.

She can breathe when she wants to. She will. She has the magic.

She begins walking along the stone floor.

She is the one in control now. Let the universe try to stop her. It brought her here.

It will obey.

 


 

“Now elflings! Remember! If yous is wanting, today there is being a special challenge! You is to stop Hermione moving the wine. She be moving it in the water…and all of yous be swimming to stop her. Yous is understanding?”

Oh dear. Hermione looks around at the smiling, nodding elflings. Some are already pushing each other into the pool or crowding forwards to grab her ankles.

She turns and dives into the water, already finding the trigger memories.

Breathing with Bellatrix. Feet in sand. Relaxing stroll. Obeying Master Spitsy.

She jogs along the stone floor towards the crate, grabbing two bottles out as fast as she can.

Elves begin to dive all around her.

Ignore them. Your task is more important. Nothing will stop you.

She crouches as she runs, ducking them, straining against the weight of the water and panting.

Her feet start to float.

No! She clenches her teeth and growls down at her feet, remembering how she should be feeling. The weight. The ease.

They thud back down, and she reaches the depths of the cave, placing the first two bottles in the crate. Two down.

She jogs back, diving onto her stomach and weighing herself down as an ambitious elf lunges for her. She crawls along the floor.

This is too slow. How can she—

The bubblehead charm bursts.

Focus, Hermione. You’re in control. You are not desperate, you are calm. Powerful.

The bubble blinks back, and she stands up in the centre of the pool.

Elves dive for her in earnest. She sends a wave up through the water to push them back.

Accio crate

Let’s get this over with.

It doesn’t move.

What is her problem with accio?! Ah!

She starts floating and holds her breath as the bubble pops.

Be Bellatrix. How would she do it?

She knows it will work...she just has to find a trigger. A code.

Okay. First air. Breathing freely. With Bellatrix. And all week by herself at the bottom of this pool. This place is familiar, comfortable. She can breathe here.

And then she can. Her feet fall to the floor as well.

She sends some bubbles up to tickle the elves and distract them.

Okay. It’s not about the crate. She looks over at it. Come to me. Accio.

She remembers all the times she has longed for something to arrive. The new school year, owl results, books, Harry and Ron running towards her, Ginny hopping off a broom to greet her, Dobby arriving when she called. I want the crate to come. I can feel it. Accio!

It rushes through the water towards her, sending elves spinning back from the current.

Now she needs it to follow her to the cave.

Come. Come with me. I want it. Crave it.

She walks calmly to the depths of the underwater cave, lost in the memory of things following her. Staying with her. Harry, by her side on the run. Luna and Neville insisting they’ll fight with her. Spitsy holding her hand as she drags him around, determined to teach her. Crookshanks, always coming back to her.

Oh she misses her cat.

Her feet lift off the floor, and she bumps against the cave ceiling.

Oh dear, focus on the feeling. Feet on floor. As you should be. Concentrate on your task. You are not here to reminisce, you are here to do your duty to Master Spitsy.

She floats down and turns to look at the crate.

Come with me. Accio.

It jumps along behind her, stopping as she does at the back of the cave.

She places the first two bottles of wine in with the rest.

She looks at the crate sadly.

Now stay. Stay behind like everything else, like everybody else, and just watch me leave.

She has enough memories of that.

 


 

She passes the test, and the next morning, in the light chamber, finally, she can do it. Become invisible.

“You is getting better at magic, Hermione, but you is still using the witchy way. Now you is ready for the elf way.”

She frowns at Spitsy. “But you said I’m invisible…aren’t I?”

He chuckles. “Oh yes…but you is not elf invisible. You is still being heard. Being seen by Miss Cissy if she is noticing you. By Mr Dumbledore or other seeing wizards. You is wanting to be elf invisible. Hidden.”

Hermione groans. “So I’m doing this all wrong?” She collapses on her back on the floor. She could fall asleep right now she’s so tired. This has been the toughest week yet. She’d rather be duelling with Bellatrix right now, then at least she might die and not have to concentrate anymore.

“You is giving up?”

Hermione grumbles to herself and runs her hands over her face. “No. No I’m not, I’ll do it. Just get on with it and tell me how to do it…umm…please, Master Spitsy.”

She looks up at him through her fingers. He’s smiling. “You is turning into Mistress Bellatrix if you is not being careful. Angry grumpy elfling.”

Hey! “Well maybe she’s so grumpy all the time because she’s doing this kind of magic all the time! It’s exhausting! I can’t believe she did all that magic for me and herself every— uh, I mean…”

He stares at her…and then shakes his head. “I is knowing Bellatrix be doing the magic for you. Yous thinks yous is tricking Spitsy? I is a thinking elf. This is why Spitsy be trusting Bellatrix. She be protecting you. She is still being little Miss Bella. Inside. Deep, deep inside.”

Hermione’s scoffs. “Deep in the depths of the underworld, maybe. You could dig all the way to Australia and back and not find a good bone in that woman’s body. She wasn’t protecting me, she needed me to learn so we can both sort out this whole time travel prophecy mess.”

Spitsy pokes her in the forehead. Ow!

“You is not being a thinking elf. You is a hiding in the shadows elf. Now. Be a listening elf, and stop with these tricky thoughts. We is here to be invisible to others, not to ourselves.”

What? What is he going on about with all these riddles? Hermione’s lost. How is this— what does he mean—

He takes her hand. “Now we is elf invisible. Feel it.”

She blocks her thoughts out and closes her eyes, focusing in on his hand. On magic.

Think of the water, of obedience, direct your whole being towards the task like an arrow at a target.

It feels…

Natural. Normal. That’s why she couldn’t feel it. Because it’s nothing. A big, wide, heavy ocean of nothing, flowing over her like sand. Oh.

“I can feel it…” she whispers.

Spitsy hums back and lies down next to her. “Good. Then we is feeling it for a long time, and you is remembering. This is being your memory of invisibility. You is being out of Time, out of the Wizarding World. You is not with muggles. You is not being with other witches. You is not even being in your own decade. But you has a mission. A task. And no one be seeing you, stopping you.”

She stares up at the sky and focuses on the feeling. On following it. Giving herself to it, without losing herself. Without losing control.

Hours pass. The sky fades to black. The stars come out.

So this is what Bellatrix was supposed to teach her. Through sand and sea. For a moment, she’d thought maybe she needed to teach Hermione to endure pain. To learn sacrifice. But no.

First, Hermione scrambled for control. Then, she gave up her control. She learnt obedience. Faith in someone else, in the universe, in fate. She let herself be pulled by the currents.

And then she learnt to give herself to fate…but to not let it control her. Make her own fate. To be strong, and determined, and to feel her magic. Take up her own space in the universe.

All her life, she has fought for that control. Fought for her right to exist, to be herself, to learn. She was so insecure…

When she was young, she shouted to be heard. Learnt all the answers, tried to prove herself. And as she got older, she proved herself in other ways. Through action. Through other people. Her accomplishments.

Her accomplishments grew…but her heart was still grasping for something. She never knew…was it friends? She had friends. Work? She was doing well at her job. Knowledge? She read as much as she could.

Was it the world? Did Hermione just not quite fit?

Well. She’s going to be like Bellatrix now. Just a little.

She’s choosing her own fate. And the world can bend around her. The universe has told her to be invisible…and for a moment she had lost herself to it. Now, she’s choosing it.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione tosses and turns in her sleep, head foggy as dreams and reality blur together.

And then her head smacks against the cave wall.

“Ow fucking— bloody buggering…for the love of—”

She groans and clutches at her sore head. Ow! Oh her head is throbbing, how had she managed to—?

Ow! What is? Ugh. That’s not pain that’s—

What is that? Something is tugging at her mind.

She rubs her head one last time, and then takes a slow breath, feeling out for whatever is—

“Hermione!”

Ah!

Her heart pounds in her chest. She needs to go, it’s—

She almost follows it, and then stops.

That sounds like Bellatrix.

It has to be a trap. How is she— why on earth would the witch be—

“Hermione!”

Oh, she hates ignoring The Call. It itches.

Maybe she could just see…

Oh dear. It can’t be good if she’s looking at a ceiling…with a hole in it.

“Hermione!”

Fine. That’s it. She’s doing it.

She turns herself invisible, and follows the pull of the thread.

And finds herself in a destroyed muggle kitchen, looking down at a tightly bound Bellatrix, who is lying in a puddle of…something…on the floor.

And Tonks is pointing a wand at her. Moody in the corner. Kingsley at the door. Oh dear.

“I’m not asking you again, Lestrange, where are the others? What have they done with the muggles?” Tonks sighs tiredly.

Oh no, this is so bad. Hermione doesn’t think this happened before. Bellatrix never got captured by the aurors. By the Order.

“And I told you, filth, I don’t know where they’ve slunk off to. And the Muggles are probably dead, disgusting beasts. Wouldn’t stop screaming. Greyback has probably silenced them by now…or given them wolfy little tails.”

She must be back with the Death Eaters. What—

“Look, you can answer now or later, but you’ll be coming with us anyway. If you comply, then maybe you’ll get a hot meal before we throw you back in Azkaban.”

Bellatrix’s mouth forms a snarl, eyes crazed, wriggling in her binding.

Wait. Bellatrix can do wandless magic. Non-verbal magic. She could fight them more than this, she could—

She knows they don’t die yet. Don’t get hurt. She can’t change the timeline! That’s why—

Hermione crouches down next to Bellatrix and takes her hand.

Bellatrix flinches, shouting in surprise…and turns it into a cackling laugh, kicking her feet.

“Oh I’m not going back there, pet, you’re not getting me that easily.”

Tonks scoffs. “Lestrange. There’s three of us. I have your wand. Give it up.”

Bellatrix’s hand slides down Hermione’s invisible arm, running a finger over the scar.

Hermione almost pulls back. How dare she—

Oh. She’s checking it’s her.

Hermione pulls her arm back and pokes Bellatrix in the side. Where she’d stabbed her.

Bellatrix lets out another laugh. “You think you have me? Me?! You won’t have your own wand in a second, let alone mine! Where was it again? In your pocket? You didn’t even put it in the hexed bag at your waist. Some auror you are.”

Was that…instructions?

Alright.

She glances at Moody, just to check. No. He can’t see her. House elves are brilliant!

She walks up behind Tonks, hand just outsides her pocket. Once she touches the wand it will be invisible, like Hermione’s clothes. She hopes.

No. Not hoping. It will happen. She knows it.

Tonks reaches to check the wand is in her pocket…and then leaves it there with a shrug. She’s cocky, like her aunt and uncle. Look where that got them.

“Accio Bellatrix’s wand,” she whispers. She doesn’t really know why she’s whispering, but it feels wrong to speak. The wand flies into her hand, and she quickly lets the feeling of water and sand flood over it.

“Alright, Lestrange. We warned you. Mad-Eye, take her other side, would you? Petrificus totalus!”

Oh damn it all to—

Bellatrix’s arms snap to her sides and she thuds back onto the kitchen tile.

She needs a distraction.

Hermione pops outside into the garden. There’s a shed. She ducks behind a wall and thinks about exploding wood. Like when she’d fought off Nagini in Godric’s Hollow.

“Confringo!”

She barely sees the shed exploding before she’s following the thread back to Bellatrix, reaching for her as Tonks and Mad-Eye jump to take cover, dropping Bellatrix in the process.

Tonks looks back around. Shit.

“Expelliarmus!” Hermione hisses.

Tonks’ wand flies out of her grip across the kitchen floor and she turns away in confusion.

Hermione grabs Bellatrix’s frozen arm and pictures somewhere safe. She needs to take Bellatrix home.

They appear in the warmth of the library.

Hermione sighs in relief and lets the invisibility drip off of her. Bellatrix’s wand vibrates in her hand, stinging with the intensity. Oh. It’s been so long since she’s held a wand. Maybe she could…

She points it at Bellatrix. “Rennervate. Relashio.”

Bellatrix flops free with a groan. “Took your time, mudblood. Ugh, what is—”

She slowly sits up, twisting around to touch her back and her hair. “What was on that floor? This is— ugh, how disgusting. Greyback is going to pay for this the daft—”

Hermione can’t help it. She laughs.

Bellatrix whips her head round to glare at her, but Hermione just smiles and raises the wand once more. “Tergeo. Is that better?”

Bellatrix lunges for her wand, and Hermione pops away to sit in an armchair. “How about we swap? Where’s mine? I bet it’s hidden on you somewhere…in your purse?”

Bellatrix growls. “Listen here, you little house-elf—”

Hermione turns invisible, laughing once more as Bellatrix looks around for her.

And then stops as the witch pulls out Hermione’s wand and holds it over the fire.

Hermione sighs. Can’t fight fire with fire.

She lets the invisibility fall away and stands up, walking over to a smug looking Bellatrix and offering up the wand.

“Here. It doesn’t like me very much anyway.”

Bellatrix snatches it back and throws Hermione’s wand onto the floor. Child.

Hermione bends over and picks it up. “I saw Narcissa give it back to you, by the way, has she told you she heard my thoughts at Snape’s house?”

No reply.

She straightens up and turns to look at the witch. Who is frowning at her. Searching her eyes.

What?

Bellatrix shrugs and jumps to lie on a sofa. “She hasn’t told me anything. How much have you been spying on me, mudblood? Did you miss me? Been following me around?”

Hermione sits down too, cross-legged on the floor with her back to the fire. “Just that one time. I was curious about what you were up to. Turns out your sister doesn’t need eye contact for legilimency. I told her to make the unbreakable vow with Snape. Like she did before.”

Bellatrix floats a cushion up into the air, spinning it casually. “Well I knew that. Why do you think I was really there? I had to be. Saw everything about Draco and Cissy in your head. Did you think I wouldn’t learn everything about my own family? Would let Cissy defy the Dark Lord for no reason?”

Huh.

“Well you were putting on a good act. Fooled me...” She leans back on her hands, enjoying the warmth of the fire. “I still can’t believe it was Narcissa and not Dumbledore we’ve been hiding from this whole time. It’s rather embarrassing that she thinks we’re…well, I don’t know what she thinks.”

Bellatrix snorts. “She thinks we’re fucking, it’s not that deep, mudblood.”

Hermione’s stomach flips and she takes a sharp breath…and then just shakes her head. “It’s not just that. She knows it’s me, but…does she think it’s sixteen-year-old me? How well did she see me at the cottage? And she knows I can turn invisible. She read my thoughts…said she saw a…connection. Between our minds. You and me.”

Bellatrix lets the cushion fall and sits up, turning to face her. “Come here.”

Hermione swallows. What does she want? She looks…

She gets to her feet and pads over, sitting down next to the witch cautiously. Bellatrix turns sideways to face her and cups her jaw, pulling her to eye level.

Umm…

Hermione licks her lips and then frowns. “What are you—”

“Sshh, I’m looking for something.”

Bellatrix looks right into her eyes, moving closer. Searching them again.

What are you looking for?

Be quiet and let me look. It will be small, it…

Hermione feels out for her own magic. Her own mind. Does she mean…she feels out for the thread.

Do you mean this? She tugs on the thread.

Bellatrix gasps. “Oh!” Her eyes widen.

What is—

Hermione tugs again, follows it along until she reaches…

Get out of my head, mudblood. Get out get out GET OUT

Ah!

I can’t, I’m stuck! Where are we? It’s the thread it—

Well follow the thread back! It’s attached to you, troll brain!

I followed it into your mind?! Where is it? Can you see it?

A tiny flickering flame lights up the dark. Dark? Isn’t she in the library?

She moves towards the flame.

I…just get out, Hermione.

Where on Earth is she?

 


 

It’s cold. How is it cold in…in someone’s head? Is this what legilimency is like? She’s only ever been on the receiving end, not…

She stands close to the little flame and searches her body for the thread.

It’s not…on your body. You don’t— you don’t even have a body, you’re imagining it. You need to find the thread in your mind.

Bellatrix’s voice sounds…shaky.

Hermione closes her eyes and feels for her magic, her mind, anything that will pull her out.

Where is the thread? It can’t be gone, it’s—

Oh. She can’t move. The thread’s too short. She’s attached to the very end. She tugs at it.

Ow, mudblood, stop that!

You said to leave, I’m trying!

Well you’re obviously pulling the wrong way.

I can’t go another way! I told you, it leads to me! Push me away or something!

And then she’s back in the dark. It closes in around her, somehow growing thicker.

What was that sound? Something scurries past, just out of sight. She shivers.

She turns around but then there’s a scraping behind her. She backs towards the flame.

Bellatrix…What are you doing?

Scaring you off!

Argh, why is scaring always the solution?

Something cold drips down her neck and she shudders.

This isn’t working! Think happy thoughts before your brain kills me and I’m stuck here forever!

A groan. It’s a defence mechanism! It’s not supposed to be happy!

Oh this is a defence mechanism alright. If a psychiatrist could only see this…

Fine. If Bellatrix won’t brighten up, then Hermione will.

“Expecto Patronum!”

Nothing.

What are you doing? Stop that!

No.

Hermione focuses her magic once more, goes into her own mindspace. Feels around.

Reuniting with her parents. Winning the war.

Visiting Ginny and Harry at St Mungo’s when James was born.

Hearing the Call and apparating to Spitsy after a week of trying.

“Expecto Patronum!”

And her otter appears, spins through the air and lights up the darkness. Hermione smiles at it, strokes its head as it swims past.

What…what are you doing to me? I…it feels…

I’m lighting up the darkness, so I can find the thread.

No…no that’s not— Stop it, please! Hermione, please!

Oh. She sounds…desperate. Scared. So scared. When has Bellatrix ever said please?

And suddenly, she’s not in darkness anymore. She’s in the grounds of Hogwarts, at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.

“Andy! Andy please, will you just listen—”

Andromeda storms past, knocking Bellatrix out of the way as she wipes at her eyes, heading back towards the castle.

“No, Bella. I’ve made up my mind. It’s better this way, just leave me alone.”

“Don’t you dare walk away from me!” Bellatrix snarls, wand drawn at her sister’s back. “Don’t make me stop you, Andy. You’re not thinking straight. You have to stay, you have to. You can’t leave me—”

Andy whirls around. “I can’t stay for another second in that place and you know it. You know what it’s like. What they’ll do if—”

Tears fall down Bellatrix’s face. She wipes them away furiously.

Andromeda sighs. “I’m moving in with Ted. I’ll see you around Hogwarts for the next few weeks before you graduate but then…you can visit, if you want. But I’m not coming home, I’m sorry.”

“Please. Please I— we’ve always had each other. Cissy is still so young I— I’m getting married. Who’s going to protect her? I can’t be everywhere, I can’t! I’m doing everything I can to—.”

Andromeda’s face hardens. “You’ve joined them, Bella. They’re a bunch of low-life thugs, sadists. Can’t you see you’re going from one horror to another? He makes you call him a lord and kneel for him.”

Bellatrix clenches her jaw and raises her wand, standing to her full height. “He is teaching me. Powerful magic. The things he can do…”

She steps closer to her sister and lowers her wand. “Andy, Andy we’ll never have to follow anyone else, we’ll finally be free, don’t you see? With him…I’ll be unstoppable. Just stay with me. Trust me. I’ll sort everything out. I’ll protect us all, I just need time. I need you, please.”

Andromeda shakes her head sadly. “He’s not the answer, Bella. You’re turning into— I can’t believe you don’t see it. Just open your eyes and see it. See who you’re becoming. You promised me we’d never turn out like them, have you forgotten?”

Bellatrix laughs. “I’m not like them! I’m not hurting us, I’m protecting us! Don’t be ridiculous Andy, forget about that filthy mudblood and stay with your sisters. Your family.”

Andromeda raises her wand with a growl, and Bellatrix laughs again, this time in astonishment.

“Don’t call him that, Bella. How can you believe that pureblood drivel? Why do you believe anything they teach us? Everything they say, everything they do, is wrong. It’s so wrong, and unfair, and cruel. What they did to you—”

“Shut up!” Bellatrix shrieks, and the trees at the edge of the Forbidden Forest start to shake. “Just shut up, I don’t want to— silencio! Silencio silencio silencio! It’s all so loud! Why is it so loud?!”

A blast of raw magic shoots out of Bellatrix, and Andromeda falls back onto the grass, unable to speak, scrambling back as the ground beneath them starts to shake, fighting to perform non-verbal magic on herself and break the silencio.

Bellatrix clutches at her head. “I just need some time to think. I’ll figure it out. I always— I just need to learn more, Andy. He says I’m powerful. I have potential. I’m going to be the greatest witch Hogwarts has ever seen. Nothing will stop us then. He has a vision for the future, a better future, did I tell you? Did I tell you what it will be like? We’ll be strong. No more fear, or hiding, or—”

“Expelliarmus!”

Bellatrix turns to Andy in confusion as her wand flies from her hand.

“Bella…you’re scaring me. You…you need to calm down, okay? Just calm down, I— maybe I should get Madam Pomfrey or— or Dumbledore you— you’re not in control, Bella.”

She looks around in dazed bewilderment at the cracking earth, the broken tree branches. That was her? She lost control?

That can’t happen. She’s always in control. Always.

Maybe it was Andy. Yes, Andy did it. She’s just blaming her. Bellatrix will take the blame, like always.

Her lips fall into a pout. “Aww, is little Andy upset? Don’t worry, Bella will protect you.”

Andy takes a cautious step back. “Bella…come on. Let’s go inside. Get you something to eat or—”

“Don’t try to coddle me! I’m not a baby! You’re the weak one! Running away. You always hide away and leave Bella to clean up your mess, to take it all. Well come on, Andy, come at me! What have you got? Does the wittle baby think she’s tough? Think you can get by without me? Come on! Fight for it!”

Andromeda staggers further back, trips on the uneven ground, and falls onto the floor, tears leaking from her eyes. “Stop it, Bella. It’s not funny. I don’t want to fight you, please!”

Bellatrix laughs madly. “Oh, you don’t want to fight now? You think it will all just go away? Well it won’t. It never stops, never. It just gets worse. If you’re going to be alone, you need to learn to fight for yourself, Andy. Difindo!”

Andy yelps as a cut slices across her arm.

“Bella, stop, please! How are you doing that? Why are you hurting me?”

“I. Am. Teaching. You. Difindo!”

A cut across her leg.

She cries out in shock and pain.

“Help! Help! Someone help me, please!”

Bellatrix laughs and laughs. She thinks someone is coming to save her?

What a stupid girl. Doesn’t she know?

No one ever comes.

Expecto Patronum!

What?

The scene freezes.

Expecto Patronum!

Everything begins to fade to white.

Bellatrix. It’s okay, it’s just a memory. You’re safe. Andy is safe.

A memory? What’s happening? Where is she? Who—

Hermione?

A relieved sigh. Yes. Yes, it’s okay, I’m still here. I’m right here.

…oh.

Oh no. No no no what just happened? What did she do? What did she just—

Bellatrix, you need to think of a happy memory, can you do that? Come on, you’re good at that. At escaping the darkness. Find a happy place. A memory. Take us there.

A happy memory?

I don’t…I can’t think of one.

Her head falls silent. Is she alone again?

Alright. Let’s try one of mine instead then.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione has no idea what just happened, but it feels like the walls are closing in, and the panicked energy filling the air isn’t leaving. It seems Bellatrix had defences in place for a reason…

Hermione really fucked up getting rid of them. And now…

She can’t shake that memory. It’s like…she was frozen in place, watching it happen…and at the same time she was Bellatrix. She was doing it. She felt the anger, the despair, the terror.

She didn’t want her sister to leave…

How could she leave? It’s all too much. Too much to face alone. Why did she—

Focus, Hermione. You’re not Bellatrix. Keep your minds separate, you’re losing yourself in her emotions. She’s lost herself. You need to…

Alright. Let’s try one of mine instead.

I’ve…what? I’ve seen all of your memories.

Hermione ignores the suffocating darkness and goes into her mind’s eye.

You didn’t see everything. You skipped my life after the war.

A hollow laugh. You want to show me your victory? Show me the world moving on without me?

Hermione feels the sadness creeping into her bones and breathes through it, searches for a memory that will—

That one.

Okay. If Hermione is inside Bellatrix’s mind…then maybe her own mind is trapped here too. That’s why she can’t follow the thread.

So let’s get out of here.

And they’re sat at a small, round, kitchen table.

“Oh Hermione, take Teddy for a moment, will you? I think that’s them.”

Andy leans over the table and holds Teddy out as he gurgles and kicks his legs, hair whizzing through all the colours of the rainbow.

Hermione smiles and takes him, pushing her chair back so she can sit him on her lap. He gazes up at her, wide-eyed.

“Hello! Hello! Oh aren’t you a big boy now, you are so heavy! Yes you are!”

He reaches out and grabs her hair ow!

“Ow! Teddy, no. That’s not nice.” She reaches for a plush toy. “What about this hmm? Look at the colours! Do you want to hold this?”

He just stares up at her, his hair changing to match hers.

Andy laughs from the doorway. “Ah, I see the little rascal’s got you. There’s no escape now. You’re here forever.”

Hermione turns as much as she can without pulling her hair to smile at the witch. And then her smile becomes nervous as she sees who else has arrived.

“Mrs Malfoy, Draco. It’s…nice to see you. I hope you’re well?”

Draco ducks his head awkwardly and Narcissa sneers at her. Andy elbows her in the ribs. “It’s Ms Black now, back to Black. Thank Merlin, it suits you so much better, Cissy. Umm…no offence, Draco love.”

Draco just straightens his shoulders and clears his throat. “So, is this my cousin, or has Granger been hiding something?”

Andromeda moves in through the doorway and sits down at the table. “Yes, that’s Teddy. Why don’t you try to detach him from Hermione, poor thing. I haven’t left my hair down in months, there’s no stopping him. He’s just like you, Cissy. You used to always do that to me and Be—”

A horrible silence fills the room, no one knowing where to look.

Hermione clears her throat and pries Teddy’s fingers from her. “Yes, he does seem to love curly hair. Here Draco, take him, you’ll be fine. I’ll just…would anyone like some tea?”

Andy shakes herself and smiles at Hermione gratefully. “Of course, drinks. Where are my manners? Thank you, Hermione, but I’ll do that. Cissy, why don’t you stop standing there like a puffskein in the doorway and sit next to…uh between Hermione and me.”

“Of course.” Narcissa glides around the table to sit next to Hermione, Draco’s eyes widening across from her. And then widening further as Teddy’s hair turns silvery-blond.

Narcissa gasps. “The resemblance is uncanny, Draco, he looks just like you as a child.”

Draco smiles self-consciously and holds Teddy up to look at him. “I suppose…but I think he looks more like— um…Aunt Bella.”

He keeps staring at Teddy as everyone around him flinches. “You know what I mean, don’t you? His…face shape or something.”

Andy snorts. “You think Bella and a baby have the same face?”

“Andromeda…”

Andy sighs. “Cissy, we can’t just not talk about her. She was our sister, she died. Do I hate her for what she did to Dora? To Remus? Sirius? Hermione?”

She looks across the table at Hermione sadly and reaches to take her hand. “Of course I do. But do I miss her? Remember her? Love her? Yes. She was our sister, Cissy. That doesn’t go away. You know that. You…you stayed with her for so long. I couldn’t do it, I— I wasn’t strong like you, like her.”

Narcissa doesn’t blink an eye, just takes a sip of tea and then clears her throat. “It’s the jaw line. And the eyes. How do you know what he naturally looks like, if I may ask? Does the…metamorphing stop when he sleeps?”

Andy sighs and reaches to take him from Draco. “Yes, in the deepest of sleeps, when he’s not dreaming…he looks just like Dora. Like me. Like Bella.”

Narcissa tuts. “Well, let me hold him. I haven’t come all this way just to watch you cry all over my…great-nephew. Dear Merlin, I’m a great-aunt.”

Andy passes him over with a chuckle. “Don’t you go feeling old. What does that make me? I’m a grandmother! We’ll just call you Aunt Cissy and be done with it. Aunt Cissy and Cousin Draco.”

Teddy reaches up for Narcissa’s hair, but she waves her wand firmly and bubbles float all around him, distracting him as he pops them with his chubby fists. She brushes some hair off his forehead. “Bella taught me that. Can you remember? Before she even had a wand, she’d conjure bubbles for me, it must be one of my earliest memories…”

Tears fall down Hermione’s cheeks.

Tears? Why would…

The scene freezes.

Oh.

All a memory. She’s—

She’s falling forwards on top of Bellatrix on a sofa.

Oof! How did—

She quickly braces her arms before their heads collide.

Oh.

She stares down into tear-filled eyes, feeling tears slide down her own cheeks. One drips down and lands in Bellatrix’s hair.

Hermione takes a shaky breath. “Oh, I’m sorry. That wasn’t a happy memory at all, was it?”

Bellatrix looks back and forth between her eyes. And then at her lips.

Wha—

Hermione’s heart freezes as Bellatrix leans up and presses their lips together softly. Oh. Oh that—

Hermione cautiously kisses her back, lowering herself closer and shifting her weight so she isn’t crushing the witch. Her heart is pounding now. It—this feels so good. Why—

She feels a hand cup her face, pulling her closer. Tastes the salt on their lips from the tears.

And then Bellatrix freezes beneath her.

The hand moves from her face to her shoulder and pushes her up roughly, so she almost falls off the sofa, stumbling to find her feet.

She takes a step back.

Bellatrix just stares at her, eyes unfocused, still tear-streaked, breathing shaky. She props herself up on her arms and manages to sit up. She swallows. “Leave. Now.”

Hermione wipes a hand across her lips, slowly shaking her head in confusion. Why did she— why did they— why did it feel—

Bellatrix’s wand snaps into her hand and she points it at Hermione, hand trembling. “I said. Leave. Go away. Just go away, get away from me.”

“Bella—”

“Leave!” Bellatrix shouts, voice breaking. “Or I will hurt you.”

Hermione slowly shakes her head once more. “I’ll leave for now, but I’ll be back. We’re in this together. Call me if you need me, and I’ll come.”

She walks over to the table and puts down her wand, back to Bellatrix.

“Oh, and Bellatrix?” She turns to look over her shoulder at the confused witch on the sofa. She still looks lost, but she’s coming back to herself.

“You’re never going to hurt me again. I’m not going to let you.”

She lets the invisibility pour over her, and for a moment she just watches the witch.

She can’t believe…

What is happening? How did that happen? Her lips are still tingling…

Bellatrix sits up properly, feet on the floor, and runs a hand through her hair. She clears her throat. “Tiggy?”

Tiggy appears with a pop. “Yes, Mistress Bella?”

“Could you bring me some tea?”

Bellatrix looks down at the floor, and Tiggy glances at Hermione. Oh dear. Hermione just shrugs.

“Real tea, Mistress Bella? Or library tea?”

Hermione frowns. What does that mean?

Bellatrix sighs. “I don’t know, Tiggy. Just tea, I think. Maybe some chocolate.”

Tiggy nods. “Yes, Mistress.” Tiggy—

“Wait!”

Tiggy stops the apparition at the last second.

Bellatrix’s legs jiggle and her hands grip at her dress. “Is she still here?”

Hermione takes a sharp breath.

“She is always being here, Mistress Bella. Tiggy is telling you. There is being a connection. She always be hearing you, when she is needed.”

Bellatrix growls and gets to her feet, stomping over towards the fire, exploding some embers so that sparks blast through the air, falling around them.

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

Tiggy looks at Hermione.

She disappears with a pop.

 


 

Hermione stays up all night gardening. Weeding the vines, watering them, picking the grapes, stomping the grapes.

Her head is spinning, thoughts whirring. She can’t even settle on one thought at a time. Where’s her logic? Her reasoning?

The sun rises…and her brain shuts down. She sits down in the tub of grapes.

What the fuck?

What—

What did—

Why—

Argh nothing makes sense anymore!

“…Hermione? You is being a grape?”

She looks up at Spitsy. Oh.

She staggers out of the tub. And then starts pacing.

“I am freaking out, Master Spitsy! I’ve lost my mind. I must have actually lost my mind. I bet Bellatrix has it, trapped in her head somewhere. That’s why I can’t think. Why I did that. She has done nothing but hurt me, and mock me, and laugh at me, and shout at me, and—”

Her hands come up over her mouth.

“And what, Hermione?” Spitsy says soothingly, walking closer and cleaning her sheet with a wave of his hand.

“And kiss me. She kissed me. Oh, she was right. I do like witches. Or…well I liked kissing her. What is wrong with me? How could I like that? She’s hurt me. So many times. Why did I let her kiss me? Why did she even— I can never read her, I’m not good at reading people.”

She kneels down next to Spitsy. “You have to help me understand, Master Spitsy. Help me see. I’m so bad at seeing.”

He smiles at her. “No, you is not. You is already seeing. You is understanding. You is just not wanting to understand.”

Hermione shakes her head. “She hates me, she thinks I’m disgusting, beneath her. Why on earth would she kiss me?”

Spitsy raises his eyebrows. “She is hating you? You is hating her?”

“Yes! She’s a Death Eater, I’m a muggleborn.”

“You is both being what you is being. You is being more than just a muggleborn…and she is being more than just a Death Eater. She is hurting you again?”

Hermione lets her eyes fall shut. “No. I accidentally hurt her though. She cried.”

She opens her eyes to Spitsy’s confused face. “You is hurting her and then she is kissing you?”

Hermione shakes her head with a laugh. “No, no I hurt her, and then I tried to fix it. To make it better. Then she kissed me.”

He chuckles and holds out a hand to help her up. “Then I think you is being good at fixing it. And…I thinks you is ready to leave now, Miss Hermione. You is needing to be a witch again.”

Her mouth falls open in shock. “What? You…you want me to leave? Did I do something wrong? Is this about the grapes? Because I’ll pay for them, I promise. Or help you with the rest?”

He shakes his head calmly. “It is not being the grapes. You is ready. You be learning everything I is teaching you. You is an elf now, Hermione. And you is a witch. You is a good elf. You is a strong elf. You is a thinking elf. And now…you is a free elf. You is knowing how to be free now, how to be safe. Miss Bella is not hurting you anymore. Spitsy knows this. And she is needing you. The world is needing you.”

Tears spill from her eyes and she kneels down to hug him. “Thank you. Oh thank you, Master Spitsy. You’ve done so much. Taught me so much. I’m going to miss you…I’ll visit. I promise. And come and see me whenever you like. We can drink wine and— oh!”

She pulls back to look at him. “Do you know anything about time travel? Anything?”

He wipes at his eyes and sniffs. “Oh, Hermione. You is a kind elf. I is sorry, I is only be knowing that elves is not knowing this. We is not knowing about Time. We is being in the present, always in the present.”

Hermione sighs. “It’s alright. I’ll think of something. Maybe the centaurs will know something, they do see the future in the stars after all.”

Spitsy frowns at her. “But you is already knowing the future. You is needing the past. The merpeople.”

Merpeople? “What do you mean?”

He stares at her. “You is going to Hogwarts, surely you is knowing the merpeople? They is old allies with the centaurs. A balance. Why you is thinking the centaurs stay? Past and future. They is being ancient, the merpeople. The first of the beings. Theys songs is remembering.”

What?!

How did she never know this?

“They know about the past? Will that help? Can they time travel? Take me from the past to the future?”

Spitsy shrugs. “I is not knowing. I is never hearing of travelling in time…but if you is needing a connection between past and future…they is it. Is either them or is ghosts, but ghosts is not travelling, is not feeling time. They be stuck, like you, Miss Hermione.”

How can one elf be so wise? She never would have thought of any of—

“Then I have to go. I have to tell Bellatrix. I have to go to Hogwarts and—” She laughs. “Thank Merlin I’ve spent so much time underwater lately. Looks like I’m off to Black Lake…with a Black. I wonder if there’s a connection between—”

“You is letting your thinking elf take over again, Miss Hermione.”

Hermione cringes. “Oh dear. Yes. You’re right, I’d better get going. Goodbye, Master Spitsy.”

He smiles fondly at her, and she disappears with a pop. She has a mission.

She doesn’t follow the thread. Bellatrix could be doing anything with the Death Eaters right now, she can’t do anything that will change that. Interrupt. Distract anyone.

She appears in the library instead.

“Bellatrix? Are you home? You’ll never guess what I—”

“Hello, Miss Granger.”

Shit. Hermione whirls around.

Narcissa is sat rigidly in a chair by the fire. Holding two wands. One is Hermione’s.

“Oh. Hello, Mrs Malfoy. Is Bellatrix—”

“I’m afraid my sister is away on important business. She has allowed me access to her library as a courtesy. For some research.”

No no no. She can’t find out anything. How do you escape a legilimens who doesn’t need eye contact?

Hermione starts singing the Hogwarts school song in her head. It’s not real occlumency, but it might stop her thoughts spilling through.

Hogwarts, Hogwarts, hoggy warty Hogwarts—

I assure you, that won’t work, Miss—

Teach us something, please. Andy, please! Please listen—

What was that? What did you just—

No. No— whether we be old and bald, or young with— she be laughing and laughing. She be naming it Mr Ribbet

Miss Granger, how in Merlin’s name do you know—

Focus. Young with scabby knees. Our heads could do with filling, with some interesting stuff

No one knows about that. What did Bella tell you?

For now they’re bare and full of air— breathe, mudblood. Hermione, breathe, now!

You went swimming? What—

No! Enough of this.

“Get out of my head! Get out! Expelliarmus!” Hermione growls, thrusting both hands forwards and watching as the wands fly across the room.

She will not see anything. Close off your mind. You have magic. You understand occlumency. Bellatrix can do it, why not you?

She lets the feeling of invisibility, sand and sea, wash over her mind, coating her brain, her thoughts.

Narcissa flinches back in her chair and pales. “How are you…Bella? Is it you?”

What?!

Hermione’s mouth falls open. And then she laughs. Laughs and laughs until she’s panting. She almost cackles.

Oh no! She is rubbing off on her. Even her own sister thinks—

Narcissa stands up and starts backing towards the fallen wands.

Oh, the poor woman.

Hermione smiles. “No, no I’m not her. I’m sorry for scaring you, Mrs Malfoy, you can get your wand, it’s fine. Pass me mine, would you please?”

Narcissa’s careful mask falls back into place and she sits back down, hands clasped in her lap.

“I am not a house-elf, Miss Granger. I shan’t clean up after you. Retrieve what you have carelessly lost, if you so wish.”

Hermione chuckles. Good job one of them is a house-elf.

She pulls up a chair opposite the witch. “Accio wands.”

They fly towards her and she catches them, handing Narcissa back her own.

Narcissa avoids her touch and sneers at her as she takes it.

Hermione looks down at herself. She is a bit dirty from the weeks in the cave. And still wearing a sheet. “Merlin I need a shower. And some clothes,” she mutters to herself.

And then looks up.

Narcissa is as unreadable as ever.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

What to do? Where to start?

“Umm…I wish I could explain things to you, but I really can’t. Honestly. It’s very important that you not know anything. For everyone’s safety. Yours, mine, Bellatrix’s, Draco’s, Snape’s …everyone we know. Everyone on the planet, actually.”

Narcissa steeples her fingers and raises an eyebrow. It’s rather Snape-esque. What is their relationship exactly? How close are they, because now that she thinks about it…

“Tell me this, Miss Granger. What you are doing, will it end the war?”

Hermione frowns. “Umm…not directly, no.”

“Is it in service of the Dark Lord?”

“No! No, I’d never…I mean…it’s not stopping him either, not really.”

A flicker of something crosses Narcissa’s face.

“Then is it for Dumbledore? For the Order?”

Hermione shakes her head.

Narcissa lets out a soft sigh.

“Will it hurt my family?”

Oh. Well…

“It— no. No, it might even— I might be able to—what we are doing won’t have an impact on…on anything. It can’t. The only difference…I might be able to help Bellatrix. I’m going to try, anyway. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to.”

Narcissa cautiously reaches out…and takes her hands.

What?…That’s rather unexpected.

“You’re trying to help Bella?”

A flash of emotion. A slight glint to her eyes. Hope. Astonishment.

Hermione swallows. “I’m…we’re working together. Helping each other.”

Narcissa’s eyebrows raise in disbelief. “How? How in Merlin’s name…you’re a mud—mug— you’re on the other side, Miss Granger.”

Hermione chuckles. “I know. I know, I said exactly the same thing to someone today. It’s completely mad, right? But this person had some wise words for me. And I think maybe you’ll understand. They said that yes, she’s a Death Eater, and I’m a muggleborn. But that’s not all we are. And I think, in some ways, we’re rather similar. You yourself thought I was her only moments ago, didn’t you? How can we be opposites? Opposed?”

“Because she—”

“I know. Because she hates my kind and wants me dead. I know. Believe me I know.”

They’re still holding hands, analysing each other in shared confusion.

And then they both jump as the doors slam open.

“Cissy, are you still here? A bloody auror caught me with a difindo right when I was disapparating and—”

Hermione jolts to her feet, wrenching her hands back.

Bellatrix stops near the entrance and stares. No one says anything.

Oh this is very awkward. It’s only been a few hours since they—

Well, it’s good they’re all occluding right now, her thoughts are…

Still nobody moves. The crackling fire the only sound.

Well somebody say something!

Hermione clears her throat. “You’re hurt?”

Bellatrix’s eyes snap to hers, and then widen.

“What are you doing? Why can’t I see—”

“I’m occluding. Because of your sister.”

“That’s not occluding. That’s…did he teach you that?”

“Kind of, I adapted it. But the thread’s still there if that’s what you’re worried—”

“I’m not worried,” Bellatrix snaps. “That thread is nothing but trouble, you know that. I’d cut it if I were you.”

Hermione shrugs. “I don’t think it works like that. I don’t know what it is…but if I ever need to find you, help you…”

She walks closer, and Bellatrix backs away towards the door.

Hermione stops.

“I don’t need your help,” Bellatrix hisses, eyes darting to Narcissa and straightening her posture, stepping forwards again. “It’s because of you that we got into this whole fucked up mess. It’s your fault I—”

Hermione groans and raises her hands to her hair in frustration. “It is not my fault! It never was. I may have brought you into this, yes, but I didn’t choose it. I haven’t made you do anything. You’d be dead if it wasn’t for me!”

Now Bellatrix does storm forwards, wand drawn and pointed at her accusingly. “Only because you stabbed me! It doesn’t count as saving me if you were the one to hurt me to begin with. You have done nothing but ruin my—”

“I have done nothing but try to resolve this! Fix this! I have risked my life, done everything I can to make sure that—”

“That I die!” Bellatrix snarls, coming closer.

Hermione steps forwards to meet her. “No! I don’t want you to die I— I want to—argh you’re so frustrating!” She stamps her foot.

Bellatrix laughs. “You don’t know what you want! You have no idea what you want.”

She takes Hermione’s chin roughly and tilts her head so their eyes meet “You think this is a game? Think you can do whatever you want, and it will all turn out alright? There are always consequences. Nothing can change.”

Will she stop touching her? It’s still rather confusing, and the close proximity isn’t helping to clear her—

Hermione sighs and closes her eyes. “No, you’re right, nothing can change. I just think…maybe things aren’t as clear as we think, you know? Maybe…we’re not seeing everything. I mean…I never would have thought…we never knew that…”

She exhales sharply and snaps her eyes open, pulling away. “That doesn’t matter now. We’re in this together, and there’s something we need to do. Despite what…happened…I still need your help. Will you come with me?”

Bellatrix folds her arms and shrugs. “Fine. As long as I’m not too busy. You’re not my first priority anymore, you know. And don’t be expecting what happened to happen again because—”

“Yes! I mean…no. No, I know. I won’t…that was…I mean it was fine. Not fine! I don’t mean…, don’t worry, I’m not…”

Her eyes fall to Bellatrix’s lips. Oh dear Merlin, Hermione. Stop staring for Godric’s sake.

The atmosphere turns decidedly awkward again as she trails off, unable to even speak anymore she’s so flustered.

She looks away from Bellatrix only to meet Narcissa’s piercing gaze. Oh dear. Had they said anything…?

Bellatrix chuckles, walking behind Narcissa’s chair and hugging her sister around her neck. “Sorry Cissy, but you’re going to have to put up with not knowing anything. I know how much you hate that, but there’s nothing I can do, so calm down, would you?  You’re going to petrify Herm– the mudblood with your basilisk stare if you’re not careful.”

Narcissa’s head snaps around to meet Bellatrix’s eyes. “If I’m understanding correctly, I fear you’ve both said far too much already. I don’t need legilimency to read you, Bella.”

She pauses to look between the both of them, nose crinkling. She gestures broadly. “And whatever is happening here, I don’t want to know anything. I’ll be leaving now. I’m sure Miss Granger can see to your wounds. It appears she has before.”

She stands up, straightening her practically immaculate robes with a flick of her wand, and heads towards the door.

“And get her some clothes, Bella. She’s showing far too much skin. You may enjoy it, but it’s not proper. You can’t be associated with someone who looks like a house-elf in human form. It’s disgusting.”

She marches out of the room, and the sound of heels on wood slowly fades.

Hermione bursts out laughing. “Oh Spitsy was right, she is funny. Oh dear Merlin, house-elf in human form. If only she knew!”

She chuckles a few more times, looking around at Bellatrix and grinning.

And then frowns. The witch has sat down on a dining chair, staring in Hermione’s direction, unfocused.

Sitting normally on a chair?

Oh.

Hermione tuts. “Well? Where are you hurt?”

Bellatrix looks up distractedly. “Hmm? Oh. I’ll get Tiggy to heal it. You’ll just screw it up. Make it worse.”

Hermione’s shoulders fall with a sigh. “Right. Then I’ll leave you to it. I’ll go back to Shell Cottage. It should still be safe, and I can always leave now…I’ll meet you back here later to discuss the plan.”

“Oh, so I’m supposed to just wait around for you now? Let you waltz off and leave me? Do whatever you say?” she snaps. “I’m in charge. That was your whole plan, wasn’t it? So I don’t hurt you?”

Why is she angry now?

Hermione stares at her, bewildered. “Well, Yes. But you’re not going to hurt me now. I told you, I won’t let you. And you don’t have to wait around, we can agree a time, or—”

“You won’t let me? You think you’re stronger than me all of a sudden, just because some jumped-up little elf taught you—”

Hermione snarls, wand drawn. “Don’t you dare, talk like that about Master Spitsy. He is stronger, wiser, than any wizard either of us has ever met. And he has taught me to be strong. He’s taught me magic wizardkind couldn’t even dream of, he—”

Hermione stops in her rant as Bellatrix raises an eyebrow at her. Oh dear. Well there are definitely parallels but—

Hermione clenches her jaw and folds her arms. “I never kneeled for him— well, I did, but not for him. Wouldn’t kill for him, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Bellatrix smirks. “He’s your Master. You’ve found anger. Power. You think you’re better than the rest of us now, don’t you? You like disappearing, making us look for you, confusing us. You disarmed an auror. Created an explosion in a muggle neighbourhood. Did you scare Cissy too?”

Hermione swallows and Bellatrix laughs. “Oh, you did! And how did it feel? Did you like it? The power, the control?”

“I…no. No, when I saw she was scared I…”

Bellatrix pulls herself to her feet and walks closer. “What did you do…hmm? Did you laugh at how powerless she was? Did you feel invincible?”

Hermione looks down and sighs. “She thought I was you. Maybe we…”

She steps closer to the witch, letting go of the invisibility coating her mind. “We’re so similar, Bellatrix. You see that, right? So different, but so similar. I don’t want…he destroyed you. He took what light you had and…”

She looks up, reaches up, and strokes her thumb over Bellatrix’s cheek. “Where are you hurt, Bellatrix?”

Bellatrix flinches back. “Don’t touch me. You’re disgusting. What was I thinking? We’re not the same at all, we—”

Hermione huffs out a low laugh, eyes darting over the other witch’s face, taking her in. “We’re in your library, Bellatrix. I’ve seen your memories. Heard about your childhood. You can’t hide from me.”

She looks into Bellatrix’s glaring eyes, watching them flash briefly with panic. “The witch who wants to be the best. To protect herself. To find the perfect plan. To protect the ones she loves. You’re just a Hermione who was never saved by a scrawny boy in a bathroom. A Hermione who didn’t have a family to—”

Bellatrix’s grabs her by the throat, fingers tightening. “I have a family. I have a Lord. How dare you call me a pathetic little Mudblood in a bathroom. I am nothing like you. How can you compare your suffering to—” she shakes her head with a growl and squeezes tighter.

Hermione tenses and struggles in her grip, fighting off panic as her heart pounds and sweat trickles down her back.

No, she can’t hurt you. You can just disappear if it gets too bad. She just feels threatened. She needs to hear this, they have to discuss this it’s—

She looks into Bellatrix’s eyes.

You do have a family. A family waiting for you in the future, who still love you, who forgive you. Don’t you see that standing by Him isn’t what brings you happiness? That he’s just causing you more pain, creating more violence? You know he loses.

Bellatrix shoves her away and she hits the floor with a smack, gasping for breath. A wand aims at her from above.

So, back to square one.

Except this time, she’s not going to lie there and take it.

 


 

They need to sort this out. Fight it out.

…But…not near the books. Spellfire would be devastating, she shudders to think…

Hermione rubs at her neck and then clears her throat. “Am I wrong? Do you have a counter argument, or just more curses?”

Bellatrix’s nostrils flair and her hand twitches. “I don’t argue with filth. I’ve tolerated you this long for the prophecy, but maybe I should teach you a lesson about where you belong.”

Hermione searches her face. No…that’s—

“You’re lying. You’re just distracting me from talking about Voldemort—”

“Don’t you dare—”

“Fine. Tom Riddle. That is his real name after all. He’s just a wizard, a man. Yes, he knows a lot of magic. So what? So do you. So does Dumbledore, McGonagall, the only difference is—”

“The difference, is that he uses his power. He has a vision for a new world. The dawn of a new era where wizardkind will no longer be in hiding. We’ll have the whole world for us. For progress, advancement. It will be a golden age, an empire. And I’ll be by his side.”

Hermione struggles to her feet as Bellatrix becomes lost in the thought. The awe in her eyes, the reverence, it’s like…oh.

“…It’s a cult. He…Bellatrix. He tricked you. All of you, just for his own power. You must know what a cult is, surely there are books on—”

“It’s not a cult. It’s a revolution. You’re the one that’s brainwashed. Believing you belong in our world. Magic doesn’t make you a witch. You’re not—”

“If you’re his right hand, does he let you discuss things with him? Make suggestions? Accept criticism of his plans?”

“Why would I criticise him? He has reasons, tactics, why—”

“Does he allow his followers to read muggle literature? Any books? To learn about the world they want to destroy? Speak to muggles or muggleborns?”

Bellatrix scoffs. “Why should we associate with—”

Hermione laughs in exasperated disbelief. “You don’t want to read? Really, Bellatrix? Look where we are. You don’t want to research muggles, even to understand your opponent? To understand the enemy?”

At this Bellatrix’s stare does falter. Her eyes dart to the shelves of books surrounding them.

Good. Hermione pushes on.

“Has anyone ever left the Death Eaters and survived? Even purebloods? If he’s promising freedom, why is there no freedom of choice? Why does his mark burn you? You’re his followers. His chosen believers. Why hurt you? Enchain you? You shouldn’t be in pain for him, Bellatrix. If his intentions were truly to help you, why would he hurt you? He…he does hurt you, doesn’t he? Punish you?”

Hermione takes a hesitant step forwards, and then quickly steps back again as Bellatrix whirls around and comes towards her, wand drawn. “Change can be painful. Necessary. He is teaching us, showing us the importance of his lessons.”

How does she not understand— “Like your parents, you mean? Do you think their lessons were fair too?”

Hermione ducks as an unknown spell flies for her head. Shit.

Not— “The books, Bellatrix! Not in the library we—”

“I’m not aiming at the books. Reduc—”

“Protego! Expel—”

“Protego! You dare fight me? Impedi—”

Hermione hurriedly disapparates away to just inside the door. “He found you when you were young, Bellatrix. When you felt powerless. He preyed on your weakness. You were alone and desperate.”

She slips through the door as a powerful spell crackles towards her.

Away from the books. Good. Let’s burn some of these portraits instead. Prejudiced bloodpurists the lot of them. She readies her wand and backs down the corridor as the doors fly open.

“Difin—”

“Proteg—ah!”

“You can’t dodge me forever, mudblood. I’m not weak. I’m never weak. You’re weaker than I’ve ever been, how dare you lecture me on—”

“Is Cissy safe with him? Is Draco? What about Andy? I know you still care about—”

“You don’t know anything!” Bellatrix bellows, firing spell after spell as Hermione ducks and dodges, sending up protegos as fast as she can, breathing fast and laboured.

“Andy chose her side. Chose to live in the dirt rather than stay with her family. I don’t care what happens to—”

“Stop lying, Bellatrix! You’re lying to yourself. You love her. She’s your sister. I saw the memories. I felt what you—ah!”

A spell catches her in the shoulder and she jolts back, wand flying backwards as she loses her grip. Ah it—it burns. It stings. What was that? It—

Another spell flies towards her face. She has no wand, she—

“Protego!” A weak shield wavers before her, only just holding off the spells flying towards her by the second.

She backs further down the corridor, portraits screeching as hexes deflect off of walls, pinging off of door handles and shattering vases.

“Bellatrix, please! He turned you from your family. Narcissa is scared her son will die because of him. Why should He do that to you? To your family—stop!”

Bellatrix’s wand slices though the air and Hermione throws herself to the ground. That was Dolohov’s spell. The one that almost killed her. The witch could kill her, she—

“Draco is suffering for Lucius’s mistakes. My Lord is showing that pitiful—”

“He’s showing him nothing! Lucius isn’t even here! It’s Narcissa who is distraught. Crying. Begging for help. He’s scaring her!”

Hermione lies on her back on the floor, shielding her face with her arms as the sound of curses stops.

Finally.

She slowly lies her head back on the floor and sighs. “Your little sister, Bellatrix. Please. He’s…he’s scaring her,” she whispers. “He’s scaring her, and he’s scaring Draco. He’s scaring them into killing Dumbledore. So that he can kill Harry. So that he can live forever. That’s all he wanted…in the end. In the end…you were gone, and Narcissa had to save herself. Had to save her son. Had to…find her way on her own. Find her way back to Andy.”

She stares up at the ceiling as her shoulder throbs, only the sound of disgruntled portraits and her fast breathing filling the corridor. Is the witch still there?

She tries to sit up, but it tugs on her shoulder and she lies back down with a hiss.

Footsteps come towards her. She freezes.

“Tiggy?” Bellatrix croaks.

A pop. “Yes, Mistress?” The elf sounds…

“Stop it, Tiggy. I know, alright? Just some salves for me and the mudblood,” she murmurs.

A huff. “For Miss Hermione. She is being right, Miss Cissy is needing you. You is needing to be listening, Miss Bella, to Miss Hermione.”

Wow. Did— can house elves really be this blunt? What is she going to—

“Fine. Then the salve for Hermione. She’s hurt. We both are. I’m fixing it,” Bellatrix grits out.

A pop. And then a clatter.

Her shoulder is really aching now. Hermione grits her teeth and squeezes her eyes shut, feeling a tear run down her cheek.

And then something cold on her shoulder. A hand sliding across her skin. Hermione is still frozen in place, her breath quickening even as her skin cools, numbs.

“I…do muggles do this? Do they heal one another?”

Hermione lets out a shaky breath. Is this a dream? Is this really— this can’t be happening.

She swallows. “Yes. Yes they— we have mediwitches and wizards. They’re called doctors. But even ordinary muggles know how to heal basic injuries. We learn it from our parents, or at school, even at work they sometimes have training courses.”

She pauses as the hand on her stills.

Keep talking, Hermione. This is your chance. “I…I remember one time, when I was a child, I was playing outside. I climbed a tree. My parents were inside with some friends, just chatting and drinking tea I think, and they thought I was upstairs reading. But I’d seen a bird in a tree. On a nest. I wanted to climb up and look at it. We’d been learning about different animals at school and— anyway. I was curious.”

“Vulnera Sanentur.”

Oh. She’s not listening. She’s too busy healing herself to—

“Well? What happened?”

Oh.

“Umm, yes, so, I climbed the tree. It was outside the front of our house. There were other houses nearby, so when I fell— and I did. From quite high up. I wasn’t very strong as a child, too much staying inside reading. When I fell, I cried out, and the people living across the close heard me. They ran outside straight away. I can remember crying. My arm hurt so much, and it looked bent and crooked. This man I’d never met ran over to check on me. I was terrified, I couldn’t tell him where I lived, and it wasn’t very clear, it was a cul-de-sac. It’s like…a circle of houses, you know? So. He knew not to move me, in case I was hurt anywhere else. He just talked to me quietly whilst his girlfriend went around knocking on doors to find my parents. I remember he asked me about school. Told me I was brave. That I was being so brave, such a big girl.”

She smiles to herself. “I don’t know how old I was. Five, maybe? Seven? When my parents found me, I was telling him all I knew about birds and eggs. I almost forgot about my arm. So my parents checked I wasn’t hurt anywhere else, and then took me to a hospital. Like St Mungo’s. We waited until a doctor was available, and they used something to look at my arm. They have something made of metal that you lie inside and it scans your body. So that you can get an image of someone’s bones.”

She slowly sits up. Bellatrix is sat on the floor in front of her, corset undone, struggling to rub a salve onto her own back without looking.

“It can see bones? How?”

Oh dear, well that’s rather complicated.

“It’s rather technical. I could explain but— or get you a book. It takes a lot of knowledge of— anyway. They saw that my bones weren’t aligned. That they needed to line them back up. So they gave me something so that I’d fall asleep and not feel any pain, they found the most qualified doctors, and those specialist doctors, called surgeons, cut open my arm and realigned the bones.”

Bellatrix’s mouth falls open, and Hermione hurriedly continues.

“Then they healed the wound back up, and put a hard material around my arm so that the bone would stay in place. Called a cast. I rested for a few days at home, but I wasn’t in pain afterwards. I drew a bird on the cast, and when I went to school some of the other children wrote their names on the cast or drew pictures. They made cards for me, hoping I’d get better soon.”

Bellatrix frowns. And then grins. “You had friends? Really? They didn’t laugh at you and your strange…cast?”

Hermione lets out a relieved breath and smiles. “Oh no, casts are cool. They’re exciting. It showed I was interesting, strong. I’d been to a hospital.”

Bellatrix snorts. “You fell out of a tree. What a hero.”

Hermione gets to her feet, and cautiously holds out a hand to help Bellatrix up.

Bellatrix stares at it. And then wipes her hands clean on her dress, taking Hermione’s hand and jumping to her feet.

And she just…looks at Bellatrix. She doesn’t know what to do now, it’s…

Bellatrix raises an eyebrow at her.

“Have you ever climbed a tree?” Hermione blurts out.

It’s the only question she can think of that won’t end in another awkward conversation.

Bellatrix tilts her head sideways at her. “Yes…I never fell out though. Sirius did. Landed on his head. It explains a few things, now that I think about it.”

Hermione huffs out a laugh. A joke? About her family?

“I saw him fall down the stairs once. He tripped over Crookshanks. No one else saw. He hit his head quite a lot then too.”

Bellatrix squeezes her hand.

Wait.

Oh!

She hastily pulls her hand away and bends down to pick up her wand. How had she not realised…

Why didn’t she pull away?

“That ugly cat. I bet it did it on purpose.”

What?!

Hermione shoots up with a glare. “He’s not ugly! And why would he do that? All Crooks has ever done is help us. He tried to catch Wormtail! He—”

“Alright, alright. Calm down. You’d think that cat was your child the way you see past its every flaw. You’re as bad as Cissy. You should hear how she talks about Draco, it’s—”

Uh oh.

Draco. Narcissa. Voldemort. Regret? Shame? Fear? Fear leads to anger and cursing and blame and—

Bellatrix looks away to the side. “Thank you. For reminding me what— I didn’t mean to be— I’m sorry. For hurting you.”

Umm.

What?

“What?”

Bellatrix’s eyes slide back to hers. Meet hers. She doesn’t even blink, it’s rather—

The witch steps closer. Leans closer. She can feel her breath on her cheek.

Hermione’s pulse begins to race. What is she—

A sigh against her ear. “I won’t say it again, pet. But you have made me…I need to think. Go and have a shower. You’re filthy. We can discuss this plan of yours once I’m ready. I need to—”

She stops, leans the side of her forehead against Hermione’s.

Oh. Oh what is happening? She’s so close, and vulnerable. Honest and thanking her and—

Bellatrix pulls back slightly, looks into Hermione’s eyes. Hermione stares back in shock.

Bellatrix rolls her eyes.

And kisses Hermione’s cheek.

What?!

Wha—? why—? How did—? Where did—?

Bellatrix has already turned around and walked off down the corridor as Hermione stands there with her mouth open.

“Go, eat something. Have a shower. I’ll call you when I’m ready, Hermione. Save your questions.”

Her cheek is tingling. Her heart is fluttering and—

Did she just...decide to call her Hermione?

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione takes her time with lunch, nosing around the kitchen under Tiggy’s inscrutable stare and chopping up ingredients for a salad. She’s rather…she’s not sure where she stands with Bellatrix now. The witch had said she needed time to think, and Hermione can’t help but agree.

She eats slowly, tries to think through her muddled thoughts. And fails.

She rubs at her shoulder. How many times is she going to have to—

She should have just disapparated. Why did she stay?

It did seem to get through to her but—

She spears a tomato with her fork in exasperation. What is she doing?

She hurt you again.

She kissed you again.

She shoves some salad in her mouth. Just stop thinking about her, Hermione.

She spends her shower not thinking about Bellatrix. She thinks about merpeople instead. And being underwater. Not being underwater with Bellatrix. Definitely not being naked and…not that she remembers. She didn’t look at the witch. She was too busy trying not to drown, she didn’t—

Anyway. Bellatrix won’t be with her when she visits the merpeople. She shouldn’t be, she might miss doing something for Voldemort and alter the fabric of time.

Because that’s why they’re doing this. Working together. They’re not friends or— or— she’s not here to understand Bellatrix, she’s here to find her way back home. To understand time travel.

So. It will be cold in the lake. Maybe she should buy a wetsuit.

Gosh, she really is filthy, this shower water is disgusting. She must have looked awful, no wonder the witch said…

Then why did she…

For someone who says she finds Hermione disgusting, Bellatrix sure does touch her a lot. Mostly grabbing and pushing, but she’s held her hand and— and kissed her. That’s twice now she’s voluntarily…

Is she still a Death Eater now? Because if she’s going to happily kill people and then come home to Hermione like it’s all fine that is not—

Not come home to her. Hermione doesn’t live here. Even if she’s having a shower here. And…she might have to borrow some clothes if Bellatrix doesn’t want her going back to the cottage yet. For some reason. Why does the most unpredictably complicated person have to be in control of her life?

Dear Merlin she hopes she has casual clothes and not just corsets and ancient dresses.

Although Bellatrix in casual clothes would be quite surreal. She can’t even imagine

“Hermione!”

Oh! Her head, it— Oh, she’s calling her like that?

She steps out of the shower and grabs a towel. “Tiggy?”

Tiggy appears with a pop…and a smirk. “Yes, Miss Hermione?”

“Are there any clothes I can borrow? Just for now, I’ll be with the merpeople soon anyway, so I’m not sure what I’ll be wearing but—”

“Mistress Bellatrix be finding some clothes for you. They is being in her room. She is being waiting. You be quick, little witch-elf.”

The thread tugs at her brain again. Ow. Patience. Fine.

She grumbles a thank you at Tiggy, and follows the thread to the bedroom.

And appears nose to nose with Bellatrix.

“Ah! Sorry! Did you just step forwards or something? I didn’t mean to…”

Bellatrix’s eyes begin to wander downward and Hermione adjusts her towel awkwardly, clearing her throat.

“So, clothes?”

Bellatrix shoves some clothes into her arms and then jumps backwards to sit on a bed.

Her bedroom. Huh. It’s rather…normal. Everything looks very old and expensive, but it’s nothing dark or gothic. Just…a double bed, a wardrobe, a floor length mirror and a stool in front of a wide window, a chest of drawers. All heavy, polished wood. Walnut maybe. Or oak. And a thick carpet.

“Tired of the no clothes rule already? Some elf you are. Hurry up and get dressed, you can tell me about this plan at the same time. I might get called back to the Dark Lord any minute now, and he’s less patient than me. I won’t be ignoring that call.”

Hermione sighs internally and closes her eyes. So. They’re not discussing anything that happened earlier.

She shakes her head and opens her eyes, holding out the piece of clothing. A dress. Black, but no corset, slim fit, not too revealing. Maybe from her youth. Wait. “You want me to get changed in front of you?”

Bellatrix rolls her eyes. “Come on, prude, I’ve seen it all before. Get on with this plan of yours, you’re obviously bursting to tell me. You love planning things.”

Hermione can’t help but smile at that, and shrugs off the embarrassment to start getting dressed. She’s right, it’s not like she hasn’t seen…it is a bit different now since the kiss. Multiple kisses. But—

Concentrate, Hermione, the plan.

“Alright, well, did you know that merpeople are known to be ancient beings, connected to the past by their long history and oral tradition? I was thinking they might be able to teach us something about travelling from the past to the future…or well, from now, so I can get back. They have an alliance with the centaurs, who represent the future. Between them…maybe they know something wizards don’t.”

She struggles into the dress, hands reaching around uselessly to try to tie it at the back without magic. What’s the incantation again? She doesn’t wear enough dresses.

Why hasn’t she had a response yet? She looks up at Bellatrix, who’s watching her from the bed,  lying on her stomach now, swinging her legs in the air.

“How is the past going to help? You don’t want to go back any further, you know. One decade was enough. You really think some slippery fish creatures and some stargazing horses are going to— oh for the love of Merlin, stop trying, you can’t reach. Give up. Here.”

She waves her wand, and the dress tightens up her back.

“Thanks, uhh…no underwear?”

Bellatrix grins. “Just be careful how you sit. I’m not giving you any of mine, no matter how much you beg.”

Umm…don’t think about that, Hermione. Get back on track.

She sits down next to Bellatrix on the bed, who rolls onto her back to look up at her. Hermione is suddenly struck by how effortlessly beautiful she is. She bites her lip…

And then scolds herself and shrugs casually. “It’s the only idea we have though, isn’t it? It can’t hurt. So…I’ll go, and maybe check in with you for this prophecy thing. You can’t be missing for very long again, you’re right. We can’t change anything and…you have duties. Missions. Meetings.”

Bellatrix looks up at her and opens her mouth as if to say something. Then stops. Then opens her mouth again. “I’ve been thinking. About what you said. About…it may be difficult for me to continue…my behaviour might change. I think I already knew on some level that my goals had…shifted. Since I saw your memories. Cissy noticed. Snape might know. Now it won’t be long before—”

She sits up and clears her throat.

“The prophecy said, you know, bla bla bla love potions, chains, whatever. And then…through sand and sea, do not drift asunder, then both, now lost, shall be returned, though not without the other.

Hermione nods cautiously, not quite daring to hope. “Yes, I think the sand and sea part was my invisibility. You helping me with wandless magic. I don’t think I would have known what to do without that…push.”

Bellatrix groans and collapses back down on her stomach. “That’s not the problem though, is it? Do not drift asunder. We have to stay together if we both want to survive this. How can we do that if I have to be playing my part elsewhere?” she grumbles into the duvet.

Play a part? Goal change? This means—

“You’ve changed your mind about him, haven’t you?” Hermione whispers.

Bellatrix doesn’t reply.

Bloody hell. This is— this is huge! It worked!

She breaks out in a wide grin. Ha! Take that, Tom Riddle. One less follower. Your right hand just stepped down!

Oh.

She must be terrified.

Hermione clears her throat. “You’re stronger than him, you know. He’s completely lost…he’s split his soul. Into eight pieces. He’s barely clinging to sanity. Whoever trained you, mentored you, he’s long gone. Even if he had been trying to help you…I don’t think there’s any chance of that now.”

More silence.

And then a sigh. “I know.”

Hermione stares down at the witch. She doesn’t know what to say. Should she—

Bellatrix huffs out a breath. “When I saw— when you showed me, about the horcruxes. When Potter said— it all made sense. How much he changed since I was a girl, how different he is now. I didn’t want to see it, but…as soon as I left Az— when he broke me free, I couldn’t wait to hear his plans, his news, to see him again.”

Hermione stays as still as possible, barely daring to breathe as Bellatrix lays her head in her arms, whispering into the bedding like she’s scared to say the words out loud.

“Instead…he’s lost control. He should never have split his soul at all, let alone so many times. How could he be so— I thought he was intelligent. A visionary. The obsession with Potter, it consumes him. It was never— Potter was just one baby, in one prophecy, it didn’t need to be his downfall. He’s not supposed to be consumed by his rage. The violence has no purpose. If he’s going to torture people, at least have a reason to— All of our— We had other plans. A revolution. What happened to the future? The dream of…”

She rolls over to look up at Hermione again, searching her eyes desperately.

What is she looking for? Hermione just smiles at her reassuringly. This must be so hard for the witch to admit. She can’t believe she’s being so open.

Whatever it is she’s looking for, Bellatrix seems to find it, and sits up, looking down at her lap and fiddling with her dress. “I thought he was like me. And…I think he is. That’s the problem.”

What on Earth does—

Abused lonely child, no love. Hatred of the Muggle world, does everything to survive. Finds knowledge and power. Becomes consumed by that power. Tries to control everything but loses control of themselves. Lets the fear win. Destroys themselves. Lashes out and watches the world fall around them.

Oh. Oh so that’s what she’d meant when—

You foolish witch! You stupid, self-righteous, misguided— how did you know?!

How did you know I wouldn’t let the world crumble?

How did you know I…I could destroy everything.

She slowly reaches to take Bellatrix’s hand. It’s cold and trembling. She doesn’t pull away.

“You’re right. He is a lot like you. But that’s not the problem. The problem is, he isn’t enough like you. He doesn’t love like you do. Doesn’t feel like you do. I’ve felt your emotions, Bellatrix. He’s turned his back on the world because he doesn’t feel anything for it. You…you feel everything, with such an intensity that it hurts. That’s why you chose to save the world. To protect it. You always choose to protect the things you love.”

Bellatrix laughs hollowly. “Well I haven’t been doing a good job of that lately. Cissy is beside herself and Draco—ah!”

She pulls her hand free and clutches her arm. “Oh Morgana’s tits, not now!” The Mark.

She rubs a hand over her face tiredly, frowning, and Hermione grabs her shoulders, looking at her determinedly.

“He can’t read your mind. If that’s what you’re worried about— oh! Why don’t I come with you! Maybe I can make your mind invisible or—”

Bellatrix snorts and shoves her away, surprisingly gently. “Gryffindors. You bloody idiot, that will make me even more suspicious. The point is to not alter my mind. I’ll just go. You go talk to some mermaids and report back later.” She points her wand at Hermione “I’m still in charge, remember?”

Hermione shakes her head at her in exasperation, and Bellatrix gives her a poke with the wand before getting off the bed, stretching.

“Fine then, yes, you’re in charge. Call me if you need me…” she can’t help but… “Mistress.”

Bellatrix’s head snaps round to meet her eye mid-spin as she starts to apparate. Oh no! She’d meant to lighten the mood with a joke but…did that come off as flirting?

Maybe.

Argh! Legilimency! She forgot!

Bellatrix’s face falls into a smug smirk.

She disapparates with a wink.

Hermione flops back onto the bed. What is she doing?

She turns to groan into a pillow, letting herself sink into the bedding. She’s so tired. Maybe that’s why she keeps—

Oh it’s been so long since she’s laid in a bed, this is amazing, she forgot how soft and…she should really get up but…just a few minutes…

This is definitely Bellatrix’s bed. It smells like her…she’s not sure what it is…just…like her…

She lazily waves a hand at the curtains and they slide shut. The room falls into darkness. Just a few minutes…

“…mione?”

Hmm? What?

She blinks her eyes open. Where is she—? Oh.

It’s dark. A lantern is burning on the bedside table. How long has—

“Sorry, must have fallen asleep. What’s the—”

What?! What on earth happened? She laughs before she can hold it back.

Is that…smoke? Or…but why…? The colours! And what happened to her face?

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Bellatrix grits out.

“Lumos,” Hermione gasps. She needs to see this properly, this is ha!

Hermione clamps her hands over her mouth to hold the laughter in.

The witch has different brightly coloured powders littering her body, even in her hair. Smoke is rising from her, and there’s a definite burning smell, as well as…

“Ew! You smell terrible, it’s almost like…wait... You attacked the twins’ joke shop, didn’t you? Your face! Did you pick up a punching telescope? Why—”

“It’s not funny. Nox!” The room falls dark. “And you’re one to talk. The same thing happened to you!”

Hermione peers around in the darkness as Bellatrix’s voice moves around the room.

“Well exactly! Why on earth would you touch it after—”

“They threw it at me, I caught it. I was too busy avoiding the fireworks and— it doesn’t matter. What are you still doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be at the bottom of a lake?”

Hermione gives up on squinting into the dark and lies back down. “I didn’t sleep much last night after…um…well anyway, no, haven’t gone yet.”

She hears a door creak open, and a light comes on in an adjoining room. A shower starts running.

Hermione stares up at the ceiling as her heart rate decides to skyrocket. This is suddenly rather domestic. Should she leave? Or…is it stranger to leave now?

The darkness isn’t helping. She clears her throat. “Lumos.”

Well. That just reminds her that she’s in Bellatrix’s bedroom. “Umm…Tiggy?”

Tiggy appears with a pop. “Yes, Miss Hermione? You is enjoying Mistress’s bed?”

Wha—

Tiggy grins at her, and she scowls. “You’ve been talking to Master Spitsy, haven’t you? Honestly, such gossips, the both of you.”

Tiggy chuckles. “What is you being wanting, Miss Hermione?”

Oh. Right. “I wanted to read some books on merpeople, but I’m still not sure which books are safe. Could you bring me some that aren’t cursed?”

Tiggy nods, and a stack of books appears on the bed. “Spitsy be explaining. You be needing these. They is being proud, tricky beings, merpeople. You is needing to know the rules. They is not being like elves, they is not saying the rules…but you is still not wanting to break them.”

Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good. She swallows and pulls a book towards her.

“Thank you for the advice…I might have to ask you more about them before I leave tomorrow.”

“And Mistress.”

What?

“Pardon? What do you mean?”

Tiggy’s eyes narrow. “I be telling you, you not be leaving her. And she is being needed in the lake. They is listening to a Black. They is remembering.”

Wha—

They disappear with a crack.

Well what did that mean?

 


 

So, by ancient, does it literally mean…

She pulls another book towards her with a frown. See that one said something completely different. How is she supposed to know—

The bed dips down next to her, and she puts out a hand to stop herself rolling into Bellatrix, not turning from the book. Now where is that passage about…

Hmm, where’s the British section? There we are. Scotland.

Aha! “Bellatrix! Listen to this! It says some Scottish wizarding communities believe they are direct descendants of merpeople, or Ceasg, as the females would often come ashore in human form to mate with or even marry wizards. And they believe that the mermaids can’t die as they retain their life force in a golden egg. Now this book said that—”

“—That they are actually shapeshifters known as Finfolk, who suck the youth out of human lovers to obtain their life force and thus live forever.”

Hermione turns to stare at the witch next to her. Who has gotten under the covers, wearing a nightdress, and at some point grabbed a book for herself when Hermione wasn’t paying attention.

 She raises an eyebrow at Hermione. “These are my books. From my library. I have spent the past however many decades trying to find a way for a wizard to become immortal.”

Right.

Hermione continues staring. She can’t help it. Finally someone has read more than her, can finish her rambling thoughts, doesn’t look confused when she opens a book or cites a source.

Bellatrix looks back down at her own book. “You’re doing it again,” she murmurs. “You need to learn occlumency, I don’t need to know how sapiosexual you are. I’m surprised you’re not a Ravenclaw.”

Hermione hurriedly looks away. Sapio— oh no. She fiddles with the sheets in embarrassment.

“I…I almost was. A Ravenclaw. I think all the riddles would drive me mad though. I’m a bit too…blunt. Straightforward. For that.”

Bellatrix snorts. “Yes, subtlety and cunning is certainly not your thing. How you still manage to be such a mystery I don’t—”

She snaps her mouth shut.

Mystery? She thinks Hermione is mysterious?

“Stop it.”

Hermione just keeps smirking. “Stop what?”

Ow! Did something just bite her lip? What spell would—

“Get that look off your face. What I meant was that your Gryffindor recklessness makes you rather unpredictable. You act on impulse. I’m not used to people taking the first action that springs to mind. Slytherins don’t do that.”

Hermione sucks at her lip and frowns. “But you do that. All the time.”

Bellatrix snaps the book shut and turns her body to face her, crossing her legs. “Do I? You’re about to meet with beings related to the fae folk, ancient beings, planning and strategy is important. You have to play the game. Be Slytherin. They won’t give you a list of rules like the elves. They’ll try to trick you. Trap you for their amusement.”

Well that’s just perfect. She folds her arms with a huff. “Do I have to play the game? I can just disapparate anyway if it goes wrong. I don’t like all that slytherin sneakiness, it’s exhausting. And to answer your question, no, you don’t act like the other slytherins. You always do whatever you want and just threaten anyone if they tell you not to.”

Bellatrix looks down to casually examine her nails. “Did I kill you in the Department of Mysteries, or did I find out who you were to assess the threat?”

What? “Well—”

“Did I kill you when you caused us to fall several feet to our almost deaths, or did I interrogate you into opening the door?”

“You tortured me! You—”

“When the love potion wore off, did I go straight to my Lord, or did I decide to once again determine the threat first? Did I kill you when you awoke me from the sleeping draught? Did I kill the elves when they spoke down to me? Torture them into revealing their secrets? Did I let you get caught without any magic and expelled from their school? Did I refuse to sleep next to you? To train you? Did I obliviate you when you saw my memories and then turned your back on me?”

Hermione lets out a shaky breath. “No…but, are you saying…did you want to?”

Bellatrix slowly looks up. “All of those thoughts crossed my mind. But I didn’t act on the impulse. I reminded myself of my goals, of the consequences, and I stopped myself. Thought it through.”

She…almost killed her…so many times. She almost obliviated

She didn’t want to train her. To even sleep next to her. How much is she putting up with just to—

Hermione scrambles off the bed and backs away, hitting into a wall. She lets the invisibility wash over her mind.

Bellatrix frowns at her. “What? What’s wrong with you? What are you doing?”

Snape said Bellatrix was good at ignoring physical and mental pain. Is that it? She knows the world might end if she doesn’t put up with Hermione. She even said how annoying it was that the prophecy makes them stay together. Is this just another injury that she’s putting off healing? Ignoring?

Is sleeping next to Hermione so terrible? Did she—

Why did she kiss her? Is it all part of a plan?

Bellatrix gets off the bed and moves around towards her. “Hello? What’s your problem? Sit back down, you look like you’re going to—”

A sob escapes Hermione’s mouth. She doesn’t know why. Bellatrix’s eyes widen and she tilts her head, looking at Hermione like some puzzle she can’t quite piece together.

Enough. She has to— she tries to turn invisible, but nothing happens. She’s not in control, she’s feeling—

So alone. Alone and surrounded by tricks and riddles and snakes and—

She apparates away. Back to the light chamber. Back to Master Spitsy. Her one friend.

Except she doesn’t move. It doesn’t work. Why isn’t it working? It’s like she’s stuck. Something is keeping her here, tying her down.

She can’t breathe.

Her mind isn’t even protected anymore. She has no protection. She’s vulnerable and weak. She looks over at Bellatrix in terror, flattening herself against the wall.

If she decides to hurt her again…she can’t stop her.

Hermione. I’m not going to hurt you. Calm down you stupid—

Stupid. She is stupid. So stupid. How can they work together? She wants to kill her. Has always wanted to—

Will you listen? I don’t want to kill you!

What?

Hermione blinks her eyes back into focus.

“You…you don’t? But…I’m a muggleborn.”

Bellatrix breaks eye contact and takes a step back, pulling herself up to sit on a chest of drawers.

“I know, I’m not sure why myself, it’s all very— it’s your fault! You and your open mind and your naïve trust. I— I don’t know why— I shouldn’t have used so much legilimency on you. It’s confusing. I feel like I’ve lived with you for…our minds are...” She trails off, frowning at the floor.

Hermione grits her teeth and swallows. “Then promise me.”

Bellatrix looks up, her expression even more puzzled.

Hermione nods to herself and continues. “Promise me you’re not going to hurt me again. Because I don’t think I can do this anymore. I can’t stand it. Feeling unsafe. Not knowing if— promise me. Or I think I’ll have to leave, no matter the cost.”

Bellatrix lets out a disbelieving scoff. “What? You get hit with one spell and suddenly give up?  Just let it all go. The prophecy. The timeline. Everything. Just because you got hurt? You said pain wouldn’t stop you. That you’ve learnt to be strong.”

Hermione walks closer, shaking her head. “I deserve to feel safe, I can’t keep forgiving— I can’t go on like this. All the doubts and— I don’t want to be scared of you anymore. I’ve had enough. No more pain.”

Bellatrix lets out a throaty chuckle and lowers herself to stand on the carpet. “Pain is a part of life, pet, we both know that. Sometimes you just have to take it. Pain gives you strength, power. I thought you learnt that too.”

Hermione smiles sadly at her. No. No that isn’t what she’s learnt at all. “Bellatrix…strength is strength. Determination. Drive. Belief in yourself. That’s strength. Pain…just hurts. It hurts so much. It destroys. Pain is not a part of life. Not this kind of pain. No one should have to feel this. Nothing is worth living in fear for your life.”

Bellatrix lets out another derisive scoff…but her eyes dart to the side as she folds her arms.

Hermione continues softly. “Promise me. It doesn’t have to be for a reason, it can just be…a pact. We’re allies. You won’t ever hurt me, and I won’t ever hurt you.”

“What do you want me to do? Make the unbreakable vow? A blood oath? Seal it with a kiss?” Bellatrix jokes, pushing past her towards the bed.

Hermione grabs her arm as she passes and looks her firmly in the eye. “No. I want your word. Just a promise. But you have to mean it. Because I promise you, if you break it, there will be no last chance. I won’t be coming back.”

She stares into shocked eyes, meaning every word. No more. Juggling all these outbursts, never fully knowing, never understanding. It’s all too much.

“You’re asking me to— How can you ask me to— How else can I—”

Hermione nods. Yes. She’s asking her to lay down her weapon. To turn off the defence mechanism that has served her all the years of her life. To trust Hermione.

Bellatrix wrenches her arm away and staggers back from her, shaking her head.

And disapparates with a crack.

Hermione’s hand comes up to cover her mouth and she closes her eyes.

Okay.

She slowly exhales. It’s okay, Hermione. It had to be done.

You’re safe.

You’re on your own.

She takes one last look around the empty room, and disapparates with a sigh.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione reaches around blindly on the bedside table for her wand. What time is it? Where—

“Tempus,” she mumbles, giving up on her wand altogether and wrenching her eyes open.

“It is already being nine o’clock, Miss Hermione. You is needing to get up.”

Ah! Hermione sits up with a start. “Tiggy! What are you doing here?”

She is in Shell Cottage, right? Yesterday wasn’t a dream or something. She looks around at the pale, seaside decor, rubbing at her face. Okay, definitely Shell Cottage.

She pulls back the bedding and sits on the edge of the bed, staring down at Tiggy in confusion. Who holds out a piece of parchment for her to take.

What?

I, Bellatrix (Black) Lestrange, promise not to deliberately cause harm to one Hermione Jean Granger.

“Tiggy?” Hermione asks, eyebrows raising in disbelief.

Tiggy just tuts. “Mistress is telling you that she is meaning it, and that you is to come back now. For breakfast, before yous is going to the lake.”

She really…

Just like that? Just like that, and she doesn’t have to be scared of her anymore?

A strangled laugh escapes Hermione’s lips. This can’t be happening. She must still be dreaming.

The monster is gone. Her boggart is—

Can she trust this? This piece of paper?

She gets to her feet and pulls on some clothes, frowning. This seems too good to be true.

She raises an eyebrow at Tiggy, who just stands there.

“Why, Tiggy? How do I know— why on Earth would she do this for me? What changed her mind?”

Tiggy carries on staring. Well. She’s not giving into stubbornness that easily. She walks out of the room and into the bathroom to wash her face and get herself ready for the day.

Won’t hurt her? Really?

She’d seemed scared. This is about trust. Trust doesn’t grow overnight, Hermione knows that much. It takes…

A sigh from behind her. She glances into the mirror to see Tiggy leaning against the edge of the bath, arms crossed.

“You is not believing Mistress? This is being the problem?”

Well… “It just seems rather out of character, Tiggy. She might mean it now, in the moment, but as soon as she gets what she wants from me…she keeps hurting me. Why should that change?”

She splashes some water on her face and reaches blindly for a towel.

“She is not being sleeping last night, you know this? She is being thinking. You is getting into her head, little witch-elf. Finally. This darkness is muddling her thoughts for too long. Why you is thinking Tiggy tell you to stay? You is needed.”

Oh. She—

“She didn’t sleep?”

Tiggy shakes their head solemnly. “You is right that this is being hard for Mistress. She is not easily trusting. But…nobody often be trusting her either. You is trusting her, Miss Hermione. You is…seeing her. Not many people be seeing Mistress in her life. Seeing her and not be trying to change her. She is thinking this Lord be seeing her but…”

Tiggy shakes their head with a chuckle. “He not be seeing anything. He not be looking. You be looking, Miss Hermione. You be…a kind elf. A strong elf. A thinking elf. I is thinking Mistress not be knowing why she be trusting you…but she be trusting. And she is meaning it.”

They hold out the piece of parchment once more, and Hermione takes it. Lets her eyes study the words.

“I can trust her word? Her promise?”

She slowly looks up. Tiggy is smiling fondly. “Oh yes. Mistress is a loyal elf. A protecting elf. You ever see her break a promise?”

Well…no. Not really.

And the smile morphs into a glare as Tiggy points their finger at her. “She be meaning this, so she be trusting you now, Miss Hermione. You be nice to her. Tiggy is telling you.”

It’s just so hard. Tiggy makes it sound easy but— Trust Bellatrix completely? She’d tried that before, and where did that get her? Hanging upside down bleeding and crying whilst the witch shouted curses at her.

It was maybe to help her but—

She promises not to hurt you, Hermione. And Tiggy is right. Bellatrix may be rather unpredictable, but if you know anything about her it’s that she’s obsessively loyal. She doesn’t flit back and forth between allegiances, as unyielding as her wand. So if she means this…

Hermione sighs. “Fine. I’ll come back.”

Tiggy grins. “Oh I is knowing you is a good one, Miss Hermione. Yes, you is helping Mistress now.”

Yeah yeah.

She feels out for the thread, and disapparates.

 


 

Bellatrix is in the kitchen, reading the Prophet over breakfast. At first glance she seems calm, not even looking up as Hermione arrives. She does appear to be holding her breath though.

She doesn’t look that tired. Did she really not sleep?

Hermione clears her throat. “Thank you. If you really do mean it.”

Bellatrix turns a page, licking her thumb. “That’s what I said, isn’t it?”

Hermione sits down on a stool next to her. “So…no matter what I do? Whatever I say?”

Bellatrix shrugs and takes a sip of orange juice.

And Hermione feels a lump form in her throat, an embarrassing tear slide down her cheek. It’s over. Finally.

She cautiously lays her hand over Bellatrix’s wrist.

The witch’s head snaps around and she does a double take. “What’s wrong now? I thought this was what you wanted, you’re crying again?”

Hermione sniffs and shakes her head with a smile. “I’m just so relieved. I can’t believe— you’ll never hurt me again, you promise?”

Bellatrix rolls her eyes. “Don’t go rubbing it in. It’s just so the world doesn’t blow up, alright? If we have to be allies for this to work, then fine. I’ll put up with it.”

Hermione pulls her hand away with a frown. “But you said you didn’t want to hurt me.”

Bellatrix groans. “I don’t! I mean I do! I— argh! For fuck’s sake. Do you want to hurt me?”

What? Well…

“No. No of course I don’t want to hurt you.”

Bellatrix spins sideways to face her. “Really? It’s not a stupid question. You’ve hurt me before. You hated me. Why did that change all of a sudden, hmm? Have you never hated me so much you wanted to hurt me?”

Well she— it was when— she sometimes still— but not really—

Bellatrix chuckles softly. “Exactly, pet. Looks like we’re in the same boat.

Oh.

Hermione smiles. “So…even if I say something bad about you? If I…I don’t know, annoy you? You’ll just be all sensible and rational now?”

Bellatrix raises an eyebrow. “And what could you say about me? Come on, try something, I dare you.” There’s a glint to her eyes. A challenge.

Hmm. “You…” She looks at Bellatrix. Really looks at her, sat there with her legs crossed at the ankles, swinging to hit against the counter, in her usual black dress and corset combo, newspaper scrunched in her lap, lip twitching as she tries not to smirk and eye still bruised from the telescope mishap.

“You’re nothing like any other pureblood I’ve ever met,” Hermione finds falling out of her mouth.

Bellatrix seems to freeze for a split second. And then she grins toothily. “I’m nothing like any person you’ve ever met, pet. There’s only one of me.”

Hermione finds herself smiling back softly. How true.

She holds out a hand for Bellatrix to shake. “Allies, then.”

The witch doesn’t hesitate. Just reaches out and clasps her hand, not breaking eye contact.

Well that’s suspicious. Why does she still look so mischievous? There’s a gleam to her eyes and—

She turns Hermione’s hand palm down and tugs it closer, before leaning down and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.

Hermione feels the breath leave her lungs in one fell swoop.

Bellatrix smirks. “Allies.”

Again with the— why does she keep—

Bellatrix lets go of her hand and spins around to jump off her stool. “Gotta go. Duty calls. I hope you’ve got all this out of your system now and we can get on with this mermaid thing later. Because I’m coming with you. Sand and sea, remember?”

Hermione nods dumbly, still a little off balance.

Bellatrix gives her one last nod, and disapparates away.

Umm.

Well. Okay. Suppose it’s breakfast time.

She grabs a plate and a couple of slices of toast, buttering them distractedly.

A Bellatrix who won’t hurt her, and actually wants to spend time with her. How bizarre.

She takes a bite of toast.

Who keeps kissing her for no apparent reason.

Is she just being…they’re not friends so it isn’t— and Bellatrix does like witches so— does Hermione want her to—

It had been nice to kiss her before…

If she really focuses on that night, she can still feel the ghost of her lips, a warm body beneath her and—

Stop it, Hermione. Concentrate. You can have a sexuality crisis later. You have bigger problems. You’re a decade in the past for Godric’s sake!

Time travel. Tricky merpeople.

She carries on eating. So. Think like a slytherin. Be a slytherin, for the merpeople, or ceasg, or finfolk or whatever they call themselves.

What’s your goal?

Find out about time travel.

What’s their goal?

Umm. Keep their secrets? Not interact with wizardkind? Find some…amusement in her?

So…don’t tell them what you want. And don’t just do whatever they say. But don’t let them know you’re not doing as they say. Be respectful. But don’t follow their rules. Whatever those might be…

Well, that just sounds impossible.

She finishes her breakfast and sends her plate to wash itself in the sink.

“Tiggy?”

Tiggy looks up from where they’ve been sitting by the fire. Knitting. She hasn’t asked, it’s just so odd it…anyway.

She clears her throat. “Could you tell me more about the merpeople?”

Tiggy looks back down. “I’s could.”

Hermione waits. Tiggy continues knitting.

Argh, Tiggy is so—

“Well then may you tell me, please.”

Tiggy chuckles. “I is not being able to tell you everything. It is being forbidden. But I is telling you that they will be trying to use Mistress, take her, and they is not being caring about you. Tiggy suggests you be telling them you is Mistress’s mate.”

What?! Hermione sprays a mouthful of orange juice across the kitchen counter.

“Wha— I’m not— we’re not—”

Tiggy calmly looks over at her. “Whether you is or you isn’t, you is needing to tell them you is. Or they is taking her for themselves. If she is belonging to you…maybe they is killing you…or maybe they is accepting you. I is not knowing.”

Taking her? Belonging to?

“What do you mean taking her? You said they’d listen to her. That Bellatrix has to go. What do you mean taking? And a person doesn’t belong to someone. Even if we were— which we’re not, I mean, I’d never own her. Even her— she has a husband and he doesn’t even live here! Where is he, by the way? I almost— I forgot— Oh Merlin, she’s married! I forgot he was still alive! What—”

A loud clap startles her.

“Spitsy is being right. You is too much a thinking elf. So much you is not being thinking. You is talking of Mr Lestrange? He is having his own house. They is sharing a name, connections, money, yes. This is all. This is contract. This is all. Mistress is not being belonging to him. And the merpeople is knowing this. She is more belonging to you. You is having the thread. Tiggy sees it. So they is seeing it.”

Hermione rubs her hands over her face. The thread. Again.

“What is this bloody thread? And…you said they might kill me. Why do they want Bellatrix so much? What for?”

She starts cleaning up the orange juice by hand and then remembers she’s a witch and mutters a tergeo and a scourgify.

“They is wanting to use her. Manipulate her. Is…political. Scheming. They is using everything to…I is not allowed to say. But you is needing to have worth. Power. Value.”

Oh dear. Is Hermione worth anything to a mermaid? What do they even value? Shells?

No. Don’t be ridiculous, Hermione. Just because you never liaised with merpeople at work doesn’t mean you haven’t read about…fishing zones. Ownership rights. Wizarding bylaws. Well. That could help…she supposes.

A sudden warmth fills her heart, a comforting glow. Maybe today is a good day after all. She is having a rather good morning and—

Oh. A patronus? Who is—

A doe. Oh dear.

The doe walks up to her cautiously, sniffs at her. And then a deep voice vibrates through the room. It’s rather unsettling.

“I assume you are still alive and well, seeing as the world has yet to end and a certain witch is being as aggravating as usual. Why you have failed to contact me, therefore, I cannot imagine. As free moments for myself are few and far between, I suggest you hurry to meet me at the usual place. I won’t wait.”

Sarky bastard. She doesn’t owe him her free time, he—

He saved Bellatrix’s life. And kept her secret…presumably. Actually, no! He told Narcissa, the blabbermouth! He has some explaining to do!

She pops straight to Shell Cottage with a huff, not even bothering to send her patronus first. She assumes that’s the usual place.

It’s as they left it, the kitchen half-tidied from Snape-Narcissa. She hadn’t stopped downstairs last night to sort it all out, just apparated straight to her room.

The pasta is going mouldy on the table. How disgusting.

She wrinkles her nose and vanishes it, sending the dishes to wash in the sink and looking out the window. No sign of Snape. Is she in the wrong place?

“No homenum revelio? I’m beginning to seriously doubt your intelligence, Miss Granger.”

She manages not to jump, and slowly turns around, wand at the ready.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“What did you say about my teeth when Draco hit me with a densaugeo hex last year?” Hermione asks, wand raised.

Neither Dumbledore or Narcissa will know that. It’s not important enough.

Snape smirks at her.

“Ah. Not entirely inept then. I said that I ‘saw no difference’. How did you force Bellatrix Lestrange to kill her cousin in The Department of Mysteries?”

Wha—

He raises an eyebrow.

Hermione folds her arms with a huff. “Amortentia, from a waterfall, happy?”

He lowers his wand. “Just confirming that you are of the correct timeline.”

Yeah right. Wanting to embarrass her more like.

Oh shoot!

She hurriedly washes the invisibility over her mind. That was close. Had she made eye contact? She had!

He twitches and steps back. “So that’s what Narcissa…” he mutters.

Oh yes! “Yes, speaking of which. You told Narcissa Malfoy?! What is wrong with you? I thought you of all people would understand what a secret is.”

He glares at her, stepping closer and folding his arms to sneer down at her. She just rolls her eyes. She’s used to intimidation tactics by now.

“I spoke no word on the matter, perhaps you should have enacted the fidelius charm as I suggested if you didn’t wish to bring unwanted visitors to your hideout. This is your hideout, is it not? It appears somewhat…abandoned. Taken up residence elsewhere?”

What has Narcissa told him?

“I trusted that you wouldn’t share such important information, do you share everything with Mrs Malfoy now? Is she going to suddenly arrive here too? I can’t believe you— she’s a legilimens! If I hadn’t guarded my thoughts—”

“And how exactly are you accomplishing that, Miss Granger? You’ve never managed it before, practically screaming your intentions to the world at large. What have you done? How are you—”

Hermione scoffs. “And why should I tell you that? I’ve told you enough already. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to be— anyway. Thank you for your help, but from now on, the less you know, the better.”

Snape stares at her, eyes calculating as they move over her face. She straightens her posture and raises an eyebrow.

He snorts. “Guarding your mind? Trying to hide your intentions? Baiting me? You’ve been spending your time with a slytherin, Miss Granger. And from your expression, I believe I know which one. What I cannot understand is how. She is dangerous. How you are still even alive, I cannot fathom, and that doesn’t happen often. It would be in your interest to have someone you can trust so that you don’t come to harm.”

Hmm. Well from his perspective it must seem rather…

She walks over to light the fire in the living room and takes a seat. “Thank you for your concern, Professor, but I’ll be fine. I’m sure Narcissa has shared some of her…well. She saw some things. What has she told you?”

He doesn’t sit down. Just looms over her.

Hermione sighs. “Sit down, you slimy— umm, I mean, sorry, Professor. Gosh, maybe I have been— it must be catching.”

His eyebrows raise, and he slowly takes a seat in an armchair. “You…spend time…with Lestrange? Converse with her?”

Hermione frowns. “Mrs Malfoy…Narcissa hasn’t told you anything? I assumed…”

“Assumed what? That a witch living amongst snakes and criminals willingly shares information concerning her only sister? Such a wise conclusion.”

She groans. “No! Of course not. Not with all of them, just with you. And what do you mean only sister? Andy is still—oh!”

“Hermione!”

She’s calling. Tugging on the thread.

And Snape’s beady eyes have snapped to hers.

Oh dear, well is it important, or…?

Can she call back? That might be too risky to figure out right now.

“Miss Granger? What is the—”

“One second, Professor. Expecto patronum!”

Now what to say so that Snape doesn’t—

“Take this message to Bellatrix when she is alone: I’m busy at the moment. Unless it’s urgent, it would be best if we meet later. Snape is listening.”

The otter spins around her, and then flies off out the window. She watches it go.

“You…she allows you to…”

She looks back at Snape and can’t help but chuckle. She’s never seen the man so visibly puzzled. Maybe she is a mystery now.

She grins at him. “You know, I should thank you really, Professor, for your advice about Bellatrix. About imagining myself as her. Seeing her. And about control! That was very helpful.”

His eye twitches.

And then the fire roars green.

Oh for the love of—

“Bellatrix! What did I just say?!”

Bellatrix turns to glare at her, stepping out of the floo, and Hermione snaps her mouth shut.

Oh. How are they playing this? How much do they want Snape to—

“Shut your filthy mouth, mudblood. I’ll deal with you later.”

Well. That answers that question.

They all wait in silence, watching each other. How much does Snape know? What does he want? How much does he think Bellatrix knows? She’d been unconscious the last time he was here. Does he think she’ll tell Voldemort he’s a spy? Does he know that she knows he’s a spy?

What does Hermione even want to get out of this?

To leave, basically, with Snape none the wiser. She shouldn’t have come. Now everything she does will be—

“You’re unusually quiet, Bellatrix. Nothing to say? No…mudbloods being tortured? Words of...accusation?”

Hermione glares at Snape. Shut up! Don’t make her—

“Why should I waste my breath, Snivellus? Your act is up. I’ve caught you here with the girl. If the vow didn’t prove your disloyalty, then—”

Snape lets out a low hum, adjusting in his seat and tapping a finger to his lips. “Are you implying I’m hiding something from the Dark Lord? That I have ulterior motives? How…hypocritical.”

Bellatrix growls and raises her wand at him. “You dare question my loyalty! I’m onto you, Snape. I knew you couldn’t be trusted, and now here you are, whispering with the disgusting little mudblood girl.”

Snape sighs. “To gain information on Potter, as I assume you are doing also, or is she still alive for another reason known only to you?”

Will he stop trying to get her killed! He doesn’t know Bellatrix won’t hurt her. Which means—

Hermione drops to her knees. “Please. Please just stop fighting I’ll— we can all just leave. Don’t hurt me, or him. I won’t— I didn’t tell him anything, I promise. Just like you said. You’re in charge. I did everything—”

“I said shut your mouth, filth!”

She swallows harshly and trains her eyes on the floor. This is the only response that will make sense to Snape. He might fear for her safety, but he won’t question Bellatrix’s mindset. Her allegiance. Won’t turn her over to Dumbledore, try to use her.

“There’s a good pet. Now. If Snivellus has done enough snooping, we’ll be leaving. We have plans, don’t we muddy?”

Hermione nods shakily and stumbles to her feet, Bellatrix grabbing her arm roughly. They move towards the floo.

That’s it. Just one more step and they can all—

The fire is extinguished with a hiss.

“I can’t allow you to do that, Bellatrix. Things are not as they appear. Whatever your plans may be, the situation is too complex for you to do as you please. To harm the girl.”

No! Why is he—? What does he—? He’s going to ruin—

Bellatrix turns them around and then pushes past Snape, throwing herself down on the sofa with a groan, wand in her lap. “Oh fine! You persistent old— I know! Alright? And you’d better not go to Dumbledore about this, because we all know that once he sticks his nose in, we’ll all be doomed. Time travel. The world. Boom!”

She gestures in the air half-heartedly.

Hermione stomps over to sit next to her. “Did you have to tell him? I was trying to be a slytherin! You said! I told you you’re bad at scheming too. Now who’s bad at lying?”

Bellatrix rolls her eyes at her. “He knew too much already, and that was all you, pet, so don’t go blaming me.”

Hermione turns away from her and folds her arms. Snape is stood frozen in shock by the fireplace.

She chuckles. “Bellatrix,” she stage-whispers. “Look at him. Maybe we can just sneak past he— Oh this is amazing! Harry would love this.”

Bellatrix cackles. “Forget Potter, he never had much of a sense of humour. You know who would love this? Cissy.”

Hermione gapes at her. “Narcissa?! How is she the one with the sense of humour. Surely Andy—”

Oops. Shit.

Bellatrix tenses, hand gripping tightly around her wand once more.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean— my stupid mouth. I’ll shut up now. Promise.”

Bellatrix drops her wand into her lap once more and distractedly pats her on the knee, staring into nothing. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep. There’s no shutting you up. We all know that.”

Hermione cringes. That is kind of true. Except…

She smiles excitedly at Bellatrix. “But I did, didn’t I? That was good, wasn’t it? He actually believed me.”

She looks over at Snape, who has lowered himself into a chair, face pale and staring at them in disbelief. “You did believe me, didn’t you, Professor? It was a good act?”

He nods jerkily and clears his throat.

Bellatrix scoffs. “Such a teacher’s pet,” she grumbles. “Do you have a praise kink? I bet you do.”

Hermione whacks her in the arm. She’s so embarrassing!

Snape’s wand jolts up as if to cast a protego on himself. Or maybe Hermione. That’s nice of him.

Bellatrix just sniggers to herself. No retaliation. So she does mean it.

“You’re right, this is fun, let’s keep him around. How should I shock him next?”

“Ask him about Narcissa. I think they’re closer than we think. Or want to be.”

“Really? How disgusting. I always thought there might be something with him and Lucy. Do you think they have a little arrangement going?”

“Lucy? You mean Lucius? Maybe…explains why he’s godfather.”

Snape’s wand snaps to aim at Bellatrix as he lets out a strangled noise. “Who are you? What is this, this trick? Are you Potter? Or some Weasley? Think this is funny, do you Miss Granger?”

What?!

Bellatrix gags. “A Weasley? I might be sick. Potter was bad enough but—”

Snape jolts to his feet, whipping his cloak around him. “Who. Are. You.”

This is ridiculous— “It’s her! It’s Bellatrix! Calm down, Professor. It’s— Bellatrix ask him something, or tell him something only you would know.”

“Only I— I don’t know him. We avoid each other as much as possible, we don’t—”

“Who did I catch you snogging in a broom cupboard when I was trying to hide from Black in my first year?” Snape snarls.

What?!

Bellatrix glares up at Snape. Is she blushing? Wha—

Hermione grins. Her day is just getting better and better. Ow!

Stinging jinx. She rubs at her face as the fizzing fades.

Doesn’t that count as hurting?

She turns to—

Shit I’m sorry, I forgot. It was a joke it— that doesn’t count it—

Hmm. Well it didn’t actually hurt. Just tingled oddly. Fine.

“No, it didn’t hurt, it’s fine. Get on with it and tell Snape who you snogged,” Hermione grins.

The relief creeping onto Bellatrix’s face quickly morphs into a scowl.

“Stop smiling like that. It was only— it was Slughorn’s fault. His bloody club. He kept filling up the wine goblets, you know what it’s like. And you’ve snogged Weasley enough times to—”

“Who, Bellatrix? If it is you?” Snape snaps.

Hermione raises her eyebrows. “Yes, who was it, Bellatrix?”

Bellatrix spins her wand in her fingers, clenches her jaw, and then narrows her eyes at Snape. “Rita Skeeter. Satisfied, you slimy git?”

Rita—

Hermione’s mouth drops open. “How on earth has that not ended up in the Prophet by now?”

Bellatrix turns to grin at Hermione. “Think you’re the only one who knows about her six-legged little secret? Plus, you know, I’d just kill her.”

Right. Always an option that. Got a problem? Kill it.

Not that Hermione would feel too sorry for the witch. She doesn’t deserve death, but she deserves something after everything she did to Harry. Everything she said about Hermione.

Snape sits down heavily. “It is you…how? Why? Miss Granger, what did you do to— is she drugged? Is this amortentia? Or…the imperius curse. Surely you are not stupid enough to…”

Hermione waves her wand towards the kitchen with a sigh and puts the kettle on to boil. It seems like he needs some time to process. Looks like the merpeople will have to wait. Again. She’s never going to end up in that lake at this point.

“I haven’t done anything to her, I just did what you said. Let her take control…mostly. You’re in control, aren’t you Bellatrix?”

The witch rolls sideways to groan into Hermione’s shoulder dramatically. “None of this shit storm is controlled. I bet someone else is going to want in on this soon. Time travel theory is very clear about not telling people. Not being seen. We’re screwed. It’s chaos,” she mumbles.

Her breath is hot through the fabric of Hermione’s top and her hair—

Hermione decides to ignore her and focus on Snape. Who can’t seem to stop twitching.

She clenches her jaw slightly self-consciously. Why is Bellatrix suddenly all over her today? “Just ask your questions so we can get out of here. We actually do have plans. For returning me to my time? You know, so there aren’t any paradoxes or—”

Bellatrix makes another vague exploding sound.

“—yes, as she said. Boom.”

Snape pinches his brow. “Let me get this straight. She is Bellatrix Lestrange. Acting of her own free will. Helping you, Hermione Granger, to travel forwards in time. For no reason other than…because you asked?”

Hmm. Well…

“Well, yes, I suppose. That is rather nice of her, now that I think about it.”

She gently pulls Bellatrix by the chin to face her. “I haven’t thanked you, I completely forgot. Thank you, Bellatrix. For everything you’ve— well, not everything, there are some things that— and I’m sorry. I am sorry for dragging you into this. You’re right, it’s fucked up, I almost killed us all. So…”

How can she show her— Oh. That’s how Bellatrix says thank you.

She presses her lips to Bellatrix’s cheek in a kiss and then pulls back to look into her eyes earnestly. “Thank you. I mean it.”

Bellatrix shrugs, maybe…embarrassedly?

“Well. I did— do— will torture you at some point. So I suppose we’re even on the fucking up front. Not that I— I probably had my reasons, so don’t start thinking— I don’t care—”

Strained laughter fills the room, muffled slightly as Snape puts his head in his hands.

Hermione widens her eyes at Bellatrix. Is he alright? What is wrong with him?

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The kettle whistles, and Hermione grimaces. “I think I should get him a cup of tea. Or maybe something stronger, he seems—”

Snape breaks out in another laugh. “I’ve gone mad. I’ve finally cracked. All the lies, the double life, my mind must have…I’m insane. I’m in St Mungo’s.”

Bellatrix growls. “Oh shut up, you whiny bugger. You’re not mad.”

“You’re one to talk,” he mumbles.

Shit.

Hermione grabs Bellatrix’s arm as she moves to raise her wand. “Bellatrix! Don’t hurt him! He’s confused enough— Maybe we should give him some wine, or a calming draught, there might be one in the—"

“No! Enough of this. He shouldn’t have stuck his greasy nose in either. There’s a reason we learnt what we did, you know. Pop us out of here. Let’s get going already, we’ve wasted enough time as it is.”

Oh. Oh of course!

She lets the invisibility drip from her mind over her whole body, and then over Bellatrix too.

“Okay. I’ll take us to the lake. Do you think we should stop first for—”

“Take us there. Now. I’m in charge.”

Hermione rolls her eyes. Sure, Bellatrix. Whatever you say.

She takes one last look at a hysterical Snape, and pops away.

Appearing in the grounds of Hogwarts, close to the boat sheds, just in case they need to hide. They are invisible, but you can never be too careful.

Bellatrix moves to take her arm back, but Hermione clings on. “The invisibility, remember?”

“No-one’s here, it’s only the end of July. We have a month until—”

“I know, but Dumbledore could be here. Anyway, I need to talk to you privately about something.”

Bellatrix raises an eyebrow. “Well?”

Hermione fidgets. The things Tiggy had said were a bit— well, she doesn’t want Bellatrix getting the wrong idea.

“Umm, I have a memory you need to look at. That’s probably best. Easier than explaining.”

Bellatrix frowns. “What did you do?” Her wand comes up. “Legilimens.”

Hermione braces herself, focuses in on this morning, trying to catch the conversation at the right moment. Tiggy had been…knitting. That was it.

There they are. Bellatrix whizzes through. And then goes back, watching more closely.

The lake comes back into view, and Hermione lets out a breath, steadying herself against Bellatrix.

“Well that was clear as mud. I suppose Tiggy usually knows what they’re talking about though. Fine. From now on, you’re my mate. Anything to make this simpler.”

Wha—

“Simpler? Surely if anything that makes it even more complicated!” She widens her eyes at Bellatrix, who just shrugs.

“Why? We know enough about each other, we’re stuck together in this, tied together. Other than fucking, what do we need to lie about?”

Well there’s…they haven’t…there isn’t any official…

Oh dear Merlin, there isn’t an issue. It all checks out. Other than loving each other…

“Umm…alright. Shall we do this then? Swimming costumes are probably appropriate, unless you agree with my wetsuit idea?”

“I’m not…familiar with…explain.”

Oh. Right. She always forgets that wetsuits in the wizarding world are a more recent development; they won’t find any in Diagon Alley yet. It’s the nineties. How strange. And to think that Bellatrix was stuck in Azkaban for almost the whole of the eighties, she’s mentally in the seventies still!

She shakes herself from her thoughts. Get on explaining, Hermione.

“All in one clothes that retain heat by allowing a layer of water to warm just under the fabric, close to the skin.”

She imagines one and looks into Bellatrix’s eyes. Maybe legilimency has a visual component. She’ll have to ask more about it at some point. She never read enough about—

“Seems…inventive. Fine, put your elfy powers to use and get us some.”

Uhh what? Can she do that? Summon something from…a surf shop somewhere? Maybe. She has been to one before, on holiday in Cornwall. Or she could just go there and steal them. Not very ethical, but it is to save the world. Sort of.

She nods. “I’ll take us to get some.”

“Wait, don’t—!”

They’re in a muggle surf shop. In the middle of the day. In summer.

Hermione pulls them flat against a wall out of the way. It’s packed.

Okay, where are the wetsuits?

“Ah, over there, I can see them. Come on.”

She tries to walk past some people, but she’s swiftly yanked back by Bellatrix. What—oh balls.

“Bellatrix. They’re just normal people. They’re on holiday, don’t be scared, they—”

“I’m not scared!” Bellatrix hisses, terrified.

Great. Scary Muggles. Scary children with buckets and spades, teens squealing as they reach for wetsuits and try on each other’s sunglasses and hats.

She rubs her thumb over the witch’s wrist. “It can all be explained, Bellatrix. They’re the same as me. I’ve done this, been here. With my family, my friends. I can explain it all to you if want, but we don’t have much time. They’re just having fun. That’s all it is.”

She can feel her pulse. It’s so fast. She’s this scared? What does she think is going to happen?

“They can’t see us, remember? Can’t hear us. We’re safe.”

Bellatrix relaxes her posture, looking around with a sneer of casual disinterest even as her eyes take in every detail. “What is this place? What’s that sound? How do they have music? Where is it coming from? What are those— How are they— And— it’s so loud, is that normal for you people?”

Hermione runs her hand higher up, squeezing her upper arm reassuringly, careful not to let go of the witch in case the invisibility falters. “The beeping is just for the shopkeepers. Like having a bell on the door. It’s all similar to what we have. They’re just looking at clothes. They’re excited. You did that too, right? When you were young? Looked at clothes with your friends?”

Bellatrix turns to glare at her. “I’m still young. And I was never that vain.”

Oh thank Merlin, she’s calmed down enough to be irritable.

Hermione smiles at her. “I don’t believe that for a second. You know exactly how attractive you are. Probably always have. Now come on, we only have to walk over there and find a couple that are our size.”

Bellatrix hangs back as Hermione tugs at her, still reluctant to leave the edge, apparently.

And narrowing her eyes at her slyly. “You think I’m attractive?”

Oh. Oops. Well…

Well of course she is!

Hermione rolls her eyes and then looks away. “Of course you are. Don’t make that seem— You’re the one who—”

The crowd parts slightly as some people move into the dressing rooms. This is their chance.

“Come on! Let’s go, quickly. Forget about everyone else. Tell me more about the merpeople, you must have thought about it by now, right? Mentally mapped out the lake? Learnt mermish at some point?”

Bellatrix’s eyes dart around the room, and then she nods, moving swiftly forward, head held high and wand at the ready.

“We don’t need mermish. That’s only useful in written form, or when speaking on land. Underwater they are perfectly understandable.”

Hermione lets out a relieved breath and moves them over to a clothes rack, searching through the sizes. Keep the bookworm talking.

“And the Black Lake? What do you know?” Hmm where are the women’s sizes?

“As far as I can tell, the name is a coincidence. Despite what Tiggy said, we never owned it. In fact, there have been numerous attempts over the years to rename it. Ancestors not wanting to be associated with inferior beings. As for the merpeople…the Hogwarts mer-colony is extremely isolationist. Only Dumbledore has ever interacted with them, to my knowledge. Don’t know how he managed that. And that they agreed to participate in the Triwizard Tournament at all is puzzling in and of itself. It’s a shame you have no memory of being in the lake. We’re going to have to go in blind and— what are you doing?”

Hermione carries on holding the wetsuit up against Bellatrix, not quite able to see if the sleeve length is right as she has no hands free.

“Just checking this one will fit you. You’re a different shape to me, wetsuits are tight. Skintight. I need to be sure…what do you think about the arms?”

Bellatrix stashes her wand in her hair, and cautiously reaches back down to feel the material of the wetsuit between a thumb and finger. And then slides her hand down it more confidently.

“This fabric, what is it? How does it stretch? And it’s thick, and— what does it smell like? I’ve never— and there’s a zip. Why is there such a long cord? And what does—”

So this is why all of Hermione’s classmates got fed up with her in first year! Question after question about every little thing! It’s so annoying.

And somewhat endearing.

She chuckles softly. “All good questions. But if we want to get out of here before sunset, then I just need to know if it will fit. I have mine, do you think yours is the right length or—?”

Bellatrix seems to snap out of her childlike curiosity in an instant. “Yes, yes let’s get out of here. Take us back, we’ll get undressed in the boat shed. There’s still more I need to tell you…”

 


 

Hermione takes one last look across the lake, watching the surface of the water glisten as it ripples in the sunlight. Looks up at the sky, and then out over the hills and valleys. Distant mountains.

Okay. Here they go.

She casts a warming charm on herself, and follows Bellatrix into the lake, flinching as the cold hits her but focusing on their task. Their mission.

The water reaches her waist, and she dives under, invisible, bubblehead charm flickering into place.

They’ve decided that Bellatrix should appear to be alone. That way, if she gets into trouble, Hermione can be the secret back up plan. Tiggy had said they’d listen to Bellatrix. Maybe for some reason they’ll make an exception for her.

The trouble with being invisible is, Hermione can’t cast a lumos. And the deeper they go, amongst the reeds, the less the sunlight shines through. She keeps close behind Bellatrix, who has lit her wand. They weren’t sure if wands were a good idea but…they need the light.

What was that? She stops.

A shadow or…something just out of sight.

Movement. In the corner of her eye.

She kicks harder and pulls her arms firmly through the water, trying to catch up with Bellatrix. The witch is fast, she has more stamina than Hermione and—ah!

Something grabs her leg, dragging her down.

What is—relashio! The grip falters, and she struggles upwards.

“Wand carrier!” a voice booms out from the murky depths. How did they—

“Show yourself, wand carrier. You can’t fool the water with your invisibility. You’re in our world now.”

Should she? If she stays still maybe—

A swift tug at her ankle propels her downward, and then a knife is pressed to her throat as she stares into glowing yellow eyes. Large but focused. Catlike. The only features she can make out in the inky black of the deep.

“Swim away from my mate, pet, or you’ll quickly have no limbs to swim with,” Bellatrix’s voice comes from above.

Hermione tries to search her out in the gloom without cutting herself on the blade.

“Two of you! Two wand carriers. What are you doing here? We won’t stand for this. The treaty—”

Bellatrix laughs. “The treaty? We all know the treaty states that no violence is acceptable by either party. No act of aggression. You made the first move, little fish. You broke the contract.”

Ah! What the— Hermione is spun through the water so fast that everything blurs. Which way did she come from? Where’s the light? She’s lost track of the surface. She’s held firmly from behind and struggles as she peers through the darkness.

A light. Oh, there’s Bellatrix. Upside down.

Maybe Hermione’s upside down.

“I only greeted your mate. They are the one that used their power.”

Greeted? “You grabbed me! You pulled me down, that is aggressive! You used excessive force!” Hermione grunts, trying to pull free of the slender arms around her waist. The knife seems to have disappeared, but she doesn’t want to actually attack them.

“Oh, you speak, shielded one. Controller of sand and sea. You bring the taste of an ocean,” the merperson whispers. Suddenly…soft. What happened to the booming timbre? Is this a mermaid?

Bellatrix swims closer and then stops, hair fanning out, wand pointed towards them. “Taste? You dare claim her? She is not yours. She is mine. Give her to me,” she growls.

Gosh, she’s rather convincing. Even Hermione is starting to believe her.

A hand strokes down Hermione’s side. “She? Her? So you’re presenting as female. What is it you wand carriers say…a witch?”

What? Presenting— are merpeople homophobic or something? “Yes, we’re both witches. She’s still my mate, let me go!”

“You are both trespassers but…you do intrigue me, salty one. You are something more than a witch. Older.”

Hermione is spun around once more, slowly this time, gently.

“Show yourself to me. Don’t be frightened.”

Hermione scoffs. “Why should I? I can’t see you either. It’s too dark…which is becoming a regular problem,” she adds, muttering to herself.

A melodic hum. And then, “Light your wand. You do have one, don’t you? I’ve never seen one up close, they…”

“Autonoe! Come away from the wand carriers at once. Go home. They are dangerous. Don’t let their words fool you,” comes yet another booming shout.

Ah! She’s flung sideways and covers her face as—

Hermione abruptly finds herself alone and floating amongst some reeds. She swims clear of them, brushing them out of the way as she heads towards a dim light. That must be where—

Shit.

They have Bellatrix.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

From the glow of Bellatrix’s wand, Hermione can make out two merpeople, guarding the witch. They’re not touching her, Bellatrix brandishing her wand if they get too close, but they circle her. Whirling past and keeping her in place.

Well. They’ve found the colony, at least. Maybe it’s time to start talking.

Tiggy said show value, power. Intrigue them. Alright.

Hermione lets the invisibility fall, and casts a sonorus to amplify her voice. Let your anger out, Hermione. They’ve taken something that they think belongs to you. “Let my mate go, now!” she roars through the water. “Or I will have no choice but to take her by force. Let her go, and we’ll talk.”

Chiming laughter reverberates towards her. “Your mate has chosen an aggressive form. She wishes to fool us. To scare us. She insults us with her mockery. She shall be treated accordingly,” one voice calls.

“You are no match for us. Swim away whilst you still can, legged one,” another taunts.

What are they talking about? How do they know Bellatrix is dangerous?

In any case. Show strength, Hermione.

She closes her eyes and feels out for the thread. She follows it.

And appears nose to nose with Bellatrix within the swirl of slippery forms, grabbing hold of her shoulders as the current whips around them.

Perfect, so no violence necessary after all. She cancels the sonorus and slides her wand up her sleeve. “If they think you’re a threat, we should leave. It’s not safe. I’ll pop us back to the shore,” Hermione whispers within Bellatrix’s bubblehead charm, hurriedly gripping her shoulder again as an unexpected current tugs at them.

Bellatrix scoffs, hands coming up to Hermione’s waist to steady her. “Like I’d let them hurt me. They think I’m a threat? They don’t know anything yet. They might take us to their leader. Isn’t that what we want?”

Hermione opens her mouth to reply, and then stops. It’s gone still.

The merpeople appear to be in whispered conversation too as they swim in and out of view, speeding through the water gracefully, side by side.

“…separate…unlawful.”

“Then she should change form! You!”

One merperson swims closer, illuminated in the wandlight. Hermione can’t help but keep a hold of Bellatrix. This one is rather intimidating. There’s a tension to their muscles. And they are very muscular. An almost Viking-like show of brute strength, but with untamed hair, coarse and knotted. And green.

She tries to remember what the first merperson had looked like. Autonoe. From what she’d felt, Autonoe was much more slender, hair pulled back from their face. No, this is someone else as well. Two new merpeople.

This one…the barely contained rage is palpable. They point accusingly at Bellatrix.

“How dare you mock our ancient and noble tribe! You insult our ancestors with your…transfigurement! Change back, or I shall be forced to defend our heritage from your blasphemy. I would not normally fight such a weaker being but—”

“Weaker!” Bellatrix snarls, letting go of Hermione to  brandish her wand. “You’re lucky I held myself back rather than stomp out your miserable existence the very second you attempted to control me. Me! If you had any idea who I was you would be cowering amongst the reeds you—”

“And you have no idea who I am, pathetic wand holder. I am a direct descendent of the Ancient and Most Noble Colony of Black! How dare you threaten your betters!”

What?! Hermione gasps in shock. Actually gasps. It’s good the bubblehead charm is holding up.

What the—

“Oreithye! Hold your tongue,” the other merperson hisses, pulling Oreithye back from the light.

“Black?” Bellatrix frowns. “You…I am Bellatrix Black. Eldest and so head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black. Toujours Pur.”

Now there is complete silence. No sign of movement.

“That is not…you are saying it wrong. If you are indeed— it is Totus Generis Parere,” the unknown merperson mutters, cautiously gliding closer, just far enough away that their features aren’t quite visible in the wandlight.

“Leagore, is she—”

“Shh. I said hold your tongue, you have revealed enough with your temper. This could alter— Bellatrix. Fighter star. Warrior. Beauty. You are not named for— you are the eldest? Your appearance is— is this a transfiguration, witch? Or your natural form?”

Unusually, Bellatrix appears to be speechless. She just stares.

Hermione clears her throat. “It’s her natural form. Her only form. Witches don’t…change. Well, except for metamorphagi but—”

Oreithye swims to join Leagore. “Metamorphosis! Did you hear? You, Bellatrix Black. Can you do this? Can you metamorphose? Leagore, if she can—”

“Stay silent and listen. Her mate said that she cannot. It does not mean anything. Not necessarily.”

Oreithye laughs in an almost cackle. It’s eerily similar to Bellatrix’s laugh. How is this possible?

“Look at her! She looks exactly like the statue!”

Statue?

Bellatrix mutters something to herself, so quietly even Hermione can’t hear.

And then her head comes up, gritting her teeth.

“Blood of my blood. I greet you as kin. May our fore-bearers guide us, our descendants provide for us, and our hearts beat as one.”

The merpeople freeze.

And then reach for Bellatrix in unison.

What are they doing? “Don’t touch her! Get away!”

Hermione kicks her legs out and tries to pull Bellatrix back, but she shrugs her off, folding her arms at Oreithye and Leagore, raising an eyebrow.

They slowly lower their hands, bow their heads, and speak as one. “Blood of my blood. I return your greeting. May the current flow strongly through our veins. As one we are whole. As one we are strong. As one we are gods on Earth.”

Bellatrix flinches, wand cutting through the water to aim at them with a yell of outrage. “How do you know the words?” she shouts. “Our bloodline is pure. The House of Black can be traced back for centuries. None but a Black knows the words!” she pants.

And then growls. “Who are you? Lumos maxima!”

Light shines out around them, revealing their surroundings. Including the two merpeople.

Well they are definitely merpeople. Tails and all.

And the eyes…

But…

“Bellatrix, there is a resemblance. I mean, that one, Leagore, if Draco and Sirius were mixed together…”

“They have green hair!”

“I know, I know and they’re not as pale-skinned, but you must admit, the bone structure—”

“They are creatures! They aren’t even human!”

“Actually, merpeople would be classed as beings, but they deliberately call themselves creatures so as to distance themselves—”

“—from Wizarding society. I know. As it should be. They can’t be…”

“Bellatrix Black. You are kin. Thought to be lost, but now returned,” Leagore says astonishedly, considering Bellatrix with a rather familiar tilt to their head.

Oh no.

Then both, now lost, shall be returned.

Returned to what? Hermione had assumed Bellatrix would be returned to life, not…welcomed into the mermaids. What is happening?

Oreithye lets out some clicking noises and spins around, ducking and diving around Bellatrix. “You don’t believe the nonsense that they were lost, do you Leagore? I didn’t think you that naïve. They left us. Abandoned their kin for them, robing us of our—”

“Enough!” Leagore roars. “Silence, before you are trialed for breaking the oath. This one may be kin, but she is still one of them. Her mate also. Which reminds me.”

Leagore’s voice softens, curls around each word. “You, little one. You have spent time with the Forest People.”

Forest People?

Hermione cautiously swims closer. It feels rude to speak from such a long distance.

“Hermione, stop. Come back here. We should leave. This isn’t at all what we— come back!”

Hermione ignores her, too curious to even think about leaving now. What have they uncovered?

“I’ve never heard of forest people, do you mean muggles? Humans without magic? My parents are muggles,” she says as she comes to meet the merperson. It’s uncanny how familiar they seem. Draco and Sirius, but more feminine. She isn’t even sure of their gender. Not that Draco or Sirius are particularly masculine either.

Leagore laughs soothingly. “No, little one. I speak of powerful magic users. You are filled with such a force. May I touch you? Feel it?”

Umm.

“Don’t you dare!” Bellatrix shouts from behind them.

Hermione shakes her head in bemusement. Bellatrix sure is taking this mate idea seriously. “Sorry, she’s rather protective. I…I suppose…why? In what way? Where do you want to touch me?”

“Hermione, you stupid— don’t let them touch you! What are you thinking? And you! Get out of the way! You may look like kin but that won’t stop me blasting you in your fishy face you—”

“And you may have the face of Kalypso, but it seems your power of concealment has left you. If it is a fight you seek—ah!”

Hermione turns around as Oreithye lets out a shout. Has Bellatrix really…oh. Not her then.

Oreithye struggles as reeds wrap around their wrists and ankles, their mouth, holding them firmly.

Another figure emerges from the deep.

Leagore breathes a whistling sigh. “Pronoe, thank the gods you are here. We are in need of your assistance.”

The…mermaid? Merperson nods firmly, and reaches out their hands, one directed at Hermione, the other at Bellatrix. “I have called an assembly. They wish to speak with you, wand carriers. There is much to discuss. If you would come with me, we shall be better equipped to answer your questions. You do both have questions, I assume? You appear to be intelligent witches.”

Hermione glances at Bellatrix. They certainly have questions.

A sharp click from Pronoe. “You shall be together, of course. We do not separate mates here. It is barbaric. I have asked that we meet in a higher cave rather than the agora so that you may breathe. Come, before your strength wains. You are both not of our world, no matter your descent.”

Why do they remind her of Professor McGonagall? A certain practicality. Firm authority.

She can’t help but obey, and Bellatrix seems to agree, swimming over.

It’s time to get some answers.

 


 

They follow after Pronoe for some time, slow compared to Leagore and Oreithye who dart back and forth impatiently, tails propelling them through the water effortlessly.

Eventually they reach the opening of a cave, a cacophony of voices echoing out towards them. How many merpeople are in there?

Hermione tries to meet Bellatrix’s eye, but the witch just continues on into the darkness, Hermione speeding up so she’s not left behind without a light. Her wand is still secured against her forearm beneath the wetsuit. She hasn’t had a chance to retrieve it yet.

The tunnel widens, and Pronoe leads them towards the surface, an orange glow breaking through. Firelight. And air. What a relief. Holding the bubblehead charm this long has been quite the challenge, especially with all the surprises leaving her so uncertain.

She breaks the surface and takes a breath, rubbing water from her eyes and looking around. Oh.

Six merpeople sit above the water, each on a different rock or ledge. Hermione searches for Bellatrix in the flickering torchlight of the cave, and spots her climbing out onto a wide, long, platform-like ledge at the back centre of the cave. Hermione swims over—

And jumps out of her skin as the water splashes high around her, a wave rolling over her head causing her to splutter and choke as she fights to keep her head up. What was—

She scrambles for the side and clings to it, coughing. Oh. Pronoe, Leagore and Oreithye have leapt from the water to take their places. So nine of them now.

A hand appears in front of her.

“Come on, pet. Let’s get this over with.”

Bellatrix looks down at her calmly and pulls her out of the water as Hermione grips her hand. She adjusts her feet on the slippery stone, glad to have Bellatrix to cling onto. How is she always so steady? She studies the witch, searching her face, her posture. Bored expression, slow breathing…teeth clenched. Foot tapping. Wand spinning. Ah.

Not so calm then.

We can always leave. Stay close to me, and I can pop us away whenever you want.

The tapping stops, and Bellatrix rolls her shoulders back.

Alright. You too. If they get funny about something and you want to get us out of here, codeword is…Crookshanks.

Hermione lets out a startled bark of laughter, and Bellatrix grins, whirling around and striding away a few paces, arms outstretched, to spin in the centre of the platform, gazing around at the merpeople.

Who begin to make an awful screeching sound.

Hermione slams her hands over her ears. “We don’t speak mermish!” she yells. “It hurts!”

The shrieking stops.

Hermione lowers her hands in relief and takes her time to really look at the beings perched around them. There seems to be some kind of hierarchy, different levels and sections. There’s a small alcove directly in the centre of the cave wall, lit by torches on either side but apparently empty. Strange. No leader? Or are they just hiding?

Bellatrix seems to agree, directing her gaze to the centre and frowning.

Pronoe sits to the left of the alcove, although slightly lower, and Leagore to the right. So…right-hand man? Leagore did seem to have some kind of authority over Oreithye…where…ah. Above Leagore, glaring down at the platform and tensing as Bellatrix wanders closer.

As for the others…there are two that are so high up Hermione has to crane her neck to look at them, mostly just seeing tails, and—

Pronoe clears their throat. “As I suspected. The proceedings shall take place in wizarding English, so as not to harm our guests. I suggest that Leagore and Oreithye begin by recounting what they have witnessed, if that pleases the assembly?”

There’s some flicking of tails.

“We are not the only witnesses. Autonoe was the one foolish enough to make first contact,” Oreithye growls.

There are some quieter screeches as people whisper amongst themselves. Hermione moves closer to Bellatrix.

“Do we have to begin so thoroughly? Surely the main question is this so-called witch? Speak, wand carrier. Who are you?” A kind, motherly looking mermaid calls out from above Pronoe.

“Enough!” A booming shout echoes from the central alcove, and all goes still, each being turning to watch as a figure emerges.

This mermaid is…she must be a queen. One word and her voice rings with power.

She perches on the alcove ledge, calm and collected now as she looks over at the mermaid above Pronoe, who lowers her gaze, hands gripping stone.

“Leave me to my council, Kalianassa,” the leader says softly with a nod of her head.

And then directs her attention to Hermione and Bellatrix.

Oh.

Oh gosh. Hermione can barely breathe, the outer world blurring as her complete focus is drawn to—

Bellatrix shifts, blocking her view slightly, and Hermione’s trance is broken. She takes a sharp breath. What was that?

She moves closer to Bellatrix’s back and looks over her shoulder curiously. Some kind of magical lure then, perhaps, from this Queen. She glances at Bellatrix. Glazed eyes.

Hermione pokes her firmly in the side, and the witch blinks and clears her throat.

“Stop that!” Bellatrix snaps at the mermaid, and Hermione feels the heady atmosphere clear. Oh thank goodness. And now that her brain isn’t so foggy, she can actually look at the mermaid properly. Regal. Green hair piled high on her head and tail a resplendent silver that catches the firelight and— oh!

Her form changes. Her shoulders widen, hair falling from its fastenings to lay about her—his shoulders, jaw broadening, chest flattening.

Wha—

Hermione makes shocked eye contact with Bellatrix.

The merperson grins at them. “Ah. So this surprises you. I wondered if it would, or if you are able to do the same, Bellatrix Black.”

Bellatrix folds her arms. “Why would you think that? I’m a witch. Why would I want to mess around with my appearance? I like how I am just fine.”

The merperson raises an eyebrow. “So you do not…because you cannot? Or because you do not want to?”

Bellatrix clenches her jaw and twirls her wand.

Wait.

“Bellatrix…are you a metamorphagus?” Hermione whispers incredulously.

“No,” Bellatrix growls. “Of course I’m not. I’m nothing like my disgusting little niece and her—”

“Niece? This means sibling’s child. An heir? There is an heir who is able to metamorphose?” Kallianassa shouts excitedly, hands clutched to their chest in joy as a wide smile spreads across their face.

More shrieking mutters.

“Kallianassa is right! They speak of an heir!”

Bellatrix snarls, spinning to point at Oreithye. “She is not the heir! Her mother betrayed the family, and her line was wiped from the tree. She is a bloodtraitor, she will mate with a werewolf beast and die in two years time at my own hand for her stupidity!”

Hermione covers her ears once more as shouts echo around them.

“Silence!” Pronoe calls.

“She is a seer also? It cannot be, Thetis. This one must be rare to hold such a power,” Leagore murmurs, eyebrows furrowed as they glance between Bellatrix and the leader, Thetis.

Bellatrix let’s out an exasperated sigh.  “I’m not a seer, I just know the future from her. That’s why we’re here.”

She gestures to Hermione, who gulps as everyone turns to look at her.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Well, little one? Speak.”

Hermione huffs at Leagore, nervousness vanished.

“Why are you calling me that? I’m an adult, you know, same as her.” She nods at Bellatrix. “And what were you saying about me? About the forest? And what did Autonoe mean about tasting me?”

“Autonoe! You touched the witch? Where are you? Show yourself. I know you are here!” the central merperson shouts, transforming once more into a more feminine, queenly appearance and glaring at the water. A head emerges.

Oh. That’s Autonoe? They don’t seem nearly as threatening now. Young and obviously ashamed at being scolded, with soft features and lowering their gaze as they run their hands over the water.

“Thetis, I…I’ve never seen…I was just curious, I’m sorry— but, do you see? Can you feel her? The both of them. They are strange! And did you feel the thread? Maybe she is a prophet! A seer! A descendant of the Moirai themselves!”

Hermione sighs. “Neither of us are seers! I accidentally travelled backwards in time. She knows what will happen because she read my mind. Saw my memories. That’s why we’re here! I need to return forwards to my time before we create a paradox!”

Bellatrix grabs her arm. “Reveal everything, why don’t you?” she hisses. “I thought you’d learnt—”

“They’re our chance! If we don’t tell them, we’ll never know. They want information about you. Let’s trade! Make a deal!”

“A deal?” a voice echoes out. And then there’s a splash as someone dives into the water from high above, launching back out to sit next to Hermione on the platform.

An androgynous, haughty looking merperson with a crimson red tail and calculating eyes. Who runs their gaze over her. Then over Bellatrix. And then turns their hair longer, curled, still green but darker, with a sly grin. Skin paler. Their body more feminine. And…

Very similar to Bellatrix.

The merperson bites their lip, lounging backwards on one hand and twirling their hair with the other. “I can give you what you want. You want to know about the forest? About your power? Let me touch you. I’ll reveal all to you, my sweet—ah!”

They fly back into the water with a shrieking splash as Bellatrix jams her wand forwards and a blast of magic propels them across the cave.

“Bellatrix, you can’t—”

“I can. They knew exactly what they were doing, and—”

“And we’re in the middle of some kind of trial!” Hermione yells in exasperation.

“No no, she’s right,” a voice says calmly.

Thetis.

Hermione turns to meet their gaze.

Thetis smiles, and then frowns as the mermaid’s head appears once more from the water. “Eudora has no right interfering with a mated couple. Especially in the middle of proceedings. Especially when a thread has been felt. You go against the law, and against the fates, Eudora. Take your place and hold your tongue.”

Eudora clicks their tongue in obvious annoyance before sinking down, and then jetting from the water to sit on a high ledge once more.

Pronoe clears their throat. “Shall we continue? If this witch is to understand our intrigue, perhaps we should veriform for her?”

Low murmurs.

“…uncomfortable…it’s wrong…the pressure…never before…why should…”

“Alright!” Thetis announces. “We should cede to Pronoe’s advice. They have never before guided us unfairly. Shall we?”

Tails flick in response, and then, one by one, the merpeople begin to transform.

Some only slightly, others becoming completely different people as waists narrow or widen, noses shrink and grow, skin changes hue. The green hair remains a constant, as well as the yellow eyes, and tails. But in physical appearance…

Hermione gasps and reaches for Bellatrix’s hand. This is incredible.

They all look like Bellatrix. Like Andy. Like Tonks. Even like Draco and Sirius, although female.

“Cissy…she…”

Bellatrix gazes at Thetis. And it’s true. It could be Narcissa…with yellow eyes. And after an unfortunate potions accident that turned her hair dark green and curly. How is this—

Bellatrix takes a step forward, pulling her hand from Hermione’s. “When…when my sister was younger, she— she had hair like mine. Dark. The same as my— my other sister, Andromeda.”

Hermione’s mouth falls open. She’s talking about Andy? And— Narcissa wasn’t blonde? That’s just baffling!

“She used to always copy me, Narcissa. My youngest sister. Followed everything I did. I hated it and— and one day I screamed at her. She was only two years old but— I hated that she was going to grow up like me. I shook her. Told her to never be like me. That she shouldn’t try to be me. She— her hair changed. And her eyes. Her hair became straight and fair, her eyes pale and blue. The opposite of me as she cried and cried.”

She clenches her fists and looks to the floor. “Nobody knew what happened. They pun— punished me for it. Said I’d used magic to—” she whispers croakily.

And then she clears her throat, head coming up to meet Thetis’ gaze determinedly. “But it wasn’t me. It wasn’t.”

Thetis smiles warmly, and it looks terribly bizarre on Narcissa’s face. “It was not you then. She chose a form that would please you. She looked up to you, and so listened to your advice. It was not fear, but love, that caused her to change. You did not harm her. It is not painful, I assure you. And it was not your fault. All of us have altered our form in some way over time, for ourselves or others. It is a part of us. And it is a part of you, Bellatrix Black.”

Bellatrix shakes her head, wand raised and voice harsh. “I’m not one of you. I’m not. This is— I’ve never changed, never. And you are merpeople. You have tails. I am nothing like you.”

Oreithye transforms back with a roar, pupils wide and dark. “You see how she looks down on us! We reveal ourselves to her and she treats us like animals! Beasts! When it is her fault that we are like this. Tell her. Tell her what she did to us.”

There are nods and shouts of agreement as transformations take place, all but Thetis and Pronoe changing back.

Pronoe. Hermione can’t help but study the mermaid. Now if Leagore was Sirius and Draco before, then this mermaid is literally Draco in female form. It’s astonishing.

She can’t help but nudge Bellatrix as the shouting continues. “Have you seen Draco over there? You must believe them now, Bellatrix. Look at hi—her— them. Even the body language! Pronoe is Draco. And to think they reminded me of McGonagall.”

Bellatrix turns to gape at her. “How obsessed are you with McGonagall to confuse— you know what, I don’t want to know. And…yes. Yes, I see it. Of course I see it, I’m not blind. But they are mermaids.”

“I believe we are settled then,” Thetis calls out, and both Hermione and Bellatrix look up. “Oreithye is right. It is time to tell the story of our lost sister. Kalypso.”

The merpeople all fall silent, some obviously more comfortable with this idea than others, but unwilling to voice their thoughts against Thetis.

Hermione sits down on the stone platform in excited readiness. She has a feeling they may be the first witches, the first of all wizardkind, to hear this story. This truth.

Bellatrix stands above her, twirling her wand and shifting her weight. Too much energy. There isn’t anything for her to take it out on around here.

Hermione pats the floor. “Come on, Bellatrix. Let’s hear what they have to say. This is incredible.”

She looks around at the merpeople. “This is an honour. Thank you for sharing your history with us. Your truth. We’ll listen, and we won’t tell anyone, we promise, don’t we Bellatrix?”

Bellatrix sits down, grumbling to herself. “Oh I’m not telling anyone this, people already think I’m crazy as it is.”

Well. Fair enough.

Thetis clears their throat. “Agaue, perhaps you may do the honours. You are well-versed in the art of storytelling.”

A young looking merperson’s head jolts up from next to Kalianassa, and they twist their hair shyly before flicking their emerald tail.

“Of course, Thetis.”

Their eyes dart from side to side, unfocused.

“Many centuries ago…”

 


 

Many centuries ago, and far, far from this land, fifty sisters lived in peace and harmony in the waters of what mankind now calls the Black Sea. I mention man, for these sisters were not. They were nymphs. Goddesses of the ocean, born of Nereus, the old man of the sea.

For millennia, centuries, they lived and played in the waters. Time stretched on, and there was nothing but fish and the occasional god to amuse them.

And then came man.

Quietly, at first. Cautiously. And then bolder. Their ships came in droves, their wooden ports littering the shores. The centuries passed, and rather than praying to the sisters, worshiping them for their beauty, for calming the waters, for bringing forth their bounty…they turned their noses up at them. Decried their godliness. Tried to capture them, enslave them.

Even the eldest sister, their leader, Queen Thetis herself, was forced into marriage with the mortal, Peleus. Plagued by the gift of prophecy, her fate had been decided, and though she struggled against him, metamorphosing into a thousand forms, not one could stop him. Could stop them.

Soon, not one mortal left them an offering. No one prayed to them. The number of ships grew…and the sisters, now old, told their descendants to leave. To find a new home, free of mankind.

But to never forget. To always remember that they are of the Black Sea. The Noble and Most Ancient Colony of Black. Descended from the gods. To always remember that, before making any decision, they must comply with the needs of the whole race. Totus Generis Parere.

These offspring, these children, travelled far. So used to the water, they decided to transform their legs into tails, fins, so that they could travel across seas and oceans without tiring. They told the story of the Black Sea, and named each new generation after their mothers, their grandmothers. For generation after generation, they swam.

And whilst all remembered, not all kept their promise. Not all wished to stay together, to agree every rule. So, over the years, different nymphs parted. Chose different currents. Different routes. Some even walked onto the land as a tribe, or fled alone to join mankind.

Our story begins, when one nymph did this very thing. Left her brethren, to join wizardkind. This was still many centuries ago, and over time the story has muddied. Muddled. Did they leave of their own free will, or were they forced? Were they kidnapped? Tempted? Did they fall in love?

To this day, we do not know. All we know, is that our ancestors, having swam so far north that the water turned to ice, turned back, and made their way to land. Used to the heat of the Mediterranean, they wandered in the cold, desperate for a way home, but having lost their path. Until magic called to them.

From their very beings, their ancient souls, they felt the pull of the newly founded Hogwarts. A place of magic. Of protection. Of mortals who, like them, bent the world to their needs, their wishes.

They found this lake, and named it after their homeland.

Of course, they were wary. They knew the truth of man. Their greed. Their violence. They decided, that for the good of the whole race, they would hide their godliness. Remain separate from the wizards sharing their home. They remembered the plight of their ancestors. Until these wand carriers could be trusted, they would hide their true forms.

Used to the ocean, they transformed their legs into fins so they might play in the water. Their hair to camouflage with the reeds. Their eyes to see in the depths. Goddesses no more.

And so wizardkind accepted their presence, and the lake became known to all as the Black Lake, although no wizard knew why. Wizardkind would never know the truth of the nymphs that had chosen this land as their new home, that in those early days they were beautiful. That they were able to come ashore.

Over time, a tentative trust was built between the two races. There were even murmurings of an alliance. Of revealing their true forms. Sharing their gifts. Debate after debate was held within the Agora, deep in the depths of the lake, away from prying eyes, lasting long into the night. Could these wizards be trusted? Was it finally time to walk the land once more in the brilliant light of the day?

Well, sadly, in the end, it was all for naught.

For one fateful day, before a decision had been reached…one sister…left.

Kalypso. The sole heir of the Goddess of Concealment herself, was never to be seen again.

And the others, without her gift, were no longer able to transform back.

They could adapt their appearance, their gender, their sex, but never the tail. Never the hair, or the eyes. For it was Kalypso who had invented this trick, and only she would be able to undo it.

The years passed, and the people of the Black Lake despaired. They cried for their sister. For their legs. For their beautiful eyes and hair. The wizards called them Sea people. Merpeople. And that is what they became.

 


 

Agaue’s eyes focus, and they look around with a knowing smile, before piercing Bellatrix with their gaze.

“But they always remembered, always hoped, that one day, one future day, they would once again be able to greet the lost Kalypso, and say—”

Hermione startles, gripping Bellatrix’s arm as the merpeople, in unison, call out, “Blood of my blood. I greet you as kin. May our fore-bearers guide us, our descendants provide for us, and our hearts beat as one.”

Hermione’s hand comes up to her mouth in shock and awe. Their voices echo throughout the cave, and a tense silence settles.

Bellatrix pats Hermione’s hand and then pulls away, gets to her feet, and clears her throat.

“Blood of my blood. I return your greeting. May the current flow strongly through our veins. As one we are whole. As one we are strong. As one we are gods on Earth.”

Silence falls once more, each person frozen in place, holding their breath.

And then shrieking fills the air, some merpeople diving into the water, the splash of water against rock mixing with the ear-piercing screeches as Hermione covers her ears desperately against the din.

Ah! Would they stop that? Merlin the noise! She turns to Bellatrix through the watery chaos to check she’s still there, and watches as instead of covering her own ears, Bellatrix flinches and moves one hand to clutch her arm. She turns wide-eyed to Hermione and pulls her close.

“It’s the mark!” she yells into Hermione’s ear. “I have to go. We have to go!”

Oh no no no! “You can’t leave now! They’ll think we tricked them! You’ll be like Kalypso!”

“What?”

Oh for the—

If you leave they’ll think you’re like Kalypso, leaving them, tricking them. We have to explain.

There’s no time. Do you think He is patient? And we can’t change the timeline!

Okay. Okay, she’s right.

Hermione casts a sonorous on herself. “Excuse me everyone!” she booms out.

The splashing slowly stops, and everyone turns to look, some heads popping out of the water.

Hermione swallows. “I may not be a goddess…or a seer…or even family, but I do know the future. And I’m sorry, but if events are to stay the same, and for the world to not blink from existence, Bellatrix needs to leave you for the night. There is something she must do, it is written in fate. You must believe us, we don’t want to leave but— but as a time traveller and as her mate, I must insist that we leave you now. No arguing, sorry.”

Oreithye looks like they might definitely argue, and Thetis opens their mouth with a frown, but Hermione just takes Bellatrix’s arm, popping them away.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

They appear in Bellatrix’s bedroom. She’s not sure why. It must be where Bellatrix most needed to be.

And just stare at each other in silence.

She can’t stop staring at Bellatrix.

This is just—

She’s part mermaid? Part goddess? What the—

A hysterical laugh bursts out of her and she quickly covers her mouth. “Oh Bellatrix, I’m sorry it’s just, you’re a— a mermaid! A bloody goddess! A nymph— did Andy know? She named her daughter Nymphadora.”

Bellatrix breathes out a shaky laugh and runs her hands over her face and into her hair. And then laughs some more.

Hermione joins in, she can’t seem to stop laughing. This is insane!

Bellatrix groans, lowering her forehead against the chest of drawers. “What the fuck? What the bloody— if Andy did know, she could have bloody well told us. What the— I’m a nymph? What is this? What is happening?”

She stomps over to Hermione. “This is— what have you done, Hermione? Why has everything turned upside down since you showed up? You— and help me out of this blasted muggle outfit. I can’t reach—”

She reaches around uselessly for the zip and Hermione undoes it for her with a chuckle. “I told you. The fates have it out for us. Maybe your ancestors pissed them off. Who knows, maybe you’re related to them too!”

Bellatrix struggles out of the wetsuit and starts accioing things from her wardrobe.

Hermione’s eyes wander over bare skin before she tears her eyes away ashamedly. Don’t be creepy, Hermione.

But…why were you looking?

Is she…

Kisses flash through her mind. Lips pressing warmly against her own. Against her cheek. Her hand. The feel of…hot breath in the shell of her ear. Against her shoulder. Hands gripping her tightly. Her hand or her waist or her… And— and the feel of a cheek beneath her own lips.

Oh. It’s possible Hermione might have developed some kind of attraction to the witch. Actually, highly likely if she really thinks about it. The only logical conclusion to…

Shit.

Well don’t think about that now. Not whilst you’re in her bedroom and she’s naked. That’s definitely not a good idea.

Bellatrix is oddly quiet.

“Are you okay? This is a lot. You aren’t…Crookshanks, are you?”

Bellatrix pulls her dress on properly, to Hermione’s relief, and then her corset, waving her wand to tie it at the back. She frowns at Hermione confusedly, before nodding her head in realisation.

“No, I’m fine. Well I’m not, this is bloody…but I’m sure I can go blow some stuff up. Let myself go a bit. Maybe I’ll tell all the other Death Eaters I’m a goddess,” she grins.

Wha—

Bellatrix cackles. “I’m kidding! I’ll just do as I’m told and annoy Snape a bit. Not sure how long I’ll be. Normally, I would…but it won’t take as long this time. I don’t have to plan anything, I already know what will happen, I just have to seem— Anyway. Wait here for me, alright?”

She says it casually, but…

Hermione smiles softly. “I’ll be here. Guess I’ll have a look through your clothes for something to wear, or pop to Shell Cottage just to get some things and come back. And I might go get the stuff we left at the boathouse, but that’s it. I’ll get some sleep. All that swimming was— are you tired too? I’m exhausted.”

Bellatrix just shrugs and finishes tying her shoes. “Nope, I need to get rid of some energy. Hopefully there’ll be some running around involved and not just sitting at a table making plans.

Hermione chuckles. Of course she’s not tired. She’s like a puppy, boundless energy.

Not that— she doesn’t think she’s cute or anything, she’s still—

She can be quite adorable sometimes though. It shouldn’t make sense. How can a person be adorable and at the same time make her want to—

She washes the invisibility over her mind as Bellatrix turns to look at her from her position in front of the mirror, drying her hair with her wand.

Bellatrix frowns. “Why are you hiding from me? I didn’t freak you out talking about my meeting, did I? I have to go, you know that.”

Hermione doesn’t know what to— she doesn’t want to lie to the witch, especially as she’s been so open today. Put her trust in Hermione.

Hermione takes a steadying breath. “I…I’m just hiding my thoughts because they’re embarrassing. Like…remember when we first ate in the kitchen with the elves? You said you didn’t want to know my thoughts.”

Bellatrix continues frowning and her eyes dart back and forth as—

And then widen in realisation.

The frown falls away as her eyebrows shoot up.

Hermione looks at the floor and shifts her weight uncomfortably.

“You’re thinking about— Really? I was just teasing you, embarrassing you. You’re always so— I fucking knew it. So you’ve been putting on this confused act the whole time? ‘I don’t like witches’. So stubborn even your thought were…you had even me thinking I’d misinterpreted it.”

Oh. Hermione licks her lips, still too scared to look up. She doesn’t even know what she’s been feeling, let alone what she wants to happen. “It wasn’t an act. I didn’t know I— I don’t think. But I…you kissed me.”

No reply.

Hermione slowly looks up, heart pounding. Bellatrix’s face is scrunched in confusion. She sighs. “I did, didn’t I? I keep kissing you. At some point I need to figure out why, but I don’t think I have time right now.”

What?! Well now who’s putting on a confused act? Surely out of the two of them she’s the one who— she needs time to figure it out?

Hermione scoffs in disbelief. “Well, once you do, maybe you could let me know, because it’s very confusing. Should I pencil you in for this evening, maybe? Or would tomorrow morning be better?”

Bellatrix barks out a laugh. “I think it’s a bit optimistic to plan anything in our lives right now, pet. But next time I get the strange urge to kiss you, I’ll let you know so you can stop me, alright?”

Next time?

“If I want to stop you, you mean?” she murmurs, not sure if she’s brave enough for the words that are coming out of her mouth.

Bellatrix doesn’t say anything. Just pulls on a black outer robe and disapparates with a crack.

 


 

Hermione does manage to get some sleep, but not much. Her body may be exhausted, but her brain just won’t stop whirring. In the end she gives up, popping first to the Hogwarts boathouse to tidy up after themselves, and then to Shell Cottage to collect her things. Finally. Her actual clothes. Comfy jumpers. Tops and jeans instead of sheets and dresses that are liable to exposing different body parts as soon as she’s not paying attention.

She’s not sure what to do with her belongings. It feels way too presumptuous to leave anything in Bellatrix’s room, so she leaves everything in the bedroom she slept in her first night at Black Estate, and then pads down to the library in her socks with one of her bags. She’s going to recreate her expansion charm. She misses her bag. And then start on that scarf for Dobby. It’s been weeks and she still hasn’t gotten around to it.

She sits by the fire as she works, listening to it crackle and pop and relaxing in the warm glow as she mutters out different charms and transfigurations.

“Miss Hermione?”

Hmm? “Oh, hello Tiggy. How are you?”

Tiggy doesn’t answer, just stares.

And then sits down on the floor, rubbing at their chin uncomfortably. “Mistress be asking for you.”

Oh. “Oh, is Bellatrix here? I thought she’d be gone much longer than—”

“Not Mistress Bella. No, is— is Mistress Leagore that be asking for you.”

Leagore? As in—

“So you serve them too! Of course! That’s why you couldn’t tell me about them. The house-elves must have felt the family connection since…”

Tiggy nods. “We is always knowing, the Black elves. But we is forbidden from saying. To either side. We is knowing of the Black Colony, is answering the Call to Mastress Thetis, but wizard law is forbidding telling. Is the third decree of the House of Black, that no elf speak of— that no elf speak about—”

Tiggy sighs. “Still it is holding. Neither side be knowing. Is the rule.”

Oh. Well. Hermione fiddles with her bag. “So…you said Mistress Leagore? I thought, Master, surely…”

Tiggy folds their arms with a frown. “Today she is being Mistress, and that is what she being. You is learning to be a seeing elf or not?”

Oh dear. “No no I don’t mean, of course I understand that gender is fluid, a construct. I’m not— I’m very respectful of pronouns I would never— I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I just wasn’t sure because I…well I suppose I assumed that as Leagore looked so much like Sirius and Draco that…sorry. Mistress Leagore. Got it.”

Tiggy nods. “Today she is her. You is going?”

Should she? What about Bellatrix? Do not drift asunder.

Oh, but she really wants to know more! And Leagore had seemed nice enough…

“Alright, yes. If Bellatrix comes back, could you tell her where I am? To call me…with the thread.”

Tiggy chuckles. “You is needing to learn to call her on the thread. You is able to be speaking, you know this? Maybe Mistress Leagore be explaining. She is a friend of us Forest People.”

Forest— oh!

“House-elves are Forest People?!”

Tiggy sighs. “Stop being a thinking elf and go, if you is going.”

Oh, right.

Hermione needs to go to the cave, for her mission, her duties. She feels the pull, and pops away.

Steadying her feet on wet stone in the torchlight.

“Umm…Leagore? Are you there? Tiggy said you wanted to talk to me.”

A head peeks up through the water. That’s not…well it could be, she supposes.

“Leagore?”

The merperson laughs softly. “No, this is Leagore.” They transform their features, sharpening their nose and jaw, narrowing their head shape until Leagore frowns back. “Much more serious,” the merperson growls, and then changes back with a laugh.

More Sirius? How ironic.

Hermione walks closer to the water and searches their face. Young, playful, mischievous. Hair carefully tied back.

“Autonoe?”

The merperson grins and claps. “You remember me?”

Hermione snorts. “Well it was rather memorable. Why are you here, where’s Leagore?”

Autonoe brings up their tail, hiding their face behind the fin at the end shyly.

“I’m the one who called you. I— I didn’t want to lie to you but— I thought you might hate me, for the knife. I wouldn’t have hurt you! I was just— can I see? The wand?”

Hermione folds her arms. “Why?”

Autonoe comes forwards and rests their arms and head on the side. “I want to see what it does. Can you make light? Like Kalypso?”

Kalypso? Oh. “Her name’s Bellatrix. And yes, it’s simple really.” She holds out her wand. “You just say, lumos!”

Light shines from the tip, and Autonoe lets out a shriek of glee. Ow!

Hermione grimaces, but then smiles. She remembers the joy of seeing magic for the first time.

She sits down on the edge and dangles her legs in the water. Her jeans will get drenched, but she can dry them later. Magic.

“Do you have magic? Nymphs, I mean. Other than metamorphing.”

Autonoe dips under the water, and then flies out with a splash, coming to sit next to Hermione and sending water spraying everywhere. Ah! “Careful! Ugh I’m soaked!”

“Soaked? You don’t like the water?”

Hermione wipes some water from her eyes. “We like to stay dry on land when possible. It’s cold and gets our clothes all…do you have clothes too? I know so little about any of this.”

Autonoe reaches out and touches her jumper tentatively.

“We don’t have this, but I know what clothes are. I know quite a lot about wizards. Sometimes…I watch the schoolchildren. Listen to them, if they come close enough. Thetis doesn’t like it,” they look around, and then duck their head to whisper closely. “But Thetis is terribly boring sometimes. They don’t even watch the flying game.”

Flying— Hermione chuckles. “You watch Quidditch?”

Autonoe nods, gaze fixed back on Hermione’s clothes, running their fingers lightly over the wool. “The red people are easiest to see, so I like it when they play. A beautiful red.”

They sigh dramatically and rest back on their hands, eyes drifting over the cave ceiling as though watching an imaginary Quidditch match. “We have hardly any red down here, except in the murals and mosaics.”

Wha—

“You have artwork? I’d love to see it. And Oreithye mentioned a statue…of Kalypso I think.”

Autonoe looks back to her with a gasp, taking her hands. “Oh you must see it! But first—”

They pull Hermione’s wand from her grasp and falls backwards into the water.

“No!”

Hermione dives in after them, instinctively forming a bubblehead charm.

“Autonoe! Give it back! Accio wand!”

A chiming laugh sails back to her through the darkness. Once again she has no light. Why does her life constantly put her in the dark—oh!

But she can find people in the dark.

She closes her eyes, and tries to find Autonoe with her mind. There’s no thread, but she needs to find them to get her wand. That’s her mission, her duty.

Hmm, nothing. Well, Autonoe isn’t exactly calling her. Maybe it doesn’t work that way.

“Witch girl! Halt!”

Oh no.

She opens her eyes. To darkness.

“You dare return after your mate abandons her kin! You take our secrets and flee like the wicked witch you are!” a voice growls.

Hermione holds back a laugh. Gosh, in all her time in the wizarding world, no one has called her a wicked witch before. It’s rather empowering.

“Is that you, Oreithye? I can’t see. We didn’t mean to leave so suddenly, but events had to stay on course. Surely you understand the fates, don’t you? The…Moirai? Is that what they were called? Every being has to bow to the wisdom of the Moirai.”

Silence greets her. Well. That’s better than shouting.

Thank goodness she’d listened to the tour guide on her trip to Athens with her parents. The painting of the fates and the story behind it was so fascinating, who knew it would ever be more than just a fun fact?

“Why are you here then? Why return alone?” Oreithye asks, their voice closer now.

Oh. She doesn’t want to get Autonoe in trouble.

She sighs. “I’ve lost my wand, have you seen it? I came to talk to Leagore about the Forest People, but now I’m just blind. I really need my wand back. Could you…help me find it? Guide me?”

More stony silence. She almost prefers the insults.

And then hands take hers.

Huh.

“Foolish witch. Don’t come where you can’t see. Finding a dropped piece of wood is hard enough with my eyes, let alone yours.”

Hermione feels herself being pulled along through the water, arms outstretched. It reminds her of learning to swim as a child, her feet start kicking automatically.

“Actually…if I tell you who took my wand, will you promise not to be too angry with them?”

She smacks into a hard chest as Oreithye comes to an abrupt halt.

“Someone took it? Who would…Autonoe. It was them, wasn’t it? And you let them? I thought you witches were attached to your wands? That child!”

Child?

“They’re a child? How old are they…if you don’t mind me asking?”

Oreithye scoffs. “Far older than you, witch girl. But that makes them no less a child, and they will continue to be a child until they learn to listen to their elders! Now where would they have gone?”

Umm. “They told me about the murals. The mosaics. They said I should see them. I would like to, actually, if I’m allowed. And if I can see…”

She’s pulled through the water once more.

“I suppose you may see, as the mate of Kalypso. We hold the only true records of the ancient world. Perhaps you will lose your speech as well as your sight at seeing something so far out of the grasp of mere wizards.”

Oh here we go, noble and most ancient bla bla bla.

“I’m sure it’s wonderful. I would love to learn more about your civilisation. Your history. ”

A grumbling hum. “Well I don’t know if it’s permitted, you’ll have to speak with Thetis first. And Leagore seems determined to find out more about you. Perhaps if you go to the— Autonoe! Get back here at once with the witch’s wand! I can see you, there’s no use hiding!”

Ah!

She grips Oreithye’s hands tightly as she’s jetted through the water, closing her eyes against it as the darkness blurs past.

One hand lets go, and then she comes to a stop as light filters through her eyelids.

Light?

Oh no! They’re over the glass ceiling of the Slytherin common room! And someone is there, sat by the fire.

She hurriedly turns herself invisible as the person looks up.

Dumbledore.

Hermione lets the invisibility coat her mind as well as her body. What is he doing down there? The term hasn’t even started yet—oh.

He doesn’t look good. His hand, it—

“Autonoe, bring back the witch’s wand at once, or I shall call Thetis and tell them of your foolish behaviour.”

Dumbledore collapses onto the floor.

No no no

“But Oreithye! I still haven’t learnt to make light. Is this how you say it, Hermione? Lumos!”

He’s crawling now, pulling himself forwards and then collapsing again, the blackness spreading from his fingertips as he lies on the rug by the fire.

The gaunt ring. He’s supposed to— where’s Snape? Doesn’t he—

“You are not a wand carrier, Autonoe. Return the instrument,” Oreithye says softly.

A whine. “But Oreithye, please! Just one more try.”

Dumbledore goes still, the blackness almost at his wrist.

Hermione turns to Autonoe with a growl. “You will never be able to cast a lumos. You are not a witch. Now hand me back my wand, child. You’re so selfish you haven’t even noticed the headmaster dying on the floor. Give it to me, so that a life isn’t lost tonight.”

Oreithye and Autonoe both fall still, looking down through the glass in dismay, and Hermione snatches her wand back.

And pops to the Headmaster’s side. He’s still warm to the touch, but deathly still.

What did— where is Snape? Is he stuck with the Death Eaters?

She’d better check.

She carefully checks the invisible feel of sand and sea, ensuring that every inch of her mind, her body, is hidden.

You can do this. It worked against Narcissa. And Snape. And they fooled Voldemort, so…

She takes one last steadying breath, and follows the thread to Bellatrix.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Oh no.

Hermione takes a step back from Bellatrix’s madly grinning face, and finds herself within a circle of Death Eaters, all in long black robes and silent in the still night air, the grass crunching beneath her feet.

She hears movement behind her and slowly turns to look, the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end.

“Well done, Draco, that’s it, join us. Join us and do what your father cannot,” Voldemort hisses, eyes cold as Draco kneels before him in the fog.

Where are they? Why a field?

Bellatrix cackles in delight as Draco offers up his arm, trembling in the torchlight. “Don’t be frightened, Draco. You’re receiving the highest honour. You are a man now. One of us. You will do us proud, nephew.”

Her eyes are crazed, bright, darting around…

And she’s twirling her wand.

Hermione takes a shaky breath, tearing her eyes from the witch. There’s no time. And you can’t comfort her right now anyway.

She looks around at the masked figures, only Bellatrix, Voldemort, and Draco showing their faces. Is Snape here? He’s high ranking, so perhaps near Bellatrix? But then why isn’t she next to Voldemort, all the way on the other side of the circle?

Oh it’s no use. She’ll have to risk distracting her.

She reluctantly takes Bellatrix’s hand. She flinches.

How can they…Tiggy had said…maybe just for a second... 

She focuses on the thread. On the feeling of The Call. And speaks into it.

Can you hear me? I need Snape. Now. Dumbledore is dying too early. From the ring.

Oh that felt so strange, like the vibration of her voice along the thread was tickling her brain.

No reply. Can she not hear her, or just not respond? She might have to—

Bellatrix’s hand squeezes hers back.

“Aren’t you going to say something, Snape. You are his godfather, surely you have something to add on such a momentous occasion?” Bellatrix calls harshly across the circle of Death Eaters.

A voice rumbles back. “Of course, Bellatrix, I merely assumed such a sentiment to be painfully obvious. I did not wish to interrupt my Lord, as is so often your want.”

Bellatrix’s head whips around, eyes wide and lip trembling at Voldemort in agonised dismay. “My deepest apologies, my Lord, if this is true. I did not mean to interrupt the proceedings, I only thought that Snape may wish to say his piece, as he must part so soon and miss the ceremony.”

That’s it! Hermione squeezes her hand in thanks and then brushes past her and around the circle to Snape’s side.

“You must leave, Severus? You did not inform me of such a need. What is so urgent that you must return to the old fool so soon?” Voldemort's high, cold voice questions as he snaps his attention to Snape.

Hermione hurriedly grabs Snape’s arm before he can reply. He can’t dispute this.

He doesn’t even twitch, responding as calmly as ever.

“I’m afraid the old man was quite insistent. He is soon to collect Potter from his relatives. I believe I shall be able to gain valuable information, my Lord.”

Voldemort hums in thought. “Very well. Leave us. The ceremony shall continue without you, I’m sure Bellatrix is willing to take your place?”

Snape bows his head and takes a step back, Hermione along with him, and she only manages to see Bellatrix dance eagerly into the centre of the circle before Snape is apparating them away.

They arrive in a nondescript forest, and Hermione takes a quick glance around before letting the invisibility drip off of her.

Snape pulls of his mask and hides it away in his robes. “So it is you, Miss Granger. What are you and Bellatrix—”

“There’s no time. It’s Dumbledore, you have to save him.”

His eyes widen, and she doesn’t wait any longer, popping them straight to the common room.

Oh Dumbledore does not look good. Sickly pale, arm twitching.

Snape swoops to kneel beside him. “Albus. What happened, Albus? Tell me.”

The headmaster just whimpers, eyes squeezed shut. Snape turns to Hermione.

He put on a cursed ring, very dark magic, although I’m not sure I can tell you what it was. I don’t know if you’re supposed to know yet

Snape nods sharply and casts a diagnostic charm. A black cloud clings to the headmaster’s hand, growing steadily thicker and darker.

Snape pales and begins hurriedly murmuring some kind of counter curse, wand scanning over the wizard’s arm inch by inch.

Dumbledore groans, and his eyes blink open.

Hermione vanishes herself with a start. Did he see her?

“Se…rus. Too powerful…thought but…Fawkes…burning day.”

Snape doesn’t pause in his muttering, and a white mist seeps from his wand. How interesting. Is it related to the patronus charm? How do you stop Horcrux magic? Wasn’t it remorse? Regret?

Well. Dumbledore looks like he’s certainly regretting putting on the ring now.

Snape continues his work, and Dumbledore’s eyes gradually become more focused, his strength returning, and soon he can pull himself up to rest against the side of an armchair.

Snape pauses. “That should stop the spreading. For now. I shall have to prepare a potion, and you should return at once to your quarters to rest. This is far from over." He swallows, expression pained. Weary. "You foolish old man. What possessed you to not check a ring for curses before putting it on?”

Dumbledore raises his eyebrows, eyes softening. “I do not think I mentioned a ring, Severus.”

Oh dear. A slip up from Snape?

Hermione studies him more closely. There is a certain...panicked fear. Like a child realising a parent must leave on the first day of school.

She always forgets how young Snape is...and how emotionally stunted.

Snape gets to his feet, helping the older wizard into the chair. “And what else would have caused such a reaction? You’re lucky I decided to return to my office at such a late hour.”

“Perhaps. It appears Lady Luck was on my side tonight, wouldn’t you agree, Severus? It must have been fate herself who brought you here. I can’t thank her enough.”

That crafty bugger. What does he know?

Snape snorts. “You bloody optimist. Only you would see this evening as lucky, Albus. I would curse the fates if they left me dying painfully on the floor.”

Oh.

Oh knowing the future is horrible.

“Always the pessimist, Severus. I prefer, when possible, to believe that someone is watching over us. Even when we least expect it.” Dumbledore twinkles, adjusting his half-moon glasses.

Okay, she gets the hint. She doesn’t know how but he must know.

And that’s why she needs to leave.

She pops away, back to Black Estate. To the room with her belongings in.

Merlin, she’s freezing! And this was her favourite jumper.

She hurriedly casts a drying spell on herself. No. Fuzzy and ruined, as she expected. Well, Autonoe is going to get a talking to about tonight…although if it hadn’t been for them, she never would have seen Dumbledore.

Did she always save his life tonight?

Does he owe her a life debt? Argh how does it work? Did Snape save him? Or was it Hermione bringing him there? Or Autonoe for causing the events to take place?

She definitely needs to do some reading on the subject at some point.

But for now, she’s going to have a shower and get changed. She smells like a lake.

 


 

Hermione is back in the kitchen. She seems to spend her life between eating, swimming and showering these days. It must be late by now, but she hasn’t checked the time. She’s restless.

Poor Draco. So it’s tonight. Narcissa must be in agony, Snape despairing, Bellatrix putting on a good show but...

Just a boy. Desperate and feeling so alone.

If only he knew how many people were worrying for him tonight.

She never knew when it happened. Draco never spoke about it. Was it always tonight, or have they changed something?

Did Dumbledore always go to the Slytherin common room?

The butterfly effect. Hermione has affected Bellatrix, Snape, and Narcissa so far. Possibly Dumbledore. Draco is so close to all of those people…is he going to remain untouched by this?

She’ll have to remember to ask Bellatrix to keep a close eye on him. For any changes.

She looks down at her cold cup of tea.

Hmm. Take your mind off of things, Hermione.

“Tiggy? If I can use elf magic to hear The Call and turn invisible…can I use it for other things? Like heat my tea, for example, or cast light? That would be useful.”

Tiggy looks up from their newspaper across the table. “You is being able to, but you is being a witch. You is having your own magic. You is not needing it.”

Hmph. “Well having a light underwater would be useful! But how am I supposed to cast a lumos without a wand? Or light fire in the water?”

Tiggy raises an eyebrow. And then clicks their fingers.

And a light shines from the tip of their index finger.

E.T phone home Hermione’s brain supplies stupidly before she can shake the thought.

Of course. This whole time—

She could smack herself. Why did neither her or Bellatrix think of that?

She holds out her index finger. “Lumos!”

Nothing happens. Oh, right. Connection. Want it, feel it, remember it. “Lumos.”

And a white light glows from her fingertip. Brilliant.

“Yes! No more being blind in the dark! Nox. Lumos. Nox.”

Finally, something is going her way today.

Tiggy looks back at their newspaper, shaking their head. “I is telling you. You is strange, Miss Hermione.”

Hermione just shrugs. The world’s a strange place. She’s had a strange month. Maybe she should just embrace the madness. The chaos. Throw the rulebook out the window and see what happens.

What on Earth has happened to Hermione Granger?

“Hermiiione! Where aaare you?” Ah. That’s what’s happened to her. Speak of the devil.

“In the kitchen!” she yells back.

“Hermione?!”

Oh for Merlin’s—

She closes her eyes and cricks her neck, sighing as she searches for the thread, speaking into it, softly this time.

I’m in the kitchen

And Bellatrix appears before them with a whirl of black smoke. And a wobble to her step. Is she…?

She stumbles forwards and steadies herself on the kitchen counter. “There you are, pet. How were you whispering in my ear with your little…your little whispering, you whispery…and Tiggy! Tiggy is here! And reading the Prophet!”

She gasps dramatically and then raises a finger to her lips. “Ssshhh don’t tell! It’s a sseeecret. Our secret little secret, isn’t that right, Tiggy?”

Tiggy gives her a very disapproving look. “Is no one alive to be keeping the secret from now, Mistress Bella. And you is knowing this, when you don’t be drinking. You is being a silly elfling. You is needing your mind to be steady, not all tipsy-turvey.”

Oh, Hermione doesn’t know whether to be loving this or horrified. “Bellatrix…you were careful to keep our secrets too, weren’t you? With the others?”

Bellatrix huffs, and then walks around the counter, pulling Hermione’s stool so it scrapes backwards on the tile floor. Ah! Hermione clings on, hoping she won’t be tipped backwards.

“Yes, yes. I haven’t told them anything, don’t worry your curly little head about it. I kept my lips sealed.”

Hmm. Well that’s debatable seeing as—mmph!

Bellatrix puts a hand over Hermione’s mouth and clambers up onto the stool with her, straddling her lap.

Wha— oh good lord! This is not making anything less confusing, her thighs are— what is she—

“Sshhhh don’t you be all judgy judgy either. I didn’t drink with them, I went to check on Cissy afterwards. And trust me, I needed a looot to drink for that conversation.”

Oh. Well that’s slightly better. Except—

And you didn’t let anything slip to your legilimens sister?

Bellatrix just stares back, tilting her head to the side. Her cheeks are flushed from the alcohol. Eyes Glazed. It's becoming rather difficult to stop her thoughts from wandering, especially as Bellatrix wriggles in her lap and stares into her eyes— Ow!

Ow, Bellatrix! Don’t pull on the thread so hard!

“It’s so strange…don’t you think? It’s like…a connection!” she whispers, eyes wide like this is some great revelation.

Okay, definitely too much to drink. Calm down, Hermione.

She pulls Bellatrix’s hand away from her mouth. “Well, yes. We already established that.”

Bellatrix shakes her head frantically and then grabs Hermione’s shoulders as she loses her balance, squeezing her eyes shut. “No! I mean— okay, I’m thinking of a colour, what is it? No peeking.”

Hermione chuckles. “I’m not sure that’s how—”

“I’m sending it through the thread. Pay attention!”

Hermione closes her eyes with a sigh. “I’m not getting anything. Try speaking through it. Like a teleph— oh, nevermind. Oh wait!”

She snaps her eyes open and pushes Bellatrix gently off her lap, getting to her feet. “I need to show you something! This might help you with the thread. Tiggy! Do you have any wool from your knitting? And two empty tins?”

Tiggy clicks their fingers without looking up, and some red string and two tins appear on the side. Hermione turns to Bellatrix with a wide grin. “I always wanted to try this with a friend as a kid! I never— no one really wanted to do this with me. Sometimes my Nan would if I asked nicely, but— what?”

Bellatrix reaches out and rubs her thumb over Hermione’s cheek, frowning at her. “I think I could have been your friend. It would have been nice. To have a friend like you.”

Oh.

Hermione’s heart begins to hum warmly in her chest. Oh she—

“I would have liked that. Shame we never— that we’re not the same age. And that I’m a muggleborn. We never had a chance.”

Bellatrix steps forwards and wraps her arms around her. Hugging her tightly.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re a muggleborn,” she growls. “It doesn’t.”

“It doesn’t it doesn’t it doesn’t,” she whispers to herself. “You’re just Hermione, right? Still just Hermione?”

Hermione sighs, bringing her arms up to hug her back. “I’m Hermione and I’m a muggleborn. You can’t just ignore that to make yourself feel better, Bellatrix.”

Bellatrix goes stiff in her arms and pulls back. Hermione looks away uncomfortably, to her horror feeling tears forming in her eyes at the thought that—

She swallows a lump in her throat. “Muggles are just people, Bellatrix. Good and bad and everything in between. My parents are muggles I— tell me you don’t think— I need to know if—”

She can feel the witch’s hands against her back, clenching her top in her fists.

“I don’t know. How can they be— It’s so confusing. But don’t cry. I know you’re not that different from us, from me. But that means…If Andy was right then—”

She rests her chin on Hermione’s shoulder.

“I tried last night to imagine…to pretend— But I still remember all of the— the lessons. I can’t— It was— don’t make me remember I— I don’t want to—”

She’s shaking now, clinging to Hermione, who holds her up in shock.

And then she hears the cupboards begin to rattle. Oh no.

Oh this is bad. What should she do? What is the real fear here?

Control. Feeling lost.

“Bellatrix…I’m not going to ask any more difficult questions, okay? Just simple ones. So. Do you want me to keep touching you, or to let go?”

“I don’t— don’t leave me.”

That’s not an answer. And there’s a gurgling in the taps. She really doesn’t want another storm right now.

“I won’t leave you. I’m right here, I’m okay. We’re both okay.”

Bellatrix shifts slightly, moves so her lips are almost touching Hermione’s ear. “I hate you. I hate you so much,” she whispers.

Hermione gasps. She can’t help it. It’s so cruel and—

“I hate the way you make me feel. I hate that I have to question everything when you’re around. I hate that I’m so weak with you. That I say things I shouldn’t. Do things I shouldn’t.”

Oh. Well that’s a bit different.

Hermione pulls her close with one arm, and strokes the witch’s hair with the other.

“I know,” she sighs. And she does. She definitely knows that feeling.

She holds Bellatrix close. “I know,” she repeats soothingly.

She feels hands stroke across her back, and a face press against her neck.

The rattling stops, and the pipes cease their creaking.

For a moment they just breathe. They hardly ever have time to stop and breathe.

It’s nice to hold someone. It’s steadying. Hermione is feeling rather lost herself, she has to admit.

Tiggy clears their throat. “It be time for bed, Mistress Bella. You is saying goodnight to Miss Hermione, and Tiggy is taking you to bed,” they rumble softly.

Oh. She forgot Tiggy was there.

Bellatrix pulls back, head ducked and rubbing at her eyes as she takes a couple of steps backwards towards Tiggy.

“Goodnight, Hermione,” she rasps, taking Tiggy’s hand.

Hermione’s heart clenches at how lost the witch still is. Part of her wonders how many times Tiggy has done this. Looked after her when no one else would. Can’t help imagining a younger Bellatrix holding onto the elf just as confusedly. Fearfully.

Bellatrix’s eyes focus, and she smiles at Hermione. A small but genuine smile. “Tiggy’s always there. Always protecting me. Did you think I didn’t have a scrawny boy in a bathroom?” She shakes her head at Hermione. “We’re too similar for that. Bookworm.”

Hermione shakes her head with a smile. “Goodnight, Know It All.”

Bellatrix sticks her tongue out at her, and Tiggy apparates then away.

Hermione walks over to stare into the fire.

The flames dance, and the logs crackle. Time ticks on.

And still she can’t stop thinking about Bellatrix.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione is still in bed. Staring up at the ceiling. She’s not sure what time it is, but it’s light out. Has been for a while.

She’s finally admitted it to herself. Feelings for Bellatrix. A whole muddle of attraction and caring and intrigue and— she likes spending time with her. Isn’t scared of her anymore.

Trusts her.

And that in itself is terrifying. How can you trust a person that has caused you so much pain? Will cause her so much pain?

And that’s another problem. Other than the Longbottoms…Bellatrix hasn’t actually done a lot of the horrible things that Hermione hated her for. Not yet. It’s not very fair to blame her for things she did in an alternate future.

But she did do them. Will do them…somehow...

Hermione is broken from her thoughts as none other than Bellatrix walks into the room. Not saying anything, just stomps in and throws herself down next to Hermione on the bed with a bounce and a huff, folding her arms.

Hermione decides not to say anything either. She’s not sure what will come out of her mouth right now. And Bellatrix was right. She’s still too reckless. Impulsive. She needs to start assessing things before speaking.

So. Bellatrix is clearly grumpy about something.

Hermione continues looking at the ceiling. She can hear Bellatrix breathing. Almost feel her body heat she’s so close.

Hermione subtly pulls her arms closer to her sides, not wanting to accidentally touch her. And bites her lip. She can’t stop thinking about—

“I’m sorry, alright?”

What?

Hermione rolls onto her side to face the witch. “What? What for? What did you do?”

Bellatrix turns on her side too and frowns. “You’re not angry with me?”

She has circles under her eyes. And her hair is even crazier than normal.

Hermione smiles. “No, I’m not angry with you. Why would I be angry?”

Bellatrix searches her eyes, and then rolls to face the ceiling again with a shrug. “You didn’t come to breakfast. I thought maybe I hurt you and didn’t notice…or you didn’t like me drinking or— or I scared you.”

Gosh. How did she ever think this witch was heartless? It turns out she is always feeling something. And overthinking. Hermione can relate.

She half sits up to look down at the woman, her heartbeat accelerating. She is so beautiful. And actually rather sweet, in her own way.

Hermione wants…

She wants to kiss her.

Such a stupid reckless impulse. Should she—

Bellatrix’s eyes meet hers.

Sod it.

Bellatrix’s eyes widen. She must have read the thought.

Hermione leans down anyway. Presses their lips together, just long enough for a warmth to settle in her stomach. And then pulls back.

“You didn’t scare me. I’m not angry. Quite the opposite, actually. That’s why I needed some time to think.”

And Bellatrix scrambles backward off the bed, bumping into a wardrobe.

What the—

And raises her wand at her, before lowering it sharply with a look of utter panic. What on Earth is going on?

“Bellatrix, what’s wrong? Why—”

“How are you not scared of me?” Bellatrix growls. “How— I could have hurt you! I could always— you’re not allowed to—”

Okay, apparently kissing her was a really bad idea.

“You promised not to hurt me, so—”

“And you trust me? Why? I don’t understand it. It’s like— like the more you see of me the more you—”

Hermione chuckles softly. “The more I like you? That’s kind of how it works, Bellatrix. Didn’t you like me more when you learnt more about me?”

Bellatrix doesn’t reply, and Hermione swallows awkwardly, looking at the floor.

She thought Bellatrix liked her. She seems to want to spend a lot of time with her, anyway. And touch her. Kiss her.

“Maybe it’s the thread…” Bellatrix whispers.

Hermione cautiously looks up. “Do you know what it is? Last night you said…a connection. The elves talked about threads to their masters but…I don’t think…you’re not my mistress.”

Bellatrix has moved to sit on a dresser and is looking down at her kicking feet, tapping the wood with her fingertips. “I have some theories. Strings of fate. Thread of life. Something…to do with prophecy and life. Holding us together. Connecting us. I think…I don’t think there was ever a life debt at all. It was this thread, the whole time, that’s what’s been nagging at me to save you.”

Oh. A thread connecting them that has nothing to do with the elves? That made her want to save…

“I wanted to save you too. When you were dying and I had to convince Snape I— I thought it was because of the timeline but— I was scared you were going to die. Frantic. And I was so relieved when you were okay. Is that what— what you felt?”

Bellatrix slowly nods. “I was so angry at you for not saving yourself. That you didn’t fight me. That I’d almost— that’s partly why I decided to help you. Teach you to be strong. That couldn’t happen to you again. You needed to know how to fight. I hated that you’d almost drowned. Pulled you from the water as soon as I could.”

Oh.

“Because of the thread…” Hermione whispers.

Strings of…red string, red thread, isn’t that…

“I’ve only ever heard of it as something romantic. The Chinese story of—”

“I know.”

Oh.

Hermione looks down at her hands, fidgeting awkwardly as the silence builds.

Romance. Lovers. Soulmates, even. Is that what Bellatrix knows?

Does she think…

Hermione frowns. “It doesn’t have to mean…I don’t love you or anything…I don’t think. I’m not in lo— it’s like you said. We spent so long in my head that I feel like you’ve been there with me, talking to me, almost my whole life. Like you know me better than—”

Hermione clenches her jaw shut, but doesn’t dare look up. Just stares at her feet.

A soft thud. And then Bellatrix’s feet stop in front of hers.

She looks up, and her heart starts beating wildly at how close the witch is. Looking at her like…

Like…

“I don’t love you either,” Bellatrix murmurs. “But I think I want to kiss you again.”

Oh.

Oh so that’s why she looks…

Hermione’s mouth goes dry and she swallows. “Why? You’ve changed your mind? You’re not…I thought you didn’t want to.”

Bellatrix smirks. “That I didn’t want to what? To get laid? It’s your choice, pet. How about it?”

To get—

Hermione’s eyes fall to red lips.

And she presses forwards to taste them.

 


 

Oh fuck. She breathes in sharply as a jolt of electricity thrums though her.

Bellatrix’s hands press against her back, pulling them flush together as she practically attacks Hermione’s lips with a needy groan. Hermione’s whole body melts, brain included, and she surrenders herself to it. This is happening. It feels so good, there’s no way she can stop—

She brings her hands up to Bellatrix’s hair and kisses her deeply, pulling herself as close as possible, letting her mouth fall open. She wants to feel this. Needs this. Merlin she hasn’t been this turned on in…

Ever. She moans into Bellatrix’s mouth and starts walking backwards towards the bed, tugging the witch with her.

Bellatrix pulls back to grin against her lips, and Hermione feels the front of her pyjama shirt being unbuttoned.

“Now here’s an impulse I shouldn’t have ignored. Do you know how long I’ve been fighting this thought? Convincing myself I didn’t want this? I should have fucked you as soon as I caught you looking at me back at the cottage,” Bellatrix murmurs as she pulls off Hermione’s shirt.

She wanted to—

“You wanted to back then? You thought about it?”

She sits down on the bed, and then decides to just take off her pyjama bottoms, watching as Bellatrix removes her dress, just strips off all her clothes at once. Looks like she’s just as desperate. “I didn’t even know I liked witches until you told me.”

Her eyes roam over the naked woman as more and more skin is exposed, trying to decide where she wants to touch first.

Bellatrix pushes her down on the bed and captures her lips once more, their bodies coming together as the witch settles on top of her, exploring her mouth with an intensity and pace that is making Hermione dizzy. God and the touch of her skin. How is she so soft and yet so strong? It’s like having a lioness crouched over her. The contained power.

Hermione slides her hands over Bellatrix’s back and tries to remember to breathe between kisses. She’s panting. They haven’t even done anything and she’s gasping, desperate to be touched.

How did she not know she was attracted to witches?

She pulls her mouth away. “How did you know? Back at the cottage? That I was attracted to witches?” she pants.

Bellatrix moves down to kiss her neck and Hermione squirms, head thrown back at the feel of a hot mouth and grazing teeth.

“I didn’t. I just saw you looking at me and guessed. None of your memories were very sexual…you’d obviously been looking in the wrong place. Denying yourself. And I was right.”

She rolls sideways and strokes a hand over Hermione’s chest. Squeezes, pinches and watches Hermione’s face for her reaction with a burning gaze. A finger scrapes the underside of her breast at just the right spot and—

Hermione groans, arching into her palm and then rolling over on top of the witch, pinning her down by the wrists and kissing her. Bellatrix seems to find this amusing and chuckles against her lips, but Hermione just kisses her harder, bites at her lower lip.  She needs to feel her, taste her. She wants to touch her, to—

She pulls her mouth away and crawls down to run her tongue around a nipple instead, shuddering as Bellatrix gasps and moans in response.

The witch is driving her wild. Here’s the passion she never knew she had. She’s always wondered why people are so obsessed with sex but—

She straddles Bellatrix’s waist and leans down to suck at her neck, hands clutching anywhere they can. In her hair, the sheets, reaching between their bodies to stroke across skin. The hot ache building between her legs is delicious. She searches out a nipple and pinches roughly.

“Oh fuck! When did— you haven’t done this with a witch before? Fucking hell,” Bellatrix groans, fingers digging into Hermione’s hips and head falling back to expose more of her throat, back arching.

“No, no I…but I want to. I don’t know where to— tell me. I want to make you feel good, tell me where to touch you.”

Bellatrix shudders beneath her and then wraps her arms around her tightly, possessively. Sucks at Hermione’s neck and runs her lips and tongue back and forth at a point that’s so sensitive it makes Hermione moan.

Bellatrix grins and then bites at her shoulder. “I like hearing you. When you— this is new to you. I can feel how wet you are. Tell me what you’ve discovered. What you’ve learnt that wasn’t in any book you’ve read.”

What she’s learnt?

Know it All.

Now who’s sapiosexual?

Hermione shivers. Both of them.

“I…I didn’t expect your body to be this soft. I can’t stop touching you. Even…I can’t decide if I want to pull you as close as possible or to touch you softly. Watch you.”

She sits up and runs her fingertips over Bellatrix’s chest, her shoulders, her arms. Following along muscles, scratches and scars, and avoiding bruises. Hermione swallows. “I can’t decide…if I want to look at your body…or watch your expression.”

Her eyes meet Bellatrix’s. They’re dark but focused. Drilling into her. “I’m always drawn to your eyes. I want to figure you out. Know what you’re thinking. Feeling.”

She maintains eye contact as her hand drifts lower, down over Bellatrix’s stomach, stroking over her hip bones.

Bellatrix’s eyes seem to darken further, become hooded.

Don’t stop. Go lower. Touch me.

Fuck, I forgot you could…are you sure? I don’t know—

A groan Yes, yes I’ll tell you, just—

Hermione slips her hand between Bellatrix’s legs and— oh fu—

Oh fuck, oh you feel—, I want to—, is this—? Fuck, Bellatrix

She’s so wet. Hermione did this? She doesn’t even know what she’s doing, she only knows— well she’s done it to herself, so—

She bites her lip and looks down at Bellatrix’s face once more. Circles. She’ll try circles.

Bellatrix bucks her hips.

Yes, yes just like that. Do what you’d do to yourself. Imagine it. I want to see— oh—

I do this. When I’m alone in bed, I touch myself like this, do you like it?

Faster. I can see you, the memory, it— you have one hand over your mouth and the other between your le— Oh! Harder with—yes. You’re trying to be quiet

Bellatrix’s legs fall open wider as Hermione presses inside of her, thrusting more confidently as the witch begins to pant and rock her hips, face flushed.

I was at the Burrow. I had to be quiet, but it felt so good. You don’t have to be quiet though. I want to—

“Yes, yes Hermione, fuck,” she gasps. “Keep going, I’m so— no, I need, I want—”

Bellatrix suddenly sits up and drags Hermione down beneath her all in one move, straddling her and kissing her clumsily. Hot and hard and wet and breathless.

Holy fucking— Hermione moans and bucks her hips. She wrenches her lips away. “I thought— was I not—”

Bellatrix bites at her ear, lifting off of her and pressing a knee between Hermione’s legs, nudging them apart. “You nearly had me there, pet. How the fuck did you manage to get me spread beneath you so easily? Oh no. No just seeing you— I want to see that now. Hear you. I want— let me touch you.”

She…

Hermione pulls back, pushes on Bellatrix’s shoulder so she has some room and looks up at her.

Does Hermione want this? Is she ready to accept who this is, what they’re doing?

Bellatrix’s cheeks are flushed, her eyes glazed. Her lips are parted slightly, breathing fast, and her eyes dart over Hermione’s face. She looks…

We don’t have to, Hermione. We can stop. I’m not— I won’t— I’d never—

Hermione smiles up at her. Okay. Maybe she does know this witch, she—

“I trust you. I just needed a moment but— are you sure too? You won’t…regret this?”

Bellatrix sits back on her knees between Hermione’s spread legs, eyes travelling slowly down her body, the intensity making her shiver. Her eyes meet Hermione’s once more with a sly grin. “Nope. No regrets.”

Hermione rolls her eyes as Bellatrix immediately begins kissing her way down Hermione’s body. So impulsive. Always thinking of the consequences, yeah right. The witch wouldn’t know how to hold anything back if— “Oh don’t stop!”

A mouth is between her legs. No one has ever—

“Oh, that feels so good, how have I never— yes, keep going.”

She feels a firm heat press against her and loses control of her breathing. She squeezes her eyes shut, mouth falling open as her body thrums and her hips jolt up. She needs to hold them steady, needs to stay still so that—

Oh it’s so— she jerks her hips. Faster? Fuck, how is she— her body is on fire it—ah!

Strong arms wrap around her thighs, holding her firmly as a tongue presses inside of her.

Yes! “Yes, deeper! Oh Bellatrix, Bella—, I— I can’t—”

Oh she’s so close. Her hands clench in the covers and…why isn’t she…something is…she can’t quite—

She wants to look at her again. She’s too far—

“Bellatrix, I want— I need some friction I— your fingers. Inside me I— and I need you on top of me.”

She feels a moan vibrate between her legs and shudders, pulling Bellatrix on top of her eagerly as she crawls up her body.

“I’ve never been happier that you won’t stop talking, everything you say just—”

“Bella, shut up and kiss me. Touch me, I’m so close.”

She whines as a hand goes between her legs.

“I’m not going to kiss you. I want to hear you cry out when you come.”

Oh! Oh that’s so…

Bossy.

She forces herself to focus even as her body screams for release, and smirks at Bellatrix.

“Well then,” she pants, “you’d better make me. Maybe I’ll stay quiet for once.”

Bellatrix’s eyes widen, and then she frowns. She thrusts into Hermione firmly.

Oh gods it—

Hermione bites her lip and closes her eyes.

She hears Bellatrix growl in frustration, and another finger is added, the pace getting faster.

Hermione thrusts her hips and clenches both hands in the sheets, but she stays silent. She knows Bellatrix enjoys a fight. A challenge.

Oh.

She wrenches her eyes open and meets Bellatrix’s gaze.

How about it, Bella? Race you to the finish?

She sits up, ignoring Bellatrix’s confusion, and reaches between the other witch’s legs.

What are you…oh.

Hermione kneels up and starts moving her hand, her fingers, tries not to collapse back down as her legs shake.

Who’s stronger, Bella? Who’s going to break first?

Bellatrix adjusts her position and begins to copy her. Her hand moves back and forth and—

You’re sure you want to do this, pet? Sure you don’t want to just lie back and let me fuck you?

Hermione’s thighs clench and her mouth falls open. Merlin, she wants—

You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To have me lying beneath you, wet and moaning, screaming for you.

Bellatrix whines and her eyes fall shut, hips jerking. Then she licks her lips and her eyes blink open.

Yes. Yes, I’m imagining it. Say my name. Say it.

Hermione grinds against Bellatrix’s hand, not stopping with her own, pressing deeper even as her body jerks, her other hand bracing herself on Bellatrix’s shoulder. Oh she—

Bellatrix. Fuck, Bella. This feels so good. I can feel you clenching around my fingers, are you nearly there? Don’t stop. Let yourself go.

I’m not— I— I won’t— I can’t—

“Bella, I don’t care about winning. I— fuck this. I’m going to— ah! Stop hiding you bloody Slytherin and tell me—”

“Yes! Oh fuck I’m so close, I can’t stop. My legs are going to—”

Bellatrix falls back on the bed, and Hermione crawls on top of her, thrusts her fingers between her legs as hard as she can.

“Hermione! Don’t stop I—” Her eyes fall shut, mouth open in silent pleasure. Fuck, she looks so— a throbbing starts between Hermione’s legs just watching, her fingers curling deeper.

Bellatrix moans and shudders, grinding her hips, clenching around Hermione’s fingers and then collapsing backwards, panting.

Oh, oh fuck that was— did she—

She straddles Bellatrix’s thighs and looks down at her. Her face is flushed, chest heaving, mouth still open as she gasps against the bedsheets.

Her eyes slowly focus up on Hermione, and she moves her hand back between Hermione’s legs.

Hermione’s so close, she just needs—

She rocks back and forth, and Bellatrix’s fingers start to move inside of her as the witch gains her breath, her strength.

So close. So good it—

Hermione…Hermione…Hermione

Yes, yes, yes I— wha?!

Bellatrix lunges upwards and throws herself at Hermione so that they both tumble onto the bed.

And fingers thrust back into her. Hard and fast and—oh fuck oh yes! Her eyes squeeze shut.

A growl. “Look at me! Open your eyes now and look at me.  No more games.”

A moan leaves her lips and she forces her eyes open. Looks up into Bellatrix’s dark eyes, gasping for breath.

“There’s a good pet. Now make those pretty noises I asked for”, Bellatrix husks, pressing into her harder and grinding her palm against her.

Oh oh. She didn’t know she wanted to hear that but—

“Yes, yes Bellatrix. I—” she whines. “Harder, I need you. Make me come, make me. Ah!” She moans and thrusts her hips wildly, chasing that feeling. It’s almost— oh god. Oh Merlin.

“Fuck you sound so good. Feel so good.  I think I’ll taste you again.”

Yes. Oh yes—oh! Her mouth it—

She arches off the bed with a cry as a tongue swipes between her legs and then a mouth lowers to suck. Hard. She sees stars and finally peaks, thrumming and pulsing and shivering and clenching around Bellatrix’s fingers.

Oh. Oh that was…

She falls back with a groan, feeling Bellatrix collapse on top of her. Fuck.

She can barely breathe she—

That was—

She continues gasping, unclenching her hands from the sheets.

Her eyes fall shut. Her breathing settles. Her heartbeat slowly steadies…

She feels Bellatrix pull a sheet over them and just lies there.

She can barely move. Can’t even lift her…

Well. She hadn’t expected her morning to quite go like this but…

She feels Bellatrix shift and sit up.

Oh dear. She’s not freaking out again, is she?

Hermione keeps her eyes shut, not ready to face that reality.

She feels a kiss against her cheek, and then the bed tilts and there’s the sound of feet across the carpet.

She’s leaving?

And then she hears the sound of a shower. Oh thank Merlin.

She closes her eyes, and drifts into sleep.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Oh bloody fucking bollocking— Morgana’s tits!”

Huh?

Hermione squints her eyes open in confusion, and then her arms fly out to catch herself as she’s rolled almost off the bed.

“Ah! What is—”

Bellatrix is already across the room, picking her clothes up off the floor and hopping about as she struggles into some tights.

“I fell asleep. I’m so late! Cissy is going to avada me if I don’t turn up soon. Or she’ll just come here. That’s even worse. And I still need to— where is my wand? Can you remember?”

Hermione’s brain is still defogging from her deep sleep. Umm…

“Umm, bathroom? You had a shower.”

Bellatrix grins at her. “Yes! Still the brightest witch of her age.”

She runs into the bathroom. “Although when my age ended for some reason and yours began, I’m not sure. I’m still young, aren’t I? I’m not McGonagall yet.”

Hermione pulls herself up against the pillows and shakes her head in disbelief. Someone’s definitely not grumpy anymore. And chatty.

“Yes, you’re still young, and running around like a first year late for class. What’s so important anyway? It’s just your sister.”

Bellatrix sticks her head around the door, toothbrush in her mouth.

That had better not be Hermione’s toothbrush.

I have to meet Draco for his occlumency lessons

Oh. Oh no, she definitely—

“Oh, then you have to! Nothing can change, and—”

I know, I—

She goes back into the bathroom.

“I’ll be with him for a couple of hours and then I should be free. Be careful if you go to the lake, we haven’t even had time to— what happened with Dumbledore last night?”

Oh yeah.

Hermione pulls on some underwear and jeans from a chest of drawers. “Yes, we should really catch up about that. He almost died but Snape got there in time, thank you, by the way. Everything’s back on track but I’m not sure— keep an eye on Draco, he—”

Hands stroke down her back, and she shivers, leaning into the touch. “Bellatrix, you’re late, there isn’t time for this,” she breathes out.

A head rests on her shoulder and arms wrap around her waist. “I’m already late, two more minutes won’t hurt,” she pouts, kissing Hermione’s jaw.

Oh damn it all to—

Hermione groans and pulls away. “Maybe, but if you start, I’m going to need a lot more than two minutes with you. I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself.”

She walks over to look in the dresser mirror, shaking her head at Bellatrix’s conflicted face in the reflection and smiling. “Go already! I’m going to get dressed properly and then maybe have some breakfast. You’re not missing anything, go help your family.”

Bellatrix huffs. “Alright, alright, I’m going! Merlin, legilimency is going to be hard today with my head full of…”

She carries on grumbling to herself as she shoves on some boots from the bottom of a wardrobe and then spins around, disappearing with a crack.

Hermione sits down at the dresser and smiles to herself, a hand coming up to her mouth. Hermione Granger, what in the bloody hell did you just do?

She laughs to herself. Did she just sleep with Bellatrix? With a witch?

She laughs again as she looks at herself in the mirror. “I should have gone to Friday night drinks. Well, at least I finally have a story to tell, some gossip to share. Merlin’s beard, what would Ginny say? They’re faces. They’d never believe this.”

Hermione can’t quite believe it. She doesn’t regret it. Not at all. It had been…

She walks into the bathroom, tugging her jeans back off and deciding to have shower.

And rolls her eyes at the mess. Bellatrix has left everything everywhere. Did she decide to try all of Hermione’s shower products or something? And even the toothpaste is—

But at least it wasn’t her toothbrush. There’s another one left on the side. Thank Merlin.

She gets into the shower with a chuckle.

It doesn’t feel wrong. It feels…natural. Being with Bellatrix is easy. They get each other. Things just…

They bounce off of one another. She has no idea how, maybe because of their time with the elves? Or being in each other’s heads?

It’s nothing like her relationship with Ron, that had been so…exhausting and— they were incompatible.

Not that she’s in a relationship with Bellatrix now. It’s more like…friends with benefits…without being friends. Or maybe they are friends now but— It was just sex, it doesn’t mean…

Very good sex.

She splashes some water on her face.

She doesn’t believe in Voldemort anymore. And Hermione did that? All it took was…

All it took was Hermione giving her whole being, all of her memories, her life, and the fate of the world to the witch. And then arguing some sense into her. So no big deal. Anyone could have done it…

Maybe it is fate. Not just prophecy, but…

So this always happened? The whole time? Every time they met Bellatrix after The Department of Mysteries…she was secretly with Hermione. Sleeping with Hermione.

Unless the first time she wasn’t, and this is changing the first course of events? That may be possible.

But this time…what are they going to do? Is Bellatrix going to have to torture her again? Knowing who Hermione is?

Hermione finishes washing herself and steps out of the shower, grabbing a towel and then sorting out her hair a bit in the mirror. Don’t think about that now. The next problem is the merpeople. And breakfast.

 


 

She pushes the eggs around her plate, daydreaming again. Clenching her thighs together as she remembers—

Hermione! Time travel! Focus. You’re not some horny teenager that—

Not that she was ever a horny teenager. She’d had to save the world then too. Or at least stop Harry from nearly dying all the time. At least this time she got some sex out of it…

She finishes her breakfast and sends the plate to the sink as usual. Now what? Should she go to the lake and talk to the…they’re nymphs. She keeps forgetting.

Bellatrix is part nymph. Maybe a metamorphagus like Tonks.

Tonks. Tonks is still alive. If only she could ask her about metamorphosis. That might help her understand the nymphs a bit better.

But no. No changing things, or interacting with people. So she only has—

“Tiggy?”

She cleans up the rest of breakfast as she waits. It’s not like Tiggy to take this long.

How strange.

And Tiggy appears. Soaking wet and dripping water all over the floor.

“Tiggy, what happened?!”

Tiggy vanishes the water from the floor, dries themselves, and tilts their head to the side, grumbling. Some water comes out of their ears.

“Nothing is being happened, Miss Hermione, is being the merpeople. They is restless waiting for Mistress Bellatrix. She needs to be visiting them soon or they is driving Tiggy crazy with their Calls.”

Oh dear. “Sorry about that. I suppose that’s my fault. They’re not…angry…are they?”

Tiggy frowns. “Some is, some isn’t. I is suggesting you speak with Mistress Leagore. The real Mistress Leagore, not silly little Mastress Autonoe. Although they is wanting to see you too. They is thinking you is angry with them.”

Oh poor Autonoe. She hadn’t meant— it was just because Dumbledore was—

Her eyes drift to the countertop, to the tins and thread still left there from last night. Hmm.

She grabs a knife from the drawer and moves over to the tins, piercing a hole in the bottom of each one.

“Tiggy, do you think Autonoe would like to play a game with me? If I meet them back in the cave?”

Tiggy chuckles. “Oh they is definitely liking a game. Tiggy will be telling them when you is ready.”

Hermione smiles as she pulls the end of the string through one hole, tying it securely, and then does the same with the other end, until she has a long ‘telephone’.

She thinks Autonoe will like this. And it might help her and Bellatrix with the thread…

The red thread of fate.

This thread is red too.

“Okay Tiggy. I’m ready, I’ll meet them in the cave.”

She pops away. Oh. Three of them.

“Oh sorry, I didn’t know—”

The merpeople stop whispering and turn to face her. She doesn’t recognise them— oh!

Now she recognises two of them. The motherly looking one who had been excited to talk about an heir and— oh dear.

“Hello, my sweet. Are you back to make another deal? Where has your protector run off to?”

This is the mermaid— merperson— nymph who—

The motherly figure tuts. “Eudora, don’t scare the witchling so. I’m sure her mate shall be here soon, hmm? She must want to learn more about her family?”

Hermione backs away to sit on a rock.

Her mate. She forgot about that. And it’s almost not a lie anymore after this morning...

“Yes. She’s busy at the moment, but as soon as she’s free she’ll come to see you all, I’m sure of it. I just came to play a game with Autonoe. That’s okay…isn’t it?”

Eudora rolls their eyes and falls into a backwards dive, gliding into the water and away without a sound, obviously bored of the conversation already.

“Kallianassa, I’m not sure we should condone—” the third merperson murmurs.

Kallianassa scoffs with a smile. They kind of remind her of Andy. “Oh, shush, Dexamene, she’s harmless. And we all know Autonoe could do with a friend to play with. They’ve been swimming rings around Oreithye and Leagore all morning on patrol.”

They grin at Hermione. Now they really do remind her of Andy. Or Bellatrix at her most mischievous. “Sit tight, little witchling, we’ll fetch a playmate for you. And don’t mind Eudora. They’re all shriek and no bite.”

Umm. Hermione’s not sure she believes that.

…Merpeople don’t really bite, do they?

The other merperson, Dexamene, their teeth do look rather sharp now that she—what?!

Dexamene transforms as their eyes meet, muscles growing and getting taller and taller until a mountain of a merman sits before her, glaring down at her and standing tall on their tail fin to—

“Dexamene! Stand down, what is the meaning of this?” Kallianassa bellows, voice deep and echoing through the room, features sharpening.

Dexamene clenches their fists and grits their teeth…and then shrinks. Back to their original form except…maybe more feminine than before.

This is so confusing! How do you know who’s who if everyone changes their appearance all the time?

She’s going to have to make a list of names with Tiggy and Bellatrix.

Dexamene gives her one last glare and then splashes into the water.

“Forgive them,” Kallianassa sighs, voice soft once more. “They’re not used to witches. None of us are. It’s all very…I’ll go and find Autonoe for you, witchling.”

Hermione nods distractedly, and Kallianassa drops into the water and out of sight.

Alone in the cave.

What a relief. It’s all a bit overwhelming. Like starting Hogwarts again, but with no books or Professor McGonagall to tell her what to expect.

Oh.

Oh dear.

Sapiosexual. Praise kink. Older woman introduces her to the Wizarding World and tells her who she is. Teaches her about herself.

Maybe she did have a crush on McGonagall.

Oh how embarrassing.

Oh thank goodness the witch isn’t a legilimens, that would have been—

It must be hard being a legilimens. Seeing everyone’s thoughts about you. As much as it helps, it must be rather embarrassing.

If any of the students had a crush on Snape for example—

Oh dear Merlin, where are your thoughts going Hermione, that’s—

Wait. He’s a legilimens! So he knew Harry was always trying to learn, that he was being unfair. That horrible—

Oh. And could hear all the horrible things they thought about him. Every time he glared at them…held eye contact…Lilly’s eyes…

Stop it, Hermione. Back on track. Now let’s see.

You just spoke with Kallianassa who…seemed to like you, maybe. Dexamene who hates you, and Eudora, who maybe wants to sleep with you…however that works if you’re a merperson.

She doesn’t want to know. Especially if they’re all related…

That can’t be right. Anyway.

Then there’s Autonoe of course, sweet and childish. Oreithye. Angry but…cares about Autonoe. Has pride in their ancestry, but still helped Hermione, seemed to worry about Dumbledore.

And Kalianassa mentioned that they were on patrol with Leagore. Maybe that’s what they always do together. Like when they first surrounded Bellatrix.

How many is that? Then there’s Thetis, who looks like Narcissa or a queen or a king depending on the occasion.

Pronoe, who was calm and collected and looked remarkably like Draco…but not always. What did they look like before?

Ugh. Her head. She needs a diagram.

“Hermione?”

Hmm?

Hermione looks out across the water in the torchlight. Autonoe?

“Autonoe? Where are you? I promise I’m not cross anymore. I brought a game to show you.”

A ripple of water.

“You’re not angry? You promise on the gods?”

Hermione smiles. “On all the gods of Olympus.”

A musical giggle. “On the Titans, you mean. They’re even older. Oreithye says I have to respect my elders. Or…they get grumpy.”

Hermione snorts. “You’re supposed to listen because they have wisdom to share. Knowledge.”

More splashing. “Well, I’m your elder, aren’t I? So do as you’re told and close your eyes, Hermione. I have a surprise for you.”

Wha— that’s not what she—

“Have you closed them?”

She really shouldn’t. But she can’t fault their logic.

Fine.

She closes her eyes. “Yes, they’re shut.”

She hears a loud splash, and then a thud.

“Alright, open them…now!”

Oh! Ha! Oh goodness this is—

Autonoe has transformed their features to look like Hermione’s long lost twin…wearing a red knitted jumper.

“Autonoe! That’s amazing! You look so much like me and…where on Earth did you get a jumper?!”

Autonoe grins and transforms back. “Tiggy made it for me. Do you like it? It’s just like yours, and it’s my favourite colour, like the flying people.”

Ohh.

So that’s why— the knitting. The red thread!

“It’s a lovely jumper. Remember not to stretch it if you um…metamorph any bigger.”

Autonoe beckons her closer, and Hermione sits next to them. Rather cautiously. She remembers what happened last time.

“I can’t maxiform. Only some of us can do that. Like…Dexamene, and Oreithye, and…probably Thetis and Kalianassa, but I haven’t seen it. The rest of us have to…stay the same size. Not the same shape! Just…moved around. Like this!”

Autonoe’s chest flattens, and their arms gain some muscle definition.

How fascinating.

“Why only some of you? Is it how old you are?”

Autonoe sighs and looks up at the ceiling. “No. I can’t remember why. Leagore told me, but then he told me how to braid my hair nicely and I forgot all about it. You’ll have to ask her later.”

He…her…

She definitely needs to ask—

“About that. Gender and…choosing your form. How do you know who anyone is if they’re always changing?”

Autonoe scooches closer and pulls Hermione’s legs onto their lap, looking at them curiously.

“We don’t change all the time. We mostly stay the same, I was just having fun. Leagore changes quite a lot, and Thetis, but you can just ask them who they are, it’s simple really. And you’re always able to tell who is who, because our tails don’t change. Always the same. Same colour, same shape. I wish mine was red like Eudora’s, but no. Boring blue.”

Oh. Well that’s actually very helpful. Now she can just make a colour chart and— wait.

“Boring? Your tail is beautiful, Autonoe. A beautiful blue. Like the sky.”

Autonoe looks up at her, eyes wide. They cover their mouth with a squeak.

What?

“You can’t say that!” Autonoe whispers. “What if Kalypso hears you? I don’t want to have to fight her, she looked…scary. Beautiful of course…but scary. Almost as scary as Speio.”

Speio— what— why would Bellatrix—

“Oh, Autonoe, I was just being friendly. I didn’t know— was that not appropriate or— I don’t know anything about uhh…mating.”

Gosh. Today is really rather sex related. She can feel her face heating up.

Autonoe bursts into ringing peals of laughter. “But you have a mate! Oh you are so very strange Hermione.”

Hermione scowls. “Yes, but my mate isn’t a mermaid, is she? She’s a witch. She didn’t know she was Kalypso. I don’t know anything about this, the same as you don’t know about witches.”

Autonoe seems to consider this. “Well…I suppose. Alright. I’ll tell you about— no, I can’t! It’s too embarrassing! I can still remember when Thetis told me. It was awful. They’re so enchanting, aren’t they? It was very difficult to concentrate.”

Oh the poor thing. Thetis is rather intimidating for a sex talk.

But…

“Better than Oreithye though, I’m guessing?” Hermione grins.

Autonoe squeals and then covers their mouth. “Oh Hermione, how funny you are! But yes! That would be horrendous! Although…I think Oreithye would be far too embarrassed. We all know what they really feel for Leagore, but it’s been years and still nothing.”

Hmm. Oreithye and Leagore?

“And Leagore hasn’t…do they know? How Oreithye feels?”

Autonoe shakes their head with a sigh. “No. Leagore hasn’t even noticed. It’s terribly frustrating. And romantic, I suppose. But— what’s that?”

Oh. The tins. The thread.

Hermione picks them up with a smile. “This is the game I brought. I was supposed to play it with Bellatrix, but she’s busy so I thought— here, take this end.”

She hands one tin to a curious Autonoe and then gets up, walking backwards with the other until the string is taut.

Autonoe frowns at her as she backs away. “What is it? How do we play?”

“Just…stay there, and hold the tin to your ear like…like a shell. Like when you listen to the sea in a seashell.”

Hermione demonstrates, and Autonoe copies her with a smile.

And then Hermione speaks into her tin. She hopes it works. “Hello, Autonoe.”

Autonoe lets out a gleeful whistle. “Your voice travelled! It travelled through the— Oh Hermione, we have a thread! Kalypso will definitely be jealous now. It is like I’m your symbolon.”

Symbolon? What’s a symbolon?

Autonoe holds the tin over their mouth. “Let me try, listen to this!”

Hermione dutifully holds it to her ear.

“Can you even hear this?” a whispered voice tickles in her ear.

It does work! Very well actually.

“Yes,” she whispers back. “This is called a telephone. It’s for talking at a long distance.”

Autonoe laughs.

“No! It’s called a thread. Look. It’s even red like blood,” Autonoe calls out.

“Hermione!”

Oh. What ironic timing. She puts down the tin.

“Sorry, Autonoe. Bellatrix is calling me on our thread. We might have to stop for a moment.”

Autonoe’s pupils go wide. “Oh, hide it! Quickly! If she comes here she’ll be so angry with me!”

Wha—

Hermione chuckles as Autonoe hurriedly throws the tin back to her.

“She won’t be angry! But you can hide if you’d like, then you can see that she’s not scary.”

She watches Autonoe slip into the water, and then closes her eyes, feeling for the thread.

I’m in the cave where we met Thetis. Only Autonoe is here, but they’re hiding

Silence.

Oh shoot! Bellatrix can’t apparate to Hogwarts, how—

Tiggy and Bellatrix arrive with a pop.

“Sorry, forgot you couldn’t apparate here.”

Bellatrix shrugs and lets go of Tiggy, who shakes their head at them and disappears.

The witch looks rather tired, actually. How unusual.

“So…what are we doing here? Where is—”

Autonoe’s scared of you. I’m showing them you’re not scary. They’re sweet.

Sweet? How can you trust—

They’re practically a child! They’ve actually told me a lot of interesting things about metamorphing and the thread and—

“You know more about the thread? Tiggy said I could travel with the thread too.” Bellatrix says, eyes brightening and stepping closer eagerly.

“Really?”

Hermione holds up a tin for Bellatrix to take.

The witch frowns. “What’s this?”

“Stay there.”

She walks backwards across the wet stone floor. “Hold it to your ear.”

Bellatrix rolls her eyes but does so.

Hermione grins. “This is our thread, Bella. Talk to me,” she whispers.

Bellatrix lets out a bark of laughter, and then brings the tin to her lips. “Hello, pet,” she murmurs lowly. Throatily. It makes Hermione shiver.

And laughter comes from the water.

They both turn as Autonoe’s head peeks out. “Do you like the game too? Hermione is so funny, isn’t she? Why did she make a thread when you already have one?”

Bellatrix puts down the tin and folds her arms. “How do you know about the thread? What do you know?” she snaps, walking towards the water.

Why is she so grumpy again?

Autonoe’s head bobs back under.

Hermione walks over to the witch with a sigh and takes her hand. “Be nice, and then you might find out,” she murmurs.

Bellatrix seems to vibrate, eyes darting around, taking in their surroundings…

And then nods resignedly, tiredness back as she reaches down to pull off her boots and tights. Huh? Oh.

She sits and dangles her legs in the water. “Sorry. My head’s just…Autonoe, was it? Come here, kid. I need your help with this…thread. We’re kin, aren’t we? You’ll help me?”

There’s a ripple, and then Autonoe appears, holding onto the side and looking up at Bellatrix shyly.

Hermione sits down near them. Not too close though. She doesn’t fancy getting splashed again.

“Yes, we’re kin. Blood of my blood.” Autonoe says carefully.

Bellatrix snorts. “Well? I don’t bite! What— what the hell are you wearing?”

Autonoe looks down at themselves, and then back up with a grin. “Tiggy made it! It’s called a jumper. Just like Hermione’s. Do you like it? Oh! And what are you wearing? Do you not like jumpers?”

Hermione can’t help but laugh. Bellatrix in a jumper.

“Tiggy?” Bellatrix’s mouth falls open in shock. “When did— the sneaky— well, I can’t tell how nice it is. You’re not supposed to get it wet. It’s a nice colour, I suppose.”

Autonoe cautiously reaches to touch Bellatrix’s dress. “Like the thread. And the flying people.”

Bellatrix turns to Hermione with a bewildered expression.

Quidditch. They like watching Gryffindor

Bellatrix huffs, turning back to fold her arms at Autone. “And what about the green people? I was green, you know, when I was at Hogwarts.”

Autonoe snaps their gaze to Bellatrix and their hand comes up to touch their hair. “Green like this? Like us?”

Bellatrix groans. “No! I’ve already told you, I’m not a metamorphagus. I meant my clothes were green not—argh!”

Autonoe springs out of the water to sit next to Bellatrix, sending water flying. Hermione casts a hasty drying spell over her with a chuckle.

“You can metamorph! We all can! You’re Kalypso, you’re supposed to be the best at hiding. I think you just don’t want to hide because you’re already so beautiful.”

Bellatrix grins. “Careful kid, I already have a mate you know.”

Autonoe looks at Hermione in horror. “Oh I didn’t mean— but you are beautiful, why can’t I say that? I don’t want to fight you, Hermione. Maybe you’re right, mating is very complicated. I thought…maybe you do need to tell me how witches mate.”

Oh no.

Hermione freezes as Bellatrix turns to smirk at her. “Been talking about mating, have we? I wonder why?”

“Well Hermione was—”

Gah!

“Okay Autonoe! Maybe you could tell us about the thread now!”

Autonoe slips off the side and floats onto their back in the water, arms behind their head, staring up at the ceiling. “You don’t know the story? It’s so romantic. I love it when Leagore tells it…and it’s especially funny if Oreithye is there too, trying to seem angry.”

Bellatrix meets her eye.

What story? The Chinese legend, or a different one?

Hermione shrugs.

“We don’t know any story, kid. Why don’t you tell us?”

Autonoe continues looking at the ceiling.

And then there’s a splash and a shriek as they’re pulled under.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Wha—

Hermione hurries to her feet and looks down into the dark water. “Can you see them? What happened?”

Bellatrix is already on her feet too, wand drawn. “I don’t know who it was, it was too fast. Should we—”

“Did you see a tail? What colour was it? They can’t change their tails.”

“Really? Silver, I think.”

Silver?

Oh then—

Thetis rises from the water. And rises. And rises.

They tower over them. A king. A vengeful god. Standing tall on their tail fin, pupils wide and dark and teeth sharp as their jaw drops open and—

Hermione draws her wand with a glare. “Stand down, Thetis. You may rule the colony, but I won’t let you threaten my mate. We have broken no law. Stand down and talk.”

Bellatrix turns to her in astonishment, wand frozen mid protego. And then her mouth falls open as Thetis shrinks, closing their eyes with a sigh.

A Queen once more. Calm. Collected. “Forgive me, I…you have returned.”

Bellatrix appears to still be dumbstruck, so Hermione lowers her wand with a nod.

“Yes, as I explained, we had to leave. It’s how it had to be.”

Thetis nods resignedly, and glides over the water to sit beside Hermione.

It’s rather daunting, being next to royalty. A god. Hermione tugs at her sleeves awkwardly but forces herself to sit down next to them, not to move away. Not to look away, even though their beauty is so palpable she can almost feel it.

Poor Autonoe in the Sex-Ed class.

Thetis chuckles. “You are brave, witchling. I see why you are a gryffindor. And why you are worthy of such a mate as Kalypso.”

Gryffindor?

“How did you—”

“You are not the only one with the curse of prophecy, child. That has been my burden for…oh, far too long.”

Bellatrix sits down next to Hermione and clears her throat. “What do you know?”

Thetis leans past Hermione and smiles. “Much, child. Far too much.”

Bellatrix glares. “I’m not a child. I haven’t been a child in a long time. If you knew anything you—”

Thetis transforms…and a teenage Andromeda is suddenly sat beside them, with a mischievous grin.

Bellatrix scrambles backwards across the wet stone floor, flying to her feet in horror, wand drawn.

Thetis sighs. “She will forgive you, you know. You will speak again, before your time comes. You are as twins. Two sides of a coin.”

What? How is that possible? When—

“Crookshanks! Hermione, Crookshanks!”

What—oh!

Hermione follows the thread to Bellatrix, grabs her arm firmly, and takes them straight to the library. Bellatrix’s safe place.

Hands grip her arms tightly, so tightly they might bruise.

“No— not here I— I’ll destroy everything, I can’t— Hermione, you have to leave. I’m not—”

Okay. Okay then.

She takes them away again. To the beach outside Shell Cottage.

“It’s alright, Bellatrix. What Thetis did was wrong, you’re allowed to be upset. There’s only sand here, you can let it go, scream if you have to.”

“But what if I— you’re here, you—”

Hermione cups her mouth and shouts into the wind. “Thetis doesn’t know anything! They can shove their prophecy up their arse!”

It echoes against the cliffs, over the wind and crash of the waves.

She squeezes Bellatrix’s arm and then steps back a few paces with a nod, giving her the floor.

Bellatrix looks at her in confusion…and then nods jerkily.

She puts her wand in her hair, plants her feet wide and firm in the sand, opens her clenched fists, and screams.

A primal roar that vibrates through her body, through the sand, rocks the dunes.

Hermione casts bubblehead charms on both of them and steadies her feet as the sand starts to whip around them in a whirlwind, a hurricane.

Bellatrix almost seems to crackle with the intensity of her magic. Hermione feels her hair stand on end.

“Why!” Bellatrix screams.

“Why is there always more?! I can’t take it!”

She drops to her knees, burying her hands in the sand.

“I take! And I take! And still I have nothing!”

Hermione moves towards her, trying to make her out through the whirling sand. Just a small, blurring figure curled on the ground.

“I don’t— I don’t even have me. Can’t I— can’t I just have me?”

She’s not yelling anymore. The rage has turned to—

The sand falls still…and the tide draws in. All at once. Pulled in up to their knees.

Hermione splashes over to the shivering witch, reaching for her and pulling her from the water.

“I’m not safe in— in my own head, Hermione. Even who I am is gone now. I thought— the past. The future. The pain is— it hurts. It just hurts.”

“I know. I know, it’s horrible. But you’re okay. I’m here, it’s okay.”

“What have I done, Hermione? When did I— when did it go so wrong?”

And now she does take her to the library. Pushes her down to sit on the sofa near the fire and casts a drying spell on them both.

“I took so much I— I had to give it back. I just had to. It was trapped in me and— the things I’ve done.”

Tiggy appears with a blanket and a tray of potions and chocolate. Hermione smiles at them gratefully, taking the blanket and wrapping it around the witch, and then sitting down next to her and taking her hand.

Cold and shaky.

“I didn’t— I gave up. I was weak. I wasn’t strong enough.”

Hermione takes her other hand too. Holds them both. And kneels before her.

“Bellatrix. Bella look at me,” she says softly. She’s so pale. Trembling.

Eyes meet hers.

Hermione smiles sadly. “No one could take it. It was impossible. No one can take that much. It wasn’t your fault.”

“But I—”

“Yes. You made some wrong choices. The pain had to go somewhere…and some people got hurt. It was too much to deal with alone. It went wrong.”

Tears trickle down Bellatrix’s cheeks. “I tried. I really tried, I promise,” she whispers. “I…I feel like I’ve been fighting against the world my whole life. So…if I had to fight…I thought I’d fight to win. But now I— I think I read the rules wrong. I’ve been losing this whole time.”

Oh her heart is breaking for the witch.

She leans down and kisses Bellatrix’s hands, and then sits next to her on the sofa, pulling the blanket around over them both and moving next to her.

“You haven’t lost yet, Bellatrix. Because it’s not the end. It’s only the beginning. You’re still young, remember? You’re not McGonagall yet. And you have me. Through sand and sea.”

Bellatrix curls against her and rests her head on Hermione’s shoulder.

“Through sand and sea…and…if I lose myself?”

Hermione shifts to pull her closer. “I’ll find you. I’ll go into your head if I have to. The dark doesn’t scare me.”

Bellatrix chuckles wetly. “Nothing scares you. Gryffindor’s golden girl. Faced up to her boggart with nothing but her brain and a smile.”

A smile? Suppose she did.

“It was rather frightening, I have to admit. I’m glad I did though.”

Bellatrix’s hand strokes over her arm. Pulls up her sleeve.

Oh.

Hermione feels tears fall against her neck.

“I was a boggart. A monster. I— I can’t fix this.”

No. No, she can’t.

“I’m afraid what’s done is done, Bella. Just…next time you face a choice…be kind. Promise me you’ll be kind.”

Bellatrix pulls back, wipes at her eyes and clears her throat. “I still have to do it though, don’t I. There are still so many things I have to do. So it’s my soul…or chaos. The same as always. There’s no escape. I’m going to have to take it.”

Well…

Hermione slowly shakes her head. “Well…no. No there’s— there’s always a choice. We’re both smart, right? The brightest witches of our age? I’m sure we can plan something.”

Bellatrix barks out a disbelieving laugh. “I’m a Death Eater! I’ve always been— I have to be— the world will end!”

Hermione smirks. “We thought you were a Death Eater. Turns out you’re a nymph tied to a muggleborn. Maybe you always were. Who knows what you’ve been hiding from the world this whole time? You are Kalypso, after all. Goddess of Concealment. Let’s see how much you can hide.”

Bellatrix’s eyes dart back and forth as she considers this. Fiddles with the blanket in her lap. She doesn’t seem quite convinced yet…but she’s considering it. Hermione reaches out and squeezes her knee reassuringly.

And Bellatrix blinks her eyes back into focus. Rubs at her face, runs her fingers through her hair. Good. She’s coming back to herself.

She turns from Hermione and looks away at the crackling fire.

Hermione looks away too, trying to give the witch a bit of space. She keeps her hand resting on her knee though. Just to show she’s there.

 


 

They both gaze into the flames for a long time, sat together in silence. Until Bellatrix clears her throat, squeezes Hermione’s hand, and then moves it off of her knee. Hermione chances a glance at her. She seems a bit…ashamed. Too much vulnerability.

Right. Change of scene. Change of subject.

Hermione stands up and offers the witch her hand. Bellatrix blinks at it and then raises an eyebrow.

Hermione sighs. “It’s past lunchtime. I may have had a late breakfast, but you haven’t eaten in hours. I’m not having you collapse on me again. It was horrible enough the first time when I hated you.”

Bellatrix takes her hand, searching her eyes. And then grins wickedly. “Worried I’ve spent too much energy? I think I ate quite a lot this morning, but I can always eat more, if you want.” She sticks her tongue between her teeth. Wiggles it.

What? Oh for the—

Oh she is—

Hermione pulls her hand back and smacks Bellatrix on the shoulder. “Bellatrix! Oh you are so— oh grow up! I was being serious! You’ve used a lot of magic!”

Bellatrix gets to her feet with a cackle. “Grow up? You need to grow down! You’ve been middle-aged since you were eleven, bossy boots. Come on, say something crude. I dare you.”

Wha—

“Being crude doesn’t make you— why do I have to— that is beside the point. The point is—”

Bellatrix steps closer, still smiling smugly. It’s maddening.

“What is the point then? Hmm? Scared I’m going to collapse? Like when you hated me?”

The point is…

Hermione tuts and folds her arms. “Are you hungry?”

Bellatrix winks. “Ravenous.”

Argh. “Will you stop!”

“Nope. I don’t think you want me to stop. You want me to keep going and going and—”

“This won’t work, Bella. I know you’re just distracting me from—”

“Bella, Bella, Bella. Am I Bella now? When did that happen? Oh yes…”

“Bellatrix, please.”

Bellatrix chuckles and wraps her arms around her waist. “Oh you just make it too easy! Please what, pet? What do you want me to do to you?”

She wants her to stop this! It’s obviously just a weird cover up for what just happened. She doesn’t want to think about it so she’s trying to take control or something, but it just— it’s not funny, it—

Oh.

She wraps her arms around Bellatrix. Holds her. “Hug me, Bellatrix. Please. Comfort me. And then come and have lunch with me. I want— just hold me.”

She feels Bellatrix go stiff, holding her breath…and then slowly breathe in.

One of the hands moves from Hermione’s waist to her hair. “I…you want this from me?”

There we are. That was the fear. The reason for— why would Hermione care about her boggart? A monster? Because that’s what Bellatrix thinks she is. So she tried to convince herself it was about sex. Same as Hermione did this morning. Friends with benefits, without the friendship. Except…Merlin, does Hermione care about this witch.

She presses her face into Bellatrix’s neck. “Yes. Yes I want this from you. I like holding you. It’s steadying…don’t you think?”

Fingers stroke over her hair. And then there's a kiss to her head. “You need steadying?”

The ‘too’ is unspoken, but hangs in the air. You need steadying too?

Hermione presses closer. Nods against her. “We’ve had a crazy month.”

Bellatrix chuckles and pulls Hermione to her. “One month, is that it? It sure has been…fucking bizarre. And I’m not apologising for my language because—”

Hermione laughs. “Oh no, no need to apologise. You are completely right about that. Fucking bizarre. Just really fucking weird. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t find out about magic until they were eleven.”

She hopes that wasn’t too much of a reminder about…muggles. Blood. Their past.

Bellatrix doesn’t reply, but the fingers in her hair don’t stop moving, so Hermione starts tracing patterns over the witch’s back.

And Bellatrix hums in thought. “I can’t even imagine not knowing about magic. Not feeling it. I didn’t notice…what was the first bit of magic you saw?”

Oh gods. Oh she’s going to have a field day with this.

Hermione groans. “You’re going to laugh at me.”

Bellatrix pulls back. Looks into her eyes. “I won’t. Promise.”

A promise. She always means her promises. That’s a lot of pressure. Hermione slowly reaches up and presses her hand over Bellatrix’s mouth.

You will laugh. But I don’t want you to break a promise, so if you do, it doesn’t count

Bellatrix raises her eyebrows at her. You seem very sure of yourself. I thought seeing magic would be exciting, not…amusing

Hermione shakes her head, scrunches her eyes shut. “It was…the first time I ever heard about magic. Ever saw anything magical…was…Professor McGonagall turning our sofa into a bed.”

There’s a muffled noise from behind her hand. Knew it.

Oh gods it’s so embarrassing. That stupid crush.

She squints her eyes open. Bellatrix’s shoulders are moving up and down in stifled laughter. Oh fine!

She moves her hand away. “Go on, laugh!” she grins. “I told you.”

Bellatrix bursts out in cackles of laughter, hunched over and struggling to breathe. “You— McGonagall! A bed!” She carries on laughing and panting, tears forming in her eyes.

“I was eleven!...Nearly twelve. But there was nothing— it’s only looking back—”

Bellatrix reaches out a hand and steadies herself on Hermione’s shoulder. “Did you— were you on the sofa? The— the bed?”

Hermione feels her face heat up and grimaces. “We both were. She—”

Bellatrix cackles again. “Oh Salazar, I’m dying!”

Hermione presses her hands over her face. Oh Merlin why! “It’s not my fault she chose a bed! It doesn’t mean— oh bollocks it’s just—”

“It’s like your whole personality is just to please McGonagall,” Bellatrix gasps. “Gryffindor. Teacher’s pet. Bookworm. Prefect. Department Head.”

Now wait a minute!

“Whole personality?! You think all I am is a teacher’s pet? She showed me something I thought was impossible, and said I could do it too. She showed me knowledge. Power. Control. That’s what I wanted. Same as you.”

Bellatrix abruptly stops laughing. Oh dear. Has she ruined the—

Bellatrix stares at her. Just kind of freezes and stares as her breathing calms.

And then she slowly takes Hermione’s hand and squeezes. “Not surprised. Now, come along, pet. I actually am starving, you were right. Let’s go have lunch.” She pulls Hermione along by the hand towards the door. Huh?

That was sudden. She’s not…

How does this witch never make sense?

Bellatrix just continues walking down the corridor, swinging their joined hands behind her.

In a weird way, Hermione feels like she needs to thank her. For this…calm.

Ah. There is something she can do.

“Oh good. I’m getting quite hungry too. You did all the eating this morning. Maybe I’ll get a lick of something later,” she forces out of her mouth as casually as possible.

Bellatrix’s feet screech to a stop on the wooden floor and Hermione almost walks into her. The witch slowly turns around.

Hermione keeps her expression carefully calm.

And Bellatrix shakes her head at her with a bright smile. “Look who’s more than just a teacher’s pet. Who would have guessed?”

Hermione shrugs and rolls her eyes. Bellatrix just continues smiling. And then tilts her head in thought.

Umm… What? What is it?

Bellatrix sighs and mumbles something to herself that Hermione can’t quite hear.

And then she leans to whisper in Hermione’s ear. “Just so you don’t feel too embarrassed…I had a dream about McGonagall once.”

What?!

Hermione pulls back to gape at her. “After all that making fun of me! You’re such a hypocrite! What was the dream?”

Bellatrix grabs her hand again and starts walking them down towards the kitchen. “Think it was in my third year. She gave me detention for not putting enough effort into my essay or some bollocks. She was always nagging on about me not ‘fulfilling my potential’. Anyway. That night I had a dream I was back in detention, but I was in charge.”

Hermione holds back a snort. Of course.

“Yes, yes, I know, alright? It’s the same as you. In hindsight it’s fucking obvious.”

“So you gave her detention? Made her write lines?”

They reach the kitchen. Something smells really good. Tiggy is a mind-reading marvel. She hops onto a stool. Bellatrix sits opposite.

Is she…embarrassed? Avoiding eye contact?

“Bella…what happened in the dream?”

Bellatrix takes a sip of water and then clenches her jaw, looking at the counter in feigned interest. “I…oh fuck, you’re right. It’s really fucking embarrassing now that I think about it,” she groans.

Now Hermione can’t help but snort. “I told the bed story.”

“Mine’s worse.”

Hmm…well…

“Well you don’t have to tell me. We can just have lunch. Talk about…uhh…what do we normally talk about?”

Now it’s Bellatrix’s turn to snort as she dangles her wand over her glass of water, spinning it and somehow creating a mini whirlpool in the drink. “We don’t normally talk about anything. We just deal with whatever shit is thrown at us every day. Guess we could make some plan for…Oh sod it. I’m sick of plans, aren’t you? All the possible outcomes for everything just…you know what? Even talking about McGonagall is a break from all that. So fine. Just don’t…”

Bellatrix’s eyes come up to meet hers.

Hermione leans forward expectantly, chin on hands. “I won’t laugh. Promise.”

Bellatrix sighs. “Alright. I…in my dream, I tied her to her chair. At her desk. Pulled her arms behind her and tied her to the back of the chair. Then I sat on her desk, facing her. Put my feet on either side of her and slowly tilted the chair back. Watched her panic. Never knowing when or if I was going to let her fall. She started out stern but...she was...begging...by the end.”

Hermione puts her hand over her mouth to hide her grin. Rather unsuccessfully. Bellatrix studiously ignores her and sips at the water.

It’s just so psychologically on the nose, it—

Whilst technically not sexual it just screams of... 

“Bet she made lots of noises,” she accidentally lets out.

Bellatrix chokes on some water and starts spluttering.

“Anapneo,” Hermione mutters with a wave of her wand. Just in case. No choking.

Bellatrix quickly recovers, before leaning her head down on the counter with a groan. “Yes. Yes she made lots of noises. Now please shut up before you ruin sex forever. Merlin I hope we don’t run into the woman any time soon. I bet we will now. The fates have listened in. She’ll just turn up, I just know it.”

Tiggy appears with two plates of food, and Hermione accepts hers with a chuckled thank you.

Bellatrix just continues groaning.

 


 

The Mark calls Bellatrix away not long after lunch. And she leaves. Shoulders back and jaw clenched…after giving Hermione a long, tired look.

Off to take and take some more. Back to the chaos.

How cruel. Unfair.

Well. Guess Hermione’s going to have to come up with something. An escape. A way out of the dark.

And of course she heads to the library.

She starts at the table, tapping her quill in thought...

And after a few hours finds herself sat in an armchair, a pile of books next to her.

Then on the sofa, in front of the fire. Mind so full it’s buzzing and useless.

How? If Bellatrix needs to change her ways, wants to stop hurting herself and others…how on Earth can they make that possible? It’s been hours and—

The problems are obvious. If she lets people live that would have died, then the chaos would be unimaginable. What if past-Hermione talks to Tonks, for example, and decides to go travelling instead of studying? What if Lupin tells her to go on to further study? What if…just some random muggle lives, and then— anything could happen!

And what about the torture? Hurting people? The psychological impact…if Hermione hadn’t been tortured…the things in her life that changed after…

And even indirectly. Bellatrix can’t change sides. Or just disappear. She leads people. Plans things.

No, they can’t take the Black Queen off the chessboard without huge consequences. So how can she play the game without…

It’s so hard!

And…does Bellatrix even want that? Maybe she doesn’t want to bow down to Voldemort…but have her views changed completely? What does she think of muggles now? Blood purity? She’d wanted a revolution. What—

The library doors slam open, and Hermione whirls around in her seat. Oh. Just her. “Hello.”

Bellatrix walks over. Sits down next to her on the sofa. “Thought you wouldn’t still be up. It’s gone midnight you know. Bookworm,” she murmurs tiredly.

She’s staring into the fire again. Hands fidgeting in her lap.

Hermione reaches for the blanket that has ended up scrunched at the end of the sofa and pulls it over them both. Leans sideways against Bellatrix. “You can never read too many books. Especially when you have a problem to figure out. Think my head’s had enough of me though. It’s gone fuzzy.”

Bellatrix tuts and adjusts the blanket over them. “I can tell. You have ink on your face, by the way. You’re a mess.”

Oh dear.

Hermione pulls her face away from Bellatrix’s shoulder. There’s a black smudge. She wipes it away. “Sorry. Got it on you too.”

Bellatrix pulls Hermione back against her. Wriggles and shifts her legs around before accioing a chair over to put her feet on. Hermione puts her feet up too. Closes her eyes with yawn.

It’s so warm and comfortable…it…

A hand strokes though her hair.

She reaches blindly for Bellatrix’s other hand. “I’ll figure it out tomorrow, sorry. I just need a bit more time…”

She feels her head nodding. Listens to the firewood crack.

A kiss against her head.

“Just sleep, pet. I’ll figure it out. I always figure it out.”

Hermione relaxes in the warm silence. The world going dark as she drifts into sleep.

A sigh. “Might need you around to help keep me steady though. It’s nice. Having someone to keep you steady.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

They must have fallen sound asleep in the library, because Hermione wakes up the next morning on the sofa, fully dressed, and with a crick in her neck.

And alone.

Where is—

“Finally! I thought you were going to sleep all morning. Come on pet, I have a plan. And some tea.”

Hermione looks up blearily as a cup of tea is thrust into her hands by a grinning Bellatrix. A plan?

Hermione smiles sleepily, hastily tilting the cup so that tea doesn’t spill all over her. Luckily she catches it just in time. She takes a sip, padding over to the table and—

Wow. That’s a lot of books. And parchment. And—

Diagrams and timelines. Hermione rubs at her face with a groan. “We really are the same person. Did you sleep at all?”

Bellatrix drags her closer with a shrug. “A little. But my brain wouldn’t shut up, you know how it is. That’s not the point though. Look!”

A…very long scroll of parchment…with a numbered list. How oddly organised of her. She leans over the table to look.

“What is…Number one, no killing. Maybe draught of living death to not break timeline? Learn to brew. Snape? Cissy?...Number two, no torture. How? Have to be convincing and not change timeline???— wha— Bellatrix, this is—”

“I know, I know. It’s not perfect but it’s what I have so far. I’m still not sure how I’ll cause as much chaos as before without hurting anyone…or how I’ll be able to fool anyone for a second with— what do you think? Is it a good start?”

Hermione’s mouth falls open in astonishment as her eyes scan over the list. “Number three, do something for the Longbottom boy. Parents? How bad? Possible cure? Ask Cissy, good with healing and mind magic— you…you want to help Neville?”

She looks over her shoulder at the witch. Who shrugs casually. Or overly casually.

“He seems like a good kid. A nice bloke. He lost his— I mean his uncle and his gran were— and Snape was a right bastard to him, so—”

Bellatrix looks away at the table. Wand spinning.

“He was asleep, you know. When we came. Slept through the whole thing. Must have had some kind of muffiliato ward on… When— when I realised they were gone, that I’d lost control, that there was nothing left…I went into his room. Watched him sleep. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t think I was thinking anything. I was empty. I think…I wanted him to cry. That would have made more sense. More sense than the silence.”

They’ve really opened the floodgates with this confessional. She’d thought the witch might bottle it all up again after yesterday, but it seems…

Maybe it’s slipping through. Too much to hold onto. All this darkness, pouring out and filling the room.

All the darkness that was inside of her just…

Hmm. She scans her eyes down the parchment once more.

“I’m going to add something to your list, if that’s alright?”

Bellatrix walks over with a sigh. “I knew I’d missed something. What other horrible thing have I done?”

Hermione puts down her cup and picks up a stray quill, leaning over the parchment with a smile.

“Learn the patronus charm.” She looks up at Bellatrix. “To get rid of the darkness.”

Bellatrix frowns at her. “I can’t do that. Death Eater, remember? It’s the Mark. It’s not just a simple protean charm, you know. Do you think if I’d been able to cast a patronus in Az— anyway. Much too much dark magic. Death Eaters can’t—”

Hermione shrugs, hands sliding into her pockets. “Snape can. You gonna let him beat you at something?”

The frown deepens…and then turns into determination. Bellatrix pulls out her wand with a sharp nod. “Show me.”

What? Now?

“Bellatrix! We haven’t even had breakfast or—”

“Please.”

Oh.

Well, okay then.

Hermione walks over to the sofa and searches around for her wand amongst the cushions and blankets. Aha!

And then moves to stand next to Bellatrix.

“Alright. It’s simple really…well it’s not. It took me a long time but— it’s about emotion. The same as wandless magic. About memory. You have to think of a happy thought…and let it fill you up. Vibrate with happiness. But not just— it has to be your most powerful happy memory.”

Silence from next to her.

Hermione clears her throat. “And then you just say…expecto patronum!”

Her otter flies into the room, twirls around and rubs up against them. Hmm. Maybe that will—

“Touch it, Bellatrix. So you know what it feels like.”

Bellatrix reaches out her left arm, and then her eyes dart from the otter to the Mark and she pulls back. “I won’t hurt it, will I?”

Oh she is just so—

Hermione leans over and kisses her cheek. “No, that’s ridiculous. It’s my happiness, you can’t hurt it. Just feel it.”

Bellatrix slowly reaches out for the otter, lets her fingertips brush against it as it whirls past.

“It feels…this is what you did? In my head?”

Hermione watches her otter whirl around Bellatrix with a smile. “Yes. I can’t remember what memories I used. I think…finding my parents is usually one. Something to do with my friends. It’s very personal, this kind of magic. Vulnerable. And it takes a long time to figure out. I couldn’t produce anything for days, no matter how Harry explained it. It was infuriating.”

“Potter expl— oh. Dumbledore’s Army. And the thing with his father. That still doesn’t make any sense, you know. His happiest memory…was the memory of thinking his father cast a patronus…but then realising he was still an orphan and that he had to do it himself? Do it alone?”

Huh. Well that’s not quite— it was more belief in himself than having to do it himself. But that wasn’t how he managed it anyway.

She shakes her head. “When he first cast a patronus, I think he used the memory of finding out he was a wizard. Hagrid promising to take him away. I tried that one too for a while. Going to Hogwarts for the first time. It almost worked for me but— I think Harry was happier to leave his family than I was. My memory was tinged with…nervousness.”

A hand takes hers and squeezes. “Purely happy…I think I might have to steer clear of my family too then for this.”

Oh. Oh no that’s—

She turns to face the witch, who isn’t looking so sure now. Hermione squeezes the hand back. “Bellatrix, you love your family. Maybe not your— what about Narcissa? What about Draco being born? Or…I don’t know, playing with Narcissa when she was younger. She used to laugh a lot, didn’t she? Master Spitsy said she was funny. And…what about the bubbles? She said you conjured bubbles for her.”

Bellatrix raises her wand…and then lowers it. Grips it tightly. Her eyes darting back and forth in memory.

She clears her throat. “Alright. Alright I— maybe I should do this by myself. It’s— I don’t know if—”

Hermione smiles at her and lets go of her hand. “I’ll go get dressed and have some breakfast. Give it a go, but don’t worry if you can’t. I know everything usually works rather intuitively for you with magic, but don’t worry if this takes a bit longer.”

She turns to leave. What even is the time? She’s quite hungry actually. When did she last—

She’s tugged back by the wrist, whirled around, and lips press to hers.

Shivers travel up and down her spine and her lips part as she feels hands in her hair and a body press to hers. Oh yes. Yes this is—

She wraps her arms around the witch’s waist and groans as Bellatrix sucks on her bottom lip, pulling her closer and— Merlin she can’t breathe and the heat is spreading into her stomach and —

Where the fuck did this come from? She—

Bellatrix pulls away, panting.

What is she—

Bellatrix nods to herself, and takes another step back, holding out her wand. “Expecto patronum.”

Nothing happens. She continues looking at Hermione. Is she using—?

“Expecto patronum.”

Still nothing.

Hermione draws her wand too and smiles across at her. Oh Bellatrix. This is what makes her happy? Purely happy? She’s so wonderfully—

“Expecto patronum,” Hermione whispers. A curl of white mist drifts from her wand as she looks into Bellatrix’s eyes.

Try again, Bella. Together.

Bellatrix lets out a soft laugh, and then smiles at her. A bright, genuine smile. “Expecto patronum.”

Still nothing. But Hermione doesn’t care. She just beams at Bellatrix. She’s trying. She’s really trying to change. To be a good person. “Expecto patronum.”

Hermione’s otter flies from her wand and spins around them, letting out excited chirping squeaking noises. It’s never done that before! Wha—

A bark of laughter bursts from her. “What is that sound? Is that what otters sound like? I’ve never—”

“Expecto patronum!” Bellatrix says firmly.

And still nothing.

Bellatrix frowns, rubbing at her arm. The Mark. Is it—

“It’s okay, Bellatrix. Honestly. It takes everyone forever to—”

A mischievous grin forms on Bellatrix’s face, and she waves her wand in a sweeping arch. Like a rainbow above their heads.

And a stream of bubbles bursts from her wand to crowd into the room. More and more of them, floating out through the library and catching the light of the fire as invisible air currents carry them far and wide.

“I’m better at it than Cissy, right? She’s too strict with her magic. Good for potion making…but it loses a certain flair.”

Hermione reaches out to run her fingers through them. She’s not sure what they’re made of. Raw magic, perhaps.

“It’s beautiful. How did you ever— what else can you do?”

Bellatrix grins, and then spins around to jump straight up onto the table. Stepping onto the diagrams, but at least managing to avoid the books and pots of ink.

“Okay, Know It All, watch and learn, because this is how to perform magic. You thought I was dancing, right? When I fight? Well I’m not. I’m doing this.”

A cloud of sky-blue mist seeps from Bellatrix’s wand. What is she doing?

Hermione walks closer to get a better look.

“No, stand back. You need the big picture. It’s all about the big picture.”

Okay…

She walks back again, in the direction of the door.

Bellatrix nods at her, and then turns her wand in a tight circle, so that the mist shapes into a ball.

“Now. When you and everyone else fights, you do this.”

She jolts her wand forwards, and sends the blue mist flying across the room like a cannonball, then pauses to conjure more mist, shaping that and sending it off in another direction, and again, and again.

And then stops and looks at Hermione. “So. What was wrong with that? How was it different to what you’ve seen me do?”

Umm…

“It was…slow? And obvious?”

Bellatrix nods. “I had to stop. It was a three-step process. Conjure, intent, direct. Now look at this. This is what I do.”

Once again, the blue mist seeps from her wand, and once again she twists her wrist so that it forms a ball…a larger ball…and she shoots it off…but not all of it. The outer layer stays behind. And…the mist doesn’t stop its flow. There’s no break, it fills the empty core of the sphere as fast as it left, and shoots out again, and again, and again as Bellatrix points it in different directions. How is she…

The colour of the mist changes, but it continues. Refilling and refilling. But how—

“How are you forming the shape without the wrist movement? How do you change the colour if—”

“It’s a template. Less concentration. I’m forming the next spell whilst the last one takes its course. That way I’m—”

“One step ahead. But how do you know what—”

“Tactics. Opponents are like chess pieces. They always make certain moves. I read their minds if I can. If not, then their body language. How probable a certain action is. Like Potter and his beloved expelliarmus.”

That’s incredible! How—

Hermione walks forward a few paces. Bellatrix may be smart enough to see the big picture in one glance, but Hermione really needs the details.

“How does it work with real spells? How can a stupefy be a template for a reducto for example?”

Bellatrix stops and taps her wand to her lips. “You…find the overlap. All spells have an overlap. It just depends on your perspective. Stupefy is a firm downward movement. A straight line right down, yes?”

Hermione nods.

“And how do you form a reducto?”

Well that’s easy. “It’s like an arrow. Pointing to the right. A straight line to your right at a slightly downward angle, and then back towards you at another downward angle. Like the top of a triangle pointing to your right.”

Bellatrix jumps off the table and walks towards her. “So what’s the overlap?”

What? There isn’t an overlap. The wand movement goes in the wrong direction completely, the only similarity is—

“It’s…straight? Not curved? There’s no flick?”

Bellatrix nods and walks closer, moves behind her and places her hand over Hermione’s wand hand.

“Stupefy is a straight line. Reducto is two straight lines joined at a point. So…what if you use the line of the stupefy…as the first half of the reducto?”

But it’s—

“But it’s the wrong direction!”

Bellatrix wraps her left arm around Hermione’s waist, presses herself to Hermione’s back, and leans their hips to the left, but their torsos over to the right. “It’s all about perspective. Reducto points right. To your right. Down and right can be the same direction…if you turn. Turn at the right moment. I’m not dancing. I’m leaning.”

Oh. Oh!

She turns to look at the witch over her shoulder.

“That’s genius! So that’s why you’re always jumping around everywhere! We thought—”

“That I was mad? Come on, pet. I thought you’d see through that. Intelligent witches are always labelled as crazy. I’ve seen Weasley call you mad once or twice. Mental. No, there’s a method to the madness. There always is. I just never told anyone my secrets. Have you figured out why I laugh so much? Why I change the pitch of my voice?”

Umm…

“Because you enjoy it? Or…to taunt people?”

Bellatrix steps back, shaking her head. “Incorrect. Five points from Gryffindor. Looks like you haven’t completely figured me out yet.”

Five poi—

Hermione folds her arms with a scowl. “Of course I haven’t figured you out! I don’t think I’ll ever figure you out. I’ll never in a hundred years be able to understand how one person can hold so many different secrets. It’s just impossible to—”

Bellatrix is smiling widely at her. It lights up her whole face. It’s breath-taking. Gosh, she is so beautiful. Hermione can’t help but smile back as her breath catches in her throat.

Bellatrix slowly raises her wand.

“Expecto patronum,” she says tenderly.

And…a thin trail of white mist flows from her wand.

Oh goodness she— already?

Hermione raises a hand to her mouth in shock. This is incredible. How is she—

Bellatrix’s wide eyes meet hers, and she lets out a startled bark of laughter that almost sounds like—

A sob. Tears form in Bellatrix’s eyes and she mirrors Hermione, a hand cupping her mouth.

She did it.

She did it.

“Bellatrix…Oh Bella you did it.”

She steps forwards and wraps her arms around the witch, who is still frozen in disbelief.

Hermione just holds her. Breathes her in. This amazing witch.

Arms come up to hug her back.

“It’s all about perspective,” Bellatrix whispers.

What?

A soft kiss against her jaw.

“All about perspective.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

They decide to spend the rest of the day in the house. It’s the first free day Bellatrix has had in a while, and no matter how much she insists that she’s fine, Hermione can tell that she’s mentally and physically exhausted. The witch hasn’t had a moment’s rest recently, what with Dark Lords and nymphs and everything in between.

No, she needs to rest. To actually sleep for once. And she does eventually go to bed, once Hermione convinces her that she won’t be going anywhere, and that Bellatrix is no help to either of them nodding into a book every two minutes.

They’re not going back to the lake today. It’s all…rather complicated. Personal. Opens up too many old wounds and creates some new ones. And even if the nymphs might have some knowledge to share…so far Hermione has more questions than she started with.

So, once she’s made sure Bellatrix is actually asleep, Hermione gets herself properly dressed and ready for the day and has a look around the house. It’s strange actually, that she’s practically been living there and yet she hasn’t seen even half of the rooms.

There’s the library of course, the kitchen, her room and Bellatrix’s room. But there are dozens more rooms to explore. A lot of the doors are locked, and she doesn’t fancy trying more than an alohomora in case a painful curse comes her way, but there are a few that open. Bedrooms, mostly, but also a dining room and a parlour.

And a garden. Horribly overgrown with weeds and thorns and…other unknown but suspiciously alert plants. But there is a spot in the sunshine where she manages to unearth a bench from amongst the foliage. She takes her cup of tea with her and a thick cardigan, and curls up listening to the birds, feeling the rays warm her face.

When was the last time she did this? Just sat outside and breathed? It feels like a lifetime.

She warms her hands on her cup.

It’s funny, she…

She doesn’t feel lost anymore. Doesn’t feel invisible. Everything is chaos but…it’s exciting. Intriguing. Challenging.

It’s sometimes a bit much but…

Right now, it feels manageable. Especially now she’s not alone. Has someone else to…

Oh, Hermione. You really do have quite the crush. On a witch. A beautiful, clever, funny…and ever so complicated witch.

Who has a lot to teach her, it seems.

Hermione finishes her tea, places her cup on the floor, and gets to her feet, taking off her cardigan and pulling her wand from her sleeve.

Difindo is a downward facing arrow, and then a flick to the right. So…two in one. Stupefy and difindo.

She looks around…and aims her wand at what appears to be a venomous tentacular, lashing out and straining to reach her.

Alright. Perspective. Pick a vine and stun it, and then cut it. At once.

You can do it. It’s just a difindo… but beginning with double the strength… and begin leaning to the…left? And then sway quickly to the right. And remember to say stupefy before you say difindo.

Gosh. It’s very confusing. Quite the mental and physical gymnastics. Bellatrix really is a genius to pull this off. Whilst actually fighting and reading an opponent.

She practices the lean a few times. And then with wand movement.

Okay.

She readies her stance, and clenches her jaw in determination. “Stupefy, difindo!”

Oh dear. Didn’t sway fast enough. Nothing

Try again.

“Stupefy, difindo!”

She ducks as a severed vine flies towards her. Did she—

Oh balls. The plant is still moving. No stupefy.

Wait a minute…

She said stupefy…but cast a difindo. That’s it! That’s what Bellatrix has to do! She can do nonverbal magic, so if she—

How long has Bellatrix been asleep? A few hours. She should wait but…

Hermione follows the thread to Bellatrix—

And finds herself falling on top of the witch on the bed. Whoa! She hadn’t meant to—

Bellatrix wakes up with a yell, wand pressing into Hermione’s neck.

“It’s me! Bella, it’s me, I’m sorry I—”

Bellatrix pulls her wand away and collapses onto her back with a groan. “Fuck me, don’t do that! Are you trying to kill me? Or yourself. Bloody hell, I could have…”

She drifts off, shuffling out from under Hermione and rolling over to press her face into a pillow. “What are you doing here with your bony knees in my— didn’t you want me to sleep? You were very persistent.”

Hermione cringes in apology. “Sorry. I had an idea and couldn’t wait to tell you. The thread took me closer than expected.”

Five more minutes…

Well she supposes— wait a second!

“Did you just speak through the thread?!” Hermione shrieks.

She rolls Bellatrix over to face her. She’s grinning. And then attempts to mask her expression, closing her eyes.

Her lip twitches at the corner.

It’s not that difficult, you know

Hermione rolls her eyes and lies down next to her, closing her eyes too with a smile.

So we can just talk all the time now? From anywhere?

A groan through the thread. Please say you won’t talk all the time. I’ll never get any peace. There’s no stopping you now

Rude! Of course she won’t—

I won’t abuse it! I know you need some privacy. Some peace

Oh really? Because in case you haven’t noticed, I’m in bed, and you still won’t shut up

Oh. She didn’t mean to bother her. They spend so much time talking in bed that she didn’t realise—

A sigh. What were you so excited to tell me?

Oh yes! She opens her eyes.

I’ve thought of how you can pretend to hurt people! What if you practice saying one incantation…but performing another? Saying crucio…but really casting some kind of memory charm? A fake memory…and something to make them seem like they’re in pain

Bellatrix rolls to face her, grinning again. “Brightest witch of her age! That’s bloody brilliant! Or even a confundus! I just have to make people think they’re being tortured!”

“Exactly! If they think you’ve tortured them, believe it and have memories of it, then it won’t change the timeline. But it will hurt less people in the long run because once I return to my time I can undo whatever spell you’ve cast. Correct their memories. It’s still not perfect, but it’s a start, right?”

“So I could…” Bellatrix sits up and pulls her wand back out from under her pillow, pointing it at Hermione. “You trust me, right?”

Hermione’s eyes train on the wand and she swallows. She’s not going to— if she says crucio it might—

The wand lowers and Bellatrix shakes her head. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair. After everything— I understand. Why would you trust me after…”

Hermione looks up at the witch. Oh she didn’t mean to— she looks so guilty it—

“I do trust you, Bella. Honestly I do. I just don’t completely trust myself to— what spell are you going to try?”

Bellatrix holds up her wand again…and then presses the handle into Hermione’s hand.

What?

“Try it on me. It doesn’t matter if I get hurt so— do any spell you want,” Bellatrix says with a shrug.

What?! No! Why would she even think—

“I’m not going to hurt you! Of course it matters if you get hurt! And I promised, remember? It goes both ways. I won’t ever hurt you, Bellatrix. Ever.”

She shoves the wand back into Bellatrix’s hand.

“Now come on. Just try it with…a nice spell. Or something that doesn’t hurt like expelliarmus, or stupefy. You can just wake me up afterwards.”

Bellatrix shakes her head at her with a sigh. “So brave…”

And then pushes Hermione down onto the mattress.

Oh. Oh what is she—

Bellatrix straddles her waist and grins down at her, pointing her wand at Hermione’s face.

“Still not scared? Code word is Crookshanks, remember?”

Hermione nods jerkily, feeling her face heat up. She might need to apologise to her cat for this. The code word is starting to feel more like a safeword with the way that the heat is travelling from Hermione’s face down between her legs as she looks up at Bellatrix.

“I’m gonna need verbal confirmation, pet.”

Is she doing this on purpose?! There is a glint to her eyes…

Well. Two can play at that game.

She stretches her arms out behind her head, grabbing hold of the edge of the headboard. “Yes, Bella. You can do what you want with me.”

Bellatrix takes a sharp breath and shifts her weight. Ha. Got her.

And then tilts her head to the side, considering Hermione as she lies there waiting.

The wand moves back slightly…and Bellatrix’s grin turns deadly. “Aguamenti.”

Oh no! Hermione closes her eyes and braces herself as—

Ah! A tickling charm?! What the—

Her back arches off the bed as the spell scurries down her spine.

“Ha! Oh Bella stop it! It worked it— my feet?! What are you— stop that!”

Her feet slide against the sheets as she fights the feeling off, wriggling beneath the grinning witch. Who seems far too happy about this to cancel her spell.

Well. She’s not the only one with magic.

What does Hermione want?

Say one thing…but think a different trigger.

Ah.

She lifts her hands off the bed and points them at Bellatrix. “Avis! Oppugno!”

Bellatrix’s arms come up to cover her face, obviously expecting a bird attack…

And then jolt out to the sides in shock as she begins to float into the air.

Hermione grins up at her. So, the secret wingardium leviosa did work. She has a lot of memories of that spell, so the trigger was simple enough.

And the tickle charm has stopped. Bellatrix is obviously distracted—

Oh dear. Now that’s a wicked grin.

“Oh it’s on now, Granger. Incarcerous!”

Hermione squeals as a jet of water hits her in the face.

Right. Let’s do this.

She reaches for her wand.

 


 

It’s dark when Hermione wakes up. Wakes up…with someone on top of her. Hugging her.

Oh.

She brushes some hair out of her face, not sure where her hair ends, and Bellatrix’s begins.

And Bellatrix snuggles closer, presses her face into Hermione’s neck with a sigh.

When did they fall asleep? What— ah. All that magic had been rather tiring, they must have drifted off afterwards.

Their sleep schedule is really quite strange at the moment.

Bella? Are you awake? she whispers through the thread.

Nothing. So asleep. Or ignoring her.

Her breathing is slow. Slow and steady. She can feel her chest press—

Merlin it feels good to—

Don’t, Hermione. She’s asleep. You can’t think about her when—

She’s so warm, and her lips are—

She needs to rest! What if—

What if this is the only time they have? Wake her up. She won’t mind.

Yes she will. She said not to—

You can always try! What’s the point in being in bed with a beautiful woman if—

A woman trying to sleep! Don’t go objectifying her now just because—

Bellatrix groans and shifts against her, leg falling between hers. Shit.

Bellatrix?

Still nothing. Hmm.

Bellatrix, if you’re awake, let me know. Because I’m seriously considering doing something more enjoyable than sleeping right now. I want you. I really want to touch you so badly so please if you’re pretending just—

Bellatrix mumbles something, and then rolls away onto her back on her own side of the bed. Well. Damn.

“Tempus,” Hermione yawns. Eleven o’clock? At night? She’s practically nocturnal at this rate! Wha—

There’s a scratching, scraping sound from across the room. What is— “Lumos.”

Oh thank Merlin, just an owl at the window. The poor thing, how long has it been there?

She walks over and feels around for the lock. Why won’t it open?

“Alohomora,” she yawns.

Oh good it worked and oh god angry owl!

Hermione ducks and covers her head with a yell as talons and a sharp beak come at her face.

“Protego! What the fuck, Hermione? Why do I keep waking up to—oh it’s only what’s his face. Calm down, you pompous little prick. If you break anything with your flapping, I swear to Salazar…”

Hermione cautiously lowers her arms. The owl has settled on the headboard, glaring at Bellatrix. Who is stood on the bed. Glaring back.

“You umm…know…this owl?”

Bellatrix brushes some hair out of her eyes, and reaches for the owl’s leg. There’s a letter.

“Yes, and so do you. Draco’s owl. Although why he couldn’t just wait and talk to me tomorrow I don’t—”

She stops mid-sentence, frowning at the letter.

Draco? Oh. Actually, she does recognise the bird, now that she thinks about it.

Bellatrix lets out a groan and rubs a hand over her face.

“Oh pet, this is bad. I didn’t mean to— he must have—couldn’t he wait? And what the hell does this mean for—”

What is she talking about?! Ah!

“Protego! This ruddy owl! Do you have an owlery or something? Or some treats? Some mice?”

Bellatrix holds up her arm with a sigh and then clicks her tongue, and the owl flies over to land on her. “Could you take us to the kitchen, pet? We need to figure some things out, and Tiggy can find something for Apollo here.”

Apollo? What a pretentious—

She walks over and takes Bellatrix’s other arm.

And then sits down at the kitchen counter, sending some water on to boil whilst Bellatrix wanders into a side room with the owl.

Apollo. Of course Draco’s owl is a god. Why is she not surprised?

She accios some cups from the cupboard as well as the milk and the sugar. Bellatrix usually puts an absurd amount of sugar in her tea.

And runs her fingers through her hair and wipes at her eyes. Her bed-head probably isn’t as bad as Bellatrix’s, but still, she needs to sort it out a bit.

Ah. Here she comes.

Bellatrix flops down next to her on a stool, sending the boiling water into a teapot on the side with a flick of her wand.

“So. What’s so bad about this letter? Why do we need midnight tea? He’s not…hurt, is he?”

Bellatrix shakes her head with a tut. “It’s nothing that bad. It just makes things very complicated because— in the future, after the war, how well do you know Draco?”

Umm…

“Not that well. We never really got on, and we don’t have much in common so— he’s always very polite! He’s not— he’s not horrible or anything, and he does talk to me. Small talk with Narcissa or— or even in a small group if Harry is there and—”

“He’s friends with Potter?”

Umm…yes.

“Yes. I don’t really understand their relationship, but yes, he’s always invited to Harry’s birthday. And he got a present for James, Harry’s son. And they go to quidditch games together.”

Bellatrix lets out a relieved sigh. “So maybe I didn’t change anything. Or— but what if I did and—”

Okay, enough of this.

“What in Godric’s name are you talking about? What did the letter say?”

Bellatrix turns sideways in her seat. “Draco…he must have seen something in my head about…us. Not— not you! He doesn’t know it’s you, thank Merlin. But he knows I like witches now so— he’s asking me for advice about…he thinks he likes wizards.”

Wha—

Oh.

Oh but he—

“He…oh you’re right this does complicate things. How do we know if— I mean it might not make any difference, but he’s going through enough at the moment without—”

“Exactly. Why is he thinking about this and not his mission? In your memories he was obsessed with finding a way to kill Dumbledore. Why would he be writing to me about— what if he starts obsessing over some bloke instead of—”

“And then he won’t do the same thing with the necklace, and the wine, and the cabinet. And Harry won’t see him, and follow him, and talk about him all the time and—”

“Are you sure Potter isn’t the one with the crush? Because I did wonder, I mean, over the years in your head…and Draco does talk about him a lot in his letters to Cissy. I’ve only been out of Az— back for a few months and even I knew about Potter and his secret club against Umbridge and—”

“Oh dear Merlin, you think he likes Harry? That Harry could like him back? But Harry’s married! In the future I mean.”

Bellatrix pours her a cup of tea with a grin. “Well I’m married too, aren’t I? Doesn’t mean I didn’t fu—”

“That’s different, Bellatrix. Harry chose to get married. He has a kid. He loves Ginny. Okay, he could be bisexual, but he chose Ginny. You didn’t choose…did you?”

Bellatrix kisses her cheek with a chuckle. “Rod? No, no that was in the cards since I was about twelve. There was no stopping that. Luckily he’s not too fussed either and only comes hanging around when he needs a favour or to get his mother off his back…well. Before she kicked the bucket that is. Since Az— it did a real number on him. Think he only comes around out of habit now. He’s not all there. Empty shell.”

Hermione swallows uncomfortably. “And what about Draco? Does he get to choose?”

Bellatrix shrugs rather than replying, and they both sip at their tea in the silence.

“Our family doesn’t normally marry for love. It’s about connections. Politics. Power. So it’s not important really, who he’s attracted to, it’s not about that. It never bothered me, I was just glad Rod had enough sense not to try and boss me around. Not sure what Cissy really thinks, but Lucy was going on about some Greengrass girl last I heard. Or Parkinson, if Zabini hasn’t got a claim on her already. That was before Lucius got himself caught by the Order though so…guess until he gets out, it’s up to Cissy.”

How awful. Having your parents decide who you’ll marry. If she had to go by her mum’s taste or her dad’s idea of—

“How are you going to reply? What do you think you would have said…before you met me?”

Bellatrix snorts. “If I hadn’t met you none of this would be happening! I wouldn’t have been thinking about you whilst teaching my nephew, that’s for sure. I suppose…I should be kind, shouldn’t I? That’s what you said. When there’s a choice, be kind. I’ll tell him he’s normal or whatever. That he can love whoever he wants and fuck what anyone else thinks, right?”

Oh. She takes Bellatrix’s hand. “That’s...sweet. But you’re sure it won’t change things? That he won’t…get distracted?”

“Well. I’ll tell him to keep it hidden for now. Say something about his duty to the Dark Lord being more important. But I don’t think I ever would have— I can’t quite believe he’s telling me this stuff! He’s got some balls, coming to me. Thought he was still scared of me, actually. Maybe I need to up the crazy tomorrow. Fill my head with…screams, or something.”

Hermione grimaces. She does probably have a lot of screams to…well. It will be convincing.

She sighs. “Probably for the best, sorry. You can be a nice aunt when all this is over.”

Bellatrix gets up, stretching. “I’ll go write a reply, he’s probably been worrying himself sick about it all day. Now where did I put…”

She wanders off, and Hermione carries on drinking her tea, walking over to sit by the fire.

Oh. The letter. She—

“Bellatrix, do you want his letter back or—”

Oh.

…and I couldn’t help seeing that you’re in love with a witch, Aunt Bella, so I…

In love?

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione shifts slightly in the armchair, turning her book so she can see Bellatrix over the top of the page.

It’s ridiculous. Bellatrix isn’t in love with her. Draco must have just…he must be a romantic or something. Assumed they—

What did he actually see in her head? It must have just been sex, or…he doesn’t know it’s Hermione so—

“Have you read Codswaddle’s Theory of Energy Conservation? I’m sure I’ve seen his name somewhere else, but I can’t for the life of me—”

Hmm? Oh, she must be researching—yes—

“D’Avignon disputes it in ‘An Interminable Study of Spacial Reconfiguration’, it’s on the—”

“Got it. Thanks, pet.”

In love. Yeah right. They’ve only known each other for a month or so. Well, Hermione knew her for a bit longer, but Bellatrix didn’t. She just saw her for thirty seconds as a teenager at the ministry and then…

Then got stabbed, drugged, found out they were tied together by a prophecy, got returned to full health, and saw all of Hermione’s memories. Within the span of a few days. And she wasn’t even awake for half of that.

Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome. Hermione has basically forced the witch not to leave her side in case she destroys the world.

What are the signs of being in love? Hermione’s never— She doesn’t think Ron counts. Looking back…it was more friendship than anything. Maybe a crush. A need to belong. Has Hermione ever been in love?

Think of love songs. Or—or amortentia. That’s a love potion. How did Bellatrix act? She kissed her. Check. Hugged her. Check. Held her hand. Wanted to always be with Hermione. To help her with her plan. Promised to do what she said. Didn’t want her to leave. Ignored her pain to help her—

Oh dear Merlin. Is Draco right?

People smile when they’re in love.

Hermione lays down her book and sits up properly, looking over at Bellatrix, sat on the table.

Bellatrix must sense it, because she looks up. And frowns.

“What is it? Are you…hiding your thoughts?”

Oh thank goodness. No smile. She’s not sure if she’s ready for what that would mean.

“Just for a moment. Just testing a theory.”

Bellatrix rolls her eyes and looks back to her book.

And smiles.

That doesn’t count.

Does it?

What’s the difference between attraction and love? Or friendship and love?

She never quite knows—

“So? What was your theory?”

Hmm? Oh. Oh dear, what can she say? Well she does want to know—

“I was going to see if the thread worked still. Try to talk to me whilst I’m hiding my thoughts. That way we can talk if Narcissa or Snape are around.”

Ah, good idea. Can you hear me?

Yes. Can you hear me?

Yep. Seems like we can always hear each other then, that’s useful. Just try not to talk to me when I’m called away with the Dark Lord

Hermione looks back to her book, shaking her head.

Of course I won’t. I don’t want to distract you

Too late. You’re always distracting

Oh. Her head jolts back up. Well she might not mean—

Always? I’m not that interesting

Bellatrix throws her book in the air and reaches for another, crossing her legs.

Always. I can’t seem to puzzle you out, pet. You’re in my head even when you’re not talking. I can’t get away from you.

Oh no. She can’t stop thinking about her? That definitely sounds like love. Is that—

“I’m sorry I stabbed you!” Hermione blurts out.

Bellatrix puts down her book and slides off the table, walking towards her. “What are you talking about? When did you— oh. I forgot all about that.”

What?!

“Forgot?! You almost died!”

Bellatrix shrugs and sits on the arm of Hermione’s chair. “But I didn’t. You’re not the first person to stab me and you won’t be the last, I’m sure. You’re the only one who’s stabbed me and then saved me though. Tiggy’s right. You’re strange.”

She says it with a smirk. A crooked smile.

Hermione looks up at her, shaking her head in exasperation.

And then Tiggy appears before them with a pop.

“Uh…I wasn’t calling you, Tiggy, I just said your name to Hermione because—”

“Mastress Thetis be summoning you both, Mistress. They is being very persistent.”

Bellatrix’s eyebrows shoot up. And then she growls. “Mastress?! I am your Mistress. How dare that interfering, self-righteous fish creature try to summon us! You can tell them that no matter how often they call it won’t make a shred of difference. We don’t need—”

“They is apologising. They is promising not to transform without your permission, Mistress Bella. Staying in their veriform. This be a show of sacrifice. Of vulnerability. Tiggy is telling you.”

Hermione strokes her hand over Bellatrix’s arm. “Maybe we should go. If they’re truly sorry, shouldn’t we give them a chance? And we might learn something useful. About the past, or time travel, or…or even metamorphing. Aren’t you curious?”

Bellatrix slides backwards off of the armrest to sit sideways in Hermione’s lap.

Oof! What is she—

She tucks some hair behind Hermione’s ear. “I suppose I could forgive them. Be nice. And metamorphing could be…if I could change I…”

She pouts at Hermione, face scrunching into a frown.

I don’t want to change. You don’t want me to change, do you?

What? Of course she doesn’t—

“No! Why on Earth would I want you to change? I just thought it would be useful, that’s all. You’re rather recognisable, you know.”

Bellatrix searches her eyes…and then nods sharply. “Alright. Fine. Let’s go see what they have to say for themselves. It’s going to be fucking weird if they look like Cissy the whole time, but I suppose that’s better than— than Andy.”

Oh. Hermione lets out a slow breath as silence fills the room. “Yes. Yes it’s all very strange. I can’t imagine how— but I’ll be there. And we can always leave.”

Bellatrix climbs off of her lap and pats herself down, searching for her wand, eventually pulling it from somewhere in her corset and sliding it under her sleeve. “I’m not running away again. They try anything and they’ll meet the end of my wand, goddess or not. And we have an advantage. I know that face.”

What? Hermione accios her shoes from her room and gives Bellatrix a disbelieving look. “Oh, because Narcissa is so easy to read. That will make it a lot easier.”

Bellatrix bends down to do up a loose shoelace on her own boots, and Hermione catches her shoes as they come flying into the room.

“Well she is. Cissy might fool you, but she can’t fool me. I watched her practice that expression in the mirror. With her, the secret is— oh balls, shouldn’t we wear those wetsuit things again? Swimming in this is going to be a pain in the arse!”

Hmm. Well—

“Yes I have ruined quite a lot of clothing over the last few days. Maybe we should. Now what were you saying about—oh, thank you, Tiggy. That was fast.”

She takes the wetsuit from the elf and starts getting changed.

“What was I saying? Oh. Teaching you to read people. So, with Cissy, it’s like…you have to see what she isn’t showing you. The more she feels something, the less she’ll show, unless she wants you to see it. Opposite of me and you I guess.”

Hermione pulls off her trousers with a frown. “But…I have seen her show some emotions. Like with Snape. She cried because she was so upset about Draco.”

“I know, that was strange for her. Two explanations. One, she trusts Snape enough to cry in front of him, let her guard down completely. I really hope that’s not the reason because if that means her and Snape are— ugh, anyway. I’m hoping it’s number two. Turning on the waterworks to get what she wanted.”

Some thuds come from Bellatrix’s direction as she jumps her way into her wetsuit. “Think about it. She didn’t cry to me, did she? No, she was pissed off. Someone dares come after her son? Her baby? But she can’t exactly fight the Dark Lord. So. Snape had what she needed. She can’t protect Draco at Hogwarts, but he can. She needed him on side. Hence the weeping woman act.”

Acting. So she’d been kind of right about that. “So she…fakes her emotions…or hides them, depending on what she wants.”

“Yep. If you ever see an emotion on her face, she’s deliberately showing it to you. Either to manipulate you, or because she trusts you enough in the moment to reveal herself.”

That is actually very helpful. And…a bit scary. To be that in control…

“And…if she loses control? What does that look like?”

Bellatrix freezes as she does up her zip and slowly meets Hermione’s eyes.

“If Cissy ever loses control…run. Get out as fast as you can. Because the truth is…I’ve never seen her lose control. Ever. She almost did once, and— if you think I’m bad? Oh pet. I’m nothing. Not compared to that.”

Hermione can’t help but shiver. Scarier than Bellatrix at her worst?

She swallows and pushes her arms into the wetsuit, shrugging into the shoulders. “Does she have any…tells? Triggers? So that I know if— to run.”

Bellatrix walks over to her and reaches around to do up Hermione’s zip, moving her hair out of the way. “Well there’s Draco of course, but you knew that. Other than that…I don’t know. There have been moments when— but I never took the time to figure out—”

She clears her throat. “You’ll feel it, anyway. It’s like…all the air leaves the room. Cold. Like a— a dementor. And she’ll…go very still.”

A dementor? She meets Bellatrix’s gaze. The witch nods at her solemnly. She’s never seen Bellatrix so serious.

Right then. Don’t get on the wrong side of Narcissa.

Anyway. They’re supposed to be—

“Well then. Thetis will be much less intimidating. And if they’re using Narcissa’s face, maybe it will help me to read your sister. I’ll be able to see what’s a construct and what’s real.”

She tugs her wetsuit properly into place. “And it might not just be Thetis. Autonoe might be there, or Oreithye. I spoke with them too actually. Oh! I didn’t show you the colour chart I made whilst you were with Draco this morning. I can’t remember all of their tail colours, we should pay attention to that. And at some point I need to catch you up on who’s who.”

Bellatrix tilts her head, eyes darting off to the side and tapping her wand to her lip. “Autonoe’s the poky little chatterbox who wants to follow you around like a lost puppy, Oreithye hides their insecurity behind their muscles and is hopelessly in love with that other one, Leagore. Who’s some kind of nerdy historian, I reckon. Eudora is trying to work their way up the hierarchy but has absolutely no people skills, and Pronoe thinks so far ahead they can’t see what’s going on right under their nose. And Kallianassa is a manipulative bitch. Did I miss anyone?”

Wha—

Hermione’s mouth falls open in astonishment. “How did you— where did— you only met them once and— how did you know about Oreithye and Leagore? And what do you mean about—”

Bellatrix grins. “Please. As if I’d be tricked by a roomful of Blacks. I’ve been rehearsing for that exact situation my whole life. Stick them at a dining table and add in a pervy uncle and that’s a Friday night from my childhood. I’m just waiting for one of them to get done in at this point. Thetis should watch out. Blacks don’t stay at the top for long.”

Hermione swallows. Murder? Oh dear. She hadn’t seen any of that. “I’d better stay close to you then. You can be my eyes, apparently I’m useless at this still.”

Bellatrix takes her hand, swinging it between them. “Don’t worry about that. As if I’d leave you. As if I could. Sand and sea, remember?”

Hermione smiles softly at her. She actually believes that. Even without the prophecy, the way Bellatrix is looking at her…

And maybe…maybe Hermione is okay with that. Wants that. She can’t imagine leaving the witch either. Just the thought is…

She brushes some hair out of Bellatrix’s face and kisses her cheek. “Sand and sea. Come on, Black. Let’s go have that family dinner we’ve been putting off with your crazy relatives.”

Bellatrix barks out a laugh—

And it echoes around the cave as they appear with a pop.

 


 

Thetis…and someone else. Sat on a rock. Well. Two is better than everyone, so that’s a relief.

Still though. It’s hard to get over mermaid-nymph-Narcissa. And…she studies the other merperson more closely. They do seem familiar…orange tail. Leagore?

Bellatrix pulls her over to the rock. “Thetis. Leagore. Perhaps we should start over, yes? Bellatrix Black, nice to meet you. This is my mate, Hermione Granger.”

Oh. What is she doing…Bellatrix holds out a hand to Thetis.

Who raises an eyebrow, and then nods, clasping her hand with their own. “An inspired idea, Bellatrix. I am Thetis of the Black Sea, head of the Black Colony. You may refer to me by name, as Queen or King, or merely as sister or brother. All terms would please me greatly. And Hermione. It is nice to meet you, you are free to do the same, as through your mate you shall be treated as kin here.”

They reach for Hermione’s hand and shake it firmly. Kin? Through Bellatrix? This really is ‘meet the relatives’.

She looks into their yellow eyes and smiles awkwardly. “Nice to meet you, Thetis. Thank you for welcoming us into your…family.”

Thetis smiles back. It’s still very strange. Not Narcissa not Narcissa not Narcissa.

“And thank you for forgiving my past behaviour. You are a fierce protector to be sure. Bellatrix is lucky to have you.”

Oh. Well. Umm.

Bellatrix clears her throat. “And Leagore, I suppose you’re my sister too? Or brother?”

Now that was smooth. And has left a soft smile on Leagore’s face.

“Today we are all sisters, it seems. Thank you for returning. I’m sure we all have much to share. If you will allow me, may I transport us to a more comfortable location? Above water, I assure you,” she says calmly.

Bellatrix frowns. “How will you do that?”

Leagore’s eyes slide to Hermione. “Time with the Forest People has touched me as much as it has touched your mate. We are both thinking elves, are we not?” Her smile widens into a knowing grin, and Hermione can’t help grinning back.

“Master Spitsy?”

Leagore chimes out a startled laugh. “Little Spitsy is a Master now? How odd, to me they are still the elfling hiding behind the wine crates in the kitchens every yule. No, I have never visited the home of the Forest People. I first learnt from the Hogwarts elves, and without legs my sisters are rather confined to these waters. Leaving them is not a decision to take lightly, even to contact old friends.”

And now the attention is back on Bellatrix. Legs.

Bellatrix rolls her eyes. “Don’t you all look at me like that. I don’t know how to do it, do I? I don’t even know if I can…you know…do any of it!”

Thetis shifts on the rock.

Bellatrix takes a step forward, pointing in accusation. “And don’t you dare do anything, one sister is bad enough without— you promised!”

Thetis…drops their gaze. Curls in on themselves. Gosh the sadness, the remorse. It fills the air, Hermione’s breath sticking in her throat.

“I am sorry, sister. I did not mean to harm you, forgive me. And I shall not do so again. I swear it.”

Oh the poor…

Bellatrix reaches forwards and then pulls back, shifting her weight uncertainly. “Well you— I know you didn’t— will you cheer up! Gods, do you know who you look like? Because it’s not fair, you know I—”

Thetis looks up with a confused frown. “I look like me. This is my veriform. My natural form.”

How astonishing. A natural doppelganger to Narcissa.

Bellatrix swallows. “Oh. You look like my sister. Not— not the one you— the other one. My younger sister, Cissy.”

Thetis takes a steadying breath and reaches for Leagore’s hand, and then Bellatrix. “The one who loves you? Looks up to you?”

Bellatrix sighs and takes Thetis’s hand, taking Hermione’s with the other. “I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. I haven’t been…take us away, Leagore. Somewhere we can all talk.”

Leagore looks to Thetis, who nods tiredly, and they vanish with a pop.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

And they’re on a sandy beach. Remote. In the sunshine, so probably not Scotland anymore. Well that…doesn’t make sense at all.

“If you have house-elf magic…you can go anywhere. Why stay in the lake?”

Leagore lies back on the sand near the water’s edge. “Totus Generis Parere. The lake is our home, I won’t leave my kin just because I can. Separate them according to their whims. Too many of us have parted ways in our history. What have we already lost? We did not know what losing Kalypso would mean until we did. What other powers have we lost to time?”

Thetis curls against Leagore, leans their head against her. They seem…

Hermione sits down with them. Where has the regal presence disappeared to? The pride?

“Are you alright, Thetis?”

They stare into the distance. Leagore squeezes their shoulder. “It’s the veriform. Holding it against our will is…tiring. Uncomfortable.”

Bellatrix crouches down in front of them, ducks her head to meet Thetis’ eyes. And sighs.

“Oh fine! You can change back! Just steer clear of anything…difficult, if you would. I don’t know how much you know but—”

A beaming smile lights up Thetis’ face and they launch forwards to wrap their arms around Bellatrix, sending them both sprawling backwards in the sand.

What?! Aren’t they a queen or something? They were so poised and—

They still look like Narcissa but…younger. Are they smaller? A child?

“Cissy! I mean— gah, Thetis! What are you—?!”

“I’m your sister now. You’ve accepted me. Why shouldn’t I play with my sister? Do you know how tiresome it can be, being ruler all the time?” Thetis whines, their voice noticeably higher. Younger. So they are a child.

Bellatrix manages to sit up, Thetis in her lap, sand in her hair and…everywhere.

Hermione glances at Leagore. This is so unexpected. She’d thought…

Leagore chuckles and leans closer to whisper to her. “Thetis is ruler by birth, not by temperament. The weight of leadership takes its toll. Let them be them. Play, away from prying eyes.”

Bellatrix appears to be in murmured conversation with Thetis. So not uncomfortable with this. Alright.

She turns back to Leagore. She really wants to ask— she hopes it’s not rude but—

“Umm, when you say birth…I mean…you’re all…sisters.” She feels her face heat up as Leagore stares at her. Gods this is awkward.

And then Leagore nods. “Come on, thinking elf. You are forgetting. Myth and truth. Mammals and fish.”

Uhh…what?

She just shakes her head in confusion.

“When we say we are sisters, kin, we mean we are of the Black Sea. One tribe. One people. The same as…Adam and Eve, you know of this? This belief that mankind are all children of God? Well. We are all children of Nereus.”

Oh. So they’re not related! So then…

“But the resemblance! And the names and— you mean you’re just all the same race? And— you have tails, I—”

There’s a shriek from next to them and a splash. What just—

Where is Thetis?

“Bella?! What did you—”

“They told me to! They’re fine, look!”

Bellatrix points out into the sea. A smiling head. So they just…

“You just threw a queen into the ocean?!”

Bellatrix groans. “They told me to! I was telling them about Cissy and— it’s fine! Get back to whatever you were talking about, I’m going swimming, it’s bloody boiling wherever we are. Hey Leagore, where are we?”

Leagore stretches. “That’s a secret, little sister. Now off you go. Keep an eye on Thetis.”

Bellatrix looks like she might argue but then just kicks at some water and turns around with a grumble.

More sisters. And I’m the youngest now! And more secrets. Get some blackmail material, would you? She’s far too smug

Hermione keeps her face carefully blank, running her hands through the sand as Bellatrix walks away.

Well it’s not blackmail, but I’m getting to the bottom of some things. You’re alright with Thetis, aren’t you?

A soft sigh. It’s like having Cissy back. Before…before everything went wrong

Oh. She looks out across the water. Watches Thetis swim up to Bellatrix and splash at her.

Oh how can she send comfort through a thread?

“Leagore? Is my thread from the Forest People, or…Autonoe said you knew more about it. A story.”

Leagore disappears with a pop, and reappears with their tail in the water, a few feet away. Hermione wanders over. It is quite hot now. The water’s refreshing.

Leagore looks out to sea. “It is true that the Forest People have threads. Ties to wizards. And in a sense, your thread is much the same. Yours however is in its original form. It’s true, pure, beautiful form. You are unbelievably lucky to have found each other. Well. Not luck. The fates must be on your side.”

“So it’s fate?”

Leagore smiles at her, and then lies down, patting the sand next to them.

Hermione cautiously lies down too, staring up at the wide blue sky.

“Long, long ago, humans were not as they are now. They were spherical, with one head, but two faces. Four arms. Four legs. Appearing to be two people, joined together. And there were three sexes then, not two. Two joined males, the children of the sun. Two joined females, the children of the earth. And one of each, the children of the moon.”

Oh wait. Hermione knows this story. So that means…

She sits up, staring down at Leagore in shocked disbelief. It can’t be…

Leagore nods and squeezes her hand reassuringly. “But then, one terrible day, they displeased the gods. In a fury, Zeus split each being in two, tore them apart. The humans wept and screamed as flesh tore, reaching desperately for their other halves as blood fell between them. But it was no use. Zeus scattered them far across the Earth, with no way of finding each other. Doomed to be an empty, lost half of a soul for eternity.”

No no no it can’t be. Are they really—half a soul?

“Or So Zeus thought. See, another god, Prometheus, saw Zeus’ actions, and believed the pain to be unjust. Their love for humanity, which would eventually be their downfall, led them to perform a secret trick. They turned this blood…into a thread. An invisible, and yet invincible red thread, that would forever join the two halves. So that maybe, just maybe, these lost souls would find each other once more.”

Hermione’s heart is pounding. Soulmates. The Greek myth of— the Chinese legend of— it can’t be! It’s just a story it’s not—

“Hermione, I’m sorry if I have shocked you. I did not mean—”

Hermione continues pacing, shaking her head at Leagore.

“How do you know? It’s just a story. You must have— who told you? Did you read about it? And— and humans were never together like that. We have— there’s science! And, and—”

“And magic, little one. Remember that there is magic. And remember to breathe, before you collapse, and dear Bellatrix kills me. She is frightening, you know. She has an…aura of danger.”

Hermione takes some slow breaths and sits down. “Oh I know. Believe me, I know. We haven’t always been— I hated her. She scared me. She— she hurt me. Leagore— if this is true it— she hurt me so much. I was terrified, I— look.”

Hermione can feel tears forming in her eyes but she just— Leagore doesn’t understand what this—

She pulls up her sleeve and scooches close to Leagore, showing them the scar. “You know what this means…don’t you? This word?”

Leagore takes a shaky breath. “Oh, little one. Yes. Yes I— oh people can be cruel. She— but she is your mate. If I had known I— is Thetis safe?”

Oh. Oh dear. Hermione pats her arm reassuringly. “They’ll be fine. She won’t hurt them, or me. Not anymore. This happened a long time ago— well. For me. It hasn’t happened yet and— I don’t know if it will, anymore. I just wanted to show you that…my relationship with Bellatrix is complicated. That’s why you shocked me. She would never hurt me now. And I think— I think she loves me. I don’t know if— soulmates? That’s what the thread is?”

She pulls her sleeve back down and looks at Leagore.

“Yes. It can’t mean anything else. She is your other half, your very soul. You are made for each other. Together you are whole.”

So it’s all just…fate? “This was always going to happen? The thread is…pulling us together? Changing our behaviour?”

Leagore shakes her head with a frown. “No. No the thread does not pull, it does not alter you. In fact, it is part of the tale that often threads get tangled. So tangled that they cannot be undone. It is a hindrance, in a way. No, that you have found yours means that you have worked for it. It is your actions that have caused this, not fate. That is why it is so unbelievably rare.”

Oh. Oh that’s actually a relief, in a way. So there isn’t a magic force pulling her to Bellatrix. They’re the ones that chose it all along. Chose to stay together.

“We thought…that it caused us to save each other. From dying. Did it do that? Or was that just…”

Leagore flicks her tail in the water. “All you, little one. Just because you are each other’s symbolons does not mean you naturally care for one another. As you have explained. She hurt you. Scared you. You being soulmates may have helped you to rebuild your relationship, to find similarities and negotiations between each other, yes. But it was your strength, the both of you, that has allowed this bond.”

Hmm. Well. That’s one question answered.

She might need a bit of time to think about it though. Soulmates. Now there’s a heavy word.

Think about something else.

“So you know lots of stories? From the elves?” she asks casually, digging a hole in the sand.

Leagore pauses at the obvious subject change. She can feel her knowing gaze.

And then she lies down, tail swishing slowly in the water. “Not only from the elves. From our songs. And our archives. It’s what I do, my role within the colony. I assemble. Whether that be Blacks or books. I keep a record of our songs in writing for future generations. We never used to write them down, not trusting that they wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands, but Thetis negotiated an arrangement with the headmaster. A room beneath the lake. He promised not to tell a soul. A fidelius charm.”

Hmm. They trust Dumbledore? “That’s…nice of him.”

Leagore scoffs. “He hasn’t told a soul, but he certainly reads enough himself. But it’s alright. He does not know everything, silly boy. Soon he will learn.”

Hermione barks out a laugh. “Boy? You think Dumbledore is young?”

Leagore tilts her head at Hermione quizzically. “Yes. Do you not know how old we are? How old do you think little Spitsy is?”

Umm…she hadn’t really thought about it.

Leagore smirks at her. Bellatrix is right. Far too smug. Well.

Hermione shakes her head and gets to her feet. “Come on, lets join them. I’ve probably shared too much with my blabbermouth. Maybe we should keep this chat between ourselves.”

She wades into the water, and a head appears before her with a pop. “You don’t want your mate to know she is your symbolon? And I thought you were a good elf. A brave elf.”

“Hey! I am a good elf! You’re the one that isn’t brave. If you’re so old, how come in all these years you’ve never told Oreithye—ah!”

She’s propelled out into the sea by the ankle, hurriedly forming a bubblehead charm so the water doesn’t go up her nose.

And she’s in the deep. With Leagore staring at her. “How did you— what do you mean, little one, about Oreithye?”

Staring and…awkward. So she was right! It was just a guess but—

Bella, I think I have blackmail material!

Really? After one day as a Black? I’m impressed

A Black? Oh she doesn’t know what to think about that.

She focuses back on Leagore. With a smirk. “You know what I meant. You should really tell them, you know. How long have you been hiding it?”

Leagore folds her arms and flicks her tail back and forth. Fidgeting.

“I do not know what you are speaking of, I am not hiding anything. You’d do well to remember that I am not the Goddess of Concealment. I am the Goddess of Assembly. Of order.”

Ah. Feelings are too messy. She’s struck a nerve, it seems. Not ready then.

“Fine. You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s meet the others. Take my hand, I’ll follow the thread.”

Leagore’s eyes dart between her own in curiosity. “You can travel to her? Without her Call? How fascinating!” She reaches out her hand.

Hermione takes it. Now where is— back on the beach?

She follows the thread.

 


 

Bellatrix is sat cross legged, eyes closed, opposite Thetis in the sand. Who is a queen once more.

“Ah. Here they are. Perhaps your mate can offer her assistance.”

Umm…what are they doing?

Bellatrix opens one eye. And then both of them with a smile. “There you are. You nearly missed it. I’m giving this metamorphing thing a go.”

Really?!

She beams at Bellatrix and sits down in the sand to watch. “You’ve decided to try it? Oh this is so exciting!”

Bellatrix shakes her head fondly and then adopts a more serious expression, looking over at Thetis.

The merperson is definitely back to their intimidating self. Hermione sits up a bit straighter.

Thetis gives a firm nod. “Normally, our metamorphosis is entirely natural. From birth we flit between forms, and it is settling on a chosen form which needs to be taught. How to maintain an appearance. You appear to be the opposite, a firm grasp of who you are. The face you wish to show to the world.”

Bellatrix frowns. “The face I wish to show? This is my face. I didn’t choose it. You said I looked like Kalypso! I thought this was my…veriform.”

Thetis smiles, somewhat sadly, and takes Bellatrix’s hand. “Tell me. Do you heal quickly, when you are hurt? Do you move seamlessly from anger to happiness? Sadness to love? Decide on an action, and take it in an instant, where most people would not have the strength?”

Oh. That does sound a lot like Bellatrix. What does that mean?

Thetis must see the answer in their expressions, as they let out a sigh. “You are the Goddess of Concealment. And I fear your true form, whilst physically not much different to what you are showing us…is a lot more…”

They drift off…and then smile brightly. “Perhaps we should not speak of your veriform today. Let us instead focus on the joy of discovery. Hermione is right. This is exciting! To watch someone transform for the first time…I’ve never done so, have you, Leagore?”

Leagore appears across from Hermione with a soft pop. “Only for a brief second when both Autonoe and Agaue were born, and I was too young to understand what it truly meant,” she chuckles.

When they were born? I don’t think I want to visualise that…I assumed…eggs? Golden eggs?

Hermione holds back a laugh at Bellatrix’s disgusted yet curious voice.

I know, I was trying to get to the bottom of it earlier. Leagore did mention something about mammals and fish

Bellatrix shrugs. “So? Are you going to tell me, or is this one of those unravel the mystery yourself kind of deals?”

Thetis shakes their head, and then takes Bellatrix’s hands, transforming into their veriform. “The connection to your sister might help. Especially if she is able to metamorphose also. Think back to the day she changed form. You were touching her, you must have felt it. Try to…pick one of her features that you know well…and an emotion that goes with it.”

Bellatrix nods. “Emotion. Memory. A trigger. Alright…”

She stares across at Thetis. And stills.

Bellatrix staying still? Oh. Pretending to be Narcissa? That’s such a—

Mrs Malfoy? You’re…sat on the floor? That’s not very dignified

Bellatrix’s head snaps to look at her, frowning. “What are you— oh! Of course! I’m not supposed to imagine it, I have to feel it. Yes, okay. I—”

She gets to her feet in the sand, pulls out her wand from her sleeve…and transfigures a rock into a high backed chair. And then her wetsuit into pale blue robes.

Gosh, she looks odd not in black. She’s somehow…softer.

It seems so wrong.

“Okay. I’m Cissy…so…”

She straightens her posture and tilts her head back slightly so she’s sneering down at them, and then glides over and sits on the chair. Knees together and hands clasped politely. Hermione clamps her hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.

And Bellatrix closes her eyes. Face blank. “Miss Granger, I fail to see what is so amusing.”

Argh it’s impossible not to find this amusing! Even her voice is so haughty. Clipped. Clearer. And she’s not fidgeting. How is she—

Hermione walks closer. “My apologies, Mrs Malfoy. I hope you and Draco are well?”

Bellatrix’s expression softens ever so slightly, a raise to the corner of her lips and a delicate nod. “Quite well, I assure you. His OWL results were most promising, as expected. His tutors have always reported him to be a most excellent student. A naturally gifted child.”

This is how Narcissa talks about Draco? Ugh. It is sickening.

“I’m sure he is. Am I tiring you, Mrs Malfoy? If you wish to rest your eyes than I shall take my leave.”

A challenge. Come on, Bellatrix. You know what you have to do.

Bellatrix seems to freeze even further, and, for almost a minute, everyone waits in silence.

And then icy blue eyes snap open.

Hermione can’t help but gasp. That’s incredible! How did she—

And Bellatrix breaks character with a grin. “Did I do it? Are they blue?”

Hermione steps towards her to stare into her eyes in awe. “Yes! Yes they’re— I wish I had a mirror or— oh! Look into my head. Look at yourself.”

Blue eyes search hers, and then widen. “Fucking hell! That’s bloody bizarre, I look like— I don’t know! Is it—”

Bellatrix nudges Hermione out of the way to look down at Thetis. “Am I doing it right? Is this metamorphing or just a transfiguration?” She crouches down in front of Thetis. Who reaches out to gently touch her face.

“Oh little sister, you have succeeded. You are one of us. Can you feel it? The water?”

What?

Bellatrix shakes her head.

Thetis looks to Leagore with a frown, who taps at their lip in consideration. “It’s like…water on land. In the air. You know it is not supposed to be there, but it is drawn to you.”

Water on—

“Like a storm, Bella! That always happens! The water always comes to you when—”

“When I lose control…” Bellatrix whispers, and her eyes snap back to their original brown.

Oh. Oh she…

Hermione kneels down and pulls Bellatrix against her. “It’s alright. You did so well, you—”

“I have to lose control? For this to…I’m supposed to lose control?” she murmurs.

Thetis rings out a laugh. What?! How is this funny? This isn’t funny!

Hermione glares at them. “Don’t laugh at her! Can’t you see this is difficult? Painful? I thought you promised to—”

“Stand down, Hermione. I was doing nothing of the sort. I was merely surprised because…it’s not losing control! It’s taking control. Look at me. Both of you. Am I more in control now, or in my veriform?”

Bellatrix shakes her head. “But I like my form. It’s changing that’s hard. It’s always been— why do I always have to change? Why can’t I— am I never at peace? Will there always be one more—”

Oh no. The water is drawing in. The tide is— that’s too fast to be the tide.

“Relax, Bellatrix,” Leagore says soothingly. “The water is not a threat. It is protecting you, you see? You call to it. It is your home.”

Hermione undoes the transfiguration on Bellatrix’s robes as the water gets higher, surrounding them.

She takes Bellatrix’s hand. “You’re safe, Bella. You’re with us. Nothing is going to hurt you, I’ll make sure—”

“The water is protecting me? How? It feels so— it’s too loud!”

Thetis swims over and steadies them as the currents pull them away from the shore. “It is loud because it’s calling to you. Answer it. Let the ocean guide you.”

A wave almost covers their heads, and Hermione kicks frantically to keep them up.

Let the— “It’s the sea! We could drown! We’re not like you,” Hermione shouts over the roar of the waves, feeling her feet leave the sand once more as they’re dragged further out.

“The sea shall not harm her. Answer it, Bellatrix. Listen to it.”

“I can’t! It doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense, it— Hermione! Hermione I—”

That’s it. Enough of this.

Hermione keeps a tight hold of Bellatrix in the rising waves and feels out for her magic. Enough.

She pushes Thetis away.

Bubblehead charms. So they can breathe. Steady in the water. Sink to the seabed. Good.

Their feet touch down onto sand.

Standing firm in the currents. In fact…no more currents. The sea should be safe. Nothing will hurt them. This is natural.

And everything falls still as the two witches stand together on the seabed, hand in hand.

Bellatrix? Do you want to go home?

No, I— I have to try. I’m not weak. I won’t—

Then do it. You’re strong. Answer whatever this call is

Bellatrix nods…and closes her eyes. Whoa!

Hermione’s pushed against the witch by a sudden current. Where did—

She clings to Bellatrix as they begin to spin. Faster and faster as Hermione closes her eyes and—

It’s not chaos. Hermione it’s not chaos, I’m not— can you feel it?

Hermione is just starting to feel dizzy and rather nauseous. This isn’t chaos? It sure feels like it is.

It just wants me to— I’ve been so far away. I was lost. But now I’m—

Returned?

Yes. It makes so much sense, it—

It’s making me sick!

Oh

And they stop spinning. They’re pushed up to the surface.

Hermione just clings onto Bellatrix as everything tips and lurches. “Was that you, or the sea?” she gasps out.

Bellatrix chuckles. “Bit of both. Sorry, pet. It did clear up some things though so…I can’t quite explain it. I feel…lighter.”

Hermione peeks her eyes open. Oh.

The witch does seem lighter. Calm. Eyes bright and playful, but still so steady in her arms. Somehow holding them afloat.

But…

There are scars on her face. More and more, the more she looks. One at her temple and— and through her eyebrow. Her nose is…there’s a bump to it, where before it was straight. And the bruise from the telescope is back. Over her eye.

Is this…her veriform?

“You…you feel safe, Bella? You’re okay?”

Bellatrix frowns at her. “Of course I’m safe. It’s just me and you.”

One of her ears is bigger. Swollen. And…one of her front teeth is missing.

Oh. Oh so she—

She wraps her arms around the witch. “I think you’ll be able to metamorph now, Bella. With a bit of practice. You did it. You amazing, wonderful witch. You did it again. How do you always— there’s nothing you can’t do.”

She presses her lips to Bellatrix’s neck, feeling it vibrate as she chuckles.

“Where did this come from? Are you sure you’re okay?”

Hermione looks over Bellatrix’s shoulder to see Thetis and Leagore coming towards them.

“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. Here come Thetis and Leagore. It must be time to go back. Are you ready?”

She pulls back to look at Bellatrix. Whose scars fade away, nose straightening. Back to her normal self with a casual shrug. “I guess. Are you really alright? You’re acting…odd.”

So she was right. She really feels that safe with Hermione?

Hermione smiles softly at her. “Yes, really, I’m fine. I was just thinking about…I’ll tell you later. Somewhere we can actually stand up. How are you doing this, by the way? Have you got ocean powers now?”

She looks down through the water at Bellatrix’s still feet. Not even treading water.

Bellatrix snorts. “No secret powers. Just magic. Duh. Are you a witch or not?”

Oh. Right.

She looks back up with an eye roll. “Well I still think you have some kind of affinity for water. It’s not too much of a leap.”

Bellatrix raises an eyebrow. “Says the witch who just calmed the sea. Don’t think I didn’t notice what you did. I’m starting to think this prophecy is quite literal. Through sand and sea, do not drift asunder. We’re not drifting, are we? And I can’t be the only one with sand up my—”

“Bellatrix. Hermione. I’m glad you are both…Bellatrix. You feel…you answered the call?” Thetis asks cautiously.

Bellatrix turns to grin at them. “Yep. I should have just done that years ago. Couldn’t you have found me earlier with your prophecy powers? What do you know? How did you know about Andy?”

Thetis frowns and searches her eyes. And then their expressions clears with a nod. “So you’re ready. Good. For a moment I thought…will you meet with me more frequently now? Learn about your gift?”

Bellatrix sighs. “I don’t have much free time with everything that’s…what about the future? The timeline?”

Leagore’s head pops up, and they offer out their hands. “Come. Let’s return home. I think we have too many questions to dwell on right now.”

Hermione reaches for her hand in relief, letting her own magic carry them along as well.

They appear in the cave, and Hermione lets herself fall back to sit on the floor, exhausted. All that magic calming the ocean seems to be hitting her. She leans tiredly against Bellatrix as the witch sits down next to her.

“So?” Bellatrix asks, arm coming around to hold Hermione to her. “The future?”

“I believe I may be of some assistance in that regard, if Hermione doesn’t mind joining me for some reading, once she is recovered?” Leagore smiles.

Reading? In the archives? She’s allowed in? Hermione pulls herself more upright.

Leagore’s smile turns into a genuine grin at her eagerness. “Such a thinking elf. We will have you back to your time very soon, I should think.”

And Bellatrix’s hands clamp down on her arms. “What?! What do you mean? She isn’t— I meant my future, not—she’s not leaving, she—”

She turns wide eyed to Thetis. “She has to leave? Tell us. You know the future. Tell us what—”

“Calm, Bellatrix. Leagore’s idea of soon could span a decade. We are a long living race. She is not leaving you.”

Oh thank goodness.

Hermione lets her own heartrate steady. As much as she needs to leave, she doesn’t want to. And they haven’t even—

“And what about Bella? In the future. Or now. How can she do these things and— and live? And survive?”

Thetis seems to consider this, eyes darting back and forth. “It…is not my place to tell you. Things shall unfold…as they must. To tell you would…foundations sink. You understand?”

Oh. Prophecy. Timelines. Why is it always so complicated? All they want is— is for everything to be a bit easier. Less painful. Why does Bellatrix always have to…it’s not fair.

Bellatrix strokes her hands over Hermione’s arms soothingly, grip no longer painful, as if she can read her thoughts.

“I’ll be fine, pet. I’ll survive. I always survive. Now, come on, take us home. I think we’ll end up staying here all night with all the questions we have.”

Hermione smiles gratefully. And sleepily. Gods she’s exhausted.

She nods goodbye to Thetis and Leagore.

They disappear with a pop.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

They appear in Hermione’s room, and Bellatrix instantly pulls down the zip on Hermione’s wetsuit and starts tugging it off her shoulders.

What is she doing— “Um, Bella? You know I’m not sure I have the energy to—”

“Bed. Now. You’ve used way too much magic, so no being all stubborn about it. Your turn to sleep.”

Sleep? Ohh…

Hermione pulls her feet out of her wetsuit and accios some pyjamas towards her.

“You don’t have to make me, Bellatrix. I’m not fighting you on this. Why do you think I took us to my room?”

Bellatrix studies her critically, squinting her eyes. “So you’re not going to start asking a million questions about everything that just happened?”

Hermione just pulls her pyjama top on with a yawn. “There’s time for that later. Right now, I need to lie down before I fall down. Calming the sea. What was I thinking? I’m not…Dumbledore or something.”

Bellatrix has wandered over to look through Hermione’s clothes curiously.

“No, you’re not Dumbledore. You’re a hundred times more intelligent. And about a billion times more fuckable. Ugh. Forget I said that. Dumbledore and fucking should never be in the same sentence.”

Hermione freezes as she gets under the covers, her brain exploding from the amount of conflicting information that just hit her.

More intelligent than—

Fuckable—

And ew, Dumbledore and—

She thumps back onto the mattress with a groan. “You know what, Bella, I think you’re the one who needs to start thinking before you speak.”

She hears drawers opening and shutting. Nosy.

She closes her eyes.

“Probably. I just can’t help it with you. Do you want me to shut up? Or go. I can go, if you want.”

Don’t go. Keep talking. I like hearing you really. I never know what you’re going to say. Always a surprise

There’s no answer for a few minutes, but Hermione can hear her moving around. She just lets her muscles relax.

Muggles travel on aeroplanes

Hermione’s eyes snap open and she tilts her head to look at Bellatrix. Who is looking through Hermione’s belongings, sat on the floor.

She lies back down. The witch looks nervous.

Correct. Five points to slytherin

A huffed laugh from across the room.

And…they keep ink inside their quills

Hermione holds back a laugh. Yes. We call them pens though, not quills. They’re very useful. The ink doesn’t get everywhere

And your pictures don’t move. Unless they’re…in a box

In a box? Oh.

“How do you know about televisions? I thought…”

Bellatrix sighs. “Guess some things snuck through. From you…or just…all muggles seem to have that box in their living rooms. I couldn’t help but notice. All the furniture points towards it. So it must be important. You must have to look at it. At first I thought it might be some kind of heat source. A fire.”

There’s just no turning off that brain, is there?

“Have you seen one? When it’s turned on? Working?”

The bed dips next to her and the covers move.

“Once. That’s how I know it’s moving pictures. Why do you sit and look at it? Portraits aren’t that interesting.”

Hermione’s not sure she wants to know why Bellatrix was in a muggle house. Why they didn’t even have time to turn off the tv before…

“It’s not just images. It shows stories. Plays.”

She rolls onto her side to look at—

Oh.

“You’re wearing my clothes.”

She’s wearing some of Hermione’s pyjamas. A pyjama set that she’d had since her fifth year at Hogwarts and left behind at home over Christmas. Gryffindor red.

Bellatrix shrugs. “Not really my colour, but you’ve worn my clothes, so I thought I’d get you back. Plus I can’t be arsed to call Tiggy. And we’ve been working them too hard anyway with those ruddy nymphs ordering them about.”

Hermione smiles softly at her. Worrying about Tiggy?

“We’ll have to look after ourselves then. Give Tiggy a few days off to take a holiday.”

Bellatrix snorts. “French riviera? Sunny Spain? Partying it up in Amsterdam?”

Ha! “You know what, Tiggy is such an enigma, I wouldn’t be surprised. Wait. Wizards party in Amsterdam too?”

Bellatrix wriggles closer to whisper to her. “More than party, pet. I would tell you what sort of things people get up to there, but I don’t think you’re ready. Plus Cissy will kill me if— oh shit.”

Hermione grins as Bellatrix’s eyes widen. “So you went there with Narcissa? And she did something embarrassing, did she?”

Bellatrix groans. “Oh, so now you’re good at reading between the lines?” She sighs. “Well I won’t tell you what she did. But yes, something…embarrassing for her. I think it was hilarious, but don’t you dare mention it to her. Don’t even mention the city unless— she was only seventeen. I thought she needed to loosen up a bit before she got tied to Lucius forever. Didn’t expect that though.”

What the hell did Narcissa do?!

“Oh please give me a hint! Was it magic…or drugs…or sex…”

Bellatrix shakes her head, miming locking her lips with a key.

“Alohomora,” Hermione whispers with a grin.

“Nope. Not happening. Little Cissy will be protected at all costs.”

Hermione closes her eyes with a sigh. Such a good sister

Good? Oh no, I just know what Cissy is capable of. Some of the stuff she has on me.

Ooh. Blackmail? What on Earth would you be embarrassed about? More dreams? Or…close encounters with Rita Skeeter?

Bellatrix lets out a yawn. Jealous?

Umm…

Is she? No.

No. If you’re embarrassed by it, then obviously you don’t like her anymore

Bellatrix lets out a sound of outrage and crawls on top of Hermione, looking down at her, face twisted in disgust. “I never liked her! Ew! It was the wine! I had to share a room with her for seven years. She was like…okay, imagine a blonde Moaning Myrtle who always pops up behind you and writes down everything you say ‘for the school paper’. She drove us nuts!”

Hermione chuckles. “She dared do that to you? I thought you knew about her animagus form?”

“Why do you think she learnt in the first place? Too many nasty hexes to the face once people spotted her lurking. No, I’d scared her off by second year. Didn’t mean I could escape her though. Only one dormitory. I woke up to her stood over my bed once. She never did that again.”

Hermione grimaces. She doesn’t want to know.

But also, fair enough. Rita Skeeter watching you sleep?

“Okay, not the best dorm mate, I admit. Probably worse than Lavender and Parvati.”

Bellatrix looks down at her in thought. “What about the Weasley girl? You never did anything with her?”

What? She did lots of things with Ginny. She’s her friend, Bellatrix knows that.

Bellatrix rolls her eyes. “No, you idiot! I mean—”

She leans down and presses her lips to Hermione’s firmly, nudging herself closer and coaxing Hermione’s mouth open.

Oh. Oh she means—

She parts her lips and reaches up to cup Bellatrix’s jaw, pressing up against her.

You never did this? You never even tried it?

Merlin, she forgot they could talk now while—

No. No I never—And you would have seen, anyway, in my memories. I didn’t know I liked witches so—

I thought I might have skipped something. Never? You weren’t curious? How is that possible?

Hermione slides her hands over Bellatrix’s sides, over her back, leans up to bite at her ear—

I was too busy with Harry and Ron to—

Ew, please tell me you don’t mean—

She pulls back with a grimace. Oh that’s horrible, no! She shudders.

“No! No, Harry?! He’s like a brother, oh that’s disgusting it’s—”

A hand slides under her pyjama top. Over her chest. She shivers into its touch.

“And yet Weasley was alright? I might understand the girl one, but…”

She chuckles and then reaches her arms around Bellatrix’s neck, kissing her once more.

You might have to admit you fancy Ginny in a minute, Bellatrix

Bellatrix growls and bites her lip, hand coming around to scratch at Hermione’s scalp and making her gasp and—

“Well?” Hermione pants. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

Bellatrix goes still. And then pulls back with a look of complete bafflement. “What? Why are you talking like…a weird uncle?”

Hermione shakes her head in exasperation. Purebloods.

Although Shakespeare probably was a weird uncle.

“It’s a quote, from Shakespeare. An extremely famous muggle playwright and poet.”

Bellatrix continues frowning.

Hmm. Maybe not the best example of his works. What’s a better quote? Ah.

Bellatrix might understand this one.

She cautiously licks her lips, and then clears her throat.

It’s time she admitted something to herself. And Bellatrix.

“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove.”

She tucks some hair behind Bellatrix’s ear and sighs softly. “Oh no, it is an ever fixed mark. That looks on tempests, and is never shaken.” She cups Bellatrix cheek, smiling knowingly into her eyes.

“It is the star to every wandering bark, whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”

Bellatrix is wide-eyed and frozen in place. Hermione chuckles gently. “Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle’s compass come.” Her thumb brushes over a lip.

“Love alters not with his brief hours, and weeks, but bears it out. Even to the edge of doom.”

A silence settles over them. Hermione hadn’t realised quite how fitting that was until…

Bellatrix’s shocked eyes fall shut, and she slowly leans down. Rests her forehead against Hermione’s. And stops. Just breathes.

Hermione listens to their breathing. It’s so…peaceful. Calm. Bellatrix is never calm. Is she alright? Was that…too much?

Bella? Are you…

Bellatrix tilts her head, ever so slightly. Brushes their noses together. And then tilts lower. Lets their lips touch. A chaste kiss, just…touching. Just there.

This is…different to what they’ve done before. Somehow more intimate. The tiniest movement is so…heated. But not hot. Warm. She lets Bellatrix take the lead. This is vulnerable. She’s not sure what moves are…

Lips swipe achingly slowly across hers once again, and Hermione holds back a whimper.

Maybe…maybe you can stay. In the past. With me

Oh.

Bellatrix’s lips leave hers to travel down her neck, her collarbone.

Maybe…maybe it won’t alter the timeline. If you stay hidden, then— hide away with me

Bellatrix moves lower. Pulls up her top and kisses her stomach softly. Still warmly. Feather light.

Hermione reaches down to run her fingers though Bellatrix’s hair.

Stay hidden for…until 2005? I— I want to stay with you, but— Maybe. It’s so hard to plan I—My life. I— I’d be ten years older than all my friends

The kissing stops.

Bellatrix sits up slightly. Rests her arms and chin on Hermione’s stomach. “I know. I just thought…no. No, you’re right. I know what it’s like to lose that much time and—”

She takes a shaky breath. “Do you know I was your age when I went to Azkaban? I just realised. Twenty-seven. Same as you in a couple of months. And now I’m suddenly forty-one. Do you know how strange that is? Time standing still, but everyone else getting older? Seeing Draco for the first time was…and Cissy. She was only twenty-one when…”

No. No she hadn’t thought about…

Gosh, to lose all of that time in such a dark place.

She continues stroking her fingers though Bellatrix’s hair.

“It’s why I still feel so young, I suppose. I missed growing up. Or I grew up too soon. Did everything backwards. Do you think…do you think my veriform is older? Is that what Thetis meant?”

Ah. This conversation.

She pulls at Bellatrix’s upper arms, pulls her up on top of her until the witch can rest her head under Hermione’s chin. So she can hold her close.

“Bella…I saw your veriform today.”

Bellatrix’s head jolts up. “What?! When? Why didn’t you tell me? When did it happen? What did I—”

Hermione kisses her softly, and then pulls back, to Bellatrix’s confused face.

She strokes her hair until she lies back down.

“This might be difficult Bella, okay? So just— brace yourself. And if— Crookshanks, remember?”

Bellatrix lets out another shaky breath. “I look that awful? My true form?”

What?!

“No!” Hermione’s presses a kiss to her head and reaches for her hand. “No, you’re beautiful. Now and in your veriform. No, it wasn’t how you looked at all. It’s what it meant. It—”

Okay. Okay. “Bella…were there times when you were young that…that you got hurt, but no one healed you? When you— you knew you needed to heal quickly, and it seemed to happen overnight? Just because you wished it?”

Bellatrix falls still.

Oh no.

Hermione pulls her closer. Holds her.

“I was so young I— but that was my magic, wasn’t it? Accidental magic? To— to heal my face. So no one would know.”

So young. How young? What did they do to her?

Hermione sighs. “It was your magic, yes. But it didn’t fix it, Bella. You— you metamorphed to hide it. To conceal it. Even recently you— how did you get rid of the mark from the telescope? From the joke shop?”

Bellatrix looks up at her with a frown. “It just went away. I tried some salves, but they did nothing. And then— then one day it was gone.”

Hermione shakes her head sadly. “It doesn’t just go away. The twins made it so it wouldn’t come off unless you had a special ointment. Which they also made. A way to sell more products and bring customers in. It hasn’t gone away, Bella. It’s— it’s still there. As well as— as some scars you couldn’t heal.”

Bellatrix swallows, gritting her teeth and sitting up. “Show me.” She raises her wand.

Is this a good idea?

Well. It’s her body.

Hermione nods with a reassuring smile.

“Legilimens.”

And they watch themselves. Out amongst the waves, clinging to each as Hermione opens her eyes.

A gasp in her head. A jolt of fear and sadness.

Oh. I’d forgotten about my nose… And— a tooth? When did— oh. That must have been…think I passed out. Threw up the skelegrow when Tiggy tried to…after…

Oh Bella…oh I’m sorry…

Fuck I’m a mess. I wonder…after Azkaban…why did I look…

They pull out of the memory. Back on the bed.

Bellatrix gets up and walks over to a mirror, checking her face, her teeth, running a finger over her nose.

“So the bruise is still there? Guess I can just leave it. Natural glamour charm. My teeth though. If they’re not my real teeth…how the fuck did they rot in Azkaban?”

She’s taking this remarkably well. Quite practically. Maybe after the ocean…she’s unburdened of her past. Hermione hopes so anyway. She seems to be able to talk about Azkaban, Andy, her childhood. Painful topics.

She’s ready for this conversation now. “I think maybe…your body was weak from the malnourishment. The diagnostic spells…you were very sick, Bella. It wasn’t just the blood loss. Maybe your metamorphing just…clung to the essentials. Hid your injuries but couldn’t add any new ones to the list.”

Bellatrix continues studying herself in the mirror and shrugs. “Makes sense. Maybe I can…I want to see…”

She sighs. “Let it all go, Bella,” she whispers to herself.

Oh. Oh she did it.

Her veriform.

Bellatrix stares into the mirror sadly.

Oh, it’s breaking her heart. Hermione gets up and walks up behind the witch. Wraps her arms around her waist.

“I…I think I’m…proud. Not— not of me. Not me now. Of— of the little girl I was. She was tough, that kid. Brave. I think I lost her for a second. So I’m glad. That she’s back. I thought she was gone forever…that little kid. That she died along the journey.”

Hermione lets out a sob, tears falling down her cheeks as Bellatrix looks at her reflection. Watches through blurry eyes as the witch strokes her fingertips over her face.

A brave little girl.

She doesn’t know how to…

She wipes at her eyes, and then gently turns Bellatrix around by the shoulders. Lets her eyes drift over her face once more. Smiles at her.

And then she reaches to stroke her thumb over Bellatrix’s cheek. “I would have loved to have had a friend like you. I would have…Oh the things we would have done. In another life. If I could change it…I think I would have liked to have spent every day with you. With that little girl. I’d protect her, and she’d protect me. Through sand and sea.”

Tears fall down Bellatrix’s cheeks as she nods. Nods and nods and moves closer and wraps her arms around Hermione. Holds her and trembles and—

“Oh, I wish. I wish, I wish that was true,” she croaks. And then kisses Hermione’s head. Her jaw. Her neck. Walks her backward towards the bed. “Oh Hermione, how have you made me sad for something that never happened? Long for it. I’ve only just met you and— we missed so many days.”

Hermione pulls her onto the bed. Holds her and buries her face in Bellatrix’s neck. Her hair. Breathes her in and feels her pulse. “We’re still alive, Bella. We’re tough little girls. We survived. And I don’t know about you, but I’m going to bloody well live until I’m two hundred to make up for it.”

Bellatrix pulls them up the bed so their heads can reach the pillows and then snuggles close to her once more. “Okay. Deal. We’ll both have at least one hundred and fifty more years of this.”

Hermione lets her eyes fall shut with a yawn.

Yes. Yes we still have time. Time to be. To exist. To breathe. To sleep.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Oh...shit.

Hermione’s hand jolts at the unexpected voice in her head, spilling boiling water onto the kitchen counter. Is she okay? Why would she talk through the thread whilst at a meeting?

Bella? Are you alright?

No response.

 Hermione is really starting to panic now. Is she hurt? Should she—

Okay, pet. I’m gonna need you to do something for me. It’s time to figure this out. A bit earlier than I would have liked, but…

Oh thank goodness she’s alright. But…what? Figure what out? What is it?

He’s asked me to kill Amelia Bones. The head of the Magical Law Enforcement. He thinks she’s next in line after Fudge steps down and needs her taken care of

Oh no. She’d thought they had longer until Bellatrix ‘killed’ someone. At least until…Dobby. Amelia Bones. Oh but—

But that happened before! Around now, but we thought…she died so horrifically everyone thought He did it himself. It was you?

More silence. She cleans up the water and then pops to her bedroom to put some shoes on. Just in case.

I think he’s testing my allegiance. I don’t know who did it the first time, but this time it has to be me. He’s giving me—

She stops mid-sentence, and Hermione throws on a cloak and grabs her expanded bag. She’s going to need to—

He’s paranoid about a spy, so he’s not giving me any time to prepare. To make plans. He’s worried they’ll move her

Hermione nods to herself in the mirror. What do you need? All I know is that there were signs of a struggle, and she was found dead in a room locked from the inside. Completely baffled the poli— muggle aurors

Go quickly to Cissy or Snape and get a draught of living death and some blood replenishing potions. Maybe skelegrow in case—

Hmm. Send her to sleep, hurt her, leaving lots of blood and signs of spellfire…and then heal her? Like Hermione did with Bellatrix? Could work. What about—

And her body? Won’t they take it? The aurors?

…let them bury her and dig her back up?

Hermione holds a hand to her head with a groan. Grave robbing? For the love of—

Let’s come back to that later. How long do we have?

He knows where she lives. Someone sold her out. Once she leaves the ministry this evening, I’ll be waiting in her house. They’ve bribed someone to shut off her floo once she’s home

After work? She’s the head of a department! She could work until midnight! Well…at least it buys them some time.

That could be hours, how does He know—

She always finishes at six on Fridays. Always. Rigid routine that witch. Too predictable, she should know better

Oh dear. Six? But it’s already…four o’clock!

Okay. Okay I won’t distract you anymore. I’ll get the potions

Her head falls silent.

Now, Snape or Narcissa?

Oh. She can’t help but chuckle. The age-old question. Well, this time it’s a bit easier. Narcissa doesn’t want to know what they’re up to. But Snape does. Plus there’s Dumbledore. Narcissa has a better track record with secret keeping.

And surely the witch is home. She can just pop by for a visit…

To Malfoy Manor. Oh dear.

You can do it, Hermione. Bellatrix won’t ever hurt you. You’re safe.

Okay. She needs to go there. Invisible. She follows the pull.

Oh gosh. There’s the door to the parlour. Oh it’s exactly the same as…that floor.

That cold, cold…

Don’t look, Hermione. Find her. Quickly.

Oh wait.

Legilimency.

She lets the invisibility fall from her mind, so that only her body is covered.

Mrs Malfoy? Are you home? She calls out in her mind, walking down the hallway. I need some potions. For Bellatrix

Hmm. Quiet and still. Maybe she isn’t—

A wand presses into the small of her back.

“What have you done to her?”

Hermione freezes. That voice is painfully soft. Scarily controlled.

Nothing! She’s fine. She’s with Him. We need it for…our plans

The wand digs in painfully.

“Mother?”

And the wand falls away.

Draco looks down from the landing above them, frowning in confusion.

Oh. Oh he’s so young! She forgot he—

And pale. The cockiness is gone. Drained like the blood from his face. Shadowed eyes.

“If you wish to speak with me, Draco, come down. I won’t have us conversing from such a distance like brutes,” Narcissa chastises gently as she walks to stand next to Hermione instead. Shoulder brushing shoulder. Presumably so she knows where Hermione is.

Draco almost rolls his eyes and then stops himself, running a hand through his hair and  coming down the stairs. “It sounded like you were speaking with someone. Is Aunt Bella here?”

Narcissa sighs. “Nobody but us, my dragon. I must have been asking one of the elves for some tea. It is four o’clock, you know.”

Gone four by now. Would they hurry up and stop chatting!

Potions! It’s rather urgent—ow!

Did she just pinch her?! Ow, what the—

Don’t even think about giving me an order, Miss Granger. You will regret it.

All whilst smiling softly at Draco. How does she do that? She’s so…believable!

“Oh, of course. My mistake…” Draco is still frowning. Casually stepping closer.

Hmm. Maybe she can’t fool Draco then. He looks…

“Are you sure you’re alright, Mother? You seem…distracted. You’re not worried about me, are you? Because I told you. I’m the wizard of the house now. You don’t need to worry about anything.”

Wizard of the house? He’s a boy! Why do the children in this family always have to be so burdened from such a young age? Is there a curse or—

I have often thought the same, Miss Granger. Perhaps I see why Bella…you’re remarkably perceptive

Oh. Oh she’d forgotten she could hear everything not just— had she thought anything bad? And perceptive? Really? But Hermione’s awful at seeing things!

Narcissa brushes some hair off of her son’s forehead. “I’m merely tired, Draco. It has been a long week. For both of us.”

She pats his cheek, and he half-heartedly shrugs her off.

Narcissa steps back, expression blank once more. “Now, I have some drooping delphiniums to tend to in the greenhouse. Perhaps we could adjourn later to the parlour, would you like that? You can tell me all about your occlumency lesson with Bella.”

Uh oh. Don’t think about— nope, nope, focus.

Draco studies his mother suspiciously…and then a smile slips into his expression. “I’d like that. Thank you, mother.”

He looks around, before ducking close. “I wondered at first why my godfather couldn’t just teach me,” he whispers. “Of course I would never question the Dark Lord’s wishes, but her? You must admit, she’s rather…but she’s actually taught me a lot. I don’t understand it, mother. She—”

Narcissa raises an eyebrow. “She is your aunt. I don’t care for whatever you are insinuating, Draco. You doubt that she would teach you? Teach you well?”

Draco freezes. And then ducks his head, rubbing the back of his neck. “No, of course not. I know that she…it’s just that…I never expected her to…care. About me.”

Oh. Oh but Bella loves Draco. How could he not—

She’s told you she loves Draco?

Well…why shouldn’t she?

Yes. Of course she loves Draco. And you

Narcissa puts a finger under Draco’s chin and tilts it back up. “We are Blacks. We may not always say it, but we love one another. And together we are strong. So hold your head high, my dragon.”

Draco’s eyes widen, and he swallows harshly before clenching his jaw. Standing tall.

Narcissa studies him critically. “Good. Now get some rest, my love. You haven’t been sleeping well. I can tell.”

Come, Miss Granger

She turns sharply and marches down the hallway towards the back of the house, and Hermione runs to keep up.

Sorry I just turned up so unexpectedly, Mrs Malfoy. It was rather rude. It’s just—

What do you need, what quantity and what strength? And don’t tell me for what purpose. You have revealed too much to me already

Oh. Gosh umm…

Draught of living death, only one vial for now. Maybe two, just in case. Needs to last for…ten years. Some skelegrow…three maybe? And Blood replenishing potions. Enough for…one occurrence of extreme blood loss. I’m not sure I know—

Fine. Follow me. Do not touch anything or speak a word of what you see to anyone

They’ve reached a greenhouse at the very back of the manor. Mostly full of flowers.

Narcissa closes the glass door behind them.

Close your eyes, Miss Granger

What? Why should she— and how would she even know—

A growl echoes around her head. Now!

Ow! Oh her head! Hermione squeezes her eyes shut, trying not to think about how intimidating the witch is. And don’t think about— oh no she’s going to think about—

She coats her mind with invisibility. It’s no use. She can’t avoid thinking about everything Bellatrix has told her about Narcissa. About her losing control. About how she hides her expressions. Why she hides them. About the frog, and Amsterdam, and how she’s not really blonde.

“Are you still there, Miss Granger?”

Oh thank goodness. Her mind must be completely hidden.

She lets the invisibility fall from her body.

“Yes. Yes I’m sorry, I’m here, it’s just you really can’t read my thoughts right now.”

Well she could…but then Narcissa might kill her.

“You may open your eyes now.”

Hermione holds back a chuckle. What’s with these Blacks telling her to open and shut her eyes all the time?

Oh!

She can’t help but gasp. It’s so blindingly white.

She blinks her eyes against it. She’s never seen—

“White cauldrons? But how— why? And the plants. Where did they go? And the floor! What is—”

Narcissa tuts, opening a cupboard. Her robes are now white. And her shoes. Hermione looks down at herself. What?! All of Hermione’s clothes are white too! How rude! There’d better be a counter-spell!

“You’re as bad as Bella. So many questions. Perhaps you were right about that also, you really are similar. Although your minds couldn’t be more different which—”

She abruptly stops, flicking her wand sharply in different directions. Although blocking the cupboard from view, so Hermione can’t quite see what she’s up to.

She can’t help staring around the room in…confusion. Where did the greenhouse even go? Are they underneath it? Or was it an illusion? It’s like being in a medical lab…but everything is magical. White cauldrons, white surfaces, white floor, white cabinets, just…everything.

It…it’s genius.

“…It’s so there’s no contamination! Even the tiniest drop of a potion would be visible. One stray ingredient. But…what about gases? And transparent potions like veritaserum or—?”

A ministry controlled, dangerous substance such as veritaserum? Now why should I come into contact with such a thing?

Ah! Oh no, she’s still in her head? Where’s the gap? She thought…

Narcissa turns around, two vials of clear liquid in her hand. Presumably Draughts of Living Death. Oh. Did…she just make a joke?

A raised eyebrow. Well? Can you hear me?

Hermione slowly nods.

Good. I can’t read your mind when you…do this…but I can project my voice. From now on we shall operate as such so that I don’t pick up any unwanted information

Oh thank Merlin! She smiles gratefully at Narcissa. “It really is for the best. Are those the potions, are they ready?”

Narcissa reaches into her pocket, bringing out a small drawstring pouch, and then studies Hermione extremely closely. Eyes darting back and forth and up and down over her whole face. Her gaze almost tingles.

What is— the intensity, this is…

Narcissa frowns in complete confusion, her whole forehead scrunched and head tilted to the side, reminding her of Bellatrix. Umm…

“Mrs Malfoy? Are you…”

And the witch’s face falls blank once more. Not a trace of…what’s she hiding? The more she feels, the less she shows? Is that it? What’s she feeling?

And then Narcissa smiles at her. A blinding look of pure joy and fondness and…like Hermione is her best friend, her favourite person in the world.

She smiles back awkwardly. Maybe Narcissa was the crazy one this whole time not— oh dear.

The witch’s smile turns…sly, cheeky. Her eyes hooded as she bites at her lip and—

Hermione backs away towards…there’s no door. Where did she come in? Where did— there’s no exit. Wha—

And Narcissa glares at her, teeth gritted in furious anger as she steps towards her. What did she do? Should she leave? But the potions!

Narcissa stops in her tracks…and draws in on herself. Head lowered and one arm wrapping around her own waist to hold herself, the other coming up to her mouth as a tear slides down her cheek. She stares down at the floor with such grief and regret. Hermione takes a hesitant step forward. It’s reminding her of when Thetis—oh!

Oh she can’t believe she fell for that. Not Thetis. Not real. Not just hiding, manipulation!

Hermione folds her arms and huffs at the crying witch. “Well? Have you figured me out? My intentions? Have you mapped out my face yet, or do you still need to try out embarrassment and fear? I am working within a time limit here.”

Narcissa freezes…and then gracefully straightens into her usual posture, face blank once more as she flicks the tears from her face. And then reaches for the pouch, placing the vials inside as well as the blood replenishing potions and skelegrow from a drawer in the counter.

“That shall have to do for now. Here. This pouch is magically expanded and protects its contents from shattering or other such damages. You may keep it for future occasions.”

She hands it to Hermione, meeting her eye. And her lip twitches with the tiniest of smiles. “I believe I may have underestimated you, Miss Granger. I shall of course need to form a more conclusive observational analysis but…you have passed. For now.”

Passed? Passed what?! Did she just take a test and not realise? But what were the rules?

Endless questions, I am sure. But for now, go and help my sister. If she has asked for your aid, the consequences must be dire

Hmm. Well they are dire, but she doesn’t like what she’s suggesting about—

Hermione, go!

She smiles at Narcissa, and puts the pouch inside her own expanded bag. “Thank you. You have no idea how much we need this. We might have to come back again, but I’m sure Bellatrix will see you before then so— I really must be going, um…”

She looks at the icy, expressionless face before her. All an act. And Draco is a Death Eater now…

Scared little elflings.

Maybe…

She slowly reaches out…and takes Narcissa’s hand, smiling softly at her. “I can’t tell you anything.”

Narcissa’s expression hardens and she pulls her hand back in disgust. “I know, Miss Granger. That’s what I—”

Hermione continues smiling. Lets a feeling of hope and joy rise within her. Such hope that she’s sure it’s shining from her eyes. Knows that of all people, Narcissa will see it. A thinking elf. A seeing elf.

And the witch lets out a small, shaky breath.

Thank you

“For what?” Hermione smiles.

Narcissa turns sharply and walks back to the cupboard, flicking her wand purposefully, apparently busy once more.

“Tell my sister to owl me.”

Hermione snorts. “I’m not a house-elf. Owl her yourself.”

Narcissa’s shoulders twitch upward. Got her. She’s not the only one who can make a joke “Goodbye, Mrs Malfoy.”

Hermione lets the invisibility fall over her. And she follows the thread to Bellatrix. To Voldemort.

 


 

She manages to appear next to Bellatrix rather than in front of her this time. Which is good, seeing as she’s standing in front of a table.

A small, dark room. Possibly a study, but with enough room for a table and chairs as well as a desk at the far end. The windows are shuttered, and the fire unlit. The only light coming from dim oil lamps on each wall.

No Voldemort. More good news.

Oh.

The bad news is that Nagini is on the table. And seems to be watching Bellatrix very closely.

Bellatrix hasn’t looked up, stood leant over some parchment and scribbling down a plan. Probably a fake plan, whilst thinking about the real plan.

Hermione cautiously walks around the table. The snake’s head stays focused on Bellatrix. Well. At least it can’t sense Hermione like under the invisibility cloak at Godric’s Hollow. So house-elves are better at hiding than…Death?

Bella?

Bellatrix doesn’t pause in her writing. What’s wrong? What is it?

Hermione smiles. Nothing, everything’s fine. I got the potions from Narcissa. I’m stood opposite you, actually

The quill snaps in Bellatrix’s hand and the snake lets out a hiss.

“Reparo,” Bellatrix mutters calmly. What are you doing here?! He’ll be back any second. If he senses anything at all—

I just thought I should keep watch, seeing as he thinks there’s a spy! He left the snake with you. Remember how Snape dies?!

Well seeing as the world will explode as soon as he decides to kill me, I don’t think—

The door creaks open. Oh no.

“Bellatrix?” a cold voice comes from the doorway.

Bellatrix instantly turns and drop to her knees as Voldemort enters. “My Lord! Is it time? May I complete my mission?” Bellatrix whispers in eager joy, straining to stop herself crawling towards him.

Voldemort stops before her, so close his robes brush the front of her bowed head. He ignores her, and instead looks to Nagini and begins hissing. Parseltongue.

Hermione stays as still as possible. Holds her breath.

Voldemort hums in thought and then nods.

“Rise, Bellatrix. Present this plan to me. You have one hour before you need to be in place,” Voldemort whispers, finger beneath Bellatrix’s chin and urging her upwards. Oh it’s sick. Don’t touch her you reptilian psychopath. Ugh how can Bellatrix stand—

Bellatrix beams at him and seems to tremble with pleasure. “Oh yes! Yes, my Lord, come. I have such plans. Her silencing shall be long and painful, I swear it. A message to that old fool and his disgusting band of filth. Their stain on the world shall soon be wiped clean. Here, what do you think? I long to—”

A harsh, gasping laugh fills the room. “Enough, dear Bella. I’m sure you shall send quite the message, as always. I expect nothing less from my most loyal follower.”

He picks up the parchment, and his eyes dart over it. It’s so odd to see him…do things. Read. Think. Laugh.

The man behind the monster…or the man who is the monster. Why did Bellatrix ever—

He scrunches the parchment in his fist, and it bursts into flames. “No evidence,” he whispers to himself.

He’s not letting go. Isn’t it burning him?! Why—

“The old man has eyes. Don’t forget that, Bella. Even when he is not looking. Invisible eyes, watching me. And—”

He flinches and whirls around with a roar. “Kneel! You dare stand equal to me, girl?” A blast of magic shoots from his hand, and Bellatrix flies backwards to smack into a bookshelf.

No! What is he— she didn’t do anything!

Bellatrix doesn’t defend herself. Just falls forwards on her hands and knees.

“Forgive me. My Lord I beg for forgiveness. I am your most loyal—”

“The boy must die,” he mutters. “Where is— Nagini. Nagini is— but where…”

Hermione is frozen in horror. He’s this far gone? This mad? Bellatrix had said…but she hadn’t realised…

Nagini begins to hiss once more, and Voldemort pulls back a chair to sit down tiredly at the table, hissing back softly.

Bella? Are you okay?

Bellatrix glances at Voldemort, and then hastily repairs the bookshelf whilst his back is turned. And then leaves the room. Wha—

A knock on the door.

“Enter,” Voldemort calls coldly.

Bellatrix enters once more, head bowed and meek. “My Lord, I am ready for my mission.”

What on Earth…

Hermione walks around closer to Bellatrix. To the door. Nagini doesn’t move her gaze from Voldemort. Good.

And Voldemort stands, turning around to lean leisurely against the table. “Ah, good, Bellatrix. I’ve just had a look over your plans. Quite remarkable. You have done well.”

Oh gods, he is insane.

Bellatrix grins. “Oh thank you, my Lord! Such praise! I shall leave at once to further our cause.”

Oh she should definitely leave as soon as possible. This is…

Voldemort runs a hand over his head, frowning in confusion. “I…yes. Yes, you have a plan to…to…”

He drifts into silence.

“My Lord, perhaps I was not clear. Forgive me. I believe we should kill Amelia Bones, so that Thicknesse shall be well placed to become minister after Fudge.”

And Voldemort suddenly strides forward in intense excitement . “Yes! Yes, with Fudge out, we shall finally have control of the Ministry. Bella. Oh, dear Bella. Our rise to power is accelerating once more! With the Ministry under our control, the laws we can change! Can you see it? The future? A world of magic. Where we are free from hiding. Together. Far from the muggles that would burn us to ash in fear of our power. Go! Quickly.”

He gestures to the door almost…smiling in excitement.

And Hermione watches in disbelief as his smile softens. “And…be careful. You are young. Do not become reckless. You are the head of your family, remember. A noble house. You are important, my dear.”

Bellatrix smiles brightly. “Of course. Thank you for your guidance, my Lord. I shall leave right away.”

She bows, and hastily backs out of the room, closing the door behind her.

Hermione lets out a relieved breath. She managed to talk her way out. Thank goodness.

Voldemort starts pacing. Whispering to himself.

“No escape…you’ll see, old man…the power. Kill the boy. Yes…you think me weak? You do not know pain. But you will. Soon.”

Oh dear.

Hermione follows the thread to Bellatrix once more.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

And they’re in someone’s living room, stood between a coffee table and a fireplace. Presumably in Amelia Bones’ house. A small but expensive looking townhouse. Possibly central London from the view out the window. Hermione walks over and closes the blinds.

She doesn’t have wards? How did you get here so fast?

Bellatrix starts wandering around looking at…door handles. What?

Normally she does, but we took them down. Well, Yaxley blackmailed some witch into taking them down. Kidnapped her grandson

Oh Merlin.

Is the boy…okay?

Bellatrix walks off up the stairs, and Hermione follows her.

Who knows? Think the kid’s a squib. Goes to some muggle school. Didn’t have a chance really

Oh how horrible. Well. Nothing they can— the real problem is—

Bellatrix continues checking all the door handles.

What are you doing?

Finding a door that locks. You said she was found in a locked room. So that’s the one we have to ‘kill’ her in. Probably the bathroom

Oh of course!

And are you going to explain it to her, or just knock her unconscious?

Bellatrix stops fiddling with the bathroom lock and straightens with a frown.  I was going to just knock her out but…you think I should talk to her? That that’s the kind thing to do?

Hmm. Is it too risky? Oh but—

Well it might help if she sees you being nice. Rational. Then when we do eventually wake her up, she can…testify for you. She’s a reliable witness

Bellatrix scoffs. Or she’ll refuse to miss the next ten years of her life and think I’m crazy

Hermione shrugs, even though no one can see her. She already thinks you’re crazy. If she refuses, knock her out anyway

Bellatrix wanders into the bathroom and sits on the edge of the bath with a sigh. “So now we wait. But…here? It wouldn’t give me confidence that someone wasn’t crazy if they ambushed me in my bathroom.”

Hmm…how can she…

Hermione leans against the doorway. What about…if I talk to her first? No, wait, I’m too old. Or…if you don’t act threatening. Have a cup of tea or something

Bellatrix barks out a laugh. “I’m always threatening! You just can’t see it because... Imagine you came home to the Dark Lord drinking your tea. That doesn’t make it better! If anything, it makes it more creepy. No, no I’m going to wait in her living room, catch her with an incarcerous as soon as she walks in, and then just tell her what I’m going to do to her whether she likes it or not.”

Well, that’s one way to—oh, speaking of Voldemort. Why didn’t you tell me how…unstable he is? Bella…he’s lost his mind. He forgot— I didn’t realise he…

Bellatrix sighs. “It’s getting worse. He’s not always…that’s what’s so terrifying. He can be…stable, for days at a time. Weeks. And then when you don’t expect it…confusion. Or sudden anger. He’s always angry but— he forgets how old I am. I think it’s worse with me, because he’s known me for so long. He forgets what year it is. With the others…his mind is sharper. He doesn’t lose himself. I have to…read what mood he’s in. What point in time he thinks it is.”

Oh gosh. It’s like…dementia. How old is Voldemort? Is it the Horcruxes or…maybe both?”

So…have the others noticed?

Bellatrix shrugs. “No one’s said anything. Think Lucius caught something but…he’s gone now. Snape probably noticed a while ago. Don’t know about the others. Probably not. Anyway, enough of— let’s get out of here.”

And Bellatrix smacks right into her in the doorway.

Ow! Oh sorry, forgot I was invisible Hermione rubs at her head, watching Bellatrix do the same with a chuckle.

“You need to get your head sorted out, Know It All. I have enough to think about. You can bloody well remember that people can’t see you! Now, where are those potions? I didn’t just smash them, did I?”

Hermione lets the invisibility fall off of her and hurriedly accios the pouch from her bag. “No, not smashed. Here. Narcissa already thought of that. Gave me this break proof pouch.”

Bellatrix stares at her. Oh. White clothes.

And then takes the pouch and looks it over. Feels the material and peeks inside at the potions. “She gave you her favourite one? How the hell did— how did you manage that?! And your clothes! She let you into her potion’s lab?”

Her favourite? Who has a favourite pouch?

“It’s her favourite? She said I could keep it. I— I don’t know, I— she was annoyed with me! Stabbed me with her wand. Pinched me!”

Bellatrix looks up with a raised eyebrow. “Pinched you? That’s…why is everything so unpredictable around you? So she pinched you, and then decided to give you her personal potions bag? That she’s carried on her since her NEWT charms project?”

Uhh…well not exactly. Anyway, they’re wasting time! She takes Bellatrix’s arm and pops them downstairs. They need to be ready. What time is it?

Hermione pulls them down on the sofa and looks at the clock. Oh. They still have a while to go.

Bellatrix turns to face sideways on the sofa. And then frowns. “You still look…uncomfortable? What— what did Cissy do?”

“I just— she did something…odd. We— we realised it was better if I hid my thoughts from her, but then…she still wanted to read me. So she… tested me. I still don’t know what— but she said I passed!”

Bellatrix snorts. “Passed? You do realise she’s not a professor, right? I can’t believe— she’s such a— what kind of test? An interrogation type thing?”

Oh dear. Well it was—

Hermione sighs. “Just have a look. We have some time to kill. And you’ve seen all my other memories, so…”

Bellatrix holds up her wand with a grin. “Legilimens.”

And they’re whizzing through as usual, before falling back to reality on the sofa.

Bellatrix stares at Hermione in shock. What?

“Umm…did I do something wrong?”

Bellatrix’s mouth falls open. “Wrong?!” she shouts. “You— she— how did you— she likes you! Trusts you! Even Draco doesn’t know about— she smiled at you! Thanked you! What in the world is…”

Bellatrix is on her feet now. Pacing. How odd, has she developed the habit from Hermione?”

“Oh. Well that’s nice. I’m glad your sister likes me.”

Bellatrix laughs in disbelief. “You’re so impossible! It’s like you have some kind of…aura, that makes people like you. How do you do that? She joked with you! She— Cissy doesn’t have friends. She doesn’t make jokes with people. Only at them. She doesn’t let herself get close to people.”

Oh that’s so sad. She doesn’t have any friends? Nobody?

Bellatrix is still pacing. Hermione claps loudly. “Well? The plan? We don’t really have the time for…whatever this is.”

Bellatrix’s head jolts up. “Right. Right, I can owl Cissy later about whatever the fuck she’s up to. Yes. Okay. So, the plan is simple. Tie the witch up, and tell her the Dark Lord wants her dead, but I’m going to spare her. Then she’ll try to fight me, and we’ll send some convincing spells all over the place. Then, whether she agrees or not, I’ll knock her out, lock us in the bathroom, and give her the draught of living death. Once she’s unconscious, we can throw some more spells around. Maybe you can use her wand for when they try Priori Incantatum. And then just to be safe I’ll bash her around a bit.”

Hermione’s nose crinkles. Bash her around? Umm…

“It has to look like it was Him, remember? Not you. Does he…do that?”

Oh gods she really doesn’t want to know—

Bellatrix starts fiddling around with the ornaments and framed photographs above the fireplace. The pictures squeal in shock and flee their frames. “Maybe you’re right. What would he do…probably…it doesn’t make sense! Why would she be in the bathroom? Why would he attack her personally? It’s only a show of strength if he can perform, has an audience. Just in her house…he wouldn’t show off. He’d just kill her instantly. Why do they think it was him? Maybe it was me. They might have just said it was him to give her…a hero’s death. As a symbol of strength. No, no I’m not going to act like him. I’m going to—”

The fire roars green, and Hermione vanishes herself with a start.

“Incarcerous!”

“Proteg—”

“Expelliarmus!”

A bound and gagged figure falls from the fireplace as Bellatrix lunges to catch a flying wand.

Two in one. Incarcerous and expelliarmus. Brilliant witch.

Madam Bones yells muffled curses into the carpet.

Bellatrix sighs. “Now stop that. I can’t understand you, and you need to listen. Your life depends on it. Don’t you want to live to see your niece again?”

She stops wriggling and falls silent. Oh good.

“Thank Merlin. So you do have a sensible head on those bony shoulders. Now, can I sit you up, or are you going to try something very stupid?”

Madam Bones rolls onto her back. And widens her eyes on seeing Bellatrix, another muffled sound coming from the gag.

Bellatrix, honestly. You shouldn’t gag people and then ask them questions. You did that to me too, you know

She might be able to do wandless magic. I’m not risking it. I just need to see…ah.

“Don’t even think about it. We’ve already shut off the floo anyway. And—”

Bones lunges forwards, almost crashing into Bellatrix's legs, but she manages to jump up onto the coffee table just in time. And growls. “Enough! Can’t you see I’m trying to help you?! Argh, why is being nice so difficult?! Do you want me to kill you? Petrificus Totalus!”

The witch falls flat on her back and frozen on the floor. Bellatrix steps back down off the table and crouches to look into her eyes.

And sighs tiredly. “I’m trying to spare you, alright? There’s been enough bloodshed. I don’t…I don’t want to be the monster anymore. But the Dark Lord wants you gone, so I need to talk with you, okay? Calmly.”

There’s no response. Obviously.

And then Bellatrix’s shoulders relax. “Yes. Yes, I can read your thoughts.”

More silence. This is so frustrating.

Bellatrix raises her wand. “Rennervate.”

And Madam Bones gasps to life. Bellatrix removes her gag. “Good. We don’t have much time but…just ask.”

Bones clears her throat. “Are you really Bellatrix Lestrange?”

Hermione holds back a laugh. Bellatrix doesn’t hold it back. Just chuckles.

“Yes. Swear to Salazar. Isn’t the wand a clue? Next question.”

“I…you’ve turned against…him?”

Bellatrix just nods.

“How…what are you going to do to me?”

Ah. A smart witch.

Bellatrix sits down on the coffee table…and then sits on the sofa instead with an exasperated look as the other witch tuts at her.

Really? The fucking table? As if I’m not about to blow apart her house?

Now Hermione does snort. Doesn’t matter. No one can hear her.

Bellatrix clears her throat. “Here’s the deal. The Dark Lord wants you dead. Obliterated. Splattered about the room. He’s not going to stop until that happens. I on the other hand think that doesn’t need to happen. That your family has gone through enough. That all this fucking pain needs to end. So. Here’s the good news. I’m not going to kill you.”

She undoes the incarcerous, and Madam Bones cautiously sits up, rubbing at her wrists.

“And the bad news?”

Okay. Here it comes.

“The bad news…is that you’re going to have to play dead for a while. Make him think I did it. Make it…convincing. There’ll need to be…a body. Your body. For a few years.”

For a long moment the witch just stares at Bellatrix.

And then slowly stands up. Oh dear.

“How do I know this isn’t a trick? Why would you…I can’t believe…”

Bellatrix doesn’t seem too worried. Leans her head back and hovers a coaster into the air. “Fudge is stepping down. You’re the next obvious choice. Now there’s a target on your back. So. Why the hell wouldn’t I kill you unless I’m being nice? Do Death Eaters normally come for a chat on your sofa? This is your only chance. Either fake your death, or he’ll send someone else, and your niece will be alone in the world for the rest of her life.”

She lets the coaster fall and sits up, holding out the witch’s wand. “Hard decision, I know. Please make the rational choice. Something’s very wrong if I’m the most sensible person in the room.”

Bella, are you sure—

Trust me. It’s alright.

Amelia Bones slides her wand from Bellatrix’s hand

…and points it at the witch on the sofa.

No! Bella!

Bellatrix folds her arms. Raises an eyebrow.

“You tortured the Longbottoms,” Bones says shakily.

“Yes.”

The hand trembles. “Your father-in-law, a Death Eater, killed my family. My brother. My parents.”

“And now the cowardly bastard’s holed up in Northern Ireland somewhere. His wife is dead. His two sons are empty, soulless husks, back rotting in Azkaban. And his daughter-in-law is sat here. On your sofa. Defying orders from a Dark Lord, and trying to right some of the wrongs in the world. You want revenge? Fool them. Live. Make sure little Susan isn’t the last Bones above the ground.”

Tears gather in Amelia Bones’ eyes, a hollow laugh escapes her lips, and she swings her wand around to the left with an anguished cry.

Oh fuck!

Hermione dives for cover as the fireplace explodes. Wood and brick and tile flying through the air.

Bellatrix cackles. “There’s a witch after my own heart! That’s it! Go out with a bang, let’s tear this place apart!”

Hermione hastily struggles to her feet, just in time to see Bellatrix hop onto the coffee table, setting the sofa on fire with a wave of her wand and a whoop.

Bones shakes her head. “You’re mad!”

Bellatrix laughs once more and sends some difindos at the walls, slicing through the wallpaper. “Maybe I am. Want to join in? It’s fun, I promise. You must have a few spells you’ve always wanted to try. No one will blame you. Dead, remember?”

“I…you mean…but my things.”

Bellatrix spins around and hovers the photographs that are scattered near the fireplace over to the witch, whispering a reparo at them and then a shrinking spell. “Into your purse. Come on. Anything else you want? Chop chop.”

Bones blinks and shakes herself, before seeming to come to some sort of decision, sending the photographs into a bag at her hip. “No, no all the valuables are in Gringotts. They’ll go to Susan so— alright. Okay, Amelia, just—”

She nods to herself once more, and then brings up her arms. “Saw Dumbledore do this once. Always wanted to try it.”

And a flood of water spills from her wand, wriggling through the air like a snake and then coiling, spiralling into sphere that gets bigger and bigger.

“Water?” Bellatrix says with a huff. “It’s supposed to look like you’re trying to kill me! And you’re ruining my fire!”

Bones tuts and continues focusing on the water, which grows and grows. She sends it over the sofa, which extinguishes with a steaming hiss. “Exactly, Lestrange. You’re fire. I’m water. Keep up.”

And the globe moves from the sofa to crash straight into Bellatrix, enveloping her completely.

Oh fucking bollocking—

Bones lets out a pleased laugh as she begins hovering the spinning globe around the room.

Bella? Are you—

A blurry Bellatrix, now upside down in the ball of water, manages to somersault the right way up.

Oh she just chose the wrong element. Water?

And the ball of water explodes outwards.

Bellatrix falls into a crouch with a grin, and the water forms into a whirlwind. Sends everything toppling to the floor or flying into walls. Water droplets spray through the air as Bellatrix dances at the eye of the storm, seemingly directing it with her mind alone. Her body. The water following her every movement.

Hermione ducks behind the smouldering sofa, peeking over it to watch. Knew it! Water powers!

Amelia Bones stumbles to her feet from the corner of the room and wipes at her face. “Argh! Oh I’m soaked, it’s freezing! It’s—Ms Lestrange, would you—”

“Come on, Bonesy, keep up. Bombarda maxima!”

The kitchen sink explodes, and even more water floods into the room. Hermione clambers onto the coffee table.

I’m on the table, so don’t come up here. Isn’t this enough? What if the poli — muggle aurors show up? There have been two explosions now

Hmm…true…

Bellatrix breaks into a sprint and splashes from the room, cackling with laughter. “Come and get me! Maybe I’ll have a little look through your bedroom. Borrow some pearls.”

There’s the sound of heavy feet on stairs.

“Don’t you even— Lestrange!” Bones runs after her as more laughter echoes from upstairs. Hermione looks around at the soggy chaos. Well. Wouldn’t hurt to…

She explodes an armchair with a grin, watching the stuffing burst and then float though the air.

It is fun.

 


 

They do end up in the bathroom, in the end. The head of Magical Law Enforcement sat tiredly and timidly on the edge of the bath. Bellatrix sat on the floor, leaning against a wall.

Hermione secretly in the doorway.

“I…so there’s no choice? It’s either…sleep until it’s over…or death?”

Bellatrix sighs. “Sorry. Fucking sucks, doesn’t it. Still. You won’t feel it. And if you get see Susan again…get to have a life, a life free of fear and hiding…”

She holds out a clear vial. “It’s your best choice. Trust me. I know.”

Amelia rubs at her face and laughs sadly. Exhaustedly. “I can’t believe I— why do I trust you? Helga’s hairpin, what am I doing? It’s logical. It’s rational. It’s…madness! Edgar always said I took reasoning too far. ‘You’ve reasoned yourself into a raisin, Mellie’, bet he’s laughing down at me right now. Drinking death from the hand of a Death Eater.”

She snatches the vial from Bellatrix’s hand. Takes off her bag and hands it to her. “Here. It will be suspicious if they find the photographs on me so…I don’t know what you plan to…”

Bellatrix stands up and swings the bag across herself. “I’ll keep it with you. After the funeral. I’m gonna have to dig up your coffin. No way around it. And rough you up a bit. And we don’t have long now.”

Madam Bones nods stiffly, and uncorks the vial.

Hermione holds a hand to her mouth. She’s doing it. Oh Lord she’s doing this. They’re doing this.

Madam Bones grits her teeth. “Okay. Alright. Here I— just— if this goes wrong, Lestrange, if I get buried alive for longer than— you’re going to get seriously haunted, I promise you that.”

Her hand is trembling. She’s deathly pale. Brave.

Bellatrix sits down next to her. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from the great Amelia Bones,” she says softly. Takes her other hand. “Go on now, Amelia. Time to go to sleep.”

And the witch’s eyes fall shut as she tips the potion into her mouth. Swallows, and lets out a sob, before slumping back into the bath.

Oh Merlin…

Bellatrix runs a hand over her face and through her hair with a sigh. “Okay pet. Out of the doorway with you. It’s time.”

She gets up and walks over to the door.

I can stay. I can—

Bellatrix pushes her out of the room, firmly but gently, and closes the door with a click.

Bella I—

There’s a thudding noise. Bangs and crashes. A horrible crunch.

And the sound of a mirror shattering.

A wet snap.

Hermione can’t help it. She covers her ears. Closes her eyes.

It’s alright, Bella. She can’t feel it. You’re saving her. Being kind

But I—it’s not— Hermione you don’t want to talk to me whilst—

You’re saving a life. He made you do this. It’s not real. Remember it’s not real. We’re going to heal her

The…the same as you did for me. I was asleep

Yes. Yes remember that. You didn’t feel anything, did you. Woke up right as rain and peeling oranges in mid-air

I was hungry when I woke up. We have to remember to— we need to ask Cissy

Bellatrix apparates into the hallway. “Are you still here?”

Hermione takes her hand. Of course. I wouldn’t leave you to do that alone. Sand and sea, remember? And now it’s my turn to help us

Bellatrix opens her mouth in question, but Hermione just apparates them straight home. Straight to the kitchen.

She casts a drying spell over Bellatrix. There. Now you need to get something to eat before he calls you back for a debrief. You haven’t eaten in…a while anyway

Hermione, what are you—

She lets go of Bellatrix’s hand, and apparates straight back to Bones’ house. Outside the bathroom. My turn. We have to keep track of her. Make sure they don’t…wizards don’t have autopsies but…I'll need to make sure...a few protection spells here and there...

What are autopsies? Where are you? What’s—

I’m watching over her. My turn to be called away on a mission. Your turn to rest and eat

But I don’t want you to see—

Bella. I’m tough. I lived through a war. Violence doesn’t scare me. You don’t scare me

Silence in her head. And then voices from downstairs. The police.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Three days later, and Hermione is stood next to Bellatrix in one of the spare bedrooms. Looking down at an unconscious Madam Bones on the bed.

“Well pet…at least it…the plan worked.”

Hermione just continues staring. Now that it’s over, it’s kind of just hitting her that—

“We have a body. In one of the bedrooms. A dead-looking body. We’re those witches. The ones with the corpse.”

Bellatrix cackles, and it morphs into a groan. “Oh gods you’re right. I’m definitely the mad aunt now. ‘Feel free to stay in the spare room, Draco. Don’t mind the body on the bed. She’s not dead, promise!’…I think we’ve crossed a new line, pet. This is strange even for us.”

Hermione clears her through. “And umm…Narcissa? The parcel?”

Bellatrix moves some hair out of Bones’ face and then tips a potion into her mouth. “More potions coming tomorrow. For now, she’s fine. Blood’s back to normal, and her bones are starting to heal back up. Won’t be long before the bruises fade away.”

Well. That’s…

She forces her eyes away. Too weird.

“Right then. I’m going to have…a very, very long shower.”

Bellatrix wiggles her eyebrows at her, and Hermione groans through a smile. “By myself! Honestly, Bella. We just dug up a— you know what? I don’t want to even think about it anymore. Shower and then bed.”

“…My room this time?”

Hermione smiles wider. “You don’t want your bed to yourself? Because I seem to remember falling off—”

Bellatrix straightens up and folds her arms. “I told you! I couldn’t breathe, it was a reflex!”

“I know. A reflex that had me flying onto the floor,” she chuckles. “You’re lucky my reflexes yelled out an arresto momentum.”

Bellatrix ducks her head. “I told you I— maybe you should sleep in your own bed. I don’t want to—”

Oh for Merlin’s—

Hermione grabs Bellatrix’s hand and drags them out of the room and towards a bathroom. “You need to get it out of your head that I’m fragile, Bella. I’m not some china doll that— I can handle falling off a bed. Honestly.” She rolls her eyes.

Bellatrix squawks. “I know you’re not weak! I just— you should be able to sleep without there being a chance of death! I’m dangerous!”

Hermione stops at the bathroom door. Turns around and leans in the doorway with a raised eyebrow and a smirk. “Well then. If you’re that dangerous, then tonight I’d better tie you to the bed.”

Bellatrix breathes in sharply. Eyes darkening.

And Hermione shuts the door in her face with a chuckle and a muttered colloportus.

“Wha— Hermione! Open the door!”

Hermione laughs to herself as she gets undressed. She hears a muttered alohomora and then a thud. And some cursing.

She may have modified the colloportus slightly. She’s had some time on her hands to read recently whilst watching over a dead body.

“Oh dear, can the dangerous Death Eater not open a door?” she grins, getting in the shower and whispering an incantation at the tiled floor in the centre of the room.

Three, two, one…

Bellatrix apparates into the room, spots her in the shower, and steps towards her.

And finds her arms bound to her sides and her feet stuck to the floor.

“What the fuck?!”

Hermione masks her expression and turns around. “Hmm? Oh that. Well. You want me to be safe, don’t you? And I may have gone from reading about grave digging…to burials…to Egyptian tombs. You know, booby traps. I’m sure I’ll remember the counter-curse soon.”

She closes her eyes and sighs into the spray of hot water. “I think I’ll take my time with this shower.”

A low chuckle echoes around her head. Well well, look who can take care of herself. There’s only one problem, pet

Oh? And what’s that?

You want me to take care of you

Oh fuck. When she says— does she mean—

And you don’t want me to take care of you, Bella? You wouldn’t like that?

Heavy breathing in her head. Which means she’s sending the sound through the thread on purpose.

Trying too hard there, Bellatrix.

Silence. Maybe a change of tact is on the way.

And then a sharp breath in her head. Will you take care of me, pet? I’ve taken care of myself for far too long

Not listening. Showering. In control of this situation.

A moan. Oh! Oh Hermione, please!

Hermione clenches her thighs and fights to steady her breathing. Oh the manipulative— well. She’s not letting that distract her from her shower.

She ignores the breathing as it continues, and rubs some shampoo into her hair.

Yes! Hermione I— fuck I want to touch you so badly

Oh sweet Merlin. She—no! She’s faking! She just wants to get out of the trap. Prove she’s smarter. You won’t be tempted by this. Ignore the breathing. And the groaning.

I can’t I— fuck, the ache. I need you

Hermione tuts. Continues washing herself, back still turned.

I’ve taken off my dress

Now Hermione does pause. What? How? Her arms are trapped to her sides.

She washes the conditioner out of her hair and turns around. Empty room.

Bella…where are you?

A groan. On my bed. Come and find me before I come by myself

Oh fuck. Holy fucking—

And pet? Her voice pants.

Hermione takes a shaky step out of the shower.

Yes?

…Next time, don’t use my own books to trap me

 


 

Bellatrix is still asleep when Hermione wakes up. Which is rather unusual. For once they went to bed at a sensible time, so it’s not like her to be lazing about in bed. Too much energy. Once she’s awake, she’s awake.

But she’s not. She’s in a dead sleep. Mouth open. It’s kind of funny.

And also…

Hermione doesn’t really want to admit it, but it’s nice so see her…less than perfect. Not that— not that there’s anything wrong with sleeping with your mouth open. Not that the witch isn’t beautiful. And not that Bellatrix doesn’t have flaws.

Because gods, does this witch have…complications. A very shaky past. Some actions that…

Anyway. That isn’t the point right now. Isn’t the reason that Hermione is feeling a little…

Hermione has always been rather insecure. Felt like she was lacking in social skills and in…just the general ability to navigate the world. And then she went from one socially awkward world to another. And the new one, whilst giving her a reason for why she was different…in some ways set her even further apart from her peers.

All she had was her brain, and her books. And not many people appreciate books. Not her friends, anyway.

But—

Oh gods it’s so horrible but—

Hermione is the smart one. How can— who is she, if Bellatrix is always one step ahead? Has always read the same amount as her or more? She’s just too—

She knows more, and she’s read more. And she can read people, and deceive people. She’s the best fighter. The best attacker and the best defender. Can change her eyes and move the sea. Can read Hermione’s every thought at a glance and—

A small voice in Hermione’s head just keeps on whispering that…

Bellatrix loves Hermione because she’s a kind, decent person who helped her and showed her love. That’s it. Maybe the first person to be consistently good and nice and kind to her. To promise not to hurt her. Other than that…what does Hermione have?

She isn’t the smart one anymore…so who is she?

Oh Merlin and now she’s crying. Stop it, Hermione. Now you’re useless and crying.

What can— she misses her friends. She misses— oh gods. It’s awful but, she misses feeling superior. Saying something clever.

But also she just misses them. She could really do with a hug from Harry right now. A laugh with Ginny. A side eye when Luna says something profoundly strange. A shared look of surprise when Ron says something emotionally intelligent.

Maybe…

Tomorrow is Harry’s birthday. Maybe she could just— just go to the burrow and watch. Just for a few minutes. It won’t be the same, seeing them so young. She won’t be able to talk to them, let alone the real Harry. Adult Harry. This Ginny is only fourteen…

She wipes at her eyes. Right. There’s no use spiralling into self-pity. Think. What do you actually need?

Validation. Praise. It’s what you’ve always craved.

Someone to tell you who you are.

Well then. There’s only one person to ask.

She lies back down, and gently shakes Bellatrix’s arm.

Bella. Bella wake up, I need you

And Bellatrix jolts awake with a start. “What is it? What’s wrong? Why—”

She freezes as she looks at Hermione. Reaches out and wipes at Hermione’s cheek. Still damp. And the witch’s eyes widen in horror.

Oh. Oh she forgot for a moment how much Bellatrix cares about her. Oh no, more tears.

“Hermione? What’s wrong? Did I— did I hurt you?”

Oh she is just so sweet and—

Hermione hugs her. Curls into her. No. No you didn’t do anything. I’m just—

She breaks off. What can she say? How can she explain without sounding pathetic?

Then what is it? Why are you upset? Tell me what to do

Hermione chuckles wetly. She would if she could. Well she could, but…

I…I don’t know who I am. I’m feeling a bit lost. Can you tell me who I am?

Strong arms wrap around her.

…You’re Hermione Granger

Hermione laughs against Bellatrix’s neck and pulls away. “Okay, no, forget it. I’m fine. Honestly. It was just a— a moment or something. I’m not—”

She sits up against the pillows and wipes at her eyes once more. And then feels Bellatrix climb into her lap, straddling her. Of course.

She moves her hands away, and Bellatrix’s face fills her vision. Arms come around her neck, and wild curls block the edge of the room from view.

Bellatrix’s dark eyes dart over her face in intense concentration. As if trying to solve the most important question in the universe. “You’re…”

She shakes her head with a sigh. “You’re warmth…after a long time in the cold. A flame in the dark. Something to hold you steady when the world is spinning. So…you’re the sun, I suppose.”

Oh. Oh that’s so beautiful. Oh now Hermione’s crying again.

She throws her arms around Bellatrix. “I— but Bella, you’re warm. You’re a brilliant burning flame. You’re the one who’s always standing steady. Holding me up. How can— you’re so smart, and kind, and funny and— how could I ever be as amazing as you are? No one’s like you. No one’s as wonderful as you. That’s why I—”

Oh.

Hermione slowly pulls back…and looks up at Bellatrix. Oh.

Bellatrix is smiling at her. So softly. So, so—

She cups Hermione’s face. Brushes some stray hair from her eyes, and wipes the tears from her cheeks. Looks into her eyes. “You, Hermione Granger, are the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. No one is like you. No one could ever compare. And that’s why I love you.”

Love. She loves her. She does love her. She actually said it. She actually—

I Promise. I love you. I mean it

A startled laugh escapes Hermione’s lips. And then she just smiles. She can’t stop smiling. Can’t stop looking at Bellatrix. The most brilliant witch in the world loves her.

“I love you too, Bella. How could I not? You just— I’ve loved you for…you make me love you more and more every day. Every time I think I couldn’t possibly love you more…you do something else that surprises me. Another reason to love you. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve thought about how incredible you are.”

And at this Bellatrix seems to freeze. Doesn’t know what to do with herself. Almost looks like she wants to hide. Why? Why hide something so beautiful?

“I— that’s not— I mean I— you’re the one that—”

Hermione can’t help but laugh again. Oh the poor witch. She can’t even speak.

She takes pity on her, and leans forwards to kiss her. Steadies her stuttering mouth with a firm kiss.

It’s true, Bella. I Promise. I mean it. And I’m going to keep saying it until you believe me

Lips part, and then a hot moan vibrates against her mouth. Fuck I love you. Hermione fucking Granger. Don’t you dare for one second think that you’re not…

Oh. Oh her mouth is so hot it burns.

Bellatrix takes a sharp breath. You’re incredible. Impossible. A witch who fell back in time and found me. You’ve amazed me from the moment I met you. I met you and I fell, can you remember?

And with that, Bellatrix falls backwards onto the bed, pulling Hermione with her.

I met you, and you were a mystery. A puzzle I thought I knew the answer to. And then at every turn, you changed the game

She spreads her legs and then wraps them around Hermione. Raises her arms over her head and exposes her throat. Offers herself up. Hermione can barely breathe.

I thought you would run from me…and you froze. I thought you were a child, but you were a woman. I thought you would cower, and you fooled me. Drugged me. Managed to control me

Hermione cautiously brushes her lips over a pale throat, dumbstruck.

I had to solve you. Came after you. Wanted answers. And you were invincible. Shielded. My magic nothing against you. You were powerful

Hermione swallows. And that…scared you?

Yes. I had to get out. I was terrified. My world shattering around me. But what was more terrifying, was that I was drawn to you. Enticed by you. Persuaded by you. You showed me the truth. The future. The path I was choosing. And you wanted to fix it. To fix me. You believed that we could fix it, together

Oh. Oh so that’s what she was thinking. But—

But you hated me then. You knew who I was. I wasn’t impossible, I was Hermione Granger

Bellatrix chuckles. Yes. Yes, I hated you. I was scared of you. I…was scared of muggles. I’m still scared of muggles. But when has fear or hatred completely stopped me? Stopped me figuring something out? I had to know everything. And then I did. I couldn’t hold myself back. I saw everything about you

About…Hermione? She hadn’t just been watching for Voldemort? For information about Harry?

Why? You thought I— you thought I was disgusting

You came to me powerless. With no guises or tricks. No magic or weapon. And wanted my help. To save the world. You chose me to be a saviour. And deep down…that’s what I’ve always tried to be. It was as if you trusted me. I wanted to know why. What you saw in me that I could no longer see in myself

The brave little girl…

Gods she has to kiss her now. Presses down on top of her until their bodies slot together and searches out her lips. Kisses her deeply as lips part happily beneath hers.

A contented sigh. And then I realised that you weren’t weak. That you were never weak. That you knew things I would never understand, and would offer them up freely, without a care in the world, with a smile and a soft touch. I wasn’t the saviour. I was being saved

Bellatrix’s mouth opens wider to her, and Hermione takes the opportunity to explore it. She never has long enough, normally, with the witch too busy with her own curious tongue.

A saviour. Hermione was never the saviour. That was Harry. She was just…the sensible one. The rational one. It was just logic. Reasoning. You were strong, and determined, and always fought for what you wanted. Once I knew you wanted to save the world, I just followed along. I was just a pensieve to back up your ideas. To keep us on track. Same as always

The legs tighten around her, and then arms too. A whimper escapes Bellatrix’s lips, and it’s the most beautiful sound.

No. No it wasn’t logic. Wasn’t reason. Wasn’t cold. Logically I didn’t deserve kindness. I didn’t deserve your— you treated me like a friend. You comforted me when I was frightened and lost in the dark. You cared about me…almost from the moment I left your head. The first thing you did, for this monster that crept into your brain and violated your every thought…was get me a glass of water. You were thirsty, so you knew I was too. And you cared for me without thinking. That’s who you are. You’re good

Has Bellatrix never known kindness? Does she really still think she’s a monster? She needs to— Hermione definitely needs to—

She pulls back and looks into Bellatrix’s eyes, surprised at how glazed they are. How…

You weren’t a monster in my head. Not really. That’s why I cared. You surprised me. I thought you were going to be a monster…but you were funny. Curious. Chatty. Your voice was a comfort as I watched some of the darkest parts of my life. Your voice chased the darkness away. That’s why I saw you as a…a friend. A trusted companion

Bellatrix squeezes her eyes shut. Gods Hermione, touch me. Take off my clothes. Show me how good you are. Find the goodness in me

She— fuck, Hermione still doesn’t quite understand what’s going through Bellatrix’s head right now. But if vulnerability is now some kind of turn on then—

Vulnerability…and…

Are they really that similar? Praise?

Well. Time to find out. She looks down at Bellatrix. A black nightdress, so…

She crawls back and pushes the dress up Bellatrix’s legs. Bella sit up and take this off for me. I want to see you.

Bellatrix slowly sits up. Her hands coming to the bottom of the nightdress. You’ll teach me how to be good? You’ll show me? The dress comes off over her head and is thrown to the floor. Fuck. Gods she— every time is—

She crawls back on top of her. You’re already good, Bella. You’re so good. You don’t need me to teach you. You love so hard. Your love is beautiful

Bellatrix shudders against the sheets. Yes, yes I love you so much, Hermione, kiss me

Hermione kisses her neck. Her chest. But not her lips. Bellatrix is right, it’s so good to hear all the noises. My burning sun. Because you are a sun, Bella. You’re a sun too, a star. Just like me. We’re the same, Bellatrix

Bellatrix falls still. And then sits up on her elbows. The same? Look at me

And Hermione does. Stills her mouth and looks—oh.

A crooked nose. A blackened eye. Scars.

I’m full of darkness. So much I had to hide it. So much that my scars spilled out and onto you.

She finds Hermione’s scar. Runs her finger over it. And then sits up properly.

“I’ve— I’ve been desperately hoping that— but I’m too scared to try because if I’m wrong—”

She isn’t even looking at Hermione anymore. Ashamed. Gaze lowered.

Hermione pulls the bedding up and wraps it around Bellatrix’s shoulders. She has no idea what she’s talking about, but maybe this is too much vulnerability at once.

“What is it, Bella? Tell me. Whatever it is, we can figure it out together.”

Bellatrix pulls the bedding more firmly around her, and her eyes come up. “If…if I’m going to pretend to hurt people from now on…then…does that mean…did I really hurt you? Is—”

She runs her thumb over Hermione’s arm. “Did I do this…is there one of me, or two? Did I always love you…or did this happen in a world where you never saved me?”

Oh. Oh she doesn’t know. That’s quite the…

But before they…

Hermione clears her throat. “I don’t know. I’d like to know that too, but before we— there’s something I need to tell you. Something about the thread that Leagore told me and— that I should have told you a few days ago when I found out.”

Bellatrix’s features flicker and then morph back into her usual form. “What is it? You kept a secret from me?”

Oh no. Oh please don’t be upset. She hadn’t meant to—

“I didn’t mean to keep it a secret. There’s just been so much happening and— and I don’t even know if it’s true. But I think it is. I want it to be true. And it makes sense, it— it might just be a story but it— remember the Chinese story, Bella? People destined to meet and change one another? Soulmates joined by an invisible, invincible thread?”

“Yes— Yes is that—”

“And do you know the Greek myth of soulmates? Of everyone having another half? That the gods tore them apart, but everyone has a lost half a soul somewhere in the world?”

Bellatrix’s eyes widen, and then she nods.

Of course. Bookworm.

Hermione wraps her arms around Bellatrix. “Leagore said, that you’re my other half. My half a soul. That we were split apart, and the thread is our blood, connecting us. She said that together we’re whole. That we were made for each other. Soulmates.”

Bellatrix freezes.

“And the thread is— she said it doesn’t pull. Doesn’t make us do anything. That the reason we found it, found each other, is because we were strong. Saw each other and worked together. You saved me from drowning because you were good. Not because of the thread.”

“Half a soul…” Bellatrix whispers. “And I’m not— I’m not the bad half?”

What?!

No no no

She presses kisses over every part of Bellatrix she can reach. No! No, Bella, we’re one soul. Everything you are, I am. We’re the same, remember? Loyal, kind bookworms who do everything we fucking can to figure things out and protect the people we love. Including each other. I love you. You got stuck on the wrong path, but I’ve found you. Whatever you have done, I forgive you, and I understand. I understand how for a moment you lost the fight. You’re allowed to lose a fight, Bellatrix. No one can be strong all the time. Not even you, the strongest, bravest little girl there ever was

Bellatrix lets out a sharp sob and shakes against Hermione.

And then suddenly pulls back. Crawls backwards off Hermione and accios her nightdress from the floor with a wave of her hand. Pulls it back on over her head. What is— did she say something wrong or—

Bellatrix looks around, frowning, and then tips herself off the end of the bed, headfirst, reaching around under it. What the—

“Aha! Accio wand!”

Oh for the—

Hermione runs her hands through her hair with a smile. Right.

“Bella? Come on, tell me what you’re up to.”

Bellatrix settles in front of her, legs crossed, with a grin. “Come on, pet. Let’s find out who I am. How many of me there are. Because I’m seriously hoping there’s two so I can hop universes and yell at her for hurting you.”

Hermione barks out a laugh. “Or maybe that there’s one, and you’ve secretly loved me this whole time?”

Now Bellatrix laughs. “See! Either way! We should definitely have a closer look at your head. And…”

She raises her wand, suddenly serious. “And Crookshanks, remember? And don’t forget that I love you, whatever this other bitch does.”

Hermione nods. Come on, soulmate. Come into my mind

Bellatrix gasps. What? She knows they’re soulmates. Hermione just said—

Bellatrix lowers her wand. “Why did I never think of…”

What? What is it?

…can I follow the thread into your head too?

Oh.

Try it. Just…tug at it, like with the call, but keep going

She puts her wand down on the bed, takes Hermione’s hand, and Hermione feels a pulling in her mind.

She closes her eyes. Oh.

Oh this is confusing. It’s like legilimency…but she’s in two places at once. She knows she’s on the bed, but also…

I’m going to take us to the Manor, alright pet? I’m going to…see all your memories of the Manor in case there’s a—

And they’re tied tightly to Harry and Ron in Malfoy Manor.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

They’re in the parlour room. Stood on the— on that dark floor and tied to Harry and Ron. In the—

It’s alright, pet. You’re not really here. You’re on my bed, with me, remember?

Hermione cautiously focuses on— Yes. Yes, she can feel the sheets under her. Can feel a hand in hers.

Okay.

And Hermione is spun around, the light of the chandelier shining in her eyes and then blocked by a growling Greyback. “What about the mudblood then?”

Oh no. Oh he looks hungry, salivating. Ugh his teeth are disgusting as he leans close to Hermione and—

“Wait,” Narcissa’s clipped voice calls out sharply.

He pulls back.

“Yes— Yes, she was in Madam Malkin’s with Potter. I saw her picture in the Prophet. Look, Draco, isn’t it the Granger girl?” Narcissa says…excitedly? In surprise?

What? Your sister knows who I am. She knew my name from the moment she saw me with you at the cottage

Bellatrix gasps. Cissy’s protecting you. How is— she must know— oh. Oh that means this is the same timeline. There isn’t two of me. It was me the whole time

Oh goodness. Oh so— so Bellatrix was secretly with an older Hermione the whole time that—

The parlour door opens, and Bellatrix walks in.

I look…tired. Fuck, the war wasn’t kind on me. Not as bad as Azkaban but—

“What is this? What happened, Cissy?”

Bellatrix stalks slowly around the prisoners, eyes heavy as she focuses on each of them. And carries on past Ron and Harry to stare straight at Hermione. Right into her eyes.

Are you sure you’re acting, Bella? Can you tell?

I don’t know…I seem…calmer than usual. Maybe. Can’t seem to stop looking at you though, pet

Hermione chuckles as the Bellatrix before them leans in close to her, murmurs to Narcissa even as she gazes at Hermione. You’ve always been rather intense. Now you know what it feels like

Do you think you’re here too? The older you? Invisible in the corner?

Oh. Maybe. Quite likely, actually. She wouldn’t leave Bellatrix to do this alone. Anyway, she needs to concen—

“Potter?!” Bellatrix shouts, stepping back from Hermione to get a better look at Harry.

And the calm is gone Bellatrix jokes with a chuckle. Bring on the madness

And she’s right. Bellatrix and Lucius begin squabbling over who will call Voldemort, Lucius stopping her from reaching her finger to her arm. To the Mark.

Does he seriously think he’s stopping you? You could petrify him in an instant if you wanted to

I know. Pathetic. I must be acting. And look at Cissy sneaking over to Draco. What’s she whispering to him about?

Oh. Oh I wish we could walk over and weren’t stuck in my body

Sorry pet, if you didn’t hear it, we can’t. But it’s a very nice body to be stuck in. Still a bit too young but—

Bella! Stop it! We need to concentrate on—

On me stupefying some idiots?

Oh right. All of the snatchers are unconscious on the floor. And Bellatrix is pressing the sword of Gryffindor into Greyback’s throat. Gosh, she forgot how quickly Bellatrix took them all down. It’s impressive.

You’re such an amazing fighter, Bella. Three of them down and a werewolf at your mercy

Confusion spreads through her mind. What? What is it?

Nothing…I…I just thought…it wasn’t fast enough. I must be distracted

What?! Not fast enough?! It happened in an instant!

Bellatrix looks…bored? Isn’t she supposed to be terrified?

“Draco, move this scum outside. If you haven’t got the guts to finish them, then leave them in the courtyard for me,” she sighs.

And Narcissa storms forward. Furious. Teeth clenched in anger. “Don’t you dare speak to Draco like—”

“Be quiet!” Bellatrix shrieks. “The situation is graver than you can possibly imagine, Cissy. We have a serious problem!”

Oh no no no stop shouting, don’t scream. That voice. She forgot that Bellatrix sounded so—

Hush, pet. It’s okay. It’s alright. It’s all an act. Don’t you recognise Cissy’s angry face? Where’s the storm, if I was really scared?

Oh. Oh of course. If Narcissa was angry she’d be still. Quiet. If Bellatrix was scared about Voldemort, then—

“The prisoners must be placed in the cellar while I think what to do,” Bellatrix simpers shrilly.

“This is my house, Bella. You don’t give orders in my—”

Accidental magic bursts from Bellatrix’s wand, fire burning a hole in the rug. “Do it! You have no idea of the danger we are in!”

She looks scared. Terrified. Mad.

Narcissa nods, and turns to sneer at Greyback. “Take these prisoners down to the cellar, Greyback.”

Hermione chuckles. Still has to be the one giving the orders

Always has. She’s been ordering me around since she was three. Too cute for her own good

Greyback grabs them roughly. Or rather grabs Hermione roughly. Tugs her along by her top, uncomfortably close to her—

“Wait!” Bellatrix calls out sharply. “All except…except for the mudblood.”

Hermione can feel the fear from her past-self, but inside she’s grinning.

You’re protecting me! He was touching me and— and you hesitated before saying mudblood

Course I’m protecting you. Couldn’t leave it all to Cissy. I’ll always protect you

And then Bellatrix pulls out her knife to cut past-Hermione free from the ropes. Oh no.

Hermione takes a steadying breath, pulling out of the memory slightly to squeeze Bellatrix’s hand, back on the bed, and then returning.

You okay, pet?

Yes. Yes, I— it’s fine. You’re saving me. You’re not—

She’s dragged by the hair onto the floor. Oh but it hurts. Ow it—

A jolt of surprise in her head. Ow, fuck, why did I do that? I could have just grabbed your arm or—

Bellatrix slams her onto the floor. “Where did you get the sword? Tell me!” she practically spits in her face.

Oh no. Oh no.

Hermione. Hermione I’m sorry I—

“I— I don’t know! We found it! We just found it in a lake it was—”

“Lies!” Bellatrix growls. “You dare lie to me, filth? Crucio!”

Ah! No no no the pain. It hurts. It just hurts. Bella. Hermione it—

Bella make it stop!

I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I—

“Crucio!”

She can’t breathe. Can’t breathe and—

Wait!

Everything freezes.

So dark and cold and…and…a hand? Someone’s holding her hand?

It’s me. I’m holding your hand, it’s me

Bella?

A sigh. Yes. Yes, I need you to be strong and open your eyes

She takes a deep breath, and wrenches her eyes open. Oh. She’s being pulled across the room by the hair again.

This…this already happened. You want to watch it again?

A hand squeezes hers. We don’t have to…but…Hermione. I don’t think it’s real. I think it’s…a fake memory. Been tampered with.

Oh.

Not real?

How…how do you know? It…it felt real…

Bellatrix sighs again. I know. I felt it too. It was horrible. I’m so sorry I—

Bellatrix clears her throat. I make the wrong wand movement

What?

I say crucio…but my wand does something else. Something I don’t recognise but…it’s like we practiced. Say one thing, but do another

Oh. So it’s a false memory? Can you…can you find the real one?

Silence.

I just need to…a trigger. What…what would I have…

You would have said something kind. You would have— oh! See if you say my name. Say Hermione. You never would have called me that unless—

Brilliant! Yes. Yes okay, so same scenario, different name. Let’s see…

There’s some strange tugging in her brain, and then the scene flickers. Gets sharper.

Aha! Okay. Okay let’s see what I really did. Are you ready?

Yes. Yes, show me.

And they’re being dragged to the floor once more, Bellatrix’s snarling face filling their vision.

“Lucy, why don’t you go and see what Draco’s up to out there. If he doesn’t have the balls to kill them then I doubt you will, but we don’t want them running off, and I need to have a little chat with the mudblood.”

“You dare tell me what to—”

“Lucius, dear, please check on Draco. He may need your guidance, and if our Lord is soon to arrive…” Narcissa says softly.

And the sounds of footsteps leaving the room before a door slams shut.

Lucius wasn’t there? He didn’t see? And Draco…yes of course Draco wasn’t there. How did I not realise? He left before—

Bellatrix shoves her down on the floor, straddling her so she can’t sit up. “Where did you get the sword? Tell me!” she shouts.

Bella, are you sure this isn’t—

“I— I don’t know! We found it! We just found it in a lake it was—”

“Lies!” Bellatrix growls. “You dare lie to me, filth? Crucio!”

And a gut-wrenching scream fills the air.

But not from Hermione.

Narcissa is the one screaming in pain.

“Hermione! Hermione!” Ron’s voice comes from far below.

It was Narcissa? What did you—

I cast a silencio on you! It was fucking Cissy this whole time!

Hermione feels her past-self try to speak, looking at Bellatrix in confusion. Who smiles mischevously at her. “Tell me! Tell me how you got into my vault! Crucio!”

Narcissa screams once more, and the scene…blurs. Doubles.

That must be the memory charm being put in place. I’m a fucking genius

Hermione chuckles. My idea

Bellatrix scoffs. And look how masterfully I’m—

Can you hear me, Hermione?

What? Of course she can hear her.

Who the fuck was— oh. I’m talking to past-you in your mind? Why? I’m giving you a false memory anyway

“I’m going to ask you again. Where did you get the sword? Where?” Bellatrix growls.

“We found it! We found it! Please!” Narcissa screams in terror, voice high and young and desperate.

She’s so convincing. She sounds just like me. Do you think it’s part of her metamorphing? Does she know she can do it?

Don’t think so. Although Cissy has so many secrets I—

Hello? Mrs Lestrange? How…what’s happening? A young shaky voice asks.

Bellatrix’s mischievous smile softens. Hello, Hermione. It’s alright, love. I know this doesn’t make any sense, but it will. It will when you— oh. And hello Hermione and Bella. So you’ve found the memory. Did I surprise you? Did Cissy?

What?! This is too strange.

I’m fucking talking to myself. Nutter. Gods I’m such a Know it All

And Bellatrix pulls out her knife.

No no no. Not this. Not again.

She slowly pulls up Hermione’s sleeve. Don’t be scared. It won’t hurt, I promise

Okay. Okay it—

“Crucio!” Bellatrix yells.

Narcissa screams, and a numb feeling washes over Hermione’s arm.

The Bellatrix crouched over her leans in to whisper in her ear. “Like a local anaesthetic. You won’t feel it. Like at a hospital. Just don’t look.”

Local anaesthetic?! When did you learn about that?!

I haven’t! Well not yet. Doctors numb you with something called anaesthetic? Oh. Oh bollocks time travel is confusing. Did I just learn that from myself?

I…what are you going to do to me? Why are you—are you pretending to hurt me? Why? Past-Hermione whispers cautiously.

Bellatrix gently pushes Hermione’s head to face away from her arm. She must be cutting into her, but she’s right. They can’t feel anything. As promised.

She’s still very close though. Right on top of Hermione, hair falling around them and close enough to whisper. “You know what you did to your parents? To keep them safe?”

A sudden fear fills Hermione as her past-self panics.

How did you know? What—

“Sshh. It’s alright. They’re safe. Nobody else knows. It’s just— I’m protecting you, the same way you protected them,” Bellatrix whispers, and then pulls back.

“You are lying, filthy mudblood, and I know it! You’ve been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, tell the truth!” she shrieks. And then winks.

Remember that, love. Gringotts. Go have a nosy around

Gringotts? What…you want me to go in your vault?

Narcissa walks into view. A bored expression on her face. And screams in agony.

The Bellatrix in their head snorts. Such a sense of humour, Cissy

And then Narcissa’s voice whispers into their head. Enjoying the show, Bella? Yes. Yes, I know you’re in there too. And Miss Granger, of course

Oh there are just too many voices now to—

Mrs Malfoy? You’re…you’re a legilimens too? And who— why—

Questions, questions, questions. Bella, the girl is just like you

Well of course she has a lot of questions! Past-Hermione must be confused out of her mind!

“What else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth, or I swear I shall run you through with this knife!” Bellatrix growls, knife forgotten on the floor.

The knife…do you still have it, Bella? I haven’t seen it in…since the cottage

I…I know how much you…I took it out of my purse. Left it in my wardrobe. So I wouldn’t accidentally scare you

Oh.

Thank you. But you might have to start carrying it around again now that—

Bellatrix leans closer again, and Narcissa screams some more. Painfully now. Raw and desperate and crying.

“We need your help now, Hermione— what else did you take, what else?! Answer me! Crucio!— Lucius is coming back, so you’re going to have to pretend. Tell me the sword’s a copy. Act scared. Like Cissy did, alright? Just whilst I finish the memory charm.”

Memory charm? Oh. So I won’t remember. You want me to think— you’re pretending to hurt me. Even to me

Such a bright witch. Yes. Yes, I’ll lift the silencio, alright? Just trust us. Please

And the doors slam open as Lucius and Draco walk into the room.

“How did you get into my vault?” Bellatrix snarls, eyes crazed. “Did that dirty little goblin in the cellar help you?”

And from under her ducked head she surreptitiously points her wand at Hermione, cancelling the silencio.

“We only met him tonight!” Hermione shouts shakily, and Bellatrix nods. “We’ve never been inside your vault…”

Well done. Keep going. It’s a copy

“It isn’t the real sword. It’s a copy! Just a copy!”

Bellatrix scoffs. And then screeches. “A copy?! Oh a likely story.”

“But we can find out easily!” comes Lucius’ voice. “Draco, fetch the goblin. He can tell us whether the sword is real or not!”

Fast footsteps as Draco makes an escape, and Narcissa begins a murmured conversation with Lucius.

And Bellatrix frowns in concentration, before giving a sharp nod and making a complicated wand movement.

There we are. This will all be forgotten now love, I’m sorry. And it’s going to knock you out a bit. Just remember I…

And her words blur out as everything turns foggy and grey. Sleepy. She can’t think. She just wants to close her eyes and—

And they’re falling onto Bellatrix’s bed.

Oh.

“So…it was all…you made it up. Recreated the whole thing and…and you didn’t hurt me. You told me what— I helped you to—”

“You didn’t even scream. You never even— we did it. I didn’t hurt you I—”

Hermione shakily sits up. Stares at her arm. So it…it was mental torture this whole time. Not physical. She was shaky from the memory charm and the thought of it, not…

It was all fake? She never had to be scared?

And of course it was all mental. Everyone knows that Bellatrix— she uses crucio. Tortured people mentally, not physically. Taunts them and baits them and…

“But…then where on earth did the original idea to cut me come from? How did you…have the memory of…my memory of…a fake memory that you made. Based on a fake memory. Why do I have this fucking scar?”

She looks up at Bellatrix, who is…crying?

No no no no

Bella, Bella what’s wrong?

Hermione. Hermione I was so scared that— but you’re okay. I can’t believe— I thought I’d hurt you. I was your— your worst fear and—but I still caused you so much pain. Why did I— I’m sorry I—

She crawls forwards and grabs Hermione’s arm, clearing her throat. “Why did I do this? Why did I ever— did I…I think…you can’t get rid of it? Nothing gets rid of it?”

Hermione tucks some hair behind Bellatrix’s ears and wipes the tears from her cheeks. “No,” she whispers. “No, it won’t go away.”

Bellatrix nods, and lies down on her stomach, bringing the arm close to her face to look at it closely. At the scar. “Maybe…if I’m not mad then…then what’s the method to the madness? There must be a— a different perspective.”

A different…

But what other…

Oh. “Tiggy?”

Bellatrix looks up with a start, and Tiggy appears.

“Yes, Miss Hermione? Is you…is yous both alright?” Tiggy looks them both over with squinted eyes. Oh. They are both quite tearful.

“Yes. Yes, we’re fine we— do you know anything about this scar? Do you notice anything…unusual?”

She moves around to sit on the edge of the bed and show them.

Tiggy looks at it. And then looks at Bellatrix. And rubs their chin.

“Tiggy is allowed to be touching this?”

Hermione smiles, and feels Bellatrix’s chin rest on her shoulder to watch curiously. “Yes, yes it’s fine.”

Tiggy runs their finger over the word. And chuckles. “Oh there is being something unusual, yes.”

Really?!

Bellatrix shifts excitedly behind her, almost pushing her off the bed. “What is it, Tiggy? Tell us! Right now!”

Tiggy smiles. “Is being some kind of message, Mistress. Tiggy is not being able to read this, but is recognising this. Oh yes. Is being a message in mermish.”

What?! Mermish?!

She turns around to gape at Bellatrix. “You speak mermish?! What does it say?!”

“No! No, I never learnt mermish. I must learn it later. In the future. I— I thought about it, but I never had the time and— do you speak it?”

Hermione scoffs. “You’re the one that’s a mermaid! I learnt the basic phonetics once over a fishing rights dispute, but then they refused to meet in person and I got a translator to—”

She stares down at her arm. Hidden mermish? “Where, Tiggy? Which symbols?”

Tiggy tuts. “Is not being looking! Is being listening. Feeling. No, the word is just being making you look. Making you remember.”

Bellatrix jumps off the bed and starts rifling through her wardrobe, before throwing something at Hermione. A wetsuit. Ah.

“Back to the lake? Before breakfast?”

Bellatrix turns around with a whine. “Breakfast? But there’s a secret message! On your arm!”

Hmm…well…she is curious. And—

Her stomach growls.

Bellatrix groans. “Fine. Breakfast. But then the lake.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

They eat a very quick breakfast. So quick that Hermione has to cast more than one anapneo spell to stop Bellatrix choking, and is still chewing a mouthful of toast as she pulls on her wetsuit. Batting away Bellatrix’s ‘helpful’ hands. In the end she sends her off to get the potions from the owl, and make sure the Bones in the bed is taken care of. Because they have a joke about that now. Bones in the bed.

What a strange life you lead, Hermione.

This is exciting though, she has to admit. Mermish. On her arm, this whole time. What had future Bellatrix decided to write?

Bellatrix appears in the bedroom with a whirl of black smoke. “Bones are taken care of. Cissy’s bugging me about more occlumency lessons but that can fucking wait. We’re leaving right now— uhh, if you’re ready.”

Hermione folds her arms. “You’re ignoring the occlumency lessons? Bella. The timeline. Draco has to be able to guard his mind. Especially seeing as he knows about you and— well he doesn’t know it’s me, but if He sees that you— are you sure I shouldn’t go by myself?”

Bellatrix pouts. “But the message! I’m the one who wrote it! Can’t I— and we don’t even know the timeline anymore! If I was with you this whole time…maybe I did go! How else would I know what to write?”

Oh. Oh it’s even more confusing now. But…

“And if it was you the whole time…and we had this conversation…do you think we would have ignored Draco, or protected him? From a Dark Lord. Who’ll be living in his house next year?”

Bellatrix collapses back on the bed with a groan and covers her eyes. “Fine. Just go. I can’t look, just disappear and— stupid fucking Dark Lord. No, you know what? Tom fucking Riddle. He’s the meddling old coot. If he’d just stay out of my nephew’s head— everybody’s head, then...”

Hermione can’t quite believe it. Tom Riddle? She knew that— but to hear it. How is—

You…you’re okay, Bella? This isn’t too…

No! It’s fucking weird. But I need to get over the fact that I worshipped a narcissistic lunatic for twenty years

“A very charismatic, intelligent and powerful narcissistic lunatic who fooled everyone he ever met into worshipping him too,” she whispers, sitting down on the bed.

“Not Dumbledore. I wasn’t as clever as Dumbledore,” Bellatrix mumbles from under her hands.

Oh this is perfect.

Hermione grins. “You’re a hundred times cleverer than Dumbledore. And about a billion times more fuckable.”

The hands fall away. Bellatrix is grinning too. “I am, aren’t I?” She laughs. And then groans. “Stop putting fucking in my head right before I see Draco! He’s going to think I’m some kind of nymphomaniac— ha! I am a nymph. And a maniac. Oh gods I’m delirious, just go! I can’t shut up!”

Hermione chuckles. “You started it. Now you’re going to have to talk to Draco about Dumbledore without—”

“I know, I know it’s a nightmare! At least Cissy won’t be peeking into my head. She never does if she can help it. Too scared of the dark.”

Scared of the dark?

I didn’t think Narcissa was scared of anything. The dark?

Can’t see in the dark. Can’t read people. Things can surprise you

Oh. Oh she sometimes forgets that…

Bella…was Narcissa…did they…no. No, I’m sorry. It’s really not my business, and you shouldn’t have to think about—

Bellatrix sits up tiredly. Rests her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands. “It’s okay to ask. In a way it’s— I can finally tell someone. I don’t have to keep it all locked away and— and I— I think—they might have hurt her. But not as much. Because of what she does. Manipulates people. She showed them the face they wanted to see. Every time.”

Hermione puts an arm around her. “And she had you…”

Bellatrix leans against her. “Not as much as I would have liked,” she whispers. “She’s younger, remember? She…when I left for Hogwarts…she was five. Then Andy looked out for her for a year but…then it was her first year at Hogwarts too. Cissy was alone with them for five whole years. I came home every Christmas. At Easter, and there was the summer but…do you see now? Can you see why…why she has to…”

Yes. Yes it makes complete sense. Read people. Fast. Read their minds, and their moods, and what they want. Show them the face they want and cover the rest of you in ice. So nothing will get in. Never let your guard down. Don’t let people in.

And no more orders. She’s followed enough orders.

She kisses Bellatrix’s head. “Well then. She’s not alone now. Go and help her son. And maybe give her a hug or something, if she’ll let you. Blacks love each other, remember? That’s what she said. She knows you love her. And she loves you. She doesn’t blame you. She loves you.”

You always know exactly what to say

Hermione smiles. Gives her one last squeeze before getting up. “Guess we know each other rather well by now. Soulmate.”

Bellatrix gets up with a stretch. “Guess so. Off you pop to unravel the next mystery. Maybe I’ll give Cissy a big kiss from you. Make her shriek. Show you the memory later.”

Ha! “Careful, you might get blasted across the room. She’s scary.”

Bellatrix chuckles. “Yep. My scary little sister. Did you think I was the scary one?”

“Well I did, but now I’m not so sure. Makes me wonder about An—”

She stops. Is it okay to talk about Andy yet? Opening up the past all at once is—

Bellatrix sighs and starts pulling off her wetsuit. “Andy. It’s alright, pet. I need to forgive myself for that too. And her for— she—”

She left them. Managed to escape, but left them behind.

“She still loves you too, Bella. Remember? She said. Said she loves you, and remembers you, and forgives you.”

Bellatrix nods, putting on her dress. “I remember. I was so relieved when she said that. When you showed me that. I shouldn’t have been surprised. She always loved me. She was always there. Usually hidden behind me whilst I…but she’d secretly hold my hand under the table. Or bring me food when…or water. That’s why it hurt so much when— when she was gone. She used to draw smiley faces on the bathroom mirror for me. Sneak in whilst I was in the shower, don’t know how I never spotted her. One face didn’t even fade away…for months after she’d left. Eventually I smashed the mirror.”

Oh.

Bellatrix is dressed now. Ready to leave. Ready to go open her mind to…

Hermione steps closer to her and strokes her cheek. “I was thinking of going to the Burrow tomorrow. For Harry’s birthday. Just to watch. Do you want— we could go and see what Andy’s up to too. Invisible. Just see how she’s getting on. I miss my friends and— and it might be nice for you to see her.”

Bellatrix takes a slow breath. “I…maybe. I don’t know if I’m…ready for that. But yes. I’ll come with you to see Potter. It must be hard for you not to— he’s a nice kid too. One of us brave kids. Shame I have to…”

She’s drifts off. And then steps back, running her hands through her hair and making it more crazy. “Right. Get your head on straight, Bella. Death Eater. Can’t go to Draco thinking about Potter, now that would be a nightmare.”

Hermione snorts. “Yes, focus. There’ll be enough of Harry in Draco’s head. So remember. You’re a Death Eater. You just killed Amelia Bones and you’re very happy about it. Proud of yourself. And you got to spend a few hours alone with the Dark Lord so you’re even more excited. And you want Draco to live up to the family name. You want Dumbledore dead.”

“Dead Dumbledore, got it. I’ll suggest Draco poisons him. Give him a few idea— oh. When does he go to Borgin and Burke’s? Has that happened yet?”

Oh. Oh when was—

“No. No it was the Saturday after Harry’s birthday that we went to Diagon Alley for our school things. That’s when we saw Draco. Maybe…if he hasn’t thought of the cabinet idea yet, maybe you should subtly mention it. In case it’s you he gets the idea fro—oh! And it was Harry’s birthday when we found out about Ollivander and Fortescue. When were they—”

“Already happened, pet. Two days ago. Whilst you were guarding Bonesy. Both of them are locked up under the Riddle House. He sent Snape for Ollivander, and Greyback for Fortescue.”

Snape?

“But Snape’s undercover! Why send—”

“Ollivander’s powerful. Sneaky. Needed to send someone bright. Plus, if Ollivander thinks Snape’s on the light side, then there doesn’t need to be a fight. Snape can walk right up to him. And it doesn’t matter if Ollivander knows he’s a spy now. He can’t tell anyone.”

Right. Oh how horrible, poor Ollivander and—

No. Can’t save everyone. Ollivander was in the cellar, so…

“Okay. Well. I don’t want to distract you any longer, so I guess I’ll see you later then.”

And with a nod, they both set off to their separate tasks.

 


 

No one’s in the cave, so Hermione dives straight into the water, casting a bubblehead charm over her head, and a lumos from her fingertips. Genius.

And no one in the tunnel to the lake. Hmm.

Well she hopes she’ll just run into someone eventually. Leagore would be ideal, or Thetis. Even Autonoe or Oreithye.

She forgot how creepy it is out in the reeds. Even with a light, the water is so murky it—

“Hello? Witch? Are you…Kalypso’s mate?” A timid voice calls.

Oh.

Hermione turns around. Emerald tail…

“Agaue? We haven’t had a chance to meet yet, but I loved your story. It’s nice to meet you. I’m Hermione, Hermione Granger.”

Agaue ducks back out of the light. “What are…are you allowed here? I’m not…perhaps I should…”

They seem…scared. Retreating behind some rocks.

“It’s alright. I’m just looking for Leagore. Or Thetis. Someone who can…I have a question about mermish…a magical message.”

“I…I should go home. If you— I don’t—”

“Agaue? What is that li—oh.” Another merperson. Grey tail. Pronoe.

Agaue shoots away in a burst of bubbles. How peculiar. She doesn’t remember them being this skittish. They narrated the tale of their ancestors so well. Smiled at Bellatrix. Why are they—

“Ah. Hermione. So you’ve come to find out more, I thought you might. Leagore and Thetis have both mentioned that you would soon be visiting. And I assume your mate is busy once more?” Pronoe clips, gliding to hover before her.

Oh that’s right. They’d reminded her of McGonagall. Oh dear— but it’s true! They’re just quite firm and severe but in a…practical way. It’s got nothing to do with—maybe it’s the hair.

“Umm, yes. Yes, that’s right. Leagore told me about the archives. But she mentioned a fidelius charm so—”

The corner of Pronoe’s mouth twitches into a smile. “And who do you think is secret keeper? I suppose you do not yet know my role. My name.”

Name? Pronoe…

Pro means before…

Noe means…

Hermione sighs. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Greek. What is…”

Pronoe takes her hands and begins swimming backwards, propelling them quickly but steadily through the water. “Pronoe means forethought. I think ahead. Plan ahead. Make predictions and calculations so as to best serve the needs of the whole race. Totus generis parere. Thetis sought my council before accepting this agreement with the headmaster. After some thought…I gave my verdict. And offered to be secret keeper. Here we are.”

They’re deep in the lake. Nothing but the vast seabed before them.

Ah. “So…what’s the name? The address? The location?”

Pronoe raises an eyebrow, and clears their throat. “Come seek us where our voices sound, with this song it shall be found. To know our past just take a look, for now it’s written in a book.”

Hermione gasps. It’s so beautiful. It was— did Pronoe sing— oh! And there’s the— a building. A white marble building lit by torches that— with columns and—

Pronoe chimes with laughter. “As predicted. You have lost your voice to our beauty.”

Hermione turns to gape at them. “It was your voice in the egg? For the tournament?”

Pronoe nods with a smile. “In mermish. Autonoe found it terribly exciting, all the witches and wizards in the lake. I recognise you. I don’t think the others do though.”

Why on earth did they ever participate in— wait! Mermish!

“That’s why I’m here! Mermish! I have a message in mermish on my arm. Tiggy told me!”

Pronoe swims closer and studies her…face? And nods once more. “I see. Come. Let us enter the archives where you shall be able to breathe freely and see in the light. Leagore shall return from patrol momentarily, so I’m sure he will join us. And Oreithye not long after, for some ‘obscure reason’. Silly child.”

Child?! How old is—

Can people just look their age! “How long do nymphs live?!”

Pronoe pulls them towards the archive building with a tinkling laugh. “It’s quite simple. The Forest People live twice as long as Wizardkind. We live twice as long as the Forest People.”

Oh.

Oh that is a very long—

Wizards, on average, live until they are one hundred and thirty-seven and three quarters. Hermione had looked it up after the whole Nicolas Flamel situation.

So, say a hundred and thirty-eight years. So elves live…to two hundred and seventy-six. Which means nymphs live to—“Five hundred and fifty two! But that’s— Hogwarts was founded a thousand years ago! That’s only two generations! You—”

And Pronoe closes a door behind them. Pulls it down from the ceiling like a shutter. And the…what? “This is like…a canal lock. How…”

The entrance to the archive building, now that the exit has been blocked, is like a sealed cube room. Stone walls on every side. Except there must be some kind of drainage system, because as they wait, the water level slowly lowers.

“A canal does run though the floor of the archives, you are correct. Only Leagore is able to travel like the Forest People, so there is no way for us to move without water. A few more moments and I shall be able to open the next door and show you.”

Incredible. “Where does this water go? There must be a—”

“A room of the same size below us, yes. The water is transferred between the two. When we exit into the lake once more, this room shall refill, allowing us to swim freely into the depths. Aha. Here we are.”

And as Hermione gets to her feet, the water only at her waist now, Pronoe opens the second stone door.

Oh it’s— oh goodness. An underwater library. With canals between the bookshelves. Like Venice but— but in a building, in a—

“But the books! The water! It would be a disaster if—"

Pronoe floats into the building, on their back and tail swishing them along. “Waterproof books and scrolls, child. Magic. You are born of muggles, aren’t you? So quickly you forget your magic.”

Oh. Right. Of course. She swims after them.

How is there daylight? She looks up. Glass ceiling showing the sky…that can’t be right. It must be charmed. Like the Great Hall. Maybe Dumbledore—

“Do you have magic? I still don’t understand—how do you not know the true story of Kalypso if— I thought generations had passed, not— surely your own grandparents knew Kalypso!”

Pronoe stops, and hops out to sit on the side of a stone platform, tail in the water. “When our ancestors arrived here, they were already old. Generations have passed since, and so much was unfortunately forgotten. Go have a look at our ancestral tree if you are curious, whilst we wait for Leagore. I can’t reach, you shall have to fetch it. Over by that table.”

Table? And chairs? Oh. For Dumbledore. And Leagore.

She pulls herself out and wanders over, casting a drying spell over herself even though— it feels wrong. Water near books.

And there is a book. A thick golden book, on a pedestal at the edge of the room. She can’t read the title. Mermish.

She cast a featherlight charm on it, and carries it over to Pronoe.

Let’s see…

Oh. A family tree. But…

She raises her eyes to Pronoe in confusion.

Who nods. “Now you see. Mammals and fish.”

Hermione nods back. So that…that’s a bit of a relief. Explains the whole…not sisters. And no…

She looks back down. Sounds out the symbols. Eleven names. That she recognises very well. And dates in Roman numerals.

So. Eleven ‘sisters’ arrive at the lake around the year 1000 AD. And they are old, Pronoe is right. All of them already in their four or five hundreds. Kalypso is the youngest. Four hundred and forty-five years old. Gosh.

And then…a line down from each of their names. Except Kalypso. The space beneath Kalypso is bare. No children. But the others…straight lines down from each one…and the same names once more. In the same order. But a new birthdate. So…the Thetis who arrived here in 1000 AD…aged five hundred and forty-six...had a child also named Thetis. But there’s no other parent. One parent.

Mammals and fish…

Fish can sometimes reproduce asexually. Their offspring is like— a clone!

So— So each new generation is a clone of the generation before! That’s why wizards think they’re immortal! That they kept their soul in a golden egg! Because their child is a clone of themselves! Born in an egg! They give birth to a clone of themselves.

How many generations…this is the seventh. Oh, that is quite a lot.

So…generation one, Kalypso leaves, and they’re left with tails.

Generation two, the adults all die of old age when the children are in their forties and fifties at the most. That’s the equivalent of being…twelve year olds in wizard years!

And it goes on until now.

Oh.

The Thetis they know…is…two hundred and forty-eight! And Autonoe is the youngest…one hundred and thirty-six!

Pronoe… “You’re two hundred and fifteen years old?” Hermione whispers in shock.

Pronoe smiles. “Two hundred and sixteen come Yule. Still young. Not middle aged quite yet.”

It’s just…mind blowing! “You were born in 1780! You— that’s just—”

And Hermione jumps out of her skin as Leagore appears with a pop on the chair at the table.

“Ah!— oh, Hermione. Gods you surprised me. Pronoe, you didn’t tell me you…you’re looking at the ancestral tree.”

Hermione closes the book uncomfortably. “I hope that’s alright. I was just…mammals and fish.”

Leagore smiles. “Ah, I see. No, it’s fine. Perhaps you shall be added to the book in time…once we have discovered the mystery of how Kalypso birthed the House of Black. Bellatrix mentioned a family tree of their own back to the Middle Ages…not quite far enough for us.”

Hermione in the mermaid book? Oh…

That feels rather official. Like she’s married to Bellatrix or—

Oh for some reason that’s rather embarrassing.

She gets up to put the book back. “So you reproduce…asexually?”

Leagore chimes out a startled laugh and drops his quill. “Oh little one, you are very direct. Yes we— I’m not sure I—you are correct but—” Leagore gets more and more flustered and peals of laughter come from Pronoe, whose composure has vanished as they point at Leagore.

“Oh Leagore! You are so— how old— how have you not grown out of this embarrassment by now?” Pronoe whistles in laughter. “Oh little brother, it is just eggs! There is nothing to be ashamed of!”

Leagore clears his throat and pulls some parchment towards him. “I’m not little. I’m only twenty years younger than you so— and you are the one that cried when—”

Pronoe abruptly stops laughing. “I was a child! I didn’t understand—”

Wait. Wait, this doesn’t make sense. If they live to their five hundreds…where are their parents? Their children? Surely there should be three generations alive at one time?

She peeks back inside the book. No children after this generation…which is not too strange, seeing as even Thetis is not yet middle-aged. But the parents...

She walks over to the table to sit with Leagore. Who is hiding behind a book and humming to himself in an attempt to mask his embarrassment. “Umm…Leagore…why…where is your…parent?”

Everything falls silent.

“You…little one. You saw the dates.”

Well yes, but… “But you live to your five hundreds, don’t you?”

Leagore shakes their head, brow pinched. “We can, yes. But only if we do not birth an heir. Our long life…is because our ancestors gift their life to us in birth. As we are born…our parent dies. There is only ever one Thetis. One Leagore. One Pronoe. It is a…curse, of sorts. We must care for our sisters, because our parents have left us alone.”

Oh. A curse? On the…on the children?

“A real curse? Or…a metaphor?”

“A fact,” calls Pronoe from the water’s edge. “As we are born, our parent dies. With eleven of us, there is always an elder sibling to care for us. When Thetis births a child, Autonoe shall care for it, in return for Thetis having raised Autonoe at the tender age of one hundred and twelve.”

Right. Gosh all these dates and impossible ages are a bit—

A shifting banging sound fills the room, and the water seems to…vibrate? Wha—

“That will be Oreithye at the entrance,” Pronoe smiles, giving Hermione a knowing look. She hides her own smile behind her hand. Come to see Leagore, as predicted.

Leagore glares at her. “I hope you have forgotten that nonsense about—”

Hermione rolls her eyes. “Yes, yes. You’re not concealing anything. God of Assembly, I know. Anyway I— oh! The whole reason I’m here! Why didn’t you tell me about the message when I showed you my arm?!”

She hurriedly pulls back her sleeve. Leagore frowns in confusion. “What do you mean? You knew this word. This slur. You showed me—”

Hermione scoots her chair closer to them. “No! Not that word, a secret one! In mermish! Tiggy saw it when they— oh! Touch it! You have to feel it!”

There’s another rumble, and the sound of rushing water. And then a horrible shrieking sound. Ah! How is mermish so beautiful in water and yet— and where did it come from if they speak Greek?! Hermione covers her ears.

“—oh. Witch girl? You have let her— Leagore, I hope you conferred with Thetis before— Pronoe. You sang to her? Why have we—”

“Silence, Oreithye! I am trying to listen!” Leagore shouts.

Gosh, where’s the love? How does everyone know these two are in love when they just shout at each other all the—whoa!

Hermione suddenly finds herself waist deep in water, with three merpeople crowding around her. “Leagore! Warn me next time before—”

“Hush, little one—”

“Witch girl, why do—”

“—Ah so she does learn our language, as I thought.”

Everyone falls silent and turns to Pronoe, who is cupping their ear close to Hermione’s arm.

“Pronoe…you recognise the voice?” Leagore murmurs.

Pronoe raises their eyebrows. “Isn’t it obvious? The words are pronounced perfectly, carefully, but the emphasis is wrong. The tone. They have learnt our language, they were not born to it. This was a witch’s work.”

Well obviously! “Well I knew that! Bellatrix must have left this message for me in the future! That’s why we want to know what it says!” Hermione cries in exasperation.

Leagore clears his throat uncomfortably. “If…if this is from your mate then…oh I am sorry, little one. It appears this is a…sad message.”

Sad?

Oh no.

She pulls her arm to herself, and takes a steadying breath. “What does it say, Leagore? Tell me.”

The three merpeople look between one another.

And then Oreithye sighs. “It says: When I am gone, and you’re all alone, remember you can always find your way home.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Oh. When…when she’s gone?

Hermione can go home when Bellatrix is gone? But…

That’s the wrong…

Does Bellatrix…die? Is that the plan?

She hugs her arm to her chest. Gone. Alone. She feels a tear slide down her cheek.

Oreithye lets out a mournful whimper. Everyone turns to look.

Oreithye clears their throat self-consciously. “Well. I’m not surprised she leaves you. She left us. She’s never here. It’s what Kalypso does, runs off and hides.”

Oh.

No.

Hermione’s eyes snap to Oreithye’s and she feels her magic begin to crackle. How dare they. How dare they say such a—

Bellatrix never hides. Never. She takes, and she takes, and she shields her own sisters with her body and her mind and—

Hermione finds her wand in her hand. Her pulse is thundering in her ears.

She wouldn’t leave. She wouldn’t. There has to be— Oreithye lied or—

And Leagore is stood before her. So close he fills her vision. Dark eyes. Sharp teeth. “Stand down, Hermione! You need to calm. You’re not in control. Stand down. Now!”

Not in control? She—

She’s so— she needs—

Bella? Can you hear me?

Silence.

No no no. She’s can’t be gone. That doesn’t make any sense it— what have they done to her? She needs to leave, she has to—

Hermione? Of course I can hear you. But I’m with Draco so I have to—

Oh. Oh of course. Of course she’s fine.

Hermione closes her eyes and lets her wand lower. Falls down to sit in the water.

It’s fine, Bella. I was just— just checking. I’ll stop distracting you

“I…”

What did she just do? She was so scared, and angry, it just...

Oh, she threatened Oreithye! Oh no she—

She snaps her eyes open. Oh dear.

Three dark eyed merpeople. Breathing fast and tall on their tails. And…

Cracks in the stone, running up the nearest columns. Oh no…

“Oh I’m so sorry,” Hermione whispers. “I’m so sorry. Oreithye, I didn’t mean to— I was scared, and hurt I— oh I’ve broken your building I—”

What happened to her? She’s been angry before but— she punched Draco. Yelled at Ron and Harry. But she’s never…accidental magic?

“I’ll fix it, please! Tell me what to do and—”

Pronoe’s expression calms, and they breathe out a whistling sigh. “Repair it, Hermione. And then perhaps you can tell us more about our sister. Oreithye shouldn’t have…we do not know her as you do.”

Okay. Okay, she can do that.

She pulls herself up to sit on the side, and cautiously draws her wand once more, raising her eyes ashamedly to Oreithye. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have lost my temper, please forgive me.”

Leagore moves further in front of them, opening his mouth with a harsh—

Oreithye gently moves him aside. “Leagore. I am fine. The witch girl is forgiven,” they say softly.

And the atmosphere calms. Leagore takes a steadying breath and nods, Hermione whispers a reparo at the stone.

And Oreithye comes to sit beside her. “Well? Now that you have finished destroying our ancient monuments, perhaps you may tell us why Kalypso deserves such a loyal mate?”

They say it haughtily. Disdainfully. Grouchily…

A Black.

She studies them more carefully. Hmm…

Ah.

Looking at her curiously. Cautiously. Apologetically.

Hermione smiles at Oreithye. “Oh, Oreithye. You will love her, when you know her. Your youngest sister. She…she’s nothing like you described. She never hides. Never cowers. Never abandons her kin. She’s with her sister and nephew right now. Helping them. Teaching her sister’s child to be strong and guard his mind. She was desperate to come here with me, but kin comes first. Always. She fights for them until she’s so hurt that she must conceal it. That is why she’s Kalypso. She hides her pain, so others don’t have to witness it. Feel it. She’s strong.”

Leagore pops to sit at her other side. “It is true, Oreithye. I have witnessed her strength. Her determination. And she was kind to Thetis. She treated us as kin, sought our guidance and listened. She is certainly not one to hide.”

Hermione smiles at him gratefully. “Sorry,” she whispers, taking his hand. She’d scared him. Put Oreithye in danger.

Leagore chuckles. “It is alright, little one. We are Blacks. Do you think we do not see this violence, this power, almost daily within our home? It is merely because you are…different to us that it surprised us.”

Blacks. Of course.

Hermione tuts and folds her arms. “Well maybe you shouldn’t be so violent! If you all just talked more about your feelings and explained yourself— I’m so fed up with you Blacks and…Bellatrix can talk about her feelings, so I’m sure you all can too! Narcissa— oh, that’s your other sister, by the way. How does that work? The Blacks are only part nymph. Bellatrix has siblings. Is Narcissa Kalypso too? She’s frighteningly good at hiding. At manipulation.”

Leagore frowns in thought, and looks to Pronoe. “True siblings. We do not have this. We are siblings by race, not…but Bellatrix is the eldest…so she is Kalypso. We saw it. Felt it. The sea felt it.”

Pronoe nods. “We cannot know for sure, but for now it is safe to assume that Bellatrix is Kalypso, and this…Narcissa…shares our metamorphosis through both blood and race. You say she is good at hiding. Well. All of us are good at hiding. We are as the sea. Much is hidden in our depths. We change form like the turn of a tide. Our currents are invisible. Our waters bringing life, but also death. Danger. We are gods of the sea.”

Ancient gods…

Hermione looks at each of them. These ancient beings. Bellatrix’s…ancestors…in a way. “Then…will you help me? Help us? We’re rather lost in this whole…in time. In space. My knowledge of the future shows me that…Kalypso will die. She will be lost in the final battle. I don’t…I don’t want to lose her.”

Leagore squeezes her hand. “And your time, little one? You said you have travelled in time. You do not wish to return home?”

Oh she so wants to be home. In her time. With her friends. Her parents. No longer at war. But…

“Not without her. I love her. I want to save her. And then…and then I don’t know. If she survives…then she will have to hide. Maybe…maybe she can travel back to my time with me. But…it would mean abandoning her family. I can’t ask her to— she already had to leave them for so long, I can’t ask her to—”

Oreithye squeezes her shoulder firmly. “You are thinking too far ahead, witch girl. For now, let us solve how to save our sister from death. And how we Blacks shall unravel the mystery of time. Learn to travel, witch. And then, when the time comes, you shall be ready. Strong.”

Well…she supposes they should still learn how to time travel. If there is the knowledge to do it…who knows how Hermione travelled back in time? What if she sent herself back? She might need to know how. And another way to fake death would be helpful. If Bellatrix is somehow…gone…then…

She still doesn’t want to think about that.

Leagore appears at the table. “Oreithye is right. You need to plan. To prepare. To read.”

Hermione snorts. Figuring things out. Books. Maybe it runs in the family, all this reading.

“I can’t read mermish though, remember? And how will your songs tell me about…rising from the dead? Or timetravel?”

Pronoe taps a finger to their lips. “Leagore assembles the history…I plan ahead…Oreithye is our protector…Thetis has far too many responsibilities but…who could…ah. I’m sure Autonoe could spare the time to translate for you.”

Hermione groans. “So I can’t even read? How can I make connections? Research? Where to even start? I’m no help if I can’t—”

Leagore tuts. “Totus generis parere. You are not alone. We shall all help to save our sister. I shall record the songs. Pronoe shall select those that contain references to death, to life, to time. Autonoe shall read them to you. And Oreithye…”

Oreithye folds their arms with a huff. “Oreithye shall patrol alone. Because apparently my rage is all I have. God of the raging sea. What use am I in this?”

Rage? How horrible to have anger as your role in life.

Except…

She nudges Oreithye with her shoulder. “The raging sea is strong. Powerful. Relentless. You will fight for your sisters. Make sure they don’t come to harm. So yes, you’ll have to patrol alone for a while. But whilst you do, try to think how you would survive. How you would refuse to die in battle.”

Oreithye looks at her in surprise. “I…you seek my counsel?”

What had Bellatrix said? Hides their insecurities behind their muscles.

Hermione smiles. “Of course. You’re a god, just like your siblings. You’re my elder. When were you born, almost two hundred years ago? I’m sure you have a lot of wisdom to share. Oh! Don’t you know a lot about your ancestors? This noble colony? Do you know any stories of people faking their deaths or…anything unusual about time?”

Oreithye studies her closely, confusion spreading across their features. “Wisdom? I…perhaps. I shall have to think. I—”

They roll back their shoulders. “Fine. I shall return to patrol. I’m sure Autonoe shall come asking about you, witch girl. I suppose I can send them your way. Try not to destroy any books or let the foolish child distract you from your goal.”

They fall backwards into the water before Hermione can reply, and soon there is a rumbling as the door opens once again.

Hermione chuckles to herself. She’s getting a bit better at reading these Blacks then. It’s easier once you know the rules. She just has to pretend that they’re Bellatrix. All they want is love and to protect their family.

Pronoe swims up to her. “Well done,” they whisper. “Precisely the action we needed. Now, whilst we wait for Autonoe, perhaps I should teach you some mermish. Key words. Life. Death. Time. Magic.”

Hermione nods. Right. Time to study. Apparently Bellatrix learns mermish. You can too. Get learning, bookworm.

 


 

Hermione? My lesson with Draco has finished. Where are you? Have you found out the message? What did it—

“—and this word means sky. Or the heavens. Because the gods live high in the clouds. I wish I lived in the clouds. Don’t you think it’s so much nicer than—”

Hermione clamps a hand over Autonoe’s mouth and mouthes ‘thread’ at them.

I can’t tell you where I am. There’s a fidelius charm. But yes, I know what the message says. Maybe get Tiggy to take you to the lake and— hang on, let me ask Pronoe—

“Pronoe? It’s Bellatrix. She’s asking where I am, is she allowed to come here?”

Pronoe looks up from a pile of books further down the canal edge. “Hmm. Well. Of course she could come here…But now that she is free, Thetis shall wish to see her. She has her own task. Learning to be Kalypso.”

Learning to— but surely avoiding death is more important than—

Pronoe whistles. “I have made my decision. Bellatrix will only enter the archives once she has fulfilled her duty. Her acceptance of her role as Kalypso is prophesied. It has been seen. Thetis is to be her guide. Totus generis parere. She shall learn of her gifts for the sake of her sisters, and only then shall I allow her entry.”

What? Pronoe can’t do that! Why shouldn’t Bellatrix—

Autonoe pulls Hermione’s hand from their mouth and shrugs. “Sorry, Hermione. Pronoe has spoken. You have to listen to them, you know.”

They lean in to whisper to her. “No one argues with Pronoe. It’s scary. Ignoring them is…wishing death. It’s forbidden.”

Oh. Oh dear.

Right. Well then.

Autonoe grins. “But don’t worry, you have a thread! You can talk to her even if she’s not allowed in here. An eternal connection, you are so lucky, Hermione.”

Luck. Right.

Well? I’m in the cave. What did it say? The message?

Oh dear.

She…

“Alright. I’ll let her know and…sorry to leave. I’ll be back as soon as I can, it’s just…”

She has to tell her…

The message. Why leave such a horrible…

Leagore looks up from their writing to smile sadly at her. “Good luck, little one. And let her know about her lessons with Thetis. Pronoe has spoken…I shall contact Thetis momentarily and tell them of this task. Where shall they meet?”

Hermione gets to her feet. “In the cave where you first held an assembly. It’s where she is now. I’ll…I don’t know what she’ll say. What she’ll…I’ll talk to her.”

And she follows the thread to Bellatrix.

Who smiles at her excitedly. “Finally! I feel like I’ve been waiting forever! So? What did it say? What did I—”

Hermione throws herself at the witch. She’s not gone. She’s here. She’s alive and she’s not leaving and—

“Whoa! Careful, pet, you’ll knock us over in a minute. I know I’m steady but— what— what’s wrong?”

Hermione pulls back to look at her. To memorise her face. Still here.

“Bella…the message…oh it’s horrible.”

Bellatrix’s breath catches as her muscles seem to seize up. “Horrible? I wrote something else that was horrible? Why would I…”

Hermione shakes her head sadly. “Not— not like that. It—”

She pulls Bellatrix down to sit on the floor with her. “They said the voice was a witch who had learnt their language.”

Bellatrix frowns. “Well…yes. It was me. We saw the memory—”

“And the voice said— it said—When I am gone, and you’re all alone, remember you can always find your way home.”

Silence falls around them. Just the lapping of water and a dripping noise.

She curls closer to Bellatrix. Leans their heads together.

The head against hers shakes furiously. “No. No, I won’t leave you. I’d never leave you. Never. It must mean something else. It…maybe it means you’ll think I’m gone, but you’ll find me. Or…I wrote this at the Manor. Before the battle. I wouldn’t even know yet— something else must happen to us. It must be a clue, to help you.”

“You’ll never leave me? You promise?” Hermione whispers.

A growl. “Never. Nothing will make us drift asunder. Through sand and sea. Together. I promise.”

Okay. Yes. Yes nothing will—

She pulls back to smile at Bellatrix. “Good. Because I have a plan. Or— well a plan for a plan. Your sisters have agreed to help us find a way to save you. And a way to time travel. Research, in the secret place I can’t tell you about.”

Bellatrix’s forehead scrunches in confusion. “My sisters? What the hell does—”

Nymph sisters. The merpeople. They want to help us—oh! And guess what? They reproduce asexually! Gynogenesis! Fish!

Oh you mean—oh! So the eternal life in the egg is—

Not eternal! There have been six more Thetis’ since Kalypso left! That’s why they keep calling you Kalypso. Because—

—I’m the heir of Kalypso! Mixed with wizards, of course. Where did you learn this? Can I—

You can’t come in. They won’t let you

“What?!” Bellatrix jumps to her feet, pulling Hermione with her. “I thought I was kin! You’re allowed in! That’s not fair! Why—”

“Pronoe has decreed it so. You shall not enter. It has been spoken,” a calm but authoritative voice calls from the water.

Bellatrix whirls around, mouth open to undoubtedly argue with Thetis.

It’s true, Bella. Some kind of rule. Once Pronoe decides something you have to follow it. I think they might…kill anyone who goes against Pronoe’s word. Or at least punish them

Bellatrix scowls, grumbling to herself. Something about sisters and fish and wands.

And then sighs. “And why did Pronoe…decree this?”

Thetis swims to the edge, transforming into a more masculine form. A grinning prince. “Because it’s time for your lessons to begin. Are you ready, ocean-eyes?”

Ocean-eyes?!

Where did—

They’d better not be flirting, because that is strange enough with all the sisters talk. And— and besides—Bellatrix is— well Hermione is—

Thetis winks at Hermione, and dips under the water.

“Wha— Bella did I imagine that or—?”

Bellatrix turns to gape at her. “Ocean-eyes?! I— ew, they look like a male Cissy! And even if— I mean not that I— even if they weren’t a fish, don’t worry I wouldn’t— I mean you—”

Laughter from the water. “I am teasing! Now kiss your mate goodbye, sister. Come on, it’s time to play!”

They spin high out of the water, transforming mid-air into an even younger boy, and cannonball back into the rocking waves with a whoop and a splash.

Bellatrix’s flustered look morphs into giddy excitement, pressing a distracted kiss to Hermione’s cheek and sprinting for the water, throwing herself in with an almighty splash. Have fun with your books pet, I’m off to learn some real magic. Maybe you won’t even recognise me when I come back!

Hermione chuckles. Of course. Off to play with the other children.

Well. She deserves it.

Be home by teatime, or Tiggy will worry

Laughter through the thread, and then silence.

Hermione just shakes her head. Right. Back to the archives.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Bellatrix isn’t back by teatime, but neither is Hermione. Time just blurs past as she learns mermish with Autonoe, and hears story after story. Pronoe even sings some of them from memory, their voice echoing through the archives as Leagore scribbles down every word.

Stories of gods and mortals, love and war, mythical and magical creatures from the terrifying sea-cave dwelling Scylla to the majestic Phoenician firebird. The Phoenix.

How strange to have yet another mythical creature living at Hogwarts. Not just ancient, but eternal. How does that work? Does Fawkes keep his memories after rebirth, or start anew like the merpeople? He could have memories of—

“Hermione, are you and Bellatrix going to live with us now?”

Hmm? Hermione looks up from her list of key vocabulary. Oh. Oh, Autonoe looks so hopeful.

“I…no, Autonoe. I’m sorry but— well we don’t belong in the water. Not really.”

Autonoe pulls themselves out of the canal to sit on the side. Rather tiredly. They struggle awkwardly across the stone floor towards Hermione. “Then when will Bellatrix give us legs? So I can visit you?”

Hermione sighs and walks over to meet them. It has become more and more noticeable over the last however many hours just how much easier it would be to have legs in here. The water reaches the shelves, most of the time, and jumping between canals doesn’t look too difficult, but not having a way to walk over to a table must be annoying.

“I’m sure she’ll learn as soon as she can, but Bellatrix hasn’t known about her powers for very long at all, Autonoe. Only a few days. You’ll have to wait a while before she figures out the…legs…part.”

She sits down next to Autonoe, who leans against her and plays with Hermione’s hair sadly. “I know. That’s what the others said. I just hope it’s not more than a hundred years. I just can’t wait to see the world. You really are very lucky, Hermione.”

A hundred— “Autonoe it won’t be that long! Bellatrix won’t even be alive in— well I hope she is but— I meant in a few years. She’s a very fast learner.”

Autonoe smiles weakly at her, and Leagore pops to their side. “Time to retire for the night, I think. You have done well today. Both of you. A lot of concentration.”

Oh. Oh poor Autonoe, yes. This must be a lot to—

She wraps her arms around Autonoe. “Thank you so much for all you’ve taught me today, Autonoe. You’ve been a massive help. And— and maybe one day I can take you to watch Quidditch, would you like that? When the schoolchildren are back? I can travel like the Forest People so—”

“You will? When the red people fly?” Autonoe squeals in pure glee.

Ow! Oh it’s always so high pitched and—

Hermione pulls back to smile at them. “Yes. Yes the first game of the year we’ll watch together. My gift to you, if…” Her eyes slide to Pronoe. “If that’s allowed?”

Pronoe frowns. And then nods. “I shall confer with Thetis closer to the time. For now, sleep. For all of us.”

Yes, that probably is for the best. What even is the time? Hermione must have spent all day here. She hasn’t eaten since breakfast and— oh goodness, she’s starving! She always forgets to eat when she’s reading. Honestly, Hermione.

“Yes. Yes, I must be going. Thank you so much for helping, and I’m sure I’ll come back tomorrow. I’m visiting a friend for a couple of hours, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Leagore nods and pops Autonoe away.

Hermione—

“Hermione, a word?”

Ah! That was close. She barely heard that, mid-apparition. She walks over to Pronoe and sits down beside them.

Pronoe clears their throat. “I…I have been making some calculations and— there is…you and Bellatrix are mates, yes?”

Oh. Umm…

Hermione fiddles with her sleeves self-consciously. “I…I think so? What does that mean, exactly? Mates? We’re soulmates. And we love one another. And we…umm…have mated.”

Oh gods this is embarrassing. She can feel her face heating up and— and why does Pronoe have to be so much like McGonagall?!

Pronoe looks…worried? Oh dear. Oh that can’t be good.

“Then you are mates. You have both declared yourselves to be mates, honestly and wholly. And I believe you have unwittingly performed each of the passages of matehood. Tell me truthfully , yay or nay if you have each performed these acts.”

They pause, and Hermione nods uncertainly.

“Have you two souls defended each other from harm, whether physical or mental?”

Umm…she had defended Bellatrix from Thetis. And from the sea, does that count? Oh and mental. She’d pulled her from the memory of Andy, and talked to her when she was claustrophobic.

Bellatrix…well she threatened Oreithye, but that doesn’t really count, does it? Has she ever defended Hermione? She saved her from drowning…but she caused the drowning.

Mental…does comfort count? She had— she had spoken to her in the Manor. Calmed her. And reassured her this morning when—

“I...yay. I think. I’m not certain.”

Pronoe frowns. “Have you two souls declared your love, freely and openly, to yourselves and others?”

Well, again, Hermione has. But unless Bellatrix has said anything to Thetis, she never actually told anyone else that she loves Hermione.

“I don’t think so, no. Nay.”

At this Pronoe looks completely baffled. “Have you shared moments of weakness and of strength? Both in speech and in action?”

Oh— “Oh definitely, yes, I mean yay.”

A whistling sigh. “And have you shown your love through physical intimacy of any kind, be this in touch of hand or glance of eye?”

Hermione smiles. “Yes. Yay.”

“And do you two souls wish to be bonded as one until the fates themselves cut you from this mortal coil?”

Wow. That’s a rather intense way of saying forever, but…

Together. Always. For the next one hundred and fifty years.

“Yes. Yay.”

Pronoe nods. “Then…you are almost there. Once these events take their course, according to our customs and our magic, you shall be mates.”

Magic?

“And…what does that mean?”

“It means…” Pronoe begins stacking some books and avoiding eye contact. “It means that you will begin to feel each other’s emotions, and pain. You will feel each other’s presence. And…and I am sorry, but if you are to part, it shall be painful. A slow death.”

Oh. Oh but— but there was only one thing they hadn’t done. One nay. As soon as Bellatrix tells someone she loves Hermione then—

Then if she leaves…they’ll both die.

Bella? Are you still with Thetis?

Nope. Came home. In the shower

Well that’s a mental image that— focus, Hermione!

Okay. Okay I’ll be back soon it’s just…did you…have you told anyone that you love me?

Silence.

Hermione begins hovering books onto shelves to take her mind off of it. She hadn’t realised mating was an actual magical—

No, I don’t think so. Why?

Oh, thank Merlin. Okay so they can still—

Oh wait, I told Tiggy. Why? Do you not believe me or something?

Oh dear. So— well now they’re tied to each other for— is this what the prophecy meant?! They can’t drift apart at all?! Without dying?!

“Pronoe…I think we might have fulfilled all the steps. How— what— but I can’t feel her. Wha— and how far apart are we allowed to—ahh!”

And Pronoe launches themselves at her, tumbling them both into the canal.

What the fu—

She stands up, spluttering. “What the hell was that for? Oh I’m freezing! I—”

Pronoe grabs her shoulders. “You were panicking. I needed to shock you. So? Are you ready to listen?”

Hermione rubs some water out of her eyes with a groan. “Yes, yes I’m listening. You didn’t have to—”

“Good. Because there is no need to panic. You will not die unless you are far apart for a very long time. Trapped apart, with no way of reaching each other. I was merely worried because of the message on your arm. You shall both be fine. And happy. You are soulmates. Your shared joy will be a sight to behold when you are truly one. These shared feelings and emotions will build slowly over time. You will not feel each other’s happiness or anger for months at the —oh. Dexamene. I did not hear you enter.”

Huh?

Hermione turns as Pronoe’s eyes dart to a figure behind a bookshelf. Dexamene? Oh dear. They don’t seem to like Hermione very much. Had Bellatrix noticed why? She didn’t think she mentioned them…

“Leagore transported me here, at my request. I heard that the…witch…was here. And came to…greet her,” Dexamene’s voice calls towards them.

Well. That’s the most unconvincing story she’s heard in a while. More like doesn’t trust her in their sacred archives. They haven’t even— they’re lurking behind a column!

Pronoe looks slowly between them. “Hermione…was just leaving. I believe we should shut the archives for the night. It is late.” Their eyes drift back to Hermione.

Okay, even Pronoe looks suspicious of them. That can’t be good. Time to leave.

She pops to Bellatrix.

Who is reading in bed. With blue eyes.

Hermione breaks out in a wide smile. “Hello, ocean-eyes. Did you have fun?”

Bellatrix throws her book down with a huff. “No! I still can’t change anything except my eyes! Thetis could do all sorts of things, but it’s been hours and all I have is Cissy’s basilisk stare.”

Hermione pulls off her wetsuit, chuckling as Bellatrix sulks on the bed. “Well it’s impressive that they’re still blue after this long. That’s what Thetis said, isn’t it? That holding a form is difficult? Just try one feature at a time.”

She searches around in Bellatrix’s chest of drawers for a spare nightdress. She’s too tired to have a shower or go to her own room. She might even ask Tiggy to bring her some food in bed. Her eyes are beginning to blur from all the reading today.

Bellatrix is still pouting. Hermione crawls under the covers next to her. “Anyway. I’m quite glad that you look the same. I like looking at you,” she murmurs, closing her eyes.

Bellatrix snorts. “Right. Because that’s convincing, right before you fall asleep on me.”

I’m not asleep. Just…resting my eyes. Too much reading. And I forgot to eat

Bellatrix sighs. “Tiggy?”

A pop.

“Could you bring some left over supper for the brightest witch of her age who forgot that people need food to live?”

So rude. Didn’t forget. Just so busy…

“…mione? Wake up.”

Huh? Oh.

Thanks

She struggles up against the pillows and takes the bowl of stew. Stew?

Stew? In summer?

Bellatrix shrugs, reading again. “I was cold earlier. Don’t know why.”

Cold?

Oh.

…It was cold in the archives. Deep under the lake. Sitting still in just a wetsuit. With Autonoe splashing her all the time.

Hermione puts down her spoon. “You were cold? Was it because you were in the lake?”

Bellatrix frowns at— oh she forgot about the blue eyes. It’s so strange. She misses—

“No, when I got back. I cast a drying spell, but I was still cold. So I sat by the fire, but that didn’t work. And then I asked Tiggy for some stew for dinner. And I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I was still fucking cold. So I had a shower. Even that made me bloody freezing for a second.”

Oh. Oh so—

“I…I think it was me. I was cold.”

Bellatrix looks at her like she’s gone insane, and Hermione continues eating. She’s so hungry.

What are you talking about? Did you cast a cooling spell on me or something?

No…umm…you were cold because I was cold. Because…we’re mates. Pronoe said we’re going to start…feeling each other

“What?!” Bellatrix takes the bowl from her and crowds close, searching her eyes. “Show me.”

What? Oh.

Hermione pulls on the thread…feels the cold darkness of Bellatrix’s defence system hit her…and retreats into her own mind. Finds the memory. Here. Look. We completed some kind of ceremony accidentally…

She starts watching the memory, back in the archives. And then gets hungry.

Can she…

Hermione pulls out of the memory…but leaves Bellatrix in her head. She did that before. Slipped in and out. Can they…

Bellatrix is sat in the bed, eyes closed and still. And Hermione can still feel her in her mind.

Huh. She carries on eating her stew.

Where the fuck have you gone?!

I’m on the bed still. I’m hungry, I just lived it, you can watch by yourself, can’t you?

Well apparently! How did you—oh.

Silence. Hermione finishes eating.

And brown eyes blink open.

“Okay, first of all, we need to discuss what you just did, and— no, actually, the first thing is, if we drift asunder we die?!” Bellatrix shouts, shuffling to sit opposite Hermione.

“Yes. I know it’s all…I mean it makes sense. Mates. Soulmates. Together forever. And it’s only if it’s a long time, or— or if we’re trapped but— but yes, this does put a new perspective on the prophecy.”

Bellatrix takes her hands. Rubs her thumbs over them. “I was thinking about the prophecy today. I suddenly— you don’t think— did we fuck it up? Do something wrong and— and that’s why my message warned us about me being gone? You being alone?”

Uhh…what? “What? How did we fuck it up?

…’foundations sink if bones are not left buried’. Bones. The bones in the bed. That we dug up

Oh. Oh shit. No that— “But that meant Sirius! It came before the bit about love potions. It didn’t— well I hope it—”

Hermione takes a steadying breath. No. No let’s not worry about that. The world hasn’t ended, it’s all fine. We did the right thing. We saved her

Bellatrix leans forward and kisses her. Gods this witch. How does she make her lips tingle just by—

Okay. Okay let’s not worry about all this prophecy stuff then. Or about messages or— let’s just do one thing at a time

Hermione pulls back. Looks into her eye with a smile. “Okay. No more mysteries for tonight. And your eyes are back. So I’m happy.”

In a flash, Bellatrix is off the bed and stood in front of the mirror, scowling. “Oh, so now I can’t even change my eyes? Some metamorphagus I am. Cissy managed it at two years old, accidentally, and hasn’t even flickered since! Do it! Change! Why won’t you change you stupid bloody—”

Okay, forcing it probably isn’t a good idea. And she’ll poke her own eyes out in a minute with—

Oh no.

“Bella…”

Bellatrix turns around with a frown. “What?”

Oh this is bad. This is so so—

“If I feel everything you feel…then if He hurts you…if you get hurt with them, then…”

Bellatrix’s eyes widen in pure horror. “No…”

Oh no. Oh Bellatrix gets hurt all the time! Sometimes she doesn’t even notice or— she throws herself into danger. How can—

Bellatrix seems to be in shock. Head shaking furiously.

No. No that means— how can I— I have to protect you. How can I—

Okay. Okay they need to—  “It won’t happen yet. Pronoe says it’s gradual so— So we’re okay. For now, we’re okay. I can’t—”

Bellatrix flings the doors to her wardrobe open and reaches around, pulling out—

No. No, Bella don’t. Please don’t—

She turns her back to Hermione, knife hidden in front of her.

So? Did you feel anything?

Hermione’s heart stops in her chest. Feel what?

I…can’t feel anything. What did you do?

Bellatrix’s shoulders fall in relief, and she turns around, holding up her palm. Blood. A shallow cut across her hand.

“Episkey,” Bellatrix mutters, and her skin knits back together until it’s smooth, no sign of damage.

She walks over to the bed, slowly sits down. “Think you might need to research that tomorrow, pet. Talk to Pronoe or someone about…my life is full of pain. I don’t want you to have to feel it. Any of it. But I don’t think…until the war is over…”

No choice. They have no choice.

Okay Hermione. Time to just accept it. You’re not weak. Be strong. For both of you.

She smiles at Bellatrix. Takes the knife from her hand.

Hermione. Hermione, what are you—

She looks at the knife. Really looks at it. At the handle, the blade. Just a knife. Sharpened metal. That’s all.

You’re a witch, Hermione. You have magic. Magic that can heal you tremendously fast. Pain is temporary. You’re in control of it.

She holds out her hand, and brings the blade across it sharply, flinching at the sting.

“No! No what are you—” Bellatrix snatches the knife from her hand.

“Episkey,” she says calmly. And the wound heals up.

She looks up at Bellatrix, who is across the room now, holding the knife out of her reach.

Hermione shakes her head, still smiling. “I’m not fragile. I can take pain if I have to. We’re witches. We know healing spells.”

 She beckons Bellatrix back over, who puts the knife down on the dresser with a pointed look before eventually coming back.

She takes Bellatrix’s hand, looking her in the eye with a raised eyebrow. “And maybe this will remind you to not put up with pain that you can easily fix. Eventually you need to learn to do that for yourself. But for now, do it for me. Pain shouldn’t be a part of your life. Take care of yourself, Bella. If someone else hurts you, it’s not your fault, and I won’t blame you. But let’s learn some healing spells, so we can be safe from harm as soon as the danger has passed. Both of us.”

Bellatrix searches her eyes confusedly. And then sighs. “Episkey is for cuts. Vulnera sanentur is for internal wounds.”

Hermione smiles. “Essence of Dittany for wounds. Burn healing paste.”

“Dr Ubley’s Oblivious Unction for mental pain like the cruciatus curse.”

“Murtlap essence for abrasions.”

Bellatrix laughs. “Good job Cissy gave you her potions bag, I’m going to be a walking St Mungo’s at this rate.”

Hermione huffs. “You should be! You’re at war. I bet Snape has all sorts of potions hidden away on himself. Not everyone ignores a stab wound until they collapse on the floor, Bella.”

Now it’s Bellatrix’s turn to huff. “I wouldn’t normally. You distracted me with love potions and prophecies and time travel.”

Hermione folds her arms. “No excuse. Tomorrow you’re going to ask your sister for healing potions. I’m sure she’ll be relieved that you’ve finally gone to her, seeing as she has a whole secret potions lab set up. Bella. Why do you think she’s done that, hmm?”

Bellatrix lies down on her back on the bed and shrugs. “Draco? Or…Lucius?”

Idiot.

She lies down next to her. “You don’t think that maybe the all-seeing Narcissa has had enough of seeing her sister hurting? That she’s just waiting for you to ask for help?”

Bellatrix rolls onto her side to face her. “Maybe. And maybe I’ll owl her tomorrow about some potions. For me. I’ll…ask. For…help.”

Finally.

There. Not so difficult. I asked the nymphs for help today, and now we have a whole world of information at our fingertips. Once I learn mermish.

Oh wait!

She rolls on top of Bellatrix with a grin. “Llo bi bavverissi.”

Bellatrix lets out a yell and slams her hands over her ears. “What the fuck? How did you even shout like that? Ow!”

Hermione pulls her hands away with a chuckle. “I didn’t. Mermish has this secret magic. It hurts unless you speak it. So outsiders don’t listen in. Look.”

She pops away to her room and grabs a pen and some paper, and then pops back.

Bellatrix jumps. “Warn me next…a muggle quill.”

“It’s called a—”

“Wait, wait don’t tell me. I know this one. It’s a…a pin?”

Hermione smiles. “Close. A pen. Now look.”

She writes out the mermish phonetically. “Llo bi bavverissi.”

Bellatrix snatches the piece of paper. “I heard it! What does that mean? Llo bi bavverissi?”

Hermione lies back on the bed with a sigh. “It means, ocean-eyes, You are a goddess of the sea.”

The bed shakes as Bellatrix thuds down next to her. “Guess I am. That’s what Thetis said. That I have to accept my role. Kalypso. I am Kalypso. My title. Bellatrix Black, Kalypso, Goddess of Concealment.”

A goddess. Bavverissi.

Hermione laughs. Try to hide from me

Bellatrix leans over her, frowning. “What?”

Memory lane.

“You can’t hide. You’re terrible at it. So. Try to hide from me,” she grins.

Bellatrix scoffs. Okay. Very funny, pet

Hermione smiles even wider. Show me. Hide your beautiful eyes. I think I’ll keep your eyes for myself. No one else gets to see them. Hide them

Wha…what do you…hide them because they’re beautiful?

Yes. I want you to hide them. Tell your magic to do it. Why should mortals get to see the true face of a goddess?

“…You think that will work?” Bellatrix whispers. “That I need to…of course. I like how I look. I’m not changing for others. I’m changing because…”

Her eyes turn a pale, piercing blue.

“…because you’re fooling them. Tricking them,” Hermione nods. “Protecting your beautiful face from the world.”

And her eyes snap back to brown. Dark and burning. Drift over her hungrily.

You’re too distracting, pet. No, I may be a goddess…but I think I’ll make you my Queen. Would you like that?

Oh.

Yes.

 


 

Hermione closes her eyes. Kalypso. Goddess of the Black Sea. I thank you for your protection. For your strength. For guiding me on my perilous journey. You have given so much, and yet I ask for more, if you will grant it

Bellatrix takes a sharp breath. Name it. Name it and I will give you anything. Everything

Hermione opens her eyes, let’s herself stare. Gods she wants…

I may be a mere mortal, but I am captivated by your beauty. I long for your touch, now and always. Make me your queen. Lie with me. Claim me. Take me

Bellatrix sits up, and pulls her nightdress off. “How shall I take you? Tell me. Shall I covet every inch of your skin? Taste you until the light of dawn breaks through the window? Or shall I show you my power? Take you with the force and will of the sea until you cannot breathe to even speak my name?”

Oh. Oh fuck that’s—

She spreads her legs almost on instinct. Feels out for her magic and casts a vanishing spell on her clothes, biting her lip as Bellatrix stares down at her. Her goddess. A powerful witch.

She is drawn to power…

Show me your power, goddess. Please. Claim me as yours. I can’t wait another second for your touch. Take me

And the lamplight flickers. A wind fills the air, blowing at the sheets, at Bellatrix’s hair. A cold caress over her skin that makes her shiver. Bellatrix closes her eyes, takes a slow breath, and then a long sigh as she leans her head side to side. Reaches out her arms to the sides.

Oh. It’s not the wind. It’s magic.

She can feel Bellatrix’s magic in the air, over her skin. An intense vibration that almost stings. Hermione whimpers as it travels over her like a wave, somehow heavy in its pressure.

And then it sweeps away as if it was never there. Pulled back, only her tingling skin and racing heart proof that it was ever there. Bellatrix’s eyes slowly open, and Hermione can’t tear her eyes away. Burning brown eyes that watch her like a predator. Like she’s a feast. Like if Hermione dares move, she’ll feel teeth at her throat.

Bellatrix holds her gaze, leans forwards on her arms, hands either side of her head, and lowers herself with such control that she stops a hair breadth from her lips.

Don’t move

The voice is firm. A command. Hermione doesn’t dare even breathe.

Eyes stare into her soul. Not searching. Waiting. Ensuring that the command is followed. And then Bellatrix grins wolfishly. Her eyes gleam as her mouth lowers. She captures Hermione’s lower lip between her teeth, bites down, and tugs.

It’s not painful, but it borders on pain. It pulls. A good kind of pull. A heat, spreading from her lip and over her face as her heart pounds.

Bellatrix sucks her lip into her mouth with a chuckle, flicks her tongue against it in playful apology.

Good. Now tell me…

She pulls away, and tilts Hermione’s head back, grazing her teeth along the underside of her jaw.

…who do you belong to?

Hermione almost throws her head further back at the sensation, but stops herself, unsure if she’s allowed to move.

Instead she groans through the thread. You. I belong to you

And a hand cups between her legs at the same time as a hot, wet mouth sucks at her pulse point.

Yes. Yes you’re mine, aren’t you. Only mine. My Queen. My mate. My soulmate. My love Bellatrix husks, low and throaty and hungrily.

Hermione desperately wants to spread her legs further. To thrust into the touch. To push herself up against the witch and scratch her hands over her back, her scalp, to drag her closer.

Yours. I’m yours, Bella. I love you. I want you. Please. Let me touch you I—

No! Bellatrix growls, and Hermione feels her wrists become tied to the bed. Lips descend on hers and she almost whines in relief at finally being allowed to touch the witch.

A tongue presses into her mouth and it’s heaven.

She can’t help it. She bucks her hips into the teasing hand.

Hermione freezes, and Bellatrix chuckles into her mouth. She pulls back. “That eager?”

Hermione is past shame. Past caring. She just nods shakily and raises her hips once more. Bellatrix smirks. “Tell me what you want then, and I’ll give it to you.”

Oh thank Merlin, she— “Bella, fuck me. I need you inside of me just— and why have you tied me up? I want to touch you.”

Fingers slide against her, some relief from the building ache, but Bellatrix is shaking her head. “Not this time. You wanted my power. I’m going to take you so hard and so fast that you won’t even be able to think to touch me. I want to watch you strain against the binds as you writhe on the bed. Can I tie your legs too? Let me tie you up. Spread for me.”

Her legs? Tied and spread and tugging Yes. Tie me to the bed. So I’m not tempted to touch you, my goddess

Lips brush against hers in thanks, soft and gentle. A sigh into her mouth even as she feels her arms and legs pull wide. Yes. Yes, I’m going to take you now

And Hermione closes her eyes in anticipation as a mouth moves over her body. Hot breath at her neck, and then over her chest.

And then the cold as Bellatrix pulls away completely. The hand gone from between her legs.

She blinks her eyes open in confusion. Oh. Bellatrix is stood at the end of the bed, looking her over. She nods her approval. Perfect. Just perfect. Hermione. Hermione, you’re perfect.

Oh gods the praise. Oh gods it—

And Bellatrix is on top of her, mouth biting at her chest and hand firm between her legs, pressing against her and then inside of her. Rough but controlled and so so—

She throws her head back with a moan, pressing up against her. “Yes. Yes Bella ye— oh fuck deeper.”

It’s like the heat coiled within her has finally been released, spreading through her limbs and up her spine before jolting back between her legs as Bellatrix’s hand just pushes further into her and moves faster and—

She can’t breathe. She pulls at the bindings and god it feels so good to just pull as hard as she can. Buck her hips as wildly as she can and not hold back. She moans, loudly. It feels so good she can’t— “Bella! Oh gods Bella I—”

She feels Bellatrix adjust and then—

Oh! Right there!

Yes. Yes Bella I— oh gods I— fuck it’s—

Oh yes she’s so close it— ah—and the— the magic it—

Lips on hers. Hot and— and she should kiss back but— fuck oh yes oh can’t breathe—

Bella, can’t breathe

The mouth is gone. At her chest and— around a — oh!

The sharp pain of a bite is soothed by a firm tongue and—

Bella—I’m going to—look at me—

She wants—she needs—oh gods

Bellatrix’s face fills her vision, and the hand between her legs moves faster and—so fast she—

Hermione’s hips jerk erratically and desperately, grind upwards to—

Bellatrix’s eyes widen and she groans Fuck I can see it. I think I can feel it. You’re going to—ah!

They both cry out, and Hermione loses her breath completely as her whole body seizes, a wave of pleasure hitting her that’s she’s never felt—oh Merlin it—

For a second everything goes dark, and she’s not sure if her eyes are open or closed. It doesn’t matter it— oh her muscles won’t stop clenching it’s—

Her hands are free. No bindings. She shakily reaches down to press Bellatrix’s hand more firmly against herself. The throbbing needs— oh yes that’s better it…

She opens her eyes. Still dark. Pitch black.

When did Bellatrix fall on top of her? Is she…

It’s dark because all the lights are out.

Bella? Bella wha…

Don’t know…energy…magic…something…

She tries to catch her breath. Shit that was—

It doesn’t help that Bellatrix is a dead weight on her chest. Not that she’s complaining but—

Bellatrix shifts with a whimper. Think I just fucked myself. What the fuck. I felt that. How did I— pleasure but not pain? Thank fuck for—

Oh.

You felt all of it?

No. No just when you came. I…

Bellatrix shifts again.

And again. Oh.

Do you need something, Bella? She grins, hand squeezing between their bodies to find—ah.

Bellatrix shudders on top of her. So close. Don’t — Need you to—

Hermione reaches as low as she can, tries to position her fingers as far as—oh. Oh she felt that it—

Fuck, Bella. You’re so close you— you only need—

Hermione…yes just…oh fuck I—

Oh she—ah it—

Hermione whines as she peaks again. Except she’s not. It’s not her, she’s not falling she just— a jolt of pure pleasure and—

I can feel it. I can feel you

A panting laugh from Bellatrix. Oh. Oh finally some fucking good news. Double orgasms? Fuck pet, maybe this mate thing isn’t so bad

How is she already talking again after—

The lights come back on, and Bellatrix sits up to grin down at her. Gods she looks incredible. Flushed and satisfied but already so energetic and cheeky and—

“Pet. We don’t even need to be in the same room to fuck each other now. If I get off…you get off.”

What! Oh she is just so—

Hermione rolls her eyes up at her. “Bella, you’d better not abuse this. Oh gods if I have to be horny now every time you—”

Bellatrix just grins wider. “And I can talk to you in the thread. You’ll be able to hear me and feel me and—”

Hermione just laughs. Bella, you just orgasmed like two minutes ago. How are you already planning—

The lights go back out, and Bellatrix falls down next to her, pulling the bedding over them and snuggling close. “Just thinking of the possibilities. This is a silver lining in the never-ending storm that is our lives,” she yawns.

Hermione yawns back. It’s catching. And she is tired.

She pulls Bellatrix close. Sleepily kisses her cheek. Her neck. Finally. I get to kiss you again. Don’t fall asleep yet. I didn’t get to kiss you

Bellatrix turns further towards her. Tilts her head so Hermione can reach her neck better. Don’t care if I’m asleep. Keep kissing me. Shouldn’t have tied you up. Not enough hands. Lips

Oh no, the tying up was definitely a good idea

It was, wasn’t it. You looked so fucking hot

It felt so good, Bella. I just let myself go completely. It was incredible. You should try it

A chuckle in her head. You want to tie me up? Because that’s the second time you’ve mentioned it, pet

Hermione kisses her ear. “I don’t really know,” she whispers. “I’ve never done it before. Maybe.”

I’ve never been tied up before. No one’s dared try to control me. I’ve never let them. Maybe I could…with you…

Hmm…no, no that’s not…

No it’s not…it’s not about control it…Bella. I could pull and pull with all my strength and scream and…and still it held me. It’s like…letting go in a safe place. I thought you’d like that

Oh. Could you do that? So not being controlled but…giving control to you. Trusting you. The same…like when you came to me. At the cottage. Just trusted me

“Yes…yes imagine you could let yourself go completely without any consequences. Let the chaos out.”

Bellatrix gasps. I could let the chaos out, and no one would get hurt. Not even me

She wraps Hermione in a tight hug. “Okay. Okay, if you can figure out how to restrain me then I’ll do it. You’ll need more than an incarcerous though pet. You’ll have to get thinking. If I let myself go completely, that won’t hold me,” she whispers.

Hermione hugs her back. “Of course not. A storm. A goddess. Nothing stops you. I’ll have to find out how to capture a goddess.”

You already have me. You captured me days ago. Weeks

Hermione sighs. Closes her eyes and relaxes in the warm embrace. And you captured me. Came into my mind and never left

Never

Never

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Right. Just— just go to the Burrow, Hermione. It’s— she wants to go. Why is she nervous? It’s fine.

“Hermione! Come here! Quick!” comes a yell from down the corridor.

Oh no, what—

She follows the thread straight to Bellatrix.

Who is stood on the sofa in the library. Staying very still. Umm…

“What…are you doing?”

Look at my hand. Fucking look at my hand right now!

Her hand?

Bellatrix stays frozen on the sofa, and Hermione stands on her tiptoes to—oh. Oh that is really creepy.

“That’s…my hand. Your hand is my hand.”

I know

So you…you metamorphed my hand? What— why are you standing like that?

It might go away if I move. I was trying to picture something I knew well, but would be able to see. I wouldn’t know if I had your nose or something

Hermione looks away. It’s freaky. Her hand is just…not meant to be anywhere else.

“So…are you going to stand there all day? Because me and my hands are going to the Burrow.”

Bellatrix takes a deep breath, and steps off the sofa. And squeezes her eyes shut tight. “Is it still there?”

Umm. “Yes. And I think you have my arm now too.”

“What?!” Bellatrix’s eyes snap open and she holds her right arm out in front of her. “I didn’t mean to do that! Oh! Oh what happens if I do it with my left arm?! Where will the Mark— oh bollocks. Lost concentration.”

Her arm morphs back to normal. Thank goodness for that. She takes Bellatrix’s hand with a sigh. “So much better. There’s going to be two of me in a minute. We don’t need three.”

Bellatrix turns to her with a sly grin. What? Oh!

She bats her over the head. “Bellatrix! What would you even do with— don’t answer that! Now are you sure you want to come? It might be quite boring for you.”

Bellatrix’s grin softens. You’re nervous. Don’t be. I’ll be there. And I’m sure I’ll think of something clever to say if it gets too depressing

Hermione squeezes her hand gratefully. It will be nice having her there. The chatty voice in her head. Same as always.

“Okay. Okay let’s go.”

She washes the invisibility over them, and pictures the orchard behind the Burrow.

“Harry! Harry over here, quick!” comes a voice squealing with laughter from the end of the garden.

“Don’t you bloody dare, Hermione Jean Granger. That’s cheating!”

Ah. That’ll be her and Ginny.

More laughter. “Go Harry, go! I’ve got her!”

Bellatrix raises her eyebrows at her. “What the hell is—ah!”

Bellatrix ducks as a quaffle flies at her head and Harry comes shooting straight at her to catch it, Ron hot on his tail.

Quidditch. She even misses quidditch.

She tugs Bellatrix off of the ‘pitch’ and behind an apple tree. “Sorry, that was close. Two-a-side quidditch. I’m on Harry’s team, because I’m dreadful and he’s some teenage quidditch star.”

Bellatrix peeks out at the garden from behind the tree. “Ah. Knew that. Draco, remember? And your memories. Potter is pretty good though. Thought before you showed me that Draco might have just been…exaggerating.”

Hermione watches through the branches as the four of them whiz over the grass and up into the brilliant blue sky. Well. Three of them. Her past-self is close to the ground and clinging on for dear life.

They look so happy.

And young.

She hugs Bellatrix around the waist from behind and rests her chin on her shoulder.

You alright, pet?

Hermione sighs. Yes. Yes I just…gods, just knowing what they’ve all been though…what they’re going to go through…that they’re going to be okay in the end…and just— oh it’s not the same, seeing them like this. I miss the people they’re going to become…but at the same time I wish they could stay like this forever. Young and free

Bellatrix squeezes her hands and leans back against her, humming in thought. “You’ll see them again. We’ll figure something out. This is your past. It’s not going anywhere, it will always be in your head. But they’re all waiting for you in the future. They love you. Look, they love you right now. And you love them. You must, if they talked you onto a broomstick. You’re dreadful.”

Hermione chuckles as her past self almost falls off, Harry moving over to steady her so the quaffle sails right past him and into the ‘hoop’. “Harry’s sixteenth birthday. Couldn’t refuse. Anyway, it won’t be long before—”

“Ron! Ginny! Lunch is ready dears, come and lay the table,” Mrs Weasley yells from the back door.

Bellatrix starts dragging her towards the house. Lunch? I’m bloody starving. Think we could steal something and they wouldn’t notice?

What?! Don’t you dare, Bella. And how on Earth are you hungry? I’m the one who didn’t eat—

Exactly. You’re hungry, so I’m hungry. You were too nervous for breakfast

Oh. Oh sharing hunger?

Harry comes jogging past them towards the back porch. “Do you need any more help, Mrs Weasley? I can get some chairs if we’re outside or—”

“That’s very sweet, Harry dear, but it’s your birthday. No, you just wash your hands and Ron can get the spare chairs from the shed. And check on your father whilst you’re there, Ron, fiddling with that radio again, I’m sure of it. I told him lunch would be at one, but you know how he—”

And I thought you wouldn’t shut up, pet. Forgot Molly Prewett was such a chatterbox. I reckon Weasley kissed her just to shut her up half the time

Hermione turns to stare at Bellatrix. Sometimes she forgets how old she is. She went to school with Mrs Weasley!

Bellatrix’s eyes narrow. “I’m not that old! She’s still older than me! I’m not some frumpy house witch with a thousand childr—”

Bellatrix pulls them sharply to the left as Ginny and a younger Hermione come up behind them.

“I’m just saying they don’t need to be all over each other all the time! It’s so gross. Every mealtime. Let’s make sure we’re nowhere near them this time,” Ginny huffs.

Past-Hermione turns away from her to secretly roll her eyes. “I really don’t think they’re that bad, Ginny. But fine, I’ll at least make sure we’re not opposite them, alright?”

Ginny grumbles to herself, kicking at the step before the two girls head into the house.

What was that about?

Hermione chuckles and pulls them over behind Harry, who’s sat awkwardly by himself at the outside table. “Ginny’s got a crush on Fleur. She hasn’t realised yet though, thinks she hates her.”

Bellatrix frowns. “Fleur? The French veela girl? How do they even know each other, let alone…”

She drifts off as Bill and Fleur walk out into the sunshine and head straight towards them.

“Harry? And why are you sat all alone for your anniversaire?” Fleur says with a blinding smile. A strange sound escapes Bellatrix’s mouth which she tries to turn into a cough.

Oh this is too good. Seriously, Bellatrix?

Shut up. And get that look off your face

Hermione just keeps smirking. I didn’t say anything. You’re the one who—

She surprised me! You don’t expect a veela to suddenly walk up to you and—

Smile at you? You’re as bad as Ginny. I’d assumed veela charms only worked on men, but I’m starting think it’s sexuality based seeing as you two—

And what about you? Because you definitely can’t call yourself straight anymore after—

Fleur leans over the table to kiss Harry’s cheeks, and then sits down opposite with Bill, hovering some elvish wine over. “It is not champagne, but it will have to do. You drink, yes?”

Harry runs a hand through his hair uncomfortably. “Uhh yeah, I mean no. I mean I drink butterbeer, but I’ve never really…”

Gods, Potter is such a square. The boy who lived never really lived, did he?

Hermione sighs. He never had the time. Always playing catch up. He’s not used to family or socialising. All his time at Hogwarts was either studying, quidditch, or trying not to die

She watches as herself and Ginny re-emerge through the back door, dishes in their arms. Ginny lets out a groan at spotting Fleur with Harry and begins whispering furiously with Hermione.

And Ron and Mr Weasley come up the garden path, Ron nodding at Harry, who smiles in relief.

What was it about him, pet? The weasel boy?

Ron carries a chair over, squeezing in next to Harry and clapping him on the back before reaching for a glass of wine. “Bloody brilliant idea, come on Harry, let’s have some before mum gets out here and— uhh—”

He suddenly seems to realise that Fleur is there and turns bright red, frozen mid-reach.

Hermione snorts. “He’s just…he’s my friend, Bella. We went through so much together. And he could be a right prat sometimes, and I’m not sure now that I ever liked him more than as a friend but…he’s just so genuine. Kind. Normal. Me and Harry needed that. I can’t help overthinking everything, and I was horrible at socialising, reading people. Harry’s completely lost in all this. But Ron…despite having an ordinary life, stuck by us. Most of the time. Told us when we were acting crazy or taking things too seriously.”

Bellatrix frowns, and then drags them around the table behind Fleur.

“Uhh, Bella? Wha—”

Bellatrix crouches so her head is dangerously close to Bill and Fleur’s, and stares straight at Ron.

What are you…?

I’m getting a look in his head. He’s your friend, I want to know why. Potter makes sense but…

So you’re reading his thoughts?! He’s probably just thinking about food, or Fleur. That won’t explain—

He’s thinking about Sirius. He wants to bring it up with Potter, but he’s worried he’ll make it worse. He’s thinking about how much it would suck to have no family on your birthday

Oh.

Oh Ron.

Bellatrix snorts. And now he’s wondering if French witches kiss the same as British witches. And panicking that he doesn’t know how to kiss at all, and what if it’s harder than it looks and— okay, he’s thinking about you. I’m getting out of there

Bellatrix pulls back with a shudder.

And a ringing sound fills the air as Mr Weasley stands at the head of the table, tapping against his glass. “Now that everyone’s settled, I’d just like to say a Happy Birthday to Harry on behalf of all of us. We’re uh, well we’re heading into some dark times—”

Mrs Weasley nudges him in the side with a glare.

“Yes. Right. Well, I’m not Dumbledore, but as he would say, let’s uh, look for the light—”

“Turn on the light,” Past-Hermione mutters to herself.

Know it All

“—and what could be brighter than this beautiful sunny day with family and friends, and of course Molly’s wonderful cooking.”

“Here here!” Bill shouts with a grin, raising his glass to his mother. Fleur kisses his cheek, and Ginny accidentally drops her fork on the floor.

Smooth, Ginny Weasley.

Mrs Weasley somehow manages to hover it back onto the table before it can hit the ground, and gets to her feet too, clearing her throat pointedly. “To Harry.”

Everyone raises their glasses, including a very embarrassed Harry, who doesn’t seem to know where to look, or whether he’s supposed to be raising his glass or saying anything.

Quick, turn this invisible! Bellatrix whispers into her head.

Huh?

Oh for—

She washes the invisibility over the sandwich that Bellatrix has somehow managed to grab whilst no one was looking.

She hands it to Hermione. “You’re the hungry one. It won’t do anything if I eat it. Join in with lunch. They won’t notice, because otherwise you’d remember it. One universe, remember? We were always here.”

Always here. How strange.

She looks over at her past-self, who’s smiling with Harry now and reaching for some food before Ron eats it all. The whole time. Bellatrix was right there.

Bellatrix leans sideways against her. “You’re so young. Not that you’re not young now but…ten years. Sixteen and the war is starting. Same as me. Except I started the last war.”

Hermione starts eating the sandwich. She is hungry.

It was mostly him though, wasn’t it? He already had older followers

They were more like…business partners. They had the funds. The political standing. Connections. No pet, I was planning a war from the age of seventeen. Took my mind off Andy and marriage and bla bla bla. I was parlaying with the giants as soon as I left Hogwarts. Not easy, let me tell you

Giants?! He sent you?! I thought he’d go himself. Or send somebody more experienced. I thought he was teaching you!

He was. It was a lesson. Be clever. Be charismatic. Read them. And don’t bother coming back if you can’t fulfil a task, no matter how dangerous

How awful…ah!

She hurriedly steps back as Bill gets to his feet. “Remus! I didn’t know you were back. I’ll get you a seat, here, take mine.”

Gods Lupin looks awful. The last few years have aged him horribly.

“That’s very kind of you, Bill, thank you. And hello everyone. Harry…”

He drifts off as he stares at Harry with a sad smile. “Happy Birthday, Harry,” he eventually sighs.

Harry ducks his head. “Thank you, Professor Lupin.”

Lupin seems to flinch, and then shakes himself, sitting down tiredly in Bill’s empty seat in front of them.

Poor bloke. Being a werewolf must be shit. Being a nymph is pretty wild but…a werewolf? Definitely the short straw. And Potter does look a hell of a lot like his dad. Must be fucking weird sat opposite him and having him call you professor

Can you remember him from school too?

Only as one of Sirius’ little friends. Annoying eleven year olds. Heard more about them through Cissy. She really hated Potter. Think she felt like he was taking Sirius away from us

Sirius…

He is a bit an elephant in the room.

I…I’m sorry I made you kill him. Sirius

Bellatrix turns to frown at her, and then pulls them over to a space in the garden away from everyone else.

“That’s not your fault. I already…well apparently I was drugged the whole time but…he had to die. He always did. Even the prophecy said so.”

Hermione shakes her head. It just seems wrong. Why couldn’t they save him? She could have told Bellatrix to— to capture him. Or— well he had to fall into the veil but—

Bellatrix squeezes her hand. “Not your fault. Or mine. Siri just…it was his time. Live fast die young. That was always Siri. Thought it might be me too but…guess I had you looking out for me. Setting me on the right path. He had Potter for that. He left too soon though.”

Oh. Oh it’s so sad it—

She wraps her arms around Bellatrix. “Still. He was your cousin. I’m sorry.”

Bellatrix hugs her back. “Me too. If I’d listened to him when…who knows. Can’t change that now.”

Master Spitsy said Sirius tried to talk to you. About…you know. Escaping it all. Like Andy

Hands stroke over her back. “He did,” Bellatrix whispers. “After he got sorted into Gryffindor…I cornered him alone. Told him he was bringing shame to the family. That he shouldn’t associate with bloodtraitors.”

Cornered him? When…when he was eleven? And Bellatrix was a final year?

Was he…scared?

Yes. Didn’t show it though. He’s a Black. He stood tall. Clenched his jaw. He said…’If you’re going to hurt me or something, do it. If not, then let me live my life. I’ve chosen my friends. And I think they’re better than yours. I’m happy, are you?’

Oh. And she still remembers word for word…

Hermione hugs her tighter, and Bellatrix sighs sadly. I looked into his head of course. He was terrified. Alone. Miserable. But the possibility of real friends…it was his last hope. His only hope. He’d given up on me. On family. He was choosing his own

And…and what did you say?

…Nothing. I cast a silencio at him and sent him flying into an empty classroom. Shut the door so I wouldn’t have to look at him. I avoided him as much as I could after that. Watched from a distance. Found things out from Cissy and Andy

She kisses Bellatrix’s cheek. “He’d be proud of you now. Lying to a Dark Lord. The ultimate prank.”

Bellatrix pulls back with a smile. “It is, isn’t it? No one guessed what I’ve been up to. I’ve fooled the whole world! Beat that, Siri.”

Hermione chuckles. “Speaking of which, we should probably go. You need to learn to hide some more. And I’d better get reading.”

Bellatrix looks over towards the table of people. Eating birthday cake now, but rather subdued. A gloomy cloud over them all. “Do you think we could prank them somehow? For Siri?”

Hermione frowns. Well…not really. Because they didn’t. Did they?

And Bellatrix points her wand at the table, muttering a spell.

Wha— what did you do?! You can’t— the timeline!

Bellatrix grins. Tied Lupin’s shoelaces together. Siri was always doing that to Cissy. Drove her mad. She missed it when he stopped though. Bet he did it to Lupin too

Hmm. She can’t remember Lupin falling over or anything, but…

“Fine. We can check my memories later. Home to get changed?”

Bellatrix sniggers to herself once more, sending another spell, this time at Ron. Child.

And then nods.

Hermione takes one last look at the party, before popping them away.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The days pass by, and they settle into an odd kind of routine. Potions for Bones, breakfast together, occlumency lesson with Draco for Bellatrix, and Hermione heads off to the archives. Meet back for lunch. And then Hermione takes Bellatrix to the lake for her lessons with Thetis, and Hermione heads to the archives again until dinner time.

Of course Bellatrix gets called away by the Mark every now and then, throwing everything off balance. Sometimes she’s gone when Hermione goes to sleep, and still gone when she wakes up, with no signs to show if she’d ever come home at all.

So far, she hasn’t had any phantom pains. So either Bellatrix isn’t getting hurt, or the mate feelings haven’t kicked in yet. She has found herself falling asleep with her face in a book a few times though. She’s not quite sure if that’s her own tiredness or Bellatrix’s.

She blinks her eyes a few times at the page in front of her. The looping mermish is starting to run off the page the more she looks at it. Time to stop. Is it dinner time yet, or—

Hermione! I did it! Follow the thread, quick!

She did it? Oh!

“Bellatrix metamorphed!” she calls excitedly to Leagore, not even waiting for a response before she pops away—

—and is face to face with Draco underwater.

What the—

She casts a bubblehead charm on herself before she can choke in surprise. Bella?

“It’s me! So? Is it convincing?” Draco grins.

With Bellatrix’s voice coming out of his mouth.

Hermione bursts out laughing. “Well it would be if it wasn’t your voice. Why Draco?!”

Oh bollocks. Forgot about the voice. I just thought it would be easier because I see him so much. Almost chose you but—oh shit.

She flickers and then fades back into herself. It’s a bit of a relief.

“It’s so hard to be him when I’m talking to you. Oh well, still pretty good. How long was that, Thetis?”

Hermione whirls around in surprise. Of course Thetis is here—

A serious looking teenage mermaid. With a pocket watch.

“Just over two minutes, I believe. You do not need to try so hard, little sister. It is—”

“Natural. I know, I know. You saying that doesn’t make it magically happen though. I have to find a trigger. A memory. Focus on it. It’s the only way,” Bellatrix grumbles.

Thetis swims closer with a sigh, morphing back into a queen. Cups Bellatrix’s face in their hands. “I have told you. You do not need this. It is within you. Let yourself change. It should be as simple as…” They laugh tinklingly. “I would say as simple as breathing, but that is also a challenge for you in the depths. Although that may also change once we’ve solved the…tail issue.”

Bellatrix pulls Thetis’ hands from her face so she can turn to grin excitedly at Hermione Breathing underwater?!

Hermione smiles at her fondly and then meets Thetis’ eye, kicking her legs and gesturing quickly with her arms, pronouncing the words carefully. “Lla…hwuu.” She’s…cheerful.

Thetis grins widely at her and chimes out a laugh, flicking their tail. “Lla ffuuhii.”

Oh of course. Ffuuhii. Excited.

Bellatrix huffs. “Will you stop doing that! You know I can’t enter the archives until I’ve figured this out!”

Hermione kisses her cheek. “Sorry. You did so well. It was just like Draco, scarily so. Now come on. Try to beat your record. Hide from us.”

She swims back from Bellatrix to watch next to Thetis and…oh. They have an audience. Leagore and Oreithye have come to watch. And…there’s Agaue, hiding behind some rocks again. And Kallianassa not too far from them.

Bellatrix has her back to them. She’s not sure if she should tell her or…

Bellatrix closes her eyes, frowning in concentration…

And her hair gets shorter and shorter. Lighter, until it’s silvery blond. Her face narrows, her lips thinner. Her body changes shape, shifting before her eyes until…Draco.

Did I do it?

Okay. Okay don’t distract her.

Hello, Draco

Silence through the thread. And then Bellatrix opens her eyes and smirks at her. “Granger. See Potter and carrot-top have left you alone. What happened, did they get fed up with your constant nagging?”

Oh he is such an arse, he—

She. Still Bellatrix. It’s still her voice! You can’t be fooled by…

Bellatrix flicks her hair needlessly and runs her thumb down the side of Draco’s nose. He does do that. A lot. She never noticed before.

“And I see Crabbe and Goyle have run off somewhere too. Probably eating something. Or they got lost. Looks like you’ll have to defend yourself for once,” Hermione smirks back.

Draco’s lip twitches into a smile, but he quickly clenches his jaw and turns it into a scowl. “Shut up, Granger. You’re the one who needs to defend yourself. When my father hears about this—”

Hermione can’t help it. She bursts out laughing. Gasps for breath as tears fill her eyes. Oh it has been so long since Draco said that, but it’s so him, it—

Draco smiles brightly at her and it just makes her laugh harder. Draco Malfoy is smiling at her.

“Oh gods Bella, I can’t!” she gasps out.

Draco starts cackling with laughter, and apparently it’s too much for Bellatrix too, as his hair darkens and grows to his shoulders. Eyes turning brown. And Bellatrix is back.

“Thetis? Time?” Bellatrix pants out.

“Only one minute. Although you found a form very quickly. You are improving. I think you are able to hold it longer, you just cannot resist being yourself. Until you find another form that you…enjoy showing, you won’t show it for long.”

“Who was that? You looked like Pronoe! Or Leagore!” Autonoe says, appearing from nowhere in a whirl of bubbles as they twirl around Bellatrix.

Bellatrix grabs them by the tail, yanking them to a stop. Oh that’s better. They were making her dizzy. Bellatrix holds Autonoe firmly by the shoulders and looks into their eyes. “Draco…my sister’s son…Autonoe, let me try…”

She slowly breathes in…and then her face changes. Softens. Her hair turns…green. Braided back.

Autonoe gasps. “You’re me…you’re like us. Green hair…” They reach out to touch Bellatrix’s hair, feel it between their fingers.

And then they frown. “You don’t need to be me, you know, little sister. Be you. Just…imagine it. I love imagining things. You’re Kalypso. Imagine who…who Kalypso would be. She’s you…and more. That’s how I decided what Autonoe would look like.”

Bellatrix morphs back to herself. “You chose how you look?” she whispers to Autonoe. “I thought…you’re so young and free. I thought this was always you.”

Autonoe looks around at everyone, and shakes their head. And transforms.

They look…older maybe. Not much. They look…a lot like Bellatrix…but ganglier. Awkward. And maybe a bit like Tonks. Yes. Like Tonks when she’s just knocked something over and is feeling embarrassed.

“This is my veriform,” Autonoe whispers. “I don’t like it that much. It’s too…it’s not me. I don’t feel like…like a god, when I’m this. Autonoe. It means ‘With her own mind’. I don’t know what I’m god of really… So I just let my mind tell me what to do.”

They morph back with a smile. “This is me. The me I want to be. You already know who you want to be, so that’s fine. Don’t change unless you want to, Bellatrix. Warrior... Hmm. Maybe you can maxiform! Like Dexamene and— Oreithye! Come and show her!”

Oreithye clears their throat uncomfortably at being called out for watching, but does swim over. “I don’t see why it would help but…fine.”

They push Autonoe out of the way, and move in front of Bellatrix. “If you are able, then in your anger you can grow your form. Maxiform. Anger is not necessary…but it helps. It is defensive. Only the strongest and the protectors are able to do this. Myself. Dexamene. Thetis. Kallianassa. I do not know if this is your role…but let’s see.”

And Hermione cries out as arms crush around her. Ow, it’s tight and— Oreithye is too strong. It’s hurting her ribs. She can’t breathe she—

Bella—

A blast of magic shoots from Bellatrix’s hand and—

Bounces off Oreithye’s arms. What? How?

She wriggles in their grip. It’s not too bad now. Not that tight. But if Bellatrix thinks…

“Let her go!” Bellatrix growls, wand drawn. Oh dear. Anger leads to cursing. She’d kind of forgotten that.

Bella, Bella change form. Metamorph. Grow stronger than them

I am stronger than them. If they don’t let go then—

Try. Just try. Imagine you want to…punch them. Hard. Make your hand bigger. Your arm

Bellatrix’s hands clench into fists, bubbles coming from her wand as accidental magic streams into the water. Her eyes seem to darken and…no. Still her. Just very, very angry.

“Oreithye…I think you might need to leave before—” Hermione stops mid-murmur.

Too late. The water is vibrating around them. A current forming that pulls them like a whirlpool and—

And they’re surrounded by sand. Mud. It’s dark and she can’t see and—

Everything is spinning. She’s lost track of the surface. Rocks and torn reeds blur past her.

Oreithye is suddenly gone from her back. Oh no. Oh no anger leads to cursing, and fear leads to storms and sand and sea and— oh.

She follows the thread to Bellatrix. Grabs her shoulders through the sand and water. Stop this, Bella. Right now. I’m not hurt. And you said you’d be kind

Arms wrap around her. You’re okay? Because if they hurt you—

Hermione groans. They were acting. It only hurt for a second it— I’m not fucking fragile. Stop this. Before I calm it for you. Now, Bella. Before you hurt someone

And Bellatrix crumbles against her.

The current stops. The sand falls down to the floor, and the mud drifts slowly after it.

Fuck. I fucked up. It’s— I just…did I hurt anyone? I can’t look

Her face is hidden in Hermione’s shoulder. Hermione holds her close and looks around, casting a lumos from her fingertips.

Autonoe peeks out from behind the rock where Agaue…no Agaue. Or Kallianassa. They must have left. Thetis…has maxiformed in front of Autonoe. And Oreithye hasn’t maxiformed, but is holding Leagore’s arm firmly from a short distance away, muscles tense.

They’re alright, Bella. But I think you’ll need to apologise. To all of them

Hermione takes Bellatrix’s hand, and swims awkwardly towards Thetis. Who stands tall, shielding Autonoe. Oh dear.

Bellatrix clears her throat. “I…”

Thetis glares down at her. Oreithye and Leagore swim over. Surrounded by hard eyes and sharp teeth.

And Bellatrix takes a steadying breath, nodding to herself. And transforms…

Into her veriform.

Leagore and Oreithye make shocked eye contact, teeth returning to normal, and Thetis’ posture softens. Autonoe gasps from over their shoulder.

Bellatrix looks down at the sand. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…I was angry. Scared. Your…your actions scared me. Your strength scared me. I’ve— I love Hermione, and you were hurting her. Taking her from me. I don’t like it when— when people I love are threatened. It— I’m a protector. I’m not strong like you, but…my body isn’t strong…but I am.”

Her eyes come up to meet Oreithye’s. “God of the raging sea…do you see me, fellow protector? Don’t hurt my family. Please. I— I can’t see any more pain. I’ve had enough.”

Oh no. Oh Bella no, it’s okay it—

She wraps her arms around Bellatrix. Tucks the witch’s head under her chin so she’s hidden again. That was brave, Bella. You’re so strong. You did so well, you—

Thetis shrinks. Into their veriform. Places a hand on Bellatrix’s shoulder, who turns to look.

“You are forgiven, little sister. Your mate was threatened and— and we should not have underestimated your strength. You are a Black. You are strong. The current flows strongly though your veins. You have done us proud, protecting our sisters from harm.”

Bellatrix hesitates…and then leans to wrap her arms around Thetis’ neck and hug them. “You look just like Cissy. I wish you could— I protected them as much as I could. It wasn’t enough but—”

“It was enough, sister. They are alive. You succeeded.”

“No. No there— I should have— and my cousins. Two boys. Two more that I didn’t save.”

Sirius and Regulus? That wasn’t her fault. She’d said. Is she still worried about— she blames herself for—

“I’m the eldest. They were all so young. I should have—”

Thetis begins to hum a soothing tune. Holds Bellatrix and sways. And then sighs musically. A bittersweet croon. “I know, child. I know the weight of being the eldest. But you did all you could. And you are the youngest of us now. Let your elders guide you. Care for you. Hush, little one. You are safe.”

Hermione is just crying now. Autonoe swims around and takes her hand, and she smiles at them gratefully.

They’re right, Bella. You did everything you could and more. You were incredible. You still are.

No I— I couldn’t escape the violence. I got lost. I let it control me. Let it in. Regulus— he—followed me and—

Thetis begins singing once more, and Bellatrix clings to them. “Thetis. Thetis I’m sorry. I wasn’t strong enough.”

No she—

“I know, little sister. I know.”

They know? But that’s not true! Bellatrix is strong, she—

And Bellatrix collapses into them in relief. “I stopped putting them first. I put myself first. My wants. My anger. I wanted to be free of them. It was too much. So I just…turned my back on them.”

Oh. Oh so this is about after—

“You gave all of yourself to them, and got no reward. They did not appreciate you. They grew up and turned away from you. And though you loved them, you hated them for what they had made you become.”

Bellatrix pulls back, nodding. “I became a monster for them, I loved them through everything, and when I needed them? When I was in pain? Where were they? Turned their back on me. Ran from me. Called me mad, or a child. I’m not a child. I’ve never been a child.”

Thetis nods back. And transforms into Andromeda. “Tell me.”

Oh dear. Oh no. Is—

Bella? Are you okay? Crookshanks, remember?

Bellatrix lets out a harsh bark of laughter. I’m okay. I think I need to…

She points accusingly at Thetis. “How could you do that to me, Andy? You’re almost the same age as me but you left me to— to take all the shit they were throwing at us. And I didn’t even mind. I didn’t mind protecting you, because it made me feel better. Made me feel that they were wrong about me. That I had to have some goodness in me, that I had to be strong, because how else was I protecting you? And Cissy?”

Bellatrix is freely crying now, shoving weakly at Thetis shoulders as they just take it.

“I gladly shielded you. I just— you left. You left and you chose someone else to be your family. And you never came back, Andy. You never even— I fought for you. Why couldn’t you fight for me? Why couldn’t you have— have found me? Have fixed it? Couldn’t you— did you give up on me? Why didn’t you… see me? When you heard what I had become, why didn’t you come to save me from the monster? From myself? It was your turn and— and you left me, Andy. I never would have left you. Never. But you left me.”

She stops hitting Thetis. Just holds onto them.

“I’m sorry, sister,” Thetis says. “You’re right. You deserve to be angry. I’m sorry.”

Bellatrix takes a shuddering breath, and wipes at her face within the bubble. “Okay. Okay then. Enough, Bella.”

And she shoves at Thetis again, playfully this time. “Right. Change back, smart arse. Come on. I know what it’s like to be the eldest, remember? Stop protecting me, before I go into your head and fish out some awkward truths of my own. How about the time Autonoe left you in charge of Leagore and—”

To Hermione’s astonishment, Thetis transforms into an awkward looking preteen in the blink of an eye and presses their hand over Bellatrix’s mouth. “Ssshh. Don’t tell them— nothing happened. How did you—”

They whirl to face Leagore. “She’s lying! Don’t listen to her! It wasn’t me, it—”

Leagore raises their eyebrows in surprise, and Hermione turns to a gleeful Autonoe with a grin. What happened here then?

Thetis freezes, and then clears their throat, morphing back into their usual queenly appearance and folding their arms ‘casually’. “Yes. Well. As you say, sister. That’s enough for now.”

Leagore smirks. “Oh no, I do not think that was quite enough, dear Thetis. Bellatrix. Do share what my beloved older sibling—”

Bellatrix shrugs out of Thetis’ grip and opens her mouth and—

Thetis reaches for her once more, but she’s too fast, ducking out of their reach. “Bellatrix, don’t you dare. I am queen. I am the head of this colony and—”

Autonoe grabs Bellatrix’s arm with a giggle and propels her away from Thetis. “What happened? Quick! Tell us!”

Thetis comes after them, but Leagore pops in front of them, arms folded, and Oreithye grabs Thetis by the tail, pulling them back. Thetis shrieks in surprise and—

“Bellatrix, sister, tell me!” Leagore yells.

This is chaos! Should she tell? Is Thetis really angry or—

“Thetis dropped you!” Bellatrix shouts back with a grin. “When you were an egg. Dropped you into a deep, narrow hole and you got stuck!”

Oh! Really?!

Oh it happened. They were thinking about it a few days ago. Thinking about eggs and it just crept into their mind

Thetis is frozen once more. A whine escapes their mouth and then they shrink back away from Leagore. And then hide their face in their hands. “It was an accident. I…well I shouldn’t have…I was curious and— I was only forty-eight.”

Hermione snorts. Only forty-eight. No wonder they call her and Bellatrix children. So…forty-eight divided by four. Twelve. Ah. Now the appearance of the awkward preteen makes sense.

Leagore seems to still be processing, mouth opening and closing. Oreithye lets go of Thetis and swims around to face them. “Stuck? What…how did you…how did we not know about this?”

Hermione swims closer to join the stunned group. Well, not all stunned. Bellatrix is smiling smugly.

And then Leagore laughs. Laughs and laughs in whistles and chimes of uncontrollable mirth. Thetis peeks out from between their fingers, and Leagore just laughs harder, holding onto their shoulder.

“You’re…you’re not angry, little sister?” Thetis asks cautiously.

Leagore pulls Thetis into their arms and then twirls and twists through the water, whirling around them in dips and dives. “How long have you been holding onto that story, Thetis? No, no it is funny. I am unharmed. You cannot feel through— through an egg. What—”

Leagore and Thetis come to a stop before them once more. “What happened?”

Thetis pulls back with a grin. And transforms into the preteen again. “Well…”

They swim away, and begin a dramatic re-enactment in their squeaky young voice.

“Autonoe had to go to some boring assembly with the other adults. They’d been gone for hoouuurs. It was awful. Speio wouldn’t play with me, and I couldn’t even go swimming with Pronoe because I had to watch a stupid egg. It didn’t do anything. It didn’t move, or talk. Just sat there. I missed the old Leagore. They used to tell me stories, and take me on patrol. This new Leagore was so dull!” they whine, draping themselves over a rock.

Oreithye snorts, nudging Leagore, and Autonoe grabs hold of Hermione in excitement.

Thetis sighs. “So. Eventually, I picked the egg up. Autonoe had told me not to even touch it but…they wouldn’t know. And I was going to be ruler one day. I should be allowed to do anything I want. I picked up the egg…and carried it with me out into the lake. I took Pronoe with me too. I wouldn’t leave a little sixteen-year-old alone. I knew that was wrong. It was an adventure! And we had the lake to ourselves, because the adults were all in the agora for some debate.”

Oh dear. Unsupervised children in a lake. With an egg. That’s just asking for trouble.

“So?” Leagore calls out. “You dropped me in a hole?”

Thetis folds their arms with a huff. “Eggs are heavier than you would think. And slippery! I didn’t mean to. I just let go for a second because Pronoe was swimming away. I thought you would fall into the sand! It was a secret hole!”

Bellatrix swims up to Hermione and wraps her arm around her. “Yes. You were so sensible. Tell them how you got the egg back, big sister.”

Thetis glares at her. “This is how you thank me for all my hours of teaching, Kalypso?”

Bellatrix just sticks her tongue out at them.

Thetis sits down on the sandy bed. “I was too big to reach into the hole. I hadn’t learnt to miniform…and I was running out of time before the adults came back so— So I dropped Pronoe into the hole to get it. I held their tail! And it was fine! They had small arms, they could reach and— no one found out!”

“I remember that!” comes a shout from behind them.

Oh this is brilliant.

Pronoe.

Pronoe swims over to Thetis, who collapses into the sand with a groan, wriggling and covering themselves with sand until they’re mostly hidden from sight. Okay. Genetics are showing through. This kind of sulking is very familiar.

Pronoe pokes them. “I thought it was a dream, but I remember squeezing into a…I thought it was a cave. And I was reaching for something gold. I thought it was treasure not— it was Leagore?”

Thetis just rolls deeper into the sand.

Bellatrix sighs. “Alright. They’ve suffered enough. I’m sure we all have embarrassing secrets hidden away. I can look into your heads too, remember?”

Autonoe turns to face her with a gasp. And then covers their head with their hands. “Oh, don’t look! Oh, how do you do that? Can you see my thoughts right now? What am I thinking?”

Bellatrix chuckles. “I can, but I won’t look. I don’t think I’ll be very popular if I spill any more secrets, hmm Leagore? Oreithye? And Pronoe... Now how you’re hiding your thoughts from me is the real mystery. Occlumency?”

What? How is Pronoe…

Pronoe smiles smugly at them. “Forethought. A useful skill to learn, with witches such as yourself in our close proximity. The headmaster, for example, is far too probing. Foolish boy. No forethought. Knowing all is not always wise.”

Hmm. True. Some secrets are definitely necessary.

Thetis glides up into the water, shaking the sand from themselves and calmly tying their hair back from their face. A king. “Right. That’s quite enough. Bellatrix, shall we continue? Leagore, Oreithye, time for evening patrol. Autonoe, go check on Agaue, they have been timid as of late. They may wish to confide in you on the matter. And Hermione. I believe there is a new story for Pronoe to share with you.”

Gosh. Okay. The authority is back. Yes.

Bellatrix kisses her head. See you later. And remember to eat. I think I’m being called away again this evening

Oh. Oh she’s always so busy.

I’ll save you some. And don’t forget your potions bag

Everyone swims off, quick to follow their orders. Except Pronoe. They offer their hand to her, smiling sadly. “She is tired. You are tired. Sshiiji. Just one story today, and then you shall rest.”

Hermione takes their hand and sighs. Okay. Back to the archives.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Sunday. A day off. For both of them. Hermione can’t quite believe it. It’s been weeks. August has just…disappeared. Where did it go?

Bellatrix pokes her. “Well? We’re not going to spend our day off in bed, are we? Or…well not asleep anyway. I’m sure I could think of something we could do that would be much more fun.”

Hermione just pulls the bedding over her head and shoves her face in a pillow. Always so much energy.

Hello? Come on! I’ve already taken care of Bones, had breakfast, I’m dressed, I read this— oh! Do you know metamorphing can even fool polyjuice if you replicate the person faithfully enough? I’m not sure I could be anyone except you or Draco or Cissy or—

Hermione groans. Belllaaa. Sleeping. Not talking

Not even about books? Are you sure you’re Hermione Granger? What have you done with my soulmate?

I’ve had enough of books! I—

Bellatrix gasps and rolls her over, crawling on top of her. “Okay. I was joking, but— you’ve had enough of books? What did they do to you in that lake?”

Hermione blinks against the sunlight. Stares up at Bellatrix. Who’s smiling at her. Curls falling around them. So beautiful.

And a scratching sound comes from the window.

Bellatrix is gone in the blink of an eye. “Apollo? Will Draco leave me in peace for just one day?! Hasn’t he had enough of me? I’m in his head every day as— noooo, Cissy, whhyy?”

Hermione sits up in confusion.

Bellatrix stomps over with a sigh. “Well. That’s our day off gone. Cissy has invited us to tea. Both of us. She’s insisting.”

To tea? She can’t be serious. “Umm…real tea? Or is this…code?”

Bellatrix snorts. “Both. Real tea. Real cake. Real polite small talk…whilst she stares into your soul and finds out all your secrets. So, you know. Typical Cissy.”

Oh dear. “And what about Draco? Won’t he be there? And…”

She sits on the edge of the bed next to Bellatrix and takes her hand. “And what about…are we still pretending? Hiding. At the Manor, she seems to be in on the plan. Do you think we…tell her everything? Like I did with Snape?”

Bellatrix frowns in thought. “I don’t think Draco will be there. He can’t know about you. Too risky. Cissy would never…she’s probably sent him off somewhere. And…let’s…she will know by now that it’s time travel. She’s seen you. She knows you’re older. Your reaction to Draco would have been enough for her to see that. So…let’s just be ourselves, but not tell her anything unless she asks. She’s clever. She knows not to look too hard. Like Pronoe said, sometimes not knowing everything is better. Cissy knows that, as much as she hates it.”

Hmm. Maybe. Narcissa is kind of asking for it, inviting them over for…an interrogation, basically. Oh.

Hermione grins at Bellatrix. She won’t know what’s hit her. Oh this might be even better than Snape! If I close my mind to her completely, but we can still use the thread, she’ll be so confused!

Bellatrix cackles and jumps to her feet. “Yes! Oh what else should we do? Cissy has it coming. She hasn’t seen anything. What do you think, should you wear muggle clothes? Should I wear muggle clothes? Pull out a pen?”

Oh that would be brilliant. But…

She walks over to her wardrobe to get dressed. In a dress. It’s hot today, and they are going to tea. She has some clothes that aren’t jumpers and jeans. “No. No, if we’re going to be ourselves, let’s be ourselves. She probably wants to read us because she’s worried. Or to help us. She’s very perceptive, she needs to read us properly. It will be enough of a shock that we like each other, Bella.”

Ah. There we are. A sundress. From when she was sixteen, so a bit too small. But with a few magical alterations…there.

She slips it on. And feels a kiss on her shoulder from behind.

I more than like you, pet. Always. But fuck me, why don’t you wear dresses more often?

Hands slide over her back, and then around her waist. Reach up and cup— Bella. What time is tea?

A mouth at her neck. Eleven thirty

And what’s the time now?

…Eleven

Hermione groans. Right.

She pulls Bellatrix’s hands off her. “Then I should definitely get ready. Your sister sees everything. I don’t think her seeing that is the best way to start this.”

A chuckle through the thread. Or it’s the perfect way to—

No, Bella. I should have a shower. Or at least— my hair is— we’re always in a lake or—

It’s just Cissy. Why do you want to impress her so much? I’m the one who’s fucking you, not her

It’s not about her, it’s— the occasion. And you both have those Black goddess genes so—

She’s never sure— she’s all about feminism and choice but— she can’t help feeling— it’s an invitation to tea! At a manor! With Narcissa Malfoy and—

She turns to face Bellatrix, who’s lying on her stomach on the bed.

“It’s just…my hair. Everyone always says it’s—”

“Perfect. Beautiful. Do you think people haven’t made comments about my hair?” Bellatrix grins. “Screw them. Their hair is boring and dead.”

Hermione laughs. All hair is dead!

Not our hair. Our hair is definitely alive. Mind of its own

Hermione laughs harder, and Bellatrix smiles at her softly. “See? We don’t need to change anything. Cissy can think what she likes. We don’t have to follow any boring rules. Our life’s too interesting for all that bollocks. No, get in that shower if you’re going to. I’ll go and accept this invitation. Send it through the floo. And then Cissy can get exactly what she asked for.”

 


 

They walk out of the floo at precisely eleven thirty, and Bellatrix drags Hermione straight down the hallway towards the back of the house. This house is depressing as fuck. And that’s coming from me. With the dead creatures in the halls. We should really redecorate at some point

The portraits should definitely go into the attic if we can pry them from the walls. They watch me. It’s creepy. And what if they’re spying for Him

Nah, can’t leave their frames. I already sorted that out ages ago. In case they were spies for the Order. Ah, there she is. Get your head shielded pet, the basilisk has spotted us

Narcissa is sat at a table on the lawn, teacup held to her lips. She’s not drinking though. Bellatrix is right. She’s watching them.

Veritaserum in the tea? Hermione half jokes. Gosh. The walk over feels like a lifetime. Into the dragon’s maw. What are the rules? What does she want, Hermione? Think. This is a real Slytherin. Not just whatever kind of Slytherin Bellatrix is.

Bellatrix must have been a hat stall. Hermione never asked—

“Bella, Miss Granger. How nice of you to accept my invitation on such short notice. Please, sit, tea? Lemonade?” Narcissa says, already on her feet to greet them.

Bellatrix flops into a chair. “Morgana’s tits, Cissy. We’re not royalty. I see you almost every day as it is with all these occlumency lessons. Sit down, we can pour our own drinks.” There. No poison for us. Tea or lemonade?

Hermione huffs, and sits down a lot more delicately. Lemonade, please. Although you don’t have to be so rude to your sister, honestly Bella. “It all looks lovely, Mrs Malfoy. Thank you.”

Bellatrix pours them both some lemonade, and Narcissa’s face remains perfectly blank. Hmm. Not as fun as Snape then.

Hermione clears her throat uncomfortably at the oddly long pause. “And how is Draco? Is he not…joining us?”

Narcissa’s lip twitches. “No. No, he is visiting with the Parkinsons. I would send him your regards, but…”

She just stops. No sign of why. Bellatrix slurps at her lemonade in the awkward silence, and Hermione elbows her in the ribs.

Bella!

She needs to stop bloody hiding. She’s dying to know more about you. She could just ask but no, no. She’ll make us do all the work. Playing the waiting game

Well we won’t know what she wants unless she says! She doesn’t even have any expressions to go by. What have you—

Narcissa takes a sip of tea. Places the cup and saucer back down. And still says nothing.

Well fine then. Hermione’s just going to help herself to the finger sandwiches and cake. She didn’t have breakfast and— Can I pass you anything, Bella? Which cake is your favourite? Chocolate?

Bellatrix turns and smiles at her. It’s a test. The cakes. Cissy knows my favourite is actually the walnut cake. She wants to know how well you know me

Hermione’s mouth falls open in disbelief. The cake is a test?!

Well then. She never fails a test.

If she wants to know, then she can know. Hermione cuts a slice of walnut cake for Bellatrix.

“Thanks, pet. Help yourself to whatever you want, Cissy won’t mind, will you Cissy?”

Narcissa slowly raises an eyebrow. “Of course not. You are my…guest.”

Okay, she’s being very strange. This isn’t Snape in polyjuice is it? Do they just swap bodies all the time or something?

Bellatrix barks out a laugh through a mouthful of cake, and crumbs fly everywhere.

Ah, finally Narcissa has a facial expression. Disgust, as she flinches back in her seat with a sneer.

“What is wrong with you, Bella? It’s like dining with a chimp. Keep your mouth closed for Salazar’s sake!” She vanishes the crumbs with a flick of her wand, running her hands over her dress to smooth it.

We got her, pet. She’s lost the façade.

Hermione smiles around a bite of cucumber sandwich. Maybe this will—

Are you sleeping with my sister?

And now Hermione is the one choking. Merlin’s Beard, her timing is just—

Bellatrix casts an anapneo at her. What is it? What did she do? Are you okay?

Hermione gets her breathing under control and looks across the table at Narcissa. Waits for her to take a sip of tea.

“I’m in love with your sister.”

Narcissa doesn’t choke. So that’s disappointing. But she does put her cup down rather suddenly, and turns to stare at Bellatrix.

“Ow, Cissy. Get out of my head. Go away, you— you don’t have to drag it out of me, just bloody ask!”

And Narcissa launches to her feet. “I’m going to drag your tongue out in a minute, Bella, if you— what is— how did— this doesn’t make sense!”

Fucking finally— oh no. Get ready, pet. Stand your ground

What? Oh— She hurriedly gets to her feet.

Naricissa pulls her wand from…nowhere…and slashes it sharply though the air, and the table vanishes. Tea and all.

Damn, never got to finish—

And Narcissa storms forward. Right up to Hermione. As close as possible. Stares into her eyes. Is this a family thing, Bella? Intimidation lessons?

A chuckle. No. No, she’s not angry. She’s not intimidating you. She’s trying to see in your head. She’s excited. You’re a challenge

Oh. Hermione stares into now rather familiar blue eyes. Ocean-eyes. And checks the invisibility is holding. Sand and sea. Over her mind.

You love my sister? Comes a voice of steel. How. You don’t know her. It’s your strange…connection. You’re using her. You’ve tricked her. You must have. I must have missed something. I—

Hermione stands tall. Clenches her jaw. “Try me. Test me. I’ll prove I love her.”

No…no that’s not what’s strange. Something isn’t right. Something…

You okay, pet? What’s she asking you to do?

I’m not sure…There’s something she can’t—

Narcissa’s voice whispers into her mind, and this time it seems…sad. How could she love you? How could she? She’d never love someone like you

Hermione can’t help but flinch back. It’s been so long since Narcissa expressed any kind of blood purism that she almost forgot…

Hermione takes a further step back. “Ask her then. If that’s what you don’t understand. How could she love a mudblood like me, is that what you want to know?”

Bellatrix’s eyes widen as she stands from her chair, and Narcissa turns to look at her. Shakes her head in disbelief. “How could you,” she whispers. “Bella…I don’t understand. What does she have that…all this time…”

Uhh…what? All this time?

Bellatrix seems just as confused by that last comment, and even Narcissa seems to freeze at the words. Corrects her posture and runs her hands over her dress. A nervous tick maybe.

And Bellatrix shakes her head at her sister with a smile. Walks forwards and cups Narcissa’s cheeks, making her quickly jerk backwards from her grip.

Bellatrix rolls her eyes. “Cissy. I love everything about her. I can, and I will. Is that why we’re here? I love her. She loves me. And no, the Dark Lord doesn’t and will not know. For about a thousand reasons. But you’re my sister. And I trust you. And I love you. So we thought you should know. We didn’t want to hide from you. Well. Mostly. There are still some things you can’t know. So don’t go looking in my head because—”

She abruptly stops talking.

Cissy cast a silencio on me! What the—

Bellatrix cancels the silencio. “What the fuck, Cissy? What the—ah!”

Narcissa has grabbed Bellatrix’s jaw, and is trying to force a potion into her mouth. Clear liquid.

So possibly veritaserum. Or Draught of Living Death.

Both not brilliant.

Hermione automatically starts pulling Narcissa off of Bellatrix. “You don’t have to do this! She’s telling the truth! And she told you! We can’t— we can’t tell you anything, you—Merlin you’re strong, what do you Blacks eat you— argh get off her or I’ll take her away. Don’t make me take her!”

Hermione falls back in surprise as Narcissa spins around.

And smiles.

Shit.

“Fine.” She holds out the vial to Hermione. “If you love her. Trust her. Drink.”

Oh. Oh this test is a lot worse than—

“Cissy, is this really necessary? What are you playing at?” Bellatrix asks warily, rubbing at her jaw.

Narcissa chuckles lowly. Darkly. A shiver goes down Hermione’s spine.

And Narcissa waves her wand over herself with a sigh, her clothes righting themselves. Her hair. Her face falls back into its icy composure.

“Bella says she trusts me. You trust Bella…or so you say. Prove it. Drink.”

Hermione’s eyes move from the vial…to Narcissa’s masked expression…to Bellatrix’s wide eyes.

You don’t have to, pet. We can just leave. You don’t have to play her game

Think, Hermione. A test. A Slytherin.

It won’t be as simple as drinking the potion. That’s what a Gryffindor would do. To prove they love someone.

Prove…love…trust…

Oh.

She looks back at the vial. And smiles at Narcissa.

“I don’t need to drink it.”

Narcissa tuts. “How disappointing. So you won’t even—”

“I don’t need to drink it, because I already know what it is.”

Narcissa raises her eyebrows disbelievingly.

And Hermione smiles even wider, looks between the two sisters and shakes her head. “You would never hurt your sister. And you wouldn’t force her to tell the truth. Force either of us to tell the truth You’re smart. You know some secrets are necessary. She trusts you. I trust you. It’s water.”

Silence falls around them.

Was she right? She knows Narcissa is a good person. She knows it. Even if it isn’t water it—

Narcissa’s smile softens, and she hands the vial to Bellatrix. “Your beloved believes this to be water. Do you trust her judgment?”

Oh for the— seriously? Yet another test.

And beloved? Is that the word? It’s quite nice…

Bellatrix takes the vial with a laugh. “Yep. And I trust you too, Cissy, when you’re not forcing things down my throat.”

She raises her eyebrows. And the vial. “Cheers.” And she downs the liquid.

Okay. Well she’s not dead, so that rule out poison or draught of living death.

Bella, come on! Tell me what—

Bellatrix grins at them.

Sugar water. Well done, pet

Sugar wa— see! She knew it! She is a good person! Even the water is swee—

Bellatrix wobbles on her feet, paling, and Hermione lunges to hold her steady.

Bella. Bella, what is—

Sneaky…manipulative…knew you would…sleeping

And Bellatrix collapses against her.

Hermione growls at Narcissa. “What did you do to her?! I trusted you! Why are you doing this?!”

Narcissa just turns and walks back towards the house. “She’ll be fine. You’re right. I would never hurt my sister. You, on the other hand …”

She turns to look at Hermione over her shoulder. “We still need to have a little chat. Whilst Bella sleeps this off. She’s somehow…communicating with you. Giving you the answers. No, you’re cheating, Miss Granger.”

Hermione casts a featherlight charm on Bellatrix and lifts her into her arms, hurrying after Narcissa as she continues into the house. Cheating? On a test? She would never—

The thread doesn’t count! It’s not like she’d ever not have the thread. It’s a part of them. It’s not cheating to—

No no no not the parlour

It’s fine. Nothing happened in here. Just acting and— and Bellatrix was nice to her the whole time. You can— just— and it hasn’t even happened yet. You’ll need Narcissa’s help so—

She puts Bellatrix down on a sofa, shifting her to make sure she won’t roll off.

Well. At least she’ll get some rest for once.

Narcissa is sat in an alcove by the window. So Hermione is going to have to sit next to her. Fine. Not intimidated. You spend every day with gods. Just…pretend she’s…

Narcissa is nothing like any of the other Blacks. If Bellatrix is a step ahead in battle, then Narcissa is about ten steps ahead in everyday conversation.

So…

Just sit, Hermione. You’ll never beat Narcissa at a reading game.

She sits down next to the witch. “So. Ask your questions, and I’ll tell you what I can.”

Narcissa turns sideways to analyse her face. And then runs her eyes down her body.

Oh dear. That’s rather uncomfortable. What is—

“Muggle clothing? A sundress? Polyester or cotton?”

What? Poly— how does—

“Umm, cotton, I think. I’d have to check the label. It’s probably a blend or—”

Narcissa accios some parchment from a drawer across the room.

And then pulls out a fountain pen from her pocket.

A pen?! What the fu—

Narcissa’s eyes stay trained on the parchment, but her lip twitches into a smile. “Interesting. When did you purchase it? Nineteen ninety-five? Ninety-six?...Two thousand and five?”

Hermione is still gaping at the pen, which Narcissa is calmly making notes with. “Umm…ninety-five or…not as late as two thous— oh.”

Narcissa looks up at her. “Ten years. As I thought. Fine. So. You, Miss Granger, Gryffindor muggleborn and golden girl, have travelled back in time from around two thousand and five. In the process you have somehow revealed yourself to my sister. I would say accidentally, as you seem to have a knowledge of time travel, and you are bright enough to understand the consequences. And, of course, ordinarily, she is the last person you would choose to align yourself with. Correct so far?”

Hermione just nods weakly.

Narcissa’s notes something else down. And then looks at her watch. A digital watch.

Holy fucking— electronics?! Batteries?!

“Bella won’t have long now. So I’ll cut to the chase. I know you have certain events to keep on track. I know it is best if as few people are altered by your actions as possible. That you have told Bella or Severus anything at all is reckless and dangerous, Miss Granger, as I hope you are very much aware.”

She glares at Hermione, who looks down ashamedly. She had almost broken the world for a second. If Bellatrix hadn’t—

And Narcissa reaches out and squeezes her hand. Hermione looks up in shock.

“My sister trusts you. That is something that says a lot about your character, Hermione. You have…done something I lost hope would ever happen. She’s happy. She’s…”

Narcissa clears her throat. “My complete trust will not come so easily, I assure you. But I will help you. And I will keep your secret.”

She gets up, putting the pen back in her pocket, and casting a glamour charm over her wrist. And walks over to Bellatrix. Brushes some hair out of her face. “If you hurt her…”

Hermione stands up too with a smile. “Never. I promise. I mean it.”

Narcissa’s gaze snaps to hers, and she laughs. A cackle that she quickly covers with her hand in horror.

Narcissa laughs? Like that? Like Bellatrix?

Not a word, Miss Granger

Hermione mimes locking her lips with a grin, and Narcissa shakes her head in disbelief. “Just like her…impossibly…”

Hermione laughs. “We spend a lot of time together. I think our habits have…blurred. Merged. I caught myself standing on a table the other day.”

Narcissa raises her eyebrows. “Indeed? It seems she is a bad influence on you. Hermione Granger? Breaking rules?”

Hermione shrugs. “I’ve broken lots of rules. More than I can count, or could tell you. No, that wasn’t Bella. I’ve always tried to understand rules, not follow them blindly.”

Narcissa looks down at Bellatrix. Pokes her. She doesn’t stir.

And then walks over to Hermione, holding out her wrist with extreme reluctance and a drawn out sigh. “How do I get this to stop beeping at midnight? I can’t for the life of me— I’ve read the instructions. It’s nonsense.”

 Hermione looks down. The watch is back. She chuckles. “I’m not the best with technology either, sorry. I could give it a go but…might mess up all the settings. Why do you even— how do you— Mrs Malfoy, I mean—”

Narcissa leans in to whisper in her ear. “I think you can call me Narcissa now, Hermione. Once Bellatrix has decided she loves something, she’ll never let it go. I believe we shall be in one another’s lives for quite some time.”

She pulls back, face blank. “And it’s just a watch. I use it to keep time in my lab. No magical residue. Very convenient, when they are not waking you up at ungodly hours of the night. I’ve half a mind to throw this one out the window and let Lucius’ blasted birds choke on it. The—”

She stops herself. Schools her features.

Well that was quite the slip. Chatting? Complaining? Just a normal conversation with no threats or double meanings?

Maybe Hermione does have an aura that makes people trust her.

She walks over to Bellatrix. Narcissa probably needs some space. She doesn’t want to accidentally prod at her whilst her walls are down, or they might go shooting back up.

Bella? Can you hear me? Narcissa said you—

Bellatrix stirs slightly and frowns. Where…oh…Cissy…

Hermione kneels down on the floor next to her. “It’s been a few minutes. We’re in the parlour.”

And Bellatrix’s eyes snap open as she struggles to sit up. “Are you okay? You didn’t have to— what are we doing in here? That’s— you’re alright? It’s not—”

Hermione smiles. She’s still very drowsy. Almost falling off the sofa. Hermione pushes her back against the cushions. “I’m fine. It was all fake so— I’ve had a nice chat with your sister.”

Bellatrix rubs at her eyes. “A chat? A real chat, or…so not Crookshanks?”

Oh, this conversation must seem—

She looks over to Narcissa. Yep. Basilisk stare of confusion.

No, not Crookshanks. And look at your sister, quick. She’s so confused

Bellatrix does blink over at Narcissa. And her eyes brighten as she cackles. “Not quite Snape, but still pretty fun. You’re right, pet.”

She sweeps her wand over her head. Bubbles. “Remember these, Cissy? I’ve always been so nice to you. How could you drug me like that?” Bellatrix pouts.

Narcissa slowly lowers herself into an armchair, watching the bubbles float around the room. Hermione watches too. It does help. Chases the darkness from the corners. She sits down next to Bellatrix, who throws an arm around her.

Narcissa’s eyes fall back on them. “In love…” She shakes her head. “Fine. I suppose I shall just have to…eliminate the impossible. No matter how improbable…it’s the only explanation. The truth.”

What’s she on about now, pet?

I…I think she’s referencing a muggle book. Sherlock Holmes. Detective stories. Mysteries

“Muggle book— Cissy— what the—”

Narcissa stands up with a start. “So you can speak to each other! I knew it! How? How is she blocking me but not you? I am far superior at—”

Bellatrix gets to her feet too. “Superior? Just because you’re more subtle doesn’t mean—”

“Oh please, Bella. More subtle? I’ve looked into Dumbledore’s head, and he hasn’t even noticed. You tried it and he charmed your robes red!”

“That was him?! I thought it was Siri getting back at me for—”

“The moons and stars were a bit of a clue. How you ever ended up in Slytherin, I don’t know. Absolutely no cunning. Did you threaten the hat?”

Bellatrix’s mouth falls open in outrage. “Not a Slytherin?! How dare you! That’s low, Cissy. I’ve got more ambition in— I can be cunning! I’m fooling the Dark Lord, aren’t I?”

Narcissa sighs tiredly. “And just yelled that very secret fact for the whole world to hear.”

Bellatrix’s mouth snaps shut, and she slumps down onto the sofa. “I didn’t threaten the hat. I just…asked it to put me where I clearly belonged.”

So she was a hat stall.

Hermione takes her hand. “I was sat there for rather a long time. Almost ended up in Ravenclaw. But I’d already met Harry and Ron, so I asked to be in Gryffindor with them. And Neville. I thought it was my chance to make friends.”

Bellatrix continues sulking.

And Narcissa tuts. “If you must know, it considered me for…Hufflepuff.”

Now that puts a smile on Bellatrix’s face. “Hmm, loyal and hardworking? I can see it. You would have been a walking daffodil though, Cissy. All that yellow…”

So? What did the hat say to you?

Bellatrix spins to lie down sideways, puts her head in Hermione’s lap and her feet on the sofa, much to Narcissa’s annoyance.

“I was under the hat for bloody ages. Everyone almost fell asleep in their seats. It kept saying how interesting all the possibilities were. Said I was brave and daring like a Gryffindor, clever and witty like a Ravenclaw, loyal and hardworking like a Hufflepuff, and had the ambition and leadership of a Slytherin. It had no idea what to do with me.”

Hermione has always thought the hat doesn’t quite make sense. There is rather a lot of overlap.

Told you. Brilliant witch. Four founders in one she smiles down at Bellatrix.

Bellatrix smiles back toothily. Guess even the founders couldn’t trap me in a convenient little box. I chose to be a Slytherin.

Well that’s probably the most Slytherin thing I’ve ever heard. Choose to be Slytherin? Down in the cold dark with the snakes? Hermione shudders dramatically.

And Bellatrix points her wand at her. “Incarcerous!”

That’s not an —

She ducks out of the way of the jet of water. “Bella! The sofa! Oh you are just— I’m so sorry, Narcissa. Tergeo! That’s better. Don’t you think we’ve had enough water, Kalypso?”

Bellatrix sits up. “You started it. Cold and dark? I think you’ll find—”

“I’ve been down there, Bella, remember? Dumbledore on the floor. It was definitely cold and dark.”

Enough! Ow! The shout rings through her skull.

Both Hermione and Bellatrix grab their heads with a flinch. Narcissa can talk to two people at the same time?!

They turn to face her.

“This is all— how are you— what are you talking about? Bella. Bella this is mad even for you. It’s —it’s nonsensical— I can’t —”

Ah. That might have been too much for Narcissa. Oops. Her composure is—

Narcissa rubs a hand over the back of her neck, and then stops herself, straightening in her seat and clasping her hands together. White knuckled.

She’s completely lost it. She hasn’t rubbed her neck since she was a toddler! Used to do it when she was tired. Or upset

Narcissa clears her throat. “Well. It was very nice having you here. We must do this again sometime, but I’m afraid I have— errands to run. The greenhouse is—” she sighs. “I would be grateful if you would show yourselves out.”

Hermione meets Bellatrix’s eye. Oh dear. The walls are definitely back up. Falling back on etiquette lessons? She must be shaken.

Time to go She gets to her feet, pulling Bellatrix with her. “Thank you for having us, Narcissa. We’ll be sure to return the invitation at a later date, but we must get going.”

Hermione moves to leave the room, but Bellatrix doesn’t budge. I’ll be home in a sec. Just let me have a minute with Cissy

Are you sure? I think she really needs—

I’m sure

Hermione nods with a smile. and leaves the room.

And turns invisible. Peeks back in.

She’s curious.

Bellatrix sits back down on the sofa, and Narcissa puts her head in her hands with a sigh. “Just go, Bella. I…”

Bellatrix clears her throat uncomfortably. “You…if you want to know anything. Or tell me anything. Just…I’m right here, Cissy.”

Narcissa’s head comes up. There are tears in her eyes. “I don’t know what to think or feel right now,” she whispers. “But…I’m happy for you. I am. I just…too much to read, Bella. Too much.”

Bellatrix walks over and kneels in front of her. Takes her hands. “I know. Believe me I— I couldn’t figure this all out at first. I lost it. Remember the kitchen? At the cottage? Water everywhere. One of my storms.”

Narcissa smiles at her. A very small but genuine smile. “I know. Why do you think I couldn’t help cleaning up after you? It was irrational. Severus never would have…but…you’ve figured it out now?”

Bellatrix nods, and Narcissa brushes some hair out of her face with a sigh. “You always figure it out. And so do I. One step behind. I’ll be fine, Bella. I just need to…read more.”

Bellatrix snorts. “Or just bloody ask me! I’m an open book! Or not even a book, don’t read me, talk to me!”

Narcissa tuts, gets to her feet, and pulls Bellatrix up. “Now where’s the fun in that? I do so enjoy reading. And I read between the lines…did Dumbledore collapse in the Slytherin common room? And Hermione saved him? How on earth did— don’t tell me, but—”

Bellatrix’s eyebrows raise into her hair. “She’s Hermione now? What happened whilst I was unconscious?”

Narcissa smirks. “I’m sure she’ll tell you. You certainly know each other very well. I already knew of your relationship weeks ago of course, but a formal meeting was very much needed. I think it went well, don’t you?”

Bellatrix barks out a laugh. “Such a sense of humour, Cissy.”

Narcissa’s face falls blank. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Bella. What’s funny about a tea party?”

And she marches out of the room, Hermione having to flatten herself against a wall out of the way. “Off you go home now. I’m sure Hermione is waiting. You’re late.”

She pauses just outside the doorway. And whispers to herself with a small smile. “A mad tea party. I should have worn a hat.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

There’s been a nervous excitement in the air all day today. It’s finally arrived. The first day of the school term. The summer is over. Back to Hogwarts.

Of course it doesn’t make that much of a difference to them. They’re not schoolgirls anymore. But it means occlumency lessons are over until Christmas. And Draco will be starting his plans to kill Dumbledore. If the timeline is still on track.

And that’s why Hermione’s been anxiously waiting for the Hogwarts Express to arrive for the past hour. Everything should be the same as she remembers it. But there’s always the possibility that…well. Best to check.

And so far so good. She’d positioned herself at Hogsmeade station an hour early, just in case. So the train should be arriving…

Now. Steam through the fading daylight. Thank goodness.

Bella. It’s alright, it’s arrived on time

Good, because I just got home. Meeting finished early as Snape had to floo to Hogwarts. I haven’t seen you in ages, pet. You coming home now?

Students begin to disembark the train, and Hermione smiles to herself, shaking her head. They saw each other this morning. Ages.

I just want to make sure Harry still spied on Draco and got caught. Draco might have decided to be nice to him after your letter, or…

Nah. Poor kid’s in denial. You should see his head. He’s boxed it all up. Buried it. No, he’s all about Dumbledore now. Same as you remember. Think he just wanted my advice before he put it out of his mind

Oh dear. Not the healthiest approach.

Ah, there’s her past-self and Ron, deciding if Harry’s gone on without them. She walks closer as the first years head off to the lake, everyone else begins getting into thestral-drawn carriages, and the crowd slowly subsides.

There’s Parkinson and the other slytherins, pushing their way past some second years to take their carriage. Rude.

But no Malfoy. Good. He’s stomping on Harry’s face then.

Well she doesn’t mean good but at least—

She ducks out of the way of some lost first years and waits.

Ah. Her and Ron have decided Harry has already left. Off they go.

She has a peek in the train windows. Just a few stragglers now. Where’s Tonks? She needs to come and find Harry soon. Harry said Tonks found him under the invisibility cloak and unfroze him. She’d been stationed at Hogwarts…

No sign of her. But she’s harder to spot without the pink hair.

Ah. There’s Draco, closing the blinds. Not exactly subtle for a Slytherin…

She waits anxiously for him to appear, trying not to think about Harry lying on the floor and the blood…

And Draco runs from the train. Jumps in the last carriage with some younger Hufflepuffs. Who look at him oddly, but don’t say anything. Oh. And offer him some choc—

Well. He didn’t have to throw it on the floor, that’s…

Where on Earth is Tonks? She’s definitely not here. Unless she’s in disguise…

But…there isn’t anyone at all now!

Bella. Tonks hasn’t come to save Harry before the train leaves. He’ll end up back at Kings Cross if— that definitely didn’t happen

Tonks…oh. Oh Snape told us who was stationed at Hogwarts. There’s a rota, but Tonks wasn’t on it. Don’t think he was lying. He made some joke about loss of confidence…can’t hide…useless…I don’t know. Some bollocks. I tuned him out

Tonks isn’t here?! But she was, she—

The train’s going to leave. Tonks has to get Harry. She takes him to the castle and—

Oh.

Bella…what if this was us? What if Tonks…was you?

What?!

Hermione pops to her bedroom and grabs some clothes and a long cloak. And then follows the thread to Bellatrix in the library.

“Quick! Put these clothes on and— look it just has to be you, we don’t have polyjuice or— you’re the only metamorphagus we have!”

But Herm—

“Go! Put them on! Tonks would never wear your clothes, Harry isn’t that unobservant.

Okay, okay. But just wait a—

She stares into Hermione’s eyes whilst she takes her dress off. “Think about Tonks. I need the memory to— no, when she’s all depressed and moping around, not— but I still can’t change my voice! How can—”

“You’re going to have to say as little as possible and fake a cockney accent. Just…say wotcher when you see him, remember to drop your ‘t’s, and make your voice a bit…rougher. You don’t sound that different pitch-wise so—”

Bellatrix nods, and then closes her eyes…

Tonks. Is that how Tonks looks? It’s not quite…

Well?

Not...bad. And she’s a metamorphagus anyway, so Harry won’t be suspicious

So it’s shit. Great. Fantast— Merlin these muggle trousers are tight. How do you—

Hermione pushes Bellatrix onto the sofa and shoves her shoes on for her whilst she figures out the jeans and throws a top and cloak on. “We haven’t got time, just— I’ll be there but invisible. Just remember to call him Harry and— are you ready?”

Yes, yes, take us, quick!

And they’re on the train.

It’s going to leave! That compartment, over there!

She gestures to ‘Tonks’, who hurries through the door. What if I can’t hold her form for long enough?

You have to. You have to hide and— and you did! It was always you, but Harry thought it was Tonks. That proves you can do it

Bellatrix walks over to the last compartment, where the blinds are drawn. Hermione can’t see past her to—

Bellatrix bends down. “Wotcher, Harry.”

And then a red light. She must be undoing the petrificus— oh!

Bella. Your wand. He—

Glamoured. Thought of that. Now get out the way

And Bellatrix is dragging Harry along the corridor. “We’d better get out of here. Quickly!”

Hermione pops straight off the train and onto the platform. There’s just no room to hide on a train, and they’ll be—

The train is already moving off, and she watches as first ‘Tonks’ and then Harry jump off through the steam. That was close. Did they always jump or—?

Harry staggers on the landing, and Bellatrix reaches to steady him before stopping herself, unsure. His face is a mess. Who heals it, me? Don’t want the kid having a broken nose forever…

Oh.

Yes, Bella, heal him

Hermione walks closer to them. Oh Harry, he looks so ashamed of his face.

“Thanks for…well…” he mumbles, reaching to push his glasses on more firmly before he remembers his nose again and brings his hand back down.

Bellatrix shrugs. “No problem. I can fix your nose, if you stand still.”

Harry’s eyes widen. He really doesn’t look very sure about—

And then he just squeezes his eyes shut. Stands perfectly still.

A sigh through the thread. Brave kid

“Episkey,” Bellatrix says firmly.

Harry takes a sharp breath, and then his eyes blink open as he reaches up to feel his nose. And smiles at Bellatrix. “Thanks a lot!”

Bellatrix chuckles through the thread, but manages to keep her face blank and miserable. “You’d better put that cloak back on, and we can walk up to the school.” That’s what happens, right? We walk?

Yes. Harry said it was long and awkward because Tonks— you— don’t talk much. Guess now we know why. And then—oh

Snape comes to get him at the gate.

Because Tonks sent a patronus.

Well. Well she must do it because—

Unless Hermione did it…

But it wasn’t an otter. Harry would have recognised…

Bella…you need to send Snape a patronus to come and get him at the gate

What?! I can’t—

You can. You do. You did. Harry said it was a large, four-legged creature. Probably a wolf, because everyone thought it was because of Sirius or Lupin that—

A sound comes from under the cloak as Harry clears his throat in the awkward silence, but he doesn’t say anything. He must have given up. Phew. No small talk.

How can I conjure a patronus and focus enough not to lose Tonks? And I can’t even— it was only mist or… Bellatrix whines.

Tell me when you’re ready, and I’ll distract Harry, in case you flicker. You won’t, but I’ll make a noise or something just to be—

Bellatrix takes a calming breath through the thread. Talking to herself. No, it’s fine. Okay. Okay, Bella. You have to figure this out. You can do it. You did it. It already happened, so…

Outwardly she still looks tired and gloomy, trudging along next to Harry. But…

Hermione can feel it. A slight buzzing of happiness. I can feel it, Bella. I can feel your happiness. You can do this. You brilliant witch. There’s nothing you can’t do. Gods, you’re amazing. I love you—

“Expecto patronum!”

Oh.

Not a wolf. A dog.

A German Shepherd, that takes one excited but determined glance at Bellatrix for instructions, and then charges straight for the castle.

A dog? I did it, and— like Siri? I’m a fucking dog? Oh he is probably laughing his arse off. What the—

“Was that a patronus?” Harry asks cautiously. Probably just trying to find anything to say to this miserable looking Tonks. It’s not like he’s never seen a patronus before.

“Yes, I’m sending word to the castle that I’ve got you, or they’ll worry. Come on. Better not dawdle.”

Bellatrix picks up the pace. Too excited to walk slowly.

You did it, Bella. That was amazing

Take that, Snape. Ha! Fully corporeal patronus. Whilst in metamorphagus form. Bloody genius

“How did you find me?” Harry asks, his feet visible beneath the cloak, almost jogging along next to Bellatrix to keep up.

Oh uhh “I noticed you hadn’t left the train, and knew you had that cloak.” Go check on Snape, pet. He might not have got my patronus if he’s with other— “I thought you might be hiding for some reason. When I saw the blinds—”

Okay. I’ll have a look for him

She pops away to the Great Hall. Scans the teacher’s table. Aha! Next to…McGonagall. Umm. Not the time to feel awkward about all that.

She hastily appears behind Snape. Touches his arm. She can’t open her mind because of Dumbledore, but—

Snape pushes his chair back, and she hurriedly moves out of the way. Good, he must have figured out that it's her. McGonagall raises a questioning eyebrow at him as he stands, but he ignores her. And Trelawney knocks over some pumpkin juice in oddly intense shock but— well. She’s always strange, so…

She tugs him towards the teacher’s entrance behind the table in the pumpkin-confusion, and slips through when he opens the door.

No one around. Bellatrix’s patronus appears before them, sitting to attention…and then tilting its head to the side, tail thumping erratically. It’s so Bella. “Potter’s fine. He’ll be at the gate soon. Come and get him,” comes Bellatrix’s voice.

Well. That was to the point. Hermione has to remember how she said the message in her head instead of out loud. Could be legilimency or— focus!

Snape is looking around the empty corridor, eyebrows raised. Probably for her. She touches his arm again.

“Not an otter?” he murmurs to himself with a smirk. “How disappointing for you. Although quite the relief.”

Oh he is—

She smacks his arm. Professor or not, he deserves that.

He turns in her general direction. “And this is how you ask for help? Why should I—”

A door opens, and Flitwick walks through, stopping to frown at Snape. “Severus? Are you…alright, lad?”

Hermione snorts. Lad. And Snape must look bonkers, muttering to himself and—

“And why wouldn’t I be alright, Filius?” Snape says flatly. “Potter is merely up to his usual attention seeking tricks, so it is up to me to collect his highness from the gates. Perhaps you could inform Albus of the matter, if our absence is noted.”

Flitwick barely holds back a scoff, clearing his throat instead at the last second. “Of course, Severus. But I’m sure Potter has his reasons. He’s not one to…”

Snape just glares down at him, and Flitwick gives up in exasperation. “I’ll save you a plate, lad. Hagrid is here, so even refillable plates might not stop him. You know how he is,” he tries to joke. It falls flat.

And Snape doesn’t thank him of course. Just whirls off in a sweep of black.

Well. She’s not running after him in a hurry.

She pops back to Bellatrix and Harry in the lane.

I’m back. Snape’s on his way

Thank fuck. This walk is agony. I still look like Tonks, right?

She looks her over. I think your eyes are back, but they’re similar to Tonks’ so— your hair’s coming to life again though. The curls. Flatten them out a— that’s better

The gates come into view. Not long now. Only a few more minutes. You’ve done so well to hold it for this long, it’s incredible!

A chuckle. I appreciate the encouragement, but you might need to shut up, pet. Need to concentrate

Oh. Oops.

They reach the gates, and Harry’s wand comes out of nowhere. “Alohomora!”

Bellatrix snorts through the thread. He really thinks that will work? Not the brightest kid…

She walks closer to Harry. “That won’t work on these. Dumbledore bewitched them himself.” Plus it’s fucking Hogwarts, Potter. Idiot

“I could climb the wall?” Harry suggests. Hermione smacks herself in the forehead. He really never did read 'Hogwarts: A History', did he?

“No you couldn’t,” Bellatrix says, remarkably calmly for such a stupid comment. “Anti-intruder jinxes on all of them. Security’s been tightened a hundredfold this summer.” Because of you. And a Dark Lord. How is he— you really were the brains, weren’t you, pet. Bloody hell. How—

“Well then,” Harry huffs. “I suppose I’ll have to sleep out here and wait for morning.”

Bellatrix sniggers. Such an attitude. I like this Potter. He has some bite

Hermione chuckles, and watches as lantern light comes down towards the gate. Here comes Snape. Your hair’s doing it again, by the—

Bellatrix’s hair droops flat once more. “Someone’s coming down for you. Look.”

Harry pulls off his invisibility cloak, a relieved smile spreading on his face. Which freezes and turns into a look of horror as he recognises Snape. Sorry, Harry.

Snape reaches the gate, and smirks at them both. “Well, well, well.”

His eyes drift over ‘Tonks’ as he taps his wand to the padlocked gate so that it slithers open. “Nice of you to turn up, Potter, although you have evidently decided that wearing school robes would detract from your appearance.”

What a git. Potter’s clothes are baggy hand-me-downs covered in blood! And Snape would know. His clothes were basically the same when he was a first year. How can he be so—

Bella. Focus. Hair. And you have to say something about— Harry thought Hagrid was supposed to get the message so—

“There’s no need to wait, Nymphadora. Potter is quite…safe. In my hands,” Snape says pointedly. He is a git.

Bellatrix frowns. “I meant Hagrid to get the message.”

Snape pauses. Gives her an ‘oh really?’ look. “Hagrid was late to the start-of-term feast, just like Potter here, so I took it instead. And incidentally…” he says, standing back to let Harry past, “I was interested to see your new patronus.”

Bellatrix checks to see Harry isn’t looking, and smirks at Snape triumphantly. And then sticks out her tongue.

Bella!

Potter can’t see, he—

Snape slams the gate shut in her face and locks it once more, eyes burning with…hatred? Jealousy? Envy?

His gaze darts in Hermione’s general direction. “I think you were better off with the old one,” he spits. “The new one. Looks. Weak.

He whirls away, and Bellatrix seems to freeze, and then vibrate with anger. I’m gonna kill him. The fucking bastard. I’m gonna—

“Goodnight!” comes Harry’s voice from the darkness.

Bellatrix stills once more, uncertain.

“Thanks for…everything,” his grateful voice comes through the wind.

Bellatrix’s posture relaxes…and she morphs back into herself.

Except not herself.

Her veriform. Maybe by accident.

Bellatrix lets out a soft sigh. “See you, Harry,” she calls back.

Hermione takes her arm.

He’s a good kid Bellatrix whispers

Hermione sighs I know

Doesn’t deserve…

I know. I know, Bella. I know

He doesn’t deserve any of this.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione appears in the archives with a smile. “Good morning, everyone. Pronoe, I was wondering if you had any more books on Phoenixes. I’ve been thinking about it, and surely if you live forever you—”

Autonoe is crying. Eudora patting them awkwardly on the back, not seeming to know what to do. Pronoe isn’t here.

Hermione walks over. “Autonoe? What is it? What’s wrong?”

They just hide their face in Eudora’s shoulder. Who sighs. “It’s…I suppose I can tell you. It’s Thetis. They had a vision. A prophecy. Their birthday is on the horizon.”

Hermione cautiously sits down next to Eudora. They’ve stopped with the flirting, but it’s still always quite tense and— birthday?

“That’s good isn’t it? A birthday?”

Autonoe just cries harder, and Eudora frowns at her. “No. No, the day they shall birth an egg, and cross over to the other side.”

Oh. Oh no.

Already? But— but they’re so young and—

Autonoe shoves at Hermione. “It’s your fault! I’m not ready and— oh Hermione, it’s all— I hate you! And I hate Kalypso and— go away! Go away and leave us alone!”

What?! Hermione’s heart breaks in her chest as she stumbles away from Autonoe. What did— what did they do? Why—ah!

Hermione fights for breath and her knees almost buckle as an unbearable pain slams into her chest.

No! Comes an agonised cry through the thread.

Oh gods.

Hermione follows it to Bellatrix.

In a small cave. Above water.

And Bellatrix is screaming. Screaming and crying, Oreithye and Leagore on either side of her, holding her up.

Thetis is lying on a bed tiredly. In their veriform.

“No! No, you can’t go! Don’t leave me I— read it again! It must mean something else, it has to! I’m not ready I—” Bellatrix cries.

Hermione staggers over to her, trying not to drown in Bellatrix’s emotions. Strokes the witch’s face, her hair. “What’s happening? Bella what’s—”

Leagore and Oreithye let her go, and she clings to Hermione. A prophecy. Another fucking—  I’ve learnt to be Kalypso so they have to— they won’t— they’re leaving, and it’s my fault and—

Oh no. Oh this is all so horrible. Oh Bella I’m sorry. Oh that’s not fair. I’m here. It’s alright. Just hold me, it’s okay

Hermione lowers them to the floor, and hugs Bellatrix tightly. Her eyes raise to Leagore. Who nods sadly.

She looks to Thetis instead. “How…you’re sure? How long…I mean…”

Thetis smiles. “Eggs begin to form as soon as they are needed. As soon as my energy fades away, the next Thetis will be born. It is my time. A few days, perhaps, at the most. I have taught—”

“You haven’t!” Bellatrix growls. “I can metamorph. Big deal. So can everyone else. I’m not— I’m not Kalypso. I’m not! How can I— Leagore. Oreithye, do something. Please!”

Leagore sits down next to Thetis on the bed. “You are certain, Thetis? Bellatrix is right. We still have tails. Reed-like hair. We are trapped in our forms. You are sure she is—”

Thetis takes their hand. “Yes. I have seen it. Pronoe has confirmed it. She has everything she needs. Our youngest is of age. It is time for the eldest to leave you.”

No. No they— just gone? Just because? They can live until they’re five hundred if—

“Totus generis parere,” Leagore whispers. “You are maintaining the balance. So that we are not left with only children to guide us.”

Oh. Oh of course. If they all selfishly live until old age…then they will all be reborn at once. Too many eggs for elderly merpeople to care for. Too much knowledge lost.

Bellatrix sniffs, and struggles to her feet. “When? I want to be here, I— I won’t leave you.”

Thetis smiles at her. “Oh little sister. I know you would never leave me. But it is alright. I won’t be gone. My kin shall be here. My heir. I am sorry, but only Pronoe and Autonoe shall be by my side. It is tradition. One to comfort the departing, and one to welcome the new arrival. But I shall inform Tiggy, when the time comes, so that you will know.”

Hermione stands up too. Why. Why does this have to— why do they have to lose someone else? They can’t fix this. Can’t change this. Why—

She takes Bellatrix’s hand. Clings on. “Is there anything we can do? Should we…Autonoe told me to leave. Do you want…”

Oreithye puts a hand on her shoulder. “The child does not mean their words. Forgive them. It is their first parting. They shall be happy to see you again, once they have accepted what is to happen.”

Hermione turns to smile at them, but they pull away too soon, falling back into a pool of water and disappearing from sight.

Leagore sighs. “Time for Thetis to rest. The process has begun and…I shall find Pronoe. Collect Autonoe. Assemble the…” they drift off, rubbing their face tiredly.

Okay. Okay time to leave. They can always come back and—

She squeezes Bellatrix’s hand, and then lets go. Walks over and wraps her arms around Leagore. “Go assemble the Blacks. You can do it. It’s who you are. It will all be okay.”

Leagore warbles sadly, and then hugs her back. “Are you sure I’m not the god of concealment? Because I think— I should tell Oreithye—”

Hermione chuckles. “You should. Not the best moment, but you still have time for that.”

“Do you think they—”

Hermione pulls back to look at them and rolls her eyes. “Yes. Of course they love you. Bella knew that from the moment we met you. Both of you.”

She pulls away as Leagore ducks their head in embarrassment.

And Hermione takes a steadying breath, before walking over to the bed. Thetis is whispering with Bellatrix. She’s not sure—

Thetis turns to her. “It seems you are set on caring for everyone, little witch. I am glad. You’ll take care of my family whilst I’m gone. Just don’t forget to take care of yourself.”

Bellatrix pulls Hermione down on the bed. “That’s what I’m here for. And don’t change the subject. What do you mean—”

“You will know exactly what I mean. Now let me kiss your mate goodbye. It is time for you both to go home and rest. We have worked you too hard.”

And Thetis leans up, and kisses Hermione chastely on the lips.

Hermione freezes in shock, and Thetis laughs at her and Bellatrix’s equally stunned faces. “I am sorry for not warning you. This is a tradition. A kiss does not have the same meaning in our world. And it is supposed to bring good luck, a kiss from the Queen of the Black Sea.

Bellatrix frowns. And then grins mischievously. “Then where’s my kiss? Don’t I get any good luck?”

Thetis grins back, and leans towards her and—

“I’m kidding! I’m kidding, you look like— oh Merlin at least change forms before—mmph!”

Thetis pulls back with a soft laugh. “There. Good luck for all.

Bellatrix wipes at her mouth…and then smiles sadly at them. “I…you’ll tell me before you go? You won’t just…”

“I promise. Tiggy will come and tell you. And I shall give them a message for you. But to complete the tradition, shall we say the words?”

The words?

Bellatrix rubs at her eyes, and then clears her throat, nodding sharply.

Thetis sits up, and takes Bellatrix’s hands. “Blood of my blood. I part from you as kin. May our forebearers guide us, our descendants provide for us, and our hearts beat as one.”

Oh. Oh it’s heart-breaking.

A tear falls down Bellatrix’s cheek, but her voice remains steady. “Blood of my blood, I bless your parting. As one we were whole. As one we were strong. As one we were gods on Earth.”

Thetis kisses her hands, and then lies back down with a sigh, closing their eyes.

Bellatrix curls into Hermione. Take us away. Take us home. I can’t do this anymore, Hermione

Yes. Yes, time to go home.

 

 


 

 

Time drifts by in a haze. Heads foggy in the library. Stomachs queasy in the kitchen. Hearts beating too fast into the night as the bedsheets twist and lose their softness.

At around three in the morning, Hermione can’t stand it any longer.

She sits up in bed. “Tiggy?”

Tiggy appears with a tired pop. “It is still not being time, Miss Hermione.”

Hermione smiles sadly at them, and takes their hand. “I know. I just…are you needed there, or…”

Tiggy slowly shakes their head. Okay. Good. She has a plan.

 

 


 

 

“Bella, are you awake?”

Yes. Is it—

Hermione pulls Bellatrix out of the bed. Wraps a winter cloak around her. She’s always so cold.

“Hermione? What…”

And Hermione pops them away. To the Light Chamber.

Master Spitsy and Tiggy are already there, sat on a blanket. It’s a warm, cloudless night. The stars shine bright.

Hermione holds Bellatrix’s hand and tugs her over to sit with them. “Look up at the stars, Bella. At the wide universe. Isn’t it beautiful?”

Hermione stares at the sky. Countless stars. Shining bright. Ancient flames in the dark.

She looks back at— oh. Bellatrix isn’t looking at the sky. She’s looking at Hermione.

I love you

Hermione smiles awkwardly at the intensity of the confession. Just squeezes Bellatrix’s hand tighter and reaches for a glass of wine from Spitsy. Love you too, Bella. Here She presses the wine glass into Bellatrix’s hand. Leans against her.

Spitsy hands her another glass with a fond smile. “I is happy to see you both again, but I is sorry for the sad occasion, Hermione. Bellatrix, I is not knowing Thetis, but I is hearing they are a good elf. A kind elf. A thinking elf.”

Tiggy sniffs. “Oh they is. They is always being a good elf. They is being my first mastress, yous is knowing this?”

They all shake their heads, and Tiggy turns to face them properly. Hermione takes a sip of wine as Tiggy starts their tale. It tastes wonderful.

“When Tiggy is finishing elf school, I is being very young. Only…twenty-three, I is thinking. This is being young for elves. But Tiggy is hardworking. A thinking elf. A strong elf. They is being chosen for an Ancient and Noble House. The House of Black. Only as training, you understand. Is not being ready for caring for little masters and mistresses. Only watching. Or so I is thinking…”

Bellatrix shifts to sit behind Hermione as she listens to the story. Leaves her wine on the floor to hug Hermione instead. Warm and steady at her back.

“When Tiggy is arriving at the house, an older elf is pulling them aside. Is telling them the secret.” Tiggy wags their finger at Bellatrix. “A secret I is still not being able to be speaking until you is finding those decrees, Mistress Bella. Tiggy’s tongue is still holding if you is not unsticking it, silly elfling.”

Hermione can’t see, but she just knows Bellatrix is rolling her eyes. “I’ve bloody tried, Tiggy. Do you know what a mess the Black vaults are in? The amount of curses and hexes I’ve had to dismantle? Just talk around it!”

Spitsy chuckles into his wine, muttering about funny Blacks, and Tiggy tuts. “Is not being that easy. But to continue the story, Tiggy is told to be ignoring the Call if it is to the lake. To the merpeople. They is not to even mention merpeople. Is being forbidden. But…Tiggy is thinking this is nonsense. Tiggy is a good elf, is not ignoring a Call!”

“The days is passing, and there is no Call. And Tiggy is running out of duties. Is supposed to be helping another elf, Shibby. But Shibby is not wanting help. Is too proud of their work. Is being one of those pickety-snipety-swipey elves, you is knowing?”

Spitsy nods knowingly, and Hermione snorts. She doesn’t know the phrase, but she certainly knows the fussy, perfectionist type people they’re talking about.

Tiggy nods in acknowledgement. “Yes. So Tiggy is having nothing to do. This is the worst feeling for us elves. No purpose. Until one day, when Tiggy is even considering clothes in their shame, there is a Call. From underwater.”

Tiggy grins. “Well. Of course Tiggy is going. Is being an adventure.” Tiggy chuckles. “All of us is once silly elflings. And oh, Mastress Thetis, they is still an elfling themselves. Still older than Tiggy, but an elfling.”

“How long ago was this, Tiggy?” Hermione can’t help but ask.

Tiggy rubs their chin. “Hmm, I is thinking maybe one hundred and seventy years ago. Maybe is being more. How old is you now, Spitsy? Tiggy is forgetting.”

Spitsy takes another sip of wine. “I is only being seventy-six, Tiggy. You is knowing this. I is not old enough to be in any of this. Wrong century,” he chuckles.

Tiggy’s eyebrows raise in understanding. “Yes. Yes, is around…the eighteen-twenties, Miss Hermione. Thetis is only just being an adult. In fact, is being their crowning ceremony. They is being nervous, and this is why they be calling. They is to become Queen, but they is not feeling ready. And so they is having a…problem.”

A problem?

Tiggy glances at Spitsy. And glares. “We is telling you Black secrets now, little Spitsy, so you is being a good elfling and keeping the secrets. Tiggy be telling you.”

Spitsy puts down their glass, suddenly serious. “Of course, Tiggy. You is wanting to join Spitsy to the thread? Because Spitsy is willing.”

Thread?

Tiggy relaxes. “No. No is not needed. You is not being a Black elf. You is never wanting this, you is born to be a Master, Spitsy. You is a good teacher.”

“Uhh, hello? Tiggy? A thread?” Bellatrix says frustratedly. “What does that mean?”

Tiggy and Spitsy look at each other. And Tiggy grumbles to themselves. “You is wanting the Thetis story, or the thread story?”

What— “Both!” Hermione calls out, hearing Bellatrix do so at the same time.

Tiggy sighs. “Well, the Thetis story is not being very long. But Tiggy is thinking this be more important tonight.”

Oh. Oh of course.

Tiggy lies down on the blanket, and Bellatrix follows suit, Hermione falling down with her. She hears Spitsy shift too, until they are all staring up at the night sky.

“Long long ago, Tiggy is called to Thetis in the lake. They is being underwater, in a cave, alone before their big ceremony. But…they is stuck. Stuck in their miniform. They is so scared of growing up, of being ruler, that they is stuck looking like an elfling. Maybe…seven years old in wizard years. They is too ashamed to tell their sisters, so is wishing someone is helping them. This is how Tiggy is called. Thetis is thinking the gods be hearing them,” Tiggy chuckles.

Hermione smiles. Poor little Thetis. She can just picture it. Tiggy the fairy godmother, appearing before them as if by magic.

“So, Tiggy is talking, is calming, is helping. Is telling them they is a strong Black. Is promising to stay. Always. Always there, even if invisible. Is secretly being there the whole ceremony.”

Hermione feels Bellatrix’s breath hitch. Oh. Rather familiar.

Are you okay?

Yes. Yes it’s— yes I’m fine

Tiggy seems to read their minds, as they continue. “They is Tiggy’s first Black. And Tiggy is promising to stay…so Thetis is accepting Tiggy. Tiggy is a true Black elf now. And as long as a Black is in need, Tiggy is promising to be there. To remind them that they is strong, but that they is not being alone. I is thinking we is all needing this. Especially when we are elflings.”

Spitsy hums in thought. “You is being right, Tiggy. And when do we stop being elflings, you is knowing? Because Spitsy is thinking this never be happening. Is yet to happen to Spitsy.”

Hermione smiles and shuffles to press closer to Bellatrix.

I don’t think I’ve completely grown up yet, have you Bella?

She feels Bellatrix shake with a huff of silent laughter. Never. That’ll never happen. I’ll make sure of it

Tiggy scoffs. “You is all still being silly elflings to Tiggy. I is far too old to be an elfling. You is ridiculous, Spitsy. Of course we is not always being elflings. Tiggy knows what Tiggy be knowing, and is enough to fill a head, so is enough. And Tiggy be knowing is best to rest. The night is for sleeping. Is bedtime, Mistress Bella. Say…”

They drift off. Bellatrix sits up in confusion, pulling Hermione with her.

Tiggy is staring at the sky. “Say goodnight to Mastress Thetis,” they murmur, tugging at their ears.

Oh.

Hermione leans against Bellatrix, takes her hand, and stares up at the sky.

Goodnight, Thetis.

“Goodnight, Thetis.”

 

 


 

 

On Saturday the seventh of September, nineteen ninety-six, a golden egg named Thetis falls to touch the sandy bed of the Black Lake at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Only for a second, of course, as is tradition, before it is held carefully in warm arms. Hugged to a chest. And if a tear is to fall onto its golden shell…no one is to know. They are underwater, after all.

And far away, in an ancient and noble house, the notorious Death Eater, Bellatrix Lestrange, hugs a house-elf and a muggleborn to her and cries too.

For a sister, lost too soon.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Hermione cautiously strokes Bellatrix’s hair. She’s only just fallen asleep, and she doesn’t want to wake her up, but Hermione can’t help needing a bit of comfort herself.

It’s been hours now since Tiggy came and told them. Whispered some final words into Bellatrix’s ear. Tradition. Words taken from the grave, to the grave. Not to be shared.

Since then, Hermione has forced them both into a shower. Made sure they both at least eat something. And she’s slept. Off and on. Bellatrix awake every time she opens her eyes. Until now.

And of course she doesn’t want to leave Bellatrix, but she’s sick of this bed. This room. This…air.

So she settles by the window across the room. Wedges it open slightly and then sits on the carpet in the warm sunshine, distracts herself with a book. At first she’d worried about the light waking Bellatrix, but she’s actually noticed that Bellatrix never closes the curtains anyway.

Azkaban, perhaps.

Oh.

“Expecto patronum,” she whispers.

Oh it’s a relief to see— still her otter. She’d wondered if a dog might appear, and as much as she loves Bellatrix, she wasn’t ready to lose part of her identity like that. They’ve merged enough. It’s nice to have something that’s just hers.

She thinks she can even feel Bellatrix’s grief.

She smiles at the otter, feels it brush around her.

“Go and look after Bella for me,” she whispers to it. She’s not sure but— it must understand. It seems so…

And it chirps at her. Flies across the room to hover around the bed.

A warmth settles in her chest. The grief less sharp. Manageable.

Thank goodness.

Now where was she? Oh yes, phoenixes. This book associates Phoenixes with immortality, but also with the Sun and Time. Its more sinister in its material than she would like, describing the potential of each body part in potion making and…well it’s all rather disgusting and…if she has to read one more way of slicing—

But anyway. It matches up with Pronoe’s song about the sun god, Helios. About the brilliant bird, that at the end of its life, would fly across the world, singing so beautifully that for a moment even the sun god himself would pause his chariot to watch. Pause the sun. Stop time. And she knows scientifically the Sun definitely does not move but—

Magic. The truth in the legend.

And if a Phoenix can pause time, then surely…

There’s a possibility, anyway. It’s the first sign of anything being able to interact with Time. Of course time travel isn’t exactly the priority right now, but—

Hermione?

Hermione staggers to her feet and across the room. Yes. Yes, I’m here, I was just reading

Bellatrix sits up with a smile. Oh. Oh she’s dressed, when did that happen?

A chuckle. I know. You’ve been lost in a book for hours

Hours?! But she— she didn’t mean to—

Bellatrix sighs. Stop it. I’m fine— well I’m not, but— I’m not fragile

Oh. Hermione smiles awkwardly. “Sorry. I know that. I just didn’t want you to be alone or—”

Bellatrix takes her hands. “I’m not alone. Thread, duh. I could be on the other side of the world and not be alone. I’m in your head.”

And she gets to her feet. “And speaking of which, I’m fed up with this house. And I might— I don’t know if it will be difficult to see Cissy but— I kind of need to remind myself that—”

That she’s okay. I know. I get it. Go see her and…and later we can figure out…

You don’t mind being here by your—

Not fragile, Bella. I have my books. I think I’ll sit in the garden

Bellatrix wraps her in a warm hug. Bookworm

Hermione just breathes her in. Kisses her cheek and pulls back. Go see your sister. Oh. And tell her to try holding down all the buttons and starting again. She’ll know what I mean

Bellatrix raises an eyebrow at her. “I still think you should tell me what you talked about when I was unconscious.”

Hermione rolls her eyes. “And I told you that your sister needs to be able to trust me with some secrets. It’s her thing. Secrets and trust. I’m sure you can cope with one secret, Bella. The same as you won’t tell me about Amsterdam.”

Bellatrix groans. “Don’t remind me about that right before I see her! The next potion might be a lot worse if she catches that in my head.”

Hermione kisses her. Just quickly. Just because she wants to, and she can. “Bye, Bella.”

Bellatrix smiles at her, and then spins away in a whirl of black. And Hermione pops to the garden.

 


 

So talking to Fawkes may present a lot of issues. There’s no sign of a bird language, and— but she swears Dumbledore talks to Fawkes in some way, so— if he can—

Hermione snorts to herself. She’s a hundred times more intelligent than Dumbledore. And about a billion times—

Tiggy appears in the garden with a pop. They seem…

“Are you alright, Tiggy?” she asks gently.

Tiggy sighs. Opens and closes their mouth a few times. Rubs at their chin. “Mastress Autonoe is asking for you in the cave now, Miss Hermione.”

Oh. Oh should— “Is this— should I get Bella, or—”

Tiggy shakes their head. “Just you. They is— they is wanting to apologise. Is embarrassed for what they is saying to you.”

Oh, well. It was understandable really. Grief can—

“Okay. Okay I’ll go now before they get too anxious and— thank you, Tiggy.”

She doesn’t bother with a wetsuit. Just pops to the cave.

Huh. No sign of anyone. “Autonoe? Are you there? I’m not cross. I promise.”

She walks closer to the water. Tries to spot them in the flickering torchlight. If she had her wetsuit, she’d—

And then her arms are pinned behind her back and she’s dragged into the water.

Argh! Relashio! Operimentum Aerbulla!

She takes a gasping breath under the water as a bubble appears round her mouth and the arms securing her loosen.

She thrashes for the surface and—

A current drags her downwards, sand whirling around her and she squeezes her eyes shut.

What is happening? She’d thought that—

A knife presses to her throat.

“No vanishing, little one, or you will die mid-journey.”

Leagore?

“Okay. Okay let’s just— what do you want, Leagore? What’s wrong? What did I—”

A dark chuckle. “You can’t guess? Your kind have plagued us long enough. You think we will just tell you our secrets and let you leave? Let you live? Let men come once more to prey on us? Use us?”

This isn’t right. This can’t be Leagore…is it? It does sound like them. Have they just been tricking her? They are a Black…

Hermione swallows. Her neck stings, there must already be a shallow cut there.

She really needs to see their tail, but she’s being held tightly, moving slowly deeper into the cave.

“We told you we’d keep your secret. We promised. And Bellatrix is one of you! She would never betray—”

“One of us? That filthy halfbreed will never be one of us. She is a disgrace to the real Kalypso, to the true goddesses of old. Your kind should bow down before us.”

Oh dear Merlin, not again. It was hard enough convincing Bellatrix that—

That’s it!

“Who’s your leader? What have they told you about wizardkind? How have you learnt about us?”

It’s pitch black now. They’re deep in the underwater cave system.

“Leader? Why Thetis, of course. They rule us all, even in egg form. Thetis has always ruled.”

Well yes, but she didn’t mean— Thetis welcomed Bellatrix. And Hermione. Said they were kin.

As did Leagore though, so what does Hermione know? Looks like she still hasn’t learnt to see people.

How can she get out of this?

“What if we make an oath? Swear an oath to keep your secret?”

“Why bother? I’ll just kill you instead.”

Hermione fights desperately to hold her bubblehead charm as her heart hammers. That’s a real possibility right now. She could die.

Stay calm. You’re used to threats. It’s been a while, but this isn’t the first time you’ve had a knife to your throat.

“If you wanted to kill me, you would have done it by now. What do you really want? Why ask for me?”

There’s a rumbling scraping sound, and a current pushes against them, rocking them back and forth in the depths.

“Don’t test me, wand carrier. I’ve merely taken you somewhere out of sight of prying eyes. The cave is sealed. Not even the forest people can work their magic against Speio.”

Speio?

She can’t leave?

The knife falls away, and she tries to follow the pull to safety. To the library.

And smacks into a stone wall. The wall of the cave. Leagore was right, she can’t—

But what about the thread? Surely—

Bella? Bella can you hear me?

Silence. How is that possible?

She follows the thread. Follows it to Bella— and once again, hits into a cave wall.

The bubble around her mouth begins to waver.

No. You’re in control. How dare they—

“You’re lying. Your story doesn’t make sense. If Thetis is still your leader, then why hide me from everyone? Why do this on their birthday? If you’re going to kill me, why trap me? If it’s Bellatrix you hate, why take me and not her? And if…if you are Leagore…what did you tell me about where the people of the forest live? Because I don’t think you’re Leagore at all.”

Silence greets her, and she just waits. It’s a bluff, she’s not certain. But she really hopes Leagore didn’t lie to her. Didn’t trick her. That this—

“I told you that the Forest People now live in caves, like us.”

Wrong. She never even asked Leagore about that. They only talked about the thread.

So not Leagore. Thank goodness.

Oh dear. This just became far more complicated. Who is it? And why—

Bella. Bella answer me, please. Just one word. I really need to know

Still nothing. Right. On her own.

She casts a lumos from her fingertips. Oh. They look like Leagore but…red tail. Eudora.

“Oh. It is you. So what do you want with me, Leagore?” Hermione asks casually. Best to keep that information to herself. Slytherin.

“Before you die…there is something you must do. Something your mate must do.”

Hermione casts a warming charm on herself. Her muscles are beginning to numb down in the depths. When she looks up, Eudora has swum out of the light.

Hermione looks around for them in the murky deep, only the cave walls and empty sand at her feet visible in the light. “And you think trapping me and threatening to kill me will persuade Bellatrix to do what you want?”

An eery laugh from behind her. “She is your mate. There is a thread. She will do as you ask…and then you will die, and she will die of grief.”

Well. That could technically happen…but— the thread isn’t working! They must not realise…how are they even doing this? The thread is invinci—

Invincible. Unbreakable. But apparently can be blocked. By Speio. The only merperson she hasn’t met.

Okay. Just find out more information. Keep them talking. Maybe whatever magic is holding her here can’t last very long. “So…what do you want her to do?”

Water rushes past her face, and a cheek presses to hers, whispering in her ear. “She will give back the gift she has taken. She will restore our legs, and we shall rise from the depths to our rightful places as gods on earth.”

Hermione flinches away from the cold skin. “And if she can’t? Ah!”

Her bubblehead charm falls as Eudora bites her ear. Ow! What the—

And then cackles, whirling her through the water. “Oh she will learn how. And fast. Before her mate…drowns. How long will your strength last, little witch girl?”

Relashio! Operimentum Aerbulla! Stupefy!

Eudora darts out of the way of the spell with a shriek. “You twisted witch! Using a wand to distort the very nature of magic. Destroying the natural world with your greed!”

She didn’t even use her wand! What are they— this is mad!

Hermione jumps as the voice hisses right in her ear once more from behind. “Call your witch. Tell her that Leagore demands she return our legs, or her mate will perish!”

Hermione finds her calm, sinks to the floor and steadies herself, soaks in her magic. She is in control. She is calm. She can breathe.

“No. You said you’d kill me either way. Until you can persuade me otherwise, I’m not telling her anything. And besides, I’m trapped here. I couldn’t tell her if I tried.”

Laughter echoes around her. “Oh, you will tell her. You won’t be able to stop yourself. As you die, slowly, painfully, the thread will call to her. Your mind will shout for her. And she will come, running on her stolen legs. She’ll find the outside of this cave, hear you crying for her. She’ll do anything in her desperation.”

Well, in that case…

She tugs her wand from her sleeve, and swims closer to the voice. “Come here, Leagore. For the thread to work, I need to stay still. To concentrate. I need you to hold me steady.

A swishing sound, and then Eudora comes into the light, grabs her arm. Hermione holds onto them, runs her hand up their arm…

And digs her wand into Eudora’s throat.

“Let me out of this cave, Eudora, or I will kill you. I have the deadly wand. I will do it.”

Eudora freezes. “If you kill me, you’ll be trapped here forever. You will die either way.”

“Then I might as well kill you. Or…you let me go, and I never come back. I’ll tell Bellatrix to return her sisters’ legs out of kindness. She would have anyway, you know, if someone taught her.”

“This is not— the plan was—”

Yes! Information! “What was the plan? Tell me. Tell me or you will die.”

“It was— I was only supposed to trap you. To ask for the legs. To keep you here. You’re supposed to be weak in the water.”

“You asked her for legs?” a voice booms from the darkness.

Wha— there’s someone else here?

“Speio— no I—”

There’s a roaring growl, and the water begins to churn. Currents pulling her everywhere and she loses her grip on Eudora. The lumos goes out.

“Speio! Please! It’s a misunderstanding!”

“Enough, Eudora. You asked for my aid in killing the witch. Silencing these trespassers so that we could remain hidden as we have for centuries. You are no better than Thetis, thinking of yourself rather than the whole race. Listening to Dexamene and Kallianassa with their forked tongues. The world needs balance. Light and dark. Gods and mortals. Those on land, and those in the sea.”

Hermione clings desperately to a wall so that she can steady herself, concentrate on breathing. Thinking. This might be better? At least Speio doesn’t seem to be a racist. And…

And then the wall begins to move.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

The cave wall, it’s pushing towards her. Hermione can’t see anything in the dark, but she can feel the water rushing past her. What is—

“Speio! Please! Release me, I’m kin! Don’t leave, we can make a deal, a new deal. Let me out and we’ll kill the witch, just as you wanted,” Eudora shouts. There’s no reply.

“Eudora, what’s happening? What was the deal?”

The current pulls her out into the water and shakes her back and forth. She’s losing control she—

The bubblehead bursts and she hurriedly holds her breath.

“Speio! I’ll do anything, whatever you ask, just don’t crush me with the witch.”

Crush them?

Something smacks into her and the breath leaves her lungs. A tail. Eudora.

She can’t hold her breath any longer, she’s going to breathe in, she has to—

To be calm in the water. Want it. Feel it. Remember it. Breathing with Bellatrix. With the elves. For hours as they’ve swam through this lake.

The bubblehead charm reappears.

You are in control. You need to steady yourself.

She sinks to the floor, feet touching down, unmoving in the current.

That’s it. Now, you have to do something new. Find your strength. You are a witch, you have the magic. Just tell it what to do.

She closes her eyes, and pretends she’s not in the dark, not in the water. She follows the thread to Bellatrix…and holds out her hands before she hits into a wall.

So this must be the entrance.

She needs to break her way out.

She thinks of cracking rock, broken stone.

“What are you doing, witch-elf?”

Ignore them.

You are powerful. Feel your magic, fill yourself to the brim.

“I told you, the Forest People can’t work their magic against Speio.”

Except you’re not one of the Forest People. And you need to call on your magic. All of it.

You’ve seen destruction. The stone roof of Gringotts exploding as a dragon breaks through. Giant chess pieces crumbling to the floor.

The walls creep in at her sides.

Hogwarts after the battle. In ruins. The stone just…everywhere. Stairways demolished, ancient columns broken on the floor.

Are you a witch or not? Did you forget? You are not a muggle.

Stone turned to dust. To sand.

Through sand and sea.

She holds her wand up to the stone.

A strong witch. A thinking witch.

Stone scrapes against her sides, Eudora pressed against her back and whimpering.

Your magic will obey. Want it. Feel it. Remember it. Or you will die.

She takes one last breath, feels the magic flow down into her hand, and loses herself in the memory of destruction, of horrifying chaos. Raining stone. Whirling water.

She plants her feet wide and firm in the sand. “Bombarda maxima!” she bellows.

And then screams as all of her magic bursts out of her, blasting forwards.

She loses the bubblehead charm. Her feet float off the floor and she’s pulled forward by the current, smacking into stone and sand and scraping across jagged rocks.

She tries to bring her arms up to cover her face, but it’s too fast.

She’s pulled along, and she can’t help it.

She breathes in…the water…she’s going to…

Help me…Bella, help me please I…

She drifts into darkness.

 


 

“…he doing here, Cissy?!”

“Anapneo! Narcissa, my bag, no the—yes.”

“Bella, for Salazar’s sake, move out of the way! You’re no help, and you still look like you’re going to collapse, sit!”

Head…foggy…where…water…

“Vulnera sanentur…are you sure that’s wise? Skelegrow is—”

“So you didn’t read the article I owled you. Bogswaddle was perfectly reasonable in his hypothesis, Severus, and his methodology flawless when it came to—”

“Flawless? I thought you more discerning than that. Skelegrow is—”

Hermione splutters as a potion is poured into her mouth, only just managing to swallow it.

“Will the two of you stop jabbering and concentrate! This isn’t some potions assignment. Look! She’s waking up!”

“Worried, Bellatrix?... Miss Granger? Can you hear us?” a low voice murmurs.

Hurts…heavy…

“Perhaps we should sedate her. The shock alone…and I’ve never seen a magic reading so changeable— are you sure it was all her, Bella? How did she become trapped under there to begin with? I know you can’t tell us your plans but—”

“She will tell you nothing, as it should be.”

A scoff. “Severus, please. I know you’ve been informed of their situation in some way. I only wish to—”

Hermione blinks her eyes open. It’s so bright. Where—what is— crushing— can’t breathe—

Another potion.

“Her pulse, Severus.”

“I know, I only need a few more moments but a calming draft would—”

“Slow her heart rate and we’d lose oxygen to the brain, I know. We need— her thoughts are still muddled. She’s scared, confused.”

“Bellatrix, you care for the witch. Talk to her.”

“Don’t you dare get up, Bella. I know you insist that you are fine, but something is clearly—”

She still can’t see, who is— where is— “…Bella?” she croaks. Ow, her throat.

“She’s asking for you, Bellatrix, though I shudder to know why.”

“Severus, leave them be and pass me the— no on your left, the smaller one.”

“Smaller? Oh, I see.”

A hand takes hers.

“Come on, pet. Stay awake, I need to talk to you.”

Huh? Oh.

Bella…

A relieved sigh. Finally. I thought the thread was broken or—What the fuck happened? Are you okay? Shit. Stupid question. I mean— I thought— I felt

She blinks up at Bellatrix’s blurry outline.

Bella…what…where…so cold

“She’s cold, is that normal?”

“Yes, we don’t want to destabilise her core with a warming charm—”

“—and we need the daylight rather than the fire so—”

“It will only be a few more minutes.”

“Five at the most.”

“Ten at the most.”

“Ten? Perhaps for you, I however—”

Ignore them. They’ve been like that since we got here. I think we were wrong about— I think they’re friends. It’s horrifying.

Hermione chuckles and then groans. Her ribs. Her lungs.

I was…there was a cave and…tried to crush us, had to…

Who? Who was it? Eudora was there but she was screeching, and then Dexamene took her away before— I had to get you— you looked dead. I was so scared I— We only just managed to…if I hadn’t followed the thread and called Tiggy…

Had to breathe in…couldn’t…the explosion…not strong enough

Not strong? You blew up the bloody lake! Hopefully they’ll blame it on the squid, I didn’t stick around to find out

…Blew up…the lake? But the timeline! The whole lake or…

No, you idiot, you just splashed a lot of water around, sent some merpeople flying. Which reminds me. Who was it? Who did this to you?

Oh. Should she say…

Oh she forgot about Narcissa!

She lets the feeling of invisible calm wash over her mind.

“Her magic— what is— oh! Not again, Bella, what is that?”

“Tell me, Hermione. Who did it? Why are you protecting them?”

Still so white…everything is…

Hermione tries to rub at her eyes, but her arms are numb and heavy, so she just blinks up at the witch, clearing her throat.

“Can’t change…you can’t hurt them…anger…cursing.”

“Well, Bellatrix. She’s got you there. Perhaps the girl is right in holding her tongue.”

“Shut up, Snivellus. Keep your nose out of it. Obviously I won’t just— do I know them?”

“No…yes…didn’t see…the others? Don’t trust…”

It’s too much. Her eyes fall shut.

Okay pet. Just sleep. We’ll figure it out later. I’ll be…

 


 

It’s dark. Why…whose bedroom…

Oh! Oh the lake! And where—

An arm falls over her. Hermione tries to roll sideways to look, but her ribs protest and she stops. Doesn’t matter. She knows who it is. Not like it’s Snape or Narcissa.

Bella? Are you awake?

The bed shakes as Bellatrix sits up with a start. And then freezes. I didn’t hurt you, did I? I started off on my side, promise. Must have just…

Hermione chuckles. And then groans. Her chest. Ow. No you didn’t— it was me. Tried to move

Well don’t! Cissy said you have to stay still. Let the skelegrow do its thing. You broke all your ribs

All of them?! Oh gods…

Bellatrix carefully lowers herself to lie back down. “You scared me. I thought I’d lost you. What— what happened?” she whispers into the dark.

Oh.

Hermione reaches around until she finds a cold hand, ignoring her growing nausea. Ever