“Miss Granger, I’d like a word with you before you leave.”
Hermione pauses amidst packing up her bag to look up at her Headmistress. Even from several feet away, it’s apparent how exhausted McGonagall is. They’re a week into the first year back since the war, and the newly appointed Headmistress is still teaching Advanced Transfiguration alongside her newfound responsibilities. The woman may be the only other person in the school more exhausted than Hermione herself.
Once all other students have left, Hermione rises from her seat to approach McGonagall’s desk.
“What can I do for you?” Hermione asks, wincing at how hoarse her voice sounds. Anything resembling sound sleep post war has been hard to come by.
“The Ministry has decided that now is the time to add another oh-so critical task to my already overflowing plate,” McGonagall says, exasperation apparent on her face, “I was hoping to rely on my Head Girl.”
Hermione straightens, her fingers tightening on the handle of her bag. The thought of an important task to break the monotony of her routine is extremely appealing, to the point where she has to stop herself from jumping at the opportunity. McGonagall reads her expression straight away despite her restraint, and a smile graces her thin lips.
“If you’re interested, they want us to repair the Vanishing Cabinet once again,” McGonagall explains, leaning back in her chair, “They’ve confiscated the one the Death Eaters used in Borgin and Burkes and think that they can use it as a more convenient way for their routine visits.”
“Routine visits?” Hermione asks, reading the annoyance in her Headmistress’ tone.
“Routine visits,” McGonagall deadpans, “They’re terrified of any potential threats finding their way here after all the work we’ve done to get the parents to allow students to return.”
“What other potential threats could there be? The war is over.”
McGonagall sighs and dismisses her question with a wave of her hand, “That’s beside the point. Can I rely on you, Hermione?”
“You know you can always count on me, Headmistress. Where are we keeping it? Show me where it is and I’ll take care of the rest.”
McGonagall smiles and rises from her chair, “Right this way.”
The Vanishing Cabinet is right where it’s always been.
The Room of Requirement appears to them without preamble, the doors opening to piles of burnt rubble. Miraculously, the Cabinet has been mostly spared, standing at its full height at the back of the room. Half of it is charred, the wood thinned and damaged, but the structure is still strong.
“Well? Is it fixable?”
Hermione nods, walking around the Cabinet to appraise it fully, “Yes. I can handle this, Headmistress. I’ll make it my top priority.”
“The Ministry will appreciate it. I appreciate it, Hermione. Truly,” McGonagall squeezes her shoulder, “Do make this your second priority. Coursework should always be first.”
“I’ll let the professors know to supply you with anything you need. If you are in need of anything that you can’t get a hold of, you only need to let me know. The Ministry had the appropriate wood sent over already, which you’ll find beside it.”
“I will. I’ll get to work straight away.” Hermione promises, eyeing her challenge with determined eyes.
McGonagall departs with a pat on her shoulder, the click of her heels growing quieter and quieter until Hermione is alone.
Hermione spends the rest of her day in the Room of Requirement. She spends hours peeling back the damaged wood, slowly and carefully to ensure she leaves the usable wood intact. She leaves smelling like charred wood and sweat, heading straight for the showers.
The tension of the day bleeds away beneath the hot water. The task will be neither quick nor easy, but finally she has purpose again. Her mind is still, settled, now that she has something other than war and death weighing on it.
Hermione returns after classes the following day, books on magical object reparation in hand. It only takes her a week to restore the cabinet from its burns, and another week after that of spellwork before she’s ready to attempt her first test.
Her tests fail, and she tries not to think about the fact that it took Draco Malfoy nearly an entire school year to repair it in the past. She is not Draco Malfoy, and she certainly will not take so long to accomplish the same task. She also has the advantage of not needing to be secretive about it, able to spend hours working on the Cabinet without anyone questioning her. Aside from Ginny, of course, who only questions her mental stability.
A month passes, and then just like that, something changes.
Hermione finishes her daily spellwork with her test. A single piece of parchment placed inside, a speck of yellowish white inside the dark shadows of the cabinet. She shuts the door, and opens it a moment later.
The paper sits inside, untouched, and Hermione groans in frustration.
She leans down to snatch the parchment up, only to notice a single word etched in elegant ink at the top. Hermione freezes, reading the word over and over, trying to make sense of it.
Possibilities race through her mind. The paper never vanished. How could a word have appeared so quickly? Had the parchment been sent to the Ministry and returned in the few seconds that the door was shut? Was it possible that the word had been on the parchment beforehand and she had somehow neglected to notice?
Hermione sets the parchment down inside of the cabinet once more, shutting the door. She whips it open again a moment later, knowing that someone from the Ministry couldn’t possibly have time to tamper with the parchment in such a short amount of time. To her shock, another message is scrawled beneath the first.
Are you there?
Hermione scrambles for her quill and ink, shuffling on her knees towards the cabinet to write a response without bothering to remove the paper. Yes, she writes, slamming the cabinet door shut before the ink has dried.
Her mind races as she waits. Who is she corresponding with? What is she corresponding with? How is this possible? Surely it’s a fluke, and when she opens the cabinet again there will be no response.
She opens it, and sure enough another line of ink is scrawled beneath her own message.
Who are you?
Hermione hesitates out of caution, wondering about the potential consequences of revealing her identity. She can’t come up with anything. What difference would it make to her corresponder if they know who she is? The war is over, and the only way through this cabinet is through its twin in the bloody Ministry.
This is Hermione Granger. Who am I speaking with? Are you from the Ministry?
This time, Hermione watches the parchment. She hasn’t entirely ruled out the possibility that it is in fact the parchment itself that is enchanted, that someone is playing an odd trick on her. She watches her ink settle and dry and remain without a response. With a small sigh of relief, she swings the door shut once again and waits.
She opens it, pulling the parchment closer to read.
I am not from the Ministry, but you do know me.
Hermione stares at the words, a trickle of dread running down her spine. She has made many enemies, and even though the worst of the danger has passed, she can’t stop the instinctual panic. Her heart begins to thunder in her ears, and when she reaches for the parchment with her quill she notices that her hand is trembling.
Who are you? How are you responding to me if you’re not from the Ministry?
Hermione shuts the door, waits, and whips it open to see fresh ink.
You really don’t know? Alright then, how about we play a game?
Hermione’s dread remains, unable to decipher the tone of her corresponder. Games, in her experience, have always been either friendly or sinister, and more often the latter. Still, she’s far too curious to back out now.
What sort of game?
I will tell you who I am if you can guess correctly.
Hermione frowns at the parchment. She knows nothing about this person, nothing at all, and is very doubtful that she would be able to guess their identity. Even with unlimited guesses, it’s unlikely she can figure it out based on the information she has.
That doesn’t sound like a very fun game. I’ll need to be able to ask you questions in order to narrow down the possibilities.
The writer doesn’t respond right away. For the first time, there is no response when Hermione first opens the door. Nor is there the second time. The third time she does it, neatly scrawled words shine up at her.
Very well. You may ask three questions.
Five. Hermione argues.
Hermione adds stubbornness to the top of her list on the personality of her mysterious corresponder. She sighs in frustration and asks her first question. The question that will give her many answers.
Where are you writing to me from?
I’m in the room with you.
Hermione’s stomach drops when she reads the words. She abandons the Cabinet, casting Lumos to explore the dimly lit Room of Requirement. There is nothing to be found aside from burnt and lonely magical items, piles of rubble, and shadowy corners.
She returns to the parchment with a scowl, not amused by her corresponders game in the slightest.
Very funny, but I am quite obviously alone. If you are going to answer my questions with lies, then I don’t see the point in this at all.
Hermione paces while she waits for a response, crossing the room once and then twice before returning to whip the door open.
You don’t believe me? Then I suppose there’s no use in warning you of our impending interruption.
Hermione nearly jumps out of her skin when the door begins to creak open. She drops the parchment back into the cabinet and points her wand at the intruder. Red hair glints in the low light, and her best friend's scowl has her lowering her wand.
“Hermione, what the hell are you still doing here? It’s past curfew.”
Hermione blinks rapidly, shocked both at the time that’s past and at the fact that her corresponder knew they were going to be interrupted. They couldn’t be in the same room as her. It isn’t possible. Unless…
“Did Harry put you up to this?”
Ginny’s jaw drops, and with a glance over her shoulder she steps fully into the room and shuts the door behind her.
“Did Harry put me up to what? What are you doing in here? Do not tell me you’re still working on that bloody Cabinet.”
Hermione glances at the Cabinet with an accusatory glare. The only person who could possibly be messing with her is Harry Potter, who is conveniently working at the Ministry, as well as being in near constant correspondence with the very person who just interrupted her as predicted.
“Please don’t lie to me, Gin. I don’t know why Harry thought this would be funny, but it’s not, and if you–”
“Hold on, Hermione, I’m not lying to you. Just tell me what’s going on and I’ll try to help you.” Ginny steps further into the room, eyeing her with concern.
Hermione sits down at the table again, running her hands through her hair. She needs to tell someone what’s happening, but she knows she’s going to sound completely insane. If anyone is going to believe her though, it’s Ginny.
“The Cabinet is working…at least I think it’s working,” Hermione begins, watching her friend’s face closely, “I’ve been using a piece of parchment to test it and, well…someone has been writing on it. Talking to me.”
Ginny’s expression darkens, and she glances at the Cabinet.
“Why do you think it’s Harry?” Ginny asks after a long pause.
“The other Cabinet is at the Ministry. And, well, before you came in, they said we would be interrupted. They’re claiming to be in the same room as me, which…well, it’s just not possible. They must be lying.”
Ginny glances around the room, worry etched deep into her face. Hermione has long since learned to read her friend, and Ginny’s disturbance only deepens her own.
“A mystery person writing to you from a magical object? Hermione, I know better than anyone how dangerous that can be.”
Hermione winces, recalling Ginny’s own experience with Tom Riddle’s diary
Ginny continues, “If I have any advice for you, it’s to stop talking to this person. It doesn’t matter who they are or why they’re talking to you. Just move on to vanishing living things and finish up this assignment so you can move on.”
Hermione knows Ginny is right. She knows it, and still, she isn’t sure that she can walk away from this mystery.
“I know. You’re right.” Hermione sighs.
“I know I am,” Ginny says, approaching the Cabinet, “Now, I’d like to get a look at this parchment…”
The redhead leans down, picking up the discarded parchment. She frowns, her eyes skimming the page, and flips it over. When she looks back at Hermione her brow is furrowed in confusion.
“It’s blank, ‘Mione.”
Hermione shoots out of her chair, rushing towards her. She snatches the parchment from Ginny, flipping it around in disbelief.
“What? The page was full before. At no point did any writing disappear…” she draws her wand, pointing it at the blank page, “Revelio.”
The parchment remains blank, and Hermione glances helplessly at Ginny. If she didn’t look crazy before, she certainly does now.
Ginny sighs and sets the parchment down on the table, then grabs Hermione by the arm.
“Come on. Let's get to bed.”
Hermione lets her friend lead her out of the room, sending one last glance over her shoulder at the Vanishing Cabinet as they leave.
No matter how hard she tries, she can’t help but think about how she still has two questions left to ask.
Hermione doesn’t return to the Vanishing Cabinet for three days.
If she returns and tests it with a living creature, and it works, then she may not have free access to the Cabinet anymore. If she returns and doesn’t move on with her tests, then she knows she’ll continue talking to the person on the other side. She can’t stand the thought of this mystery going unsolved. She’s lived through a war, she’s sure she can handle whatever this is.
So, by the time she does return, she has her remaining questions ready. Part of her fear is that she won’t get a response this time, and she’s not really sure what exactly she’s hoping for anymore.
With a fresh piece of parchment in hand, Hermione writes her second question.
How do I know you?
The five seconds that Hermione leaves the Cabinet shut are the longest five seconds of her life. When she pulls it open again, her heart is beating so fast that her head is spinning, rushing with blood.
A response awaits her, just as quickly as before.
Nice to see you again. As for how you know me, well…we met through Harry Potter.
Hermione sits back on her heels, her mind racing. She’s thought of nothing but this mystery person for days, and she’s come up with a few theories, each of them particularly unnerving. She recovers from her surprise quickly, writing in her final question.
Why can’t I see you if you’re really in the room with me?
Good question. I’m not quite a part of your world anymore, you see.
Hermione stares at the words, reading them over and over. She has a suspicion that this response seems to support. If it truly isn’t Harry, truly isn’t anyone from then the Ministry…if everything they’ve said is true, then…
Do you mean to say that you’re dead?
My, my, you are bright aren’t you? The words read, That’s correct, little one.
Hermione flushes at the compliment, unable to decipher if it’s a genuine complement or if the person is mocking her. Even while blushing, she’s brimming with pride at having figured it out. Oddly, some of her fear ebbs away now that she knows she’s dealing with someone who can’t hurt her. She’s never been one to fear ghosts, nor anything that’s not of this world. What is already dead cannot cause any harm, especially if it’s the sort of spirit that’s too weak to show a physical form. This is someone that’s barely clinging to this world.
She can think of a small handful of people that she’s met through Harry Potter who are dead now. The information narrows down her list of suspects considerably.
Is this Nymphadora Tonks?
Hermione thinks that this is one of the most likely options. Tonks died at Hogwarts, after all, and she is one of the few she suspects would enjoy playing a game like this with her.
“I hope it’s you, Tonks,” Hermione whispers, “I hope you’re friendly.”
No. I ought to be offended but I suppose that wasn’t the worst guess.
Hermione bites her lip, noting the slip of new information. Who would be offended at being mistaken for Tonks? A man, perhaps, offended at being thought of as a woman? If it wasn’t the worst guess, then perhaps a relative?
How many guesses am I allowed?
I’ll give you one last try. If you’re wrong, then I suppose you’ll just have to live without knowing everything for once.
Hermione sets her jaw, undeterred by the writer’s subtle jab. She’s nearly certain she knows who it is.
Well, well, well. I have to say I’m quite impressed. The years have only sharpened your mind, I see.
Hermione smiles, relief washing over her. She knew it was him. Sirius did always have a knack for finding unique ways of communicating with Harry, after all. Besides, what other viable options did she have? This answer makes the most sense, and it’s easy to accept.
You’d be right about that. Tell me something only Sirius would know. I need to know I can trust you.
That’s rather broad. There are plenty of things I can tell you that only I could know, but how can you possibly verify them?
Hermione taps her quill thoughtfully on the parchment. The ghost has a point. He could say anything, and there isn’t much Hermione knows about him that isn’t relatively common knowledge.
Tell me something that Harry Potter can verify.
Hermione waits, wide eyed, holding her breath. The real Sirius would want Harry to know he was still here, and an imposter would say something to evade the question.
I’ve been with Harry ever since I died. I was with him when he died, that night in the forest. I never left him. In fact, that’s why I'm here now. To find a way to speak with him one last time. I never got to say a true goodbye. He’ll tell you as much. Is that proof enough for you?
It’s more than enough. Harry had already told her of how Sirius was with him when he went to let Voldemort kill him. He told her how Sirius comforted him, how he knew he was still with him. No one else could know. This is certainly Sirius Black.
She nearly gets up to Owl Harry immediately, but she stops herself. She’d like to think Harry would be overjoyed at the chance to hear from his godfather again, but she worries he’ll be upset that Sirius is here, still, rather than somewhere better.
Yes, that’s enough for me. I do have more questions though, Sirius. Why reach out to me at all? What is it that you want?
Ask all the questions you’d like. No more games. I just want to see my godson again. I just want to know that he’s going to be alright after everything that’s happened.
How do you expect me to help with that? Do you want me to ask him to come here?
Hermione can’t shake the pervasive feeling of wrongness. Something isn’t quite sitting right with her, but she can’t place her finger on what it is that’s wrong. All she knows is that she wants to keep talking to him, to seize this rare opportunity to learn about what happens after death.
No, I would like a little more than that if you’re willing. There’s this spell, a very old and little known spell. As far as I know, my family is the place of origin and the only practitioners of such a spell.
What sort of spell is this?
The feeling of dread grows stronger, a cold sensation settling over her. She feels his presence more in this moment than she has so far, feels him in the room, feels him beside her.
I don’t want you to be frightened, but the spell is a dark one. It’s blood magic. It’s needed for a spell this powerful. It’ll bring me back, but only for a time. It’ll tether me to this world, stronger than how I’m tethered now.
Hermione stomach churns as she writes her response, a cold sweat breaking out across her forehead at the thought of performing blood magic.
Will it make you like Sir Nicholas or the Bloody Baron?
In a way. Only the person who’s blood is used in the spell will be able to interact with me. We’ll be connected. For a time, at least. I know it sounds scary, but don’t worry. It’s only temporary.
How do you expect me to get Harry’s blood? How do you expect me to explain any of this to him?
Who said anything about Harry’s blood?
Hermione lays in bed that night, staring up at the ceiling. It’s not the first night she’s wished to be back in the Gryffindor Dormitories rather than alone in the private Head Girl quarters, but it’s the most she’s ever wished for it. She never really feels alone anymore, even when she is. If it didn’t sound absolutely crazy, she’d say it felt like there was always an otherworldly presence in the room with her. She feels it in the goosebumps rising along her arms like she’s being caressed by icy fingers, feels it in the tingle at the back of her neck like someone else’s breath. She feels eyes on her all the time.
She closes her eyes and takes a shuddering breath, replaying the night in her mind again. Sirius gave her the name of the spell she is to use, as well as detailed wand movements and instructions on how to perform it successfully. She spent an hour asking him every question she could think of to verify his identity, and he had an answer ready every time. Each answer quelled her fear little by little, but now that she has the space to think again she finds herself uncertain.
Afterwards, she used her Head Girl privileges to stay out past curfew in the forbidden section of the library, searching everywhere for more information on the spell. There is nothing to be found, not anywhere. There is hardly anything to be found on blood magic in general, aside from it being very strong and very easy to mess up.
Hermione rolls onto her side, pressing her face into her pillow. Lately it’s hard to tell what is paranoia left over from the war and what is real. Logically, she’s convinced that the ghost is Sirius, but her gut is telling her that something isn’t right. She never used to have much of a gut instinct in general, always electing to follow logic in the past. Her mind has never led her astray, so why would it now?
She repeats the spell in her mind, over and over, feeling the words embed themselves in her.
Umbra Tenetur Anima.
Shadow Bound Soul.
All she’d been able to find in her research is the latin translation of each word. It seems to mean exactly what Sirius told her it would do, so she doesn’t think he’s lying. Sirius meant everything to Harry. Harry trusted him with everything he had, and Hermione trusts Harry. Shouldn’t she trust Sirius just as much?
She knows this would mean everything to Harry. Sirius said that he doesn’t need Harry’s blood, that maybe it would be better to bind himself to Hermione instead. Less painful if Harry can’t see him or hear him.
She knows she ought to tell someone about all of this, but she’s afraid that if she does she’ll be forced to stop. She doesn’t know if she has it in her to doom Sirius to an existence in the afterlife when all he wants is to see Harry one last time.
Hermione’s consciousness begins to fade away. In the dark of night, all things fade away. Her worries, her fears, even the feeling of another presence in the room. The moonlight isn’t enough to chase her dreams away.
When she opens the Cabinet the following evening, there is a message waiting for her.
Tonight is the night.
Hermione stares at the words for a long while before slowly raising her gaze to the darkness of the Cabinet. Sometimes it’s so dark inside there doesn’t seem to be a back at all, as if it’s just a doorway to endless darkness. That’s certainly how it feels right now, like she’s staring the abyss in the face.
I’m having doubts about this, Sirius. I don’t know if I feel comfortable doing blood magic.
Hermione swallows, her jaw tense as she sets the parchment back inside the cabinet. She feels foggy and spellbound lately, slightly out of control, and the feeling is worse every time she’s in this room. She wants the feeling to end, and she doesn’t know if the quickest way out is by doing the bloody spell or by running as far as she can from this place.
Running is probably the answer, but she has never been one to run.
The Golden Girl having doubts? The brightest witch, afraid? I wouldn’t expect that from you. Don’t fear, little one. I would not lead you astray.
Hermione doesn’t respond straight away, instead placing the paper back inside and shutting the door. The cold sweat is back, her crisp white shirt sticking to her lower back. She feels the way she’s felt the morning after having too much wine with her friends; sickly, lightheaded, weak.
When she opens the Cabinet again, the words are written with deep black lines.
I died for Harry. I died for all of you. Don’t I deserve this one little thing?
Guilt churns in Hermione’s stomach. Her pulse thrums, her head spins, and she drops the parchment at her feet. Some otherworldly influence presses at her mind, applying a building pressure to her temples. She needs it to stop. She needs the feeling to go away.
She needs to do this.
Hermione draws her wand, pointing it at her left hand. A simple spell produces a gash in her palm, and she outstretches it into the abyss of the Cabinet.
Drip, drip, drip.
Every drop of blood is loud to Hermione’s ears, echoing as if the rest of the world has fallen away. There is only her, the Cabinet, and something else, something more.
She points her wand into the abyss.
“Umbra Tenetur Anima.”
Hermione’s hand trembles through the intricate movements, the temperature in the room dropping with each spoken word. Her left hand drips blood steadily at her side, but she pays it no mind.
“Umbra Tenetur Anima.”
Fog pours from the abyss, and Hermione’s entire body trembles. She feels as if she might faint if she doesn’t stop. It feels as if the few drops of blood she’s lost are pints pouring freely, draining her of all she has. Still, she repeats the words.
“Umbra Tenetur Anima.”
A cackle shatters the silence of the room, and Hermione’s blood turns to ice. Her wand falls at her side and she’s paralyzed with fear as another laugh tears through the room.
She knows that laugh.
Drip, drip, drip.
Her blood continues to fall, undeterred, loud in the space between the most chilling sound Hermione could imagine. The scar on her left arm burns above her cut, mudblood, screaming at her, reminding her of its origin.
A pale hand reaches out of the abyss, grasping the edge of the Cabinet. Black nails bite into the wood, scratching, screeching, clawing. Then another and appears, pale white against the purest darkness.
Hermione falls backwards, tripping over her feet in her haste to get away. This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening. This can’t be possible.
She scrambles back, but the farther back she moves the more she seems to pull the monster of her nightmares out of the darkness and into the light. A black, heeled boot springs out next, stepping down, a single click of a heel against wood somehow more terrifying than the next strained laugh.
The pale, gaunt face of Bellatrix Lestrange appears next, surrounded by hair as black as the darkness from which she pulls herself from. A menacing grin stretches her translucent features, teeth straight and white, teeth Hermione felt biting into her skin as she scarred her arm with her cursed knife.
Shadow Bound Soul. That’s what she is. Hermione has bound this hideous shadow to her soul of her own free will. It’s unthinkable. It’s horrifying.
Hermione aims her trembling wand.
The Vanishing Cabinet explodes, fire enveloping Bellatrix’s grinning face and sending wood bursting in shards across the room. Hermione scrambles back further and further until her back hits a wall. She trembles like a leaf, her eyes screwed shut and her hands covering her ears.
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.
She must be gone, even though her laughter rings still in Hermione’s ears. Tears stream down her face as she waits, trembling and trapped, her scar burning like a fresh brand she will never be rid of.
She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.
Hermione opens her eyes slowly. At first all she can see is smoke and fog, filling the entire room. There is no sound. No laughter, no blood dripping, no fire crackling. It is completely silent. Hermione stares into a new abyss of white and gray, curling, twisting, and blank.
Bellatrix rushes out of the smoke and fog, inches from Hermione’s face in an instant.
Hermione screams, and Bellatrix laughs.
Thank you for all of your supportive comments! I'm sorry for not responding as much, but I really love and appreciate you all taking the time to leave feedback. Minor tw for suicide mention.
The art at the bottom is something I had commissioned for this work! The artist wishes to remain anonymous.
Hermione’s eyes fly open, and for a moment she’s relieved in thinking that she was only dreaming.
The relief lasts as long as it takes her to realize she’s in a bed that is not her own. The infirmary.
“You gave us all quite a scare there, Miss Granger.”
Hermione squints against the light, making out the concerned face of Madam Pomfrey. Hermione looks past her, surveying the room to be certain she’s alone. Surely it wasn’t real. It couldn’t have been. Bellatrix Lestrange is rotting in the ground. The last place that bloody witch would be is in the room with her, the mudblood she despised.
“Are you going to tell me what happened? You’re lucky Miss Weasley discovered you when she did, unconscious in the burning Room of Requirement. Had she been any later, the flames may have claimed you.”
Hermione remains silent, struggling with an inexplicable fear that Bellatrix will hear her if she says anything. Her eyes flit to the dark corners of the room again and again, waiting for the shadows to move.
“Miss Granger!” Pomfrey says, a bite of annoyance in her voice. Hermione looks at her, her eyes wide and frightened. Pomfrey’s anger gives way to concern at the look on Hermione’s face. “Very well. You just lie still while I check my work.”
The nurse draws her wand, holding it over Hermione’s body. Hermione tries to focus on the ceiling, but the feeling that something else is in the room with them only grows stronger and stronger, until her skin is crawling.
Her heart races, her fear rising and rising as Pomfrey assesses her body. The only sound in the room is the nurse’s murmured spells, but still Hermione cannot forget the sound of Bellatrix’s cackle, echoing in her ears.
She lies there and thinks about her unconscious body, lying across from the burning Cabinet. Did Bellatrix loom over her, leering down at her?
Can Bellatrix hurt her?
Before Hermione can ponder her worries any longer, the door to the infirmary flies open. Moments later, Headmistress McGonagall strides through, and Hermione shrinks beneath her fiery gaze.
“Is she well?” McGonagall asks, hardly sparing Pomfrey a glance despite addressing her.
“I can’t find anything wrong with her physically, but she hasn’t spoken a word since waking.”
McGonagall’s brow knits in concern while Hermione exercises all of her willpower in preventing her gaze from returning to the shadows. She holds McGonagall’s eyes, trying to appear calm and measured.
“What happened, Hermione?” McGonagall asks.
“I-I don’t know,” Hermione begins, doing her best to come up with a believable story on the spot that won’t cause the Headmistress to doubt her sanity, “It just happened. It was as if there was fiendfyre absorbed in one of the wood panels, and when I attempted to replace it, it caught fire again instead. I tried to stop it, but it just made it worse. The force of the eruption must have knocked me out.”
McGonagall’s expression is frozen with concern, and Hermione searches her face for a hint of doubt. After a long minute of no response, the student continues hesitantly.
“Is that…is that possible? For fiendfyre to remain embedded and alive so long after the spell was cast?”
McGonagall blinks, considering, finally freeing Hermione from her prying stare.
“I suppose it would make sense with an object like the Vanishing Cabinet, whose very nature is to absorb, to take matter in and transport it…I’m very sorry this happened to you, Hermione.”
Hermione’s body relaxes, relieved that McGonagall believes her story and won’t force the truth out of her. She doesn’t enjoy hiding the truth from her, but she doesn’t want McGonagall questioning her sanity either.
“I’m just grateful for Ginny. Where is she? I need to thank her properly for saving my life.” Hermione takes the opportunity to glance around the room once more, reassuring herself that no dark apparitions are lurking nearby.
“I had her go off to bed once we had an idea of your condition. She stopped by before classes today and begged me to let her stay, but I reminded her that you would be in need of notes to review for the classes you’re missing. I assume she’ll return the moment she’s able.”
“Well. She needn't find you here, Miss Granger,” Pomfrey interjects, “You have no serious burns, and I have healed the bruising on your head. You are free to leave, though I recommend spending the rest of the day in your quarters recovering.”
McGonagall’s hand is at her shoulder, helping her the moment she begins to shift to stand. A little unsteady on her feet, Hermione leans instinctively on her Headmistress.
“Thank you, Madam Pomfrey.” Hermione says, giving the woman a sheepish smile.
Pomfrey looks at her doubtfully, “Do try to exercise more caution, Miss Granger.”
The halls of the school are eerily quiet with all of its students in class. The halls to the Head Girl’s quarters are particularly dark and secluded, the only sound the gentle footfalls of Hermione and the Headmistress. The silence stretches between them.
“Is the Ministry angry with me?”
McGonagall sighs, smiling faintly at her, “They’re unhappy with me, but they’ll get over it. I left your name out of it, don’t worry.”
“Headmistress, you shouldn't have-”
“It’s quite alright, dear. I wasn’t exactly keen on the idea of them stopping by whenever they felt like it. Unless there’s another war brewing that I’m not aware of, I just don't know what it’ll do aside from give me a headache.”
The staircase arrives at Hermione’s floor, and Mcgonagall’s hand at the small of her back guides her off, keeping her steady. The air seems to drop in temperature, and the hair rises at the back of Hermione’s neck.
The student glances around the hallway, her eyes straining in the dim light. The candlelight casts dancing shadows on the walls, the motion drawing Hermione’s eyes farther and farther down the hall. A faint trickle of laughter bounces down the hall ahead of them, and Hermione freezes.
McGonagall’s heels click to a stop beside her, and she frowns down at her student.
“What is it?” she asks.
Hermione stares straight ahead, eyes wide, as the laughter grows closer. Girlish giggling, mad and taunting, has a violent shiver tearing through Hermione’s body.
No. She wasn’t real. It wasn’t real. Please.
Dread burns like acid in her stomach.
“Do-do you hear that?” Hermione whispers.
“What do you mean?” McGonagall glances ahead, following Hermione’s line of sight with a frown.
The laughter grows louder and Hermione is frozen, her lips parted as she struggles with the words caught in her throat.
Just when Hermione thinks her knees will buckle under the force of her fear, two first years come barreling around the corner, giggling like mad. The moment they see the Headmistress, they freeze in their tracks.
Hermione distantly registers McGonagall chastising the girls, but the ringing in her ears drowns out the words. The adrenaline drains away making her dizzy and unsteady on her feet. She hardly notices when the first years leave, hardly notices McGonagall turning to check on her.
“Sorry, what did you say?” Hermione asks when she notices McGonagall’s expectant look.
“You would tell me if something is wrong, wouldn’t you?” The Headmistress repeats.
Hermione forces herself to smile, but she knows it’s weak.
“I’ll tell you if it’s something I can’t handle,” she answers honestly.
McGonagall’s shoulders relax and she returns her smile, “Very well. I suppose that after everything we’ve been through I ought to trust your judgment. Just know that you can come to me, whether or not you think you can handle it alone.”
Hermione nods and the Headmistress departs.
The student doesn’t begin to fully relax until she’s alone in her chambers. She lights all of the candles with a flick of her wand and strips off her smoke scented robes, heading to her private bathroom.
Hermione runs the shower and strips, closely examining her now healed left hand where she’d performed blood magic. Or had it all been a dream? Part of her hopes that the Cabinet had been messing with her head, that Bellatrix Lestrange was nothing more than a boggart, or some figment of her imagination brought on by her trauma.
She lets the hot air relax her muscles as she tries to convince herself that what transpired wasn’t real. She searches for another logical explanation, for anything to indicate that Bellatrix Lestrange wasn’t here somewhere, bound to her soul.
It couldn’t be real. Surely she hadn’t been so stupid to be fooled by her.
She listens to the sound of the running water, to the silence beyond that, and lets the heat warm her chilled skin.
She’s nearly convinced herself that she’s safe when she steps out of the shower and sees a single word written in the steam on the bathroom mirror.
Hermione rushes towards the bathroom counter, snatching a wand and a towel with each hand. She turns around, clutching the towel to her chest with one hand and pointing her wand ahead of her. The bathroom is empty, but she knows she’s not alone.
Hermione is no longer the scared girl pinned to the floor at Malfoy Manor. She’s won a war. She’s seen death, she’s lost, and she’s conquered. She helped defeat the Lord that Bellatrix thought invincible. She saw Bellatrix die in the same battle Hermione survived.
“Show yourself,” Hermione hisses to the empty room, “Or have you grown cowardly after death?”
“Dirty little mudblood,” the disembodied voice of Bellatrix chuckles, bouncing around the room, “You think you can order me around? That is not how this works.”
A candle near the edge of the room flickers as if something has just passed by it, and Hermione aims her wand and whispers, “Revelio.”
Bellatrix laughs, so loud and cruel that it’s almost painful. Hermione winces, trying uselessly to track the sound with her wand. It seems to be coming from all sides of the room, four directions all at once. Her fragile courage waivers. How is she meant to fight a ghost?
“What’s your plan here, Muddy? Curse me? Send me back to my grave?” Bellatrix asks, her voice drawing nearer.
Hermione looks frantically around the room, looking for any hint of where she may be. She scrambles to wrap the towel more firmly around her body as her mind races for some solution, for any escape. For the first time in a very long time she comes up completely blank.
“That’s not how this works,” Bellatrix says, so close that Hermione feels her breath on her ear, “I’ll tell you how this is going to work, but only because I’m feeling especially generous today.”
Hermione stumbles back, away from the sinister voice, but when Bellatrix speaks again she’s just as close as before.
“You are tethered to me forever, mudblood. Your soul belongs to me. Your body belongs to me. Everything you are, everything you will ever be is mine and mine alone. I will never let you go. The only way out of this is to surrender your body to me and observe as I kill everyone you’ve ever loved, or…” Bellatrix lowers her voice to a giddy, girlish whisper, “you could always off yourself.”
Hermione’s legs tremble as cold terror washes over her. She stands strong, refusing to let Bellatrix see what her words are doing to her. She will not give Bellatrix the satisfaction.
“You’re either an incredible liar or you’re completely delusional,” Hermione informs the icy air before her, “I am not your prisoner. You are mine. You’ve bound yourself to a soul that will never surrender. The only thing you’ve succeeded in doing is relinquishing the afterlife in favor of an eternal prison that flows with dirty blood, blood that will always be impure, my blood. I do not belong to you, Bellatrix. You are damned to a hell of your own creation.”
The room simmers in resounding silence, and for a long moment Hermione thinks she has won the final word. She turns to face the mirror, wiping the cruel word away. There is no monster lurking in the shadows behind her, not in the mirror and not when she turns around.
She tucks the towel securely against her body and strides towards the bathroom door, doing her best to ignore the sinister presence.
“We’ll see about that.” Bellatrix says, her voice a viscous whisper.
Hermione doesn’t dignify her with a response, letting the door slam behind her.
By the time Ginny knocks at her door that evening, Hermione has enjoyed hours of blissful silence, reading by the fireplace. Bellatrix had either run off somewhere or had been watching her in hateful silence. Hermione doesn’t have a clue how it all works, but something tells her that she should enjoy every minute of peace and regain her strength.
She’s exhausted after everything that’s transpired, and the day of rest has been exactly what she needs, even with her newfound parasite. As soon as she’s strong enough she fully intends on spending every minute she can in the library, trying to figure out how to undo the stupidest mistake of her life.
“Well?” Ginny asks from the doorway, hands on her hips, “Care to explain to me why I found you unconscious by the burning Vanishing Cabinet?”
Hermione swings her legs over the side of her bed to look at her friend straight on. “First of all, thank you. You know, for saving my life and all.”
Ginny stares at her, eyes hard and mouth set in a thin line. Hermione swallows nervously, trying to decide if Ginny would believe the truth from her or not.
There’s movement in the corner of her eye and Hermione notices with a start that Bellatrix, suddenly visible, is sitting in the armchair by the fire, staring at Ginny. Her legs are curled up beneath her like she’s been there for a long time, and she’s motionless, looking at Ginny with unblinking black eyes.
Bellatrix is wearing the same tattered black dress and corset that she went to the grave in. She looks almost exactly the same, only worse, translucent and impossibly pale. She has a scar that certainly wasn't there before, thin red lines sprawling out like lightning from her left breastbone. It disappears beneath her dress, leaving Hermione wondering what would cause such a thing and how a ghost could possibly have a scar in the first place.
Ginny snaps her fingers and Hermione whips her head around to look at her.
“Sorry, did you forget I’m in the room with you? Did you hit your head when you fell, or am I just boring you?”
“Sorry, Gin. I’m just exhausted. Everything that’s happened-”
“What exactly has happened?”
Hermione hesitates, looking between the ghost in the room and her friend. Bellatrix’s eyes have not left Ginny, her face unreadable but her unflinching stare incredibly unsettling nonetheless.
If anyone would believe her, it’s Ginny. It would be helpful to tell someone else what’s going on. She wants to do it, but when she imagines actually saying the words…I accidentally bound the vengeful spirit of Bellatrix Lestrange to me because I let her trick me into believing she was Sirius. Hermione shudders. She just can’t do it. It’s bloody humiliating.
“It’s embarrassing. I messed up the spell, and residual fiendfyre caused the Cabinet to explode.”
“Residual fiendfyre?” Ginny repeats incredulously, “This better be the truth. You promise me this doesn’t have anything to do with your mystery corresponder?”
Hermione hesitates, deciding where exactly she should draw the line in her deception. “The explosion didn't, but…I did continue talking to them after you told me to stop.”
Ginny sighs and steps further into the room, sitting next to her on the bed. Bellatrix’s eyes follow her the entire way, shifting to Hermione at the last moment. The corners of her pale red mouth quirk up in a hollow smirk, and Hermione turns away from her to give Ginny her full attention.
“I’m not judging you, I promise,” Ginny says, “I’m glad you’re telling me, and I’m glad you’re alright. What else did you talk about, then? You know, before you blew the Cabinet to bits.”
Hermione bites her lip, pointedly ignoring the black gaze of Bellatrix Lestrange.
“The ghost…whoever or whatever it was, nearly had me convinced that it was Sirius.” Hermione begins hesitantly.
“Sirius Black? Merlin, Hermione, why didn’t you tell someone?”
“It didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel like him. I started to feel its influence, like it was trying to force me under some sort of spell, and I started to panic. I tried to rush the process and, well…next thing I knew, I was waking up in the infirmary.”
Ginny is quiet, mulling over her words. Hermione glances at Bellatrix, finding her looking amused at her lies if not slightly bored. Hermione wonders why she doesn’t just leave her alone and entertain herself elsewhere.
“I trust your judgment. If you think that it wasn’t Sirius, then it wasn’t. What do you think it was, then? And why lie?”
“It must’ve been something that knew a lot about us, about Sirius, because it was good at imitating him. But it wanted me to do things that Sirius wouldn’t have asked of me. Dark magic…magic that would make it stronger. It tried to force me. I could feel its influence pressing at my mind.”
“Good thing you were strong enough not to listen. Could’ve been really bad,” Ginny says, taking Hermione’s hand in her own and squeezing, “You did the right thing.”
Bellatrix barks out a laugh and Hermione stares at her own lap, too ashamed of herself to meet Ginny's eyes. How could she have been such a fool? How she wished that every word she was saying was true, but the real truth is that she was too weak to resist Bellatrix’s influence.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” Bellatrix calls from across the room, “Muddy magic is no match for the influence of a pureblood.”
Hermione has no choice but to ignore her, but her stomach churns with shame.
Ginny releases her hand to rifle through her bag, “Anyway, I brought you today’s notes. You didn’t miss much. In fact, there were multiple moments during Slughorn’s lecture that I envied your unconscious state.”
Hermione takes the folder of notes from Ginny’s hand, and when she looks up she sees that Bellatrix has vanished once again. There’s something much more nerve-racking about not knowing where the witch was, and Hermione finds herself wishing she was visible so she could keep an eye on her.
She wishes Ginny would stick around, since Bellatrix at least seemed more tame in the presence of others, but curfew approaches faster than Hermione would want. When she’s alone again, she waits in silence at her desk for whatever Bellatrix has in store for her next. Only, nothing comes.
She occupies her mind with Ginny’s notes, and when that fails to keep her attention she writes a letter to Ron. Hours pass before she’s ready to try to sleep. She rises from her seat, stretching out her stiff muscles and surveying her surroundings.
There’s an undeniable chill in the room, and with a flick of her wand the fireplace roars to life. Hermione climbs into bed, leaving all of the candles lit. If she wasn’t so exhausted, she’s sure that it would be extremely difficult to sleep with all that’s transpired.
She casts protection charms around her bed before she shuts her eyes. She doubts they’ll do much good against a ghost, but it makes her feel a touch better regardless. The warmth of the fire and the gentle candlelight is almost enough to make her forget what’s happening to her, and before long the exhaustion catches up with her and sleep claims her.
Dreamless sleep doesn’t linger long.
Hermione jerks awake less than an hour later to the sound of the door shaking in its frame. The student bolts upright in bed to a pitch black and silent room, freezing cold.
Her eyes strain in the utter darkness, looking uselessly around the room and finding nothing. She scrambles for her wand where she left it on the nightstand, but it isn’t there.
“Bellatrix?” Hermione whispers, her voice fragile. She shivers and wraps her arms around herself.
The door shakes again, almost as if someone is hurling their weight against it on the other side. Hermione throws back her covers and feels around on the floor for her wand, eventually locating it under the bed.
“Lumos,” Hermione hisses.
The little white light does little to quell her nerves as she approaches the door. She whips it open and finds only a dark, empty hallway. With a huff she slams it shut and walks across the room to kneel before the fireplace.
She feels the charred wood and finds it ice cold. It must’ve gone out almost immediately after she fell asleep.
“What is it that you want?” Hermione asks. She knows Bellatrix is here, lurking, listening.
It is only silence that answers her.
“Answer me. You woke me up, you clearly want something from me, so just tell me.”
The fire roars to life before her, springing out of the fireplace in its force. Hermione falls backwards, clamoring back on the wood floor to get away from the flames. Bellatrix flickers into existence in front of the fire, skirts billowing in nonexistent wind. The ghost kneels in front of her, a breath away from her face. Her features are twisted in fury, her hair as wild as the fire that shines through her. Hermione doesn’t feel the heat at all. She only feels cold.
“Do you really think I’ll let you get a moment of peace? You think that you’re in control here?” Bellatrix hisses, “I’m in control, and I will torment you every moment of every day until you give yourself to me.”
“I will never.” Hermione says, sick to her stomach. The thought of Bellatrix inside of her, controlling her, makes her stomach roll with disgust. She will never let that happen.
“You will, mudblood!” She shrieks, and the force of her presence sends Hermione’s hair flying back over her shoulders in a gust of icy wind, “You will beg for it!”
“I won’t! I won’t!” Hermione yells, shutting her eyes and covering her ears. Bellatrix can’t touch her. She can’t. “Go away! Get away from me!”
A sob tears its way out of her and Hermione falls apart, curled up on the floor, freezing cold and terrified.
She isn’t sure how much time passes, but when she opens her eyes she’s alone again, the fire crackling gently in front of her.
Hermione sits listlessly in class the following morning, staring at her blank parchment and recalling Bellatrix’s words from the night before. Professor Slughorn drones away, but Hermione doesn’t hear him. She only hears Bellatrix.
You are tethered to me forever, mudblood.
A tear falls unbidden down Hermione’s cheek. She wipes it away before anyone can notice, then lets her hands fall heavy and lifeless on her desk. She had hoped that what “Sirius” told her about the bond only being temporary was true, but Bellatrix’s words had ripped that away. There has to be a way out of this. This can’t be forever. She’ll be thrown in St. Mungo’s before the year is out.
“Hermione?” Luna whispers from the desk beside her. Hermione lifts her tired eyes to look at Luna. Only Luna isn’t looking at her, she’s looking down. “Hermione, your arm.”
Hermione looks down and sees bright red blood soaking through the sleeve of her crisp white shirt. She bolts out of her seat and towards the door.
“Miss Granger-” Slughorn protests, but the door slamming shut behind her cuts him off.
She runs down the hallway until she finds the nearest bathroom, locking the door behind her. When she rolls up her sleeve she sees that her scar is bright red, bleeding fresh blood like the day she got it.
She looks up at herself in the mirror, unsurprised to see Bellatrix standing behind her like a shadow. The ghost watches her grimly, eyes dark and unreadable.
“I hate you.” Hermione tells her.
“I hate you too.” Bellatrix says matter-of-factly. She sounds as tired as Hermione feels.
“Why don’t you go haunt someone else? Why don’t you just leave?” Hermione asks her, turning to face her.
“I can’t, you stupid mudblood.” Bellatrix says flatly. The insult rolls off Hermione's shoulders, lacking its usual bite. Or maybe she’s already becoming desensitized to it. “Don’t you think I’ve tried? If I stray too far from you, I blink out of existence. So I’m afraid you’re stuck with me until you eventually give up and let me take your body.”
Hermione shivers, unsettled instantly at the casual way Bellatrix speaks of stealing her autonomy.
“It’s not going to happen, Bellatrix. I suggest you spare us both the torment and move on, or just…go back to wherever you came from.”
“It’s going to happen,” Bellatrix insists, “It has to happen. I will never go back to that.”
Curiosity gets the better of her and Hermione blurts, “Go back to what? I mean, what is there after?”
Bellatrix’s gaze looks very far away for a moment, staring over Hermione’s shoulder. Then she abruptly seems to remember where she is, looking down her nose at the Gryffindor.
“What makes you think you have the right to ask me anything, mud girl?” Bellatrix snaps. Hermione sighs and fights the urge to roll her eyes. Bellatrix is lacking her usual air of intimidation, leaving Hermione feeling bolder than she has before. Bellatrix glowers at her, stepping closer until they’re nearly overlapping, “You matter less than the dirt beneath my boot. If you want to find out what lies beyond, then why not let me send you there so you can see?”
Hermione doesn’t budge an inch, refusing to flinch away from the ghost’s stare, “Must you be so combative? Why does blood purity matter to you anymore? You don’t have any blood. You’re dead, Madam Lestrange.”
Hermione sneers as she says the noble name, infusing it with every ounce of disgust she can muster. Bellatrix looks momentarily stunned before she’s engulfed with fury.
“Pure blood or no blood, I am superior to you. You are nothing. You are a mistake.”
“And yet here I stand. I survived the war, and you are nothing but a nagging spirit attached to me like a leech. You lost. Your Lord lost. He was-”
“Not another word of him!” Bellatrix shrieks. Her hair seems to lose all sense of gravity as if they’ve been submerged underwater, floating in inky tendrils around her gaunt face. All at once, the pipes implode, sending water shooting upwards into the room.
Hermione is soaked almost immediately in the spraying water. Bellatrix screams, clutching at her hair, and rising until her feet lift off the ground. She rises, levitating before her.
Bloody fucking hell.
Hermione runs to the door and yanks on the handle to no avail. The door is locked in place no matter how hard Hermione pulls. She draws her wand and takes aim, shouting a spell and blasting the handle clean off the door.
She shoves her way out of the bathroom and runs, the wet soles of her shoes slipping on the wood. She runs until she can’t hear Bellatrix’s screams.
She slams into someone and feels hands grab at her shoulders, steadying her.
“P-professor Trelawney?” Hermione stutters.
Professor Trelawney’s eyes are stark white and sightless, staring beyond Hermione.
“You are in grave danger, girl,” she says, her voice guttural and unrecognizable, “You must snuff out the light before the shadow grows or it will consume you.”
Hermione tries to pull away, but Trelawney’s grip is impossibly strong.
“You must not be seduced by the darkness. Two must never become one. You must not let the darkness touch you. You must not let it claim you!”
Hermione finally yanks away, her wet shoes slipping on the floor and sending her falling backwards right on her ass. She stares up at her Professor, horrified, and Trelawney looks down at her with ordinary eyes.
“Miss Granger? Are you alright?”
Weeks pass and the torment continues.
Hermione can no longer get anything close to a full night of sleep without the help of sleeping drought. The little sleep she does get is just as haunted by Bellatrix as her waking hours are. She often wakes up gasping for air, relieved to be freed from her nightmare, only to be greeted by Bellatrix’s looming shadow at the foot of her bed.
There is no escape.
The student begins to feel like a ghost herself, most often haunting the narrow halls of the library. No books on the subject of ghosts mentions anything of the likes of Bellatrix, nothing as powerful or single minded as the dead, dark witch. She can’t find anything about a soul bond between someone living and someone dead. Nothing.
Bellatrix is beginning to weaken her resolve. She can’t bring herself to respond to Harry and Ron’s letters, and it’s getting more and more difficult to bring herself to do any assignments.
Bellatrix’s torment doesn’t cease, even while she’s in class. She’ll screech insults over the professor’s lecture, whisper threats in Hermione’s ear, or insist that she’s choosing the wrong answer any time there’s a written assignment. Hermione stopped speaking up to answer any of the professor’s questions after a week of Bellatrix disparaging her every word.
She’s starting to think that she needs to tell someone.
Sometimes she thinks about telling Luna. The girl has given her ample opportunity, often staring at Hermione during Bellatrix’s fits in class, as if she suspects something is amiss. Hermione has a hard time imagining Luna judging her with how difficult it is to surprise her.
Then Ginny will crack a joke and make her smile for the first time in days, and she knows that if she’s going to tell anyone, it has to be her best friend.
She finds the youngest Weasley alone in the common room late one evening. Alone except Bellatrix’s ever-lurking presence, leaning against the far wall by the fire as if she’s been waiting for Hermione.
“What are you doing up so late?” Hermione asks, pulling Ginny’s attention away from her book.
Ginny gives her a halfhearted smile and waves her book in the air, “I’m rereading today’s chapter from Astronomy. I’m pitiful in that class, truly.”
“At least you’re dedicated.” Hermione says with a small smile, sitting across from her in an armchair, “That’s more than I could ever say for Harry or Ron.”
Ginny sighs and closes her book, tossing it on the coffee table between them. “I miss them. It’s weird to be here without them.”
Hermione lets herself wonder for a moment how it would be to go through this with Harry and Ron at her side. Less lonely, probably. Not as dark.
“I have something I have to tell you,” she says. Bellatrix’s eyes are on her, burning hotter than the fire at her back.
“Oh, boy. The last time you said that you dropped quite the bomb.”
Bellatrix snorts and Hermione shifts in her seat. “Right, well…if you thought that was a bomb, then I’m going to need you to brace yourself.”
Ginny sits back, her eyes wide and worried. She doesn’t say a word, and Hermione takes a deep breath before continuing.
“The spirit that claimed to be Sirius…I told you that I didn’t know who it was, but I lied,” Hermione waivers and Bellatrix leans forward, eyes gleaming, “It was Bellatrix Lestrange.”
Ginny’s eyebrows twitch, but she remains still and quiet, clearly waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“I wish that what I told you was true, but I guess I’m not as smart as I wish I was. Or maybe I’m not as strong willed, or maybe it’s my soul that’s weak…”
Bellatrix is at her side suddenly, murmuring gleefully in her ear, “It’s your blood. Your weak, filthy blood.”
Hermione ignores her, “It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done. She tricked me, or she made me, I don’t know how it happened exactly but she’s here. She got me to do a spell while I thought she was Sirius, and now I’m stuck with her. Forever, maybe, if I can’t figure this out. Our souls are tied together. She lives in me.”
At some point while she was talking, her eyes dropped to her lap and tears began to spill down her cheeks. It’s as much of a relief as it is humiliating to finally speak the truth out loud, and her body trembles with every ragged breath she takes.
“Hermione, look at me,” Ginny says. Hermione looks, taking in her friend's grim disposition, “I believe you, but I don’t think for a second that you were operating of your own free will. You’re smarter than that, and we both know how powerful she is. You, Luna and I all felt it when we fought her.”
Hermione shivers, remembering Bellatrix’s final moments. Before Molly interrupted, cold fear had settled in Hermione’s chest as she grew more and more certain that they wouldn’t be able to hold her off. Bellatrix fought like no one Hermione had ever seen, her movements subtle and lightning fast, impossible to predict. Hermione would never make sense of how Molly managed to kill her.
Hermione nods slowly, remembering how off she felt the night she brought the prestigious witch back into the world. Even now, Bellatrix has a smirk painted across her face as she watches Hermione struggle to understand what’s happened to her.
“It could’ve happened to any of us,” Ginny continues, “What matters is where we go from here.”
“Oh, that’s not true,” Bellatrix says, chuckling at them, “It only could’ve been you, mudblood. You and you alone.”
Hermione can’t stop herself from looking at Bellatrix, whipping her head around and finding the ghost right beside her. Hermione frowns at her. Is she imagining things, or is Bellatrix less translucent?
“Wait, is she here right now?” Ginny asks, looking at the space beside Hermione. Her lips downturn into a worried frown, her knuckles white on her armchair.
Hermione looks back at her friend, grimacing, “Well…yes. She’s almost always with me.”
“But she…she can’t hurt you, can she?” Ginny looks between Hermione and where she estimates Bellatrix to be, but the ghost has already moved so she’s standing behind Hermione.
“I’m not so sure. She can’t touch me, but I’ve seen her do things that I wouldn’t think possible. I imagine she’s more connected with this world than the likes of Nearly Headless Nick. Remember the bathroom incident from a few weeks ago?”
Ginny’s eyes widen, “That was her? Bloody hell, Hermione.”
“I know. She hasn’t done anything like that since then. We were just…having an argument. I try not to engage with her too much, now.”
“Do you think…” Ginny hesitates, glancing around the room and lowering her voice, “Could, I dunno…could the heightened emotions caused by an argument have something to do with strengthening her abilities?”
“It’s alright, Gin, you don’t have to whisper. She’ll hear anything you say to me, but she’s not stupid. I’m sure she’s considered it as much as I have. I don’t really see any other explanation.”
Bellatrix mutters something under her breath and Ginny glances around the room, uneasy.
“Right. Well, if you’re not worried about her hearing us, then I’ll speak plainly. We need to do something to get rid of her,” Ginny says, “Knowing you, you’ve already been researching. What have you done so far?”
Bellatrix is entirely uninterested in their conversation from then on, gazing forlornly into the crackling fire. Hermione tells Ginny the little she’s done, describing her constant state of exhaustion and Bellatrix’s psychological torture. At some point, Ginny sits on the arm of Hermione’s chair and wraps an arm around her shoulders. Hermione leans into the touch, feeling more alive the longer Ginny’s warmth sinks into her bones.
When Hermione is finished talking, Ginny is quiet. Hermione looks up to find her friend giving her a small, reassuring smile. For the first time since this all began, she doesn’t feel so hopeless.
“I have an idea,” Ginny says, “But first, we’ll need to speak with McGonagall.”
Bellatrix harasses her in new ways that night.
The moment she’s asleep, the blanket is ripped off of her. When she curls up into a ball and attempts to continue to sleep, she feels a freezing cold chill run over her cheek and down her arm, like someone is dragging an ice cube across her skin.
The ghost lets her sleep off and on throughout the night, gradually dropping the temperature in the room lower and lower. By the time it is morning, Hermione’s skin is as white as snow and her lips are tinted blue.
It isn’t until after a hot shower brings her body temperature halfway back to normal that she realizes something was different.
She steps out of the shower, draping a fluffy robe over herself, and glances around the room until she finds two heeled boot prints in the condensation on the floor. She looks at the empty air where Bellatrix’s face should be.
“Were you…uh. Did I feel you touching me last night?”
Bellatrix is silent for a moment, the only indication that she remains the unmoving imprint of her shoes.
“I don’t know. Did you?”
Hermione hesitates, and then steps out of the shower until she’s directly in front of where Bellatrix ought to be.
“Touch me now,” Hermione says, surprising herself, “I’d like to see.”
A low chuckle echoes in the air around Hermione. “What a dirty little girl you are. I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing, mudblood.”
Hermione’s nose wrinkles.
“Don’t be disgusting. I only want to see if things are changing, if you’re getting a stronger connection to this world.” When Bellatrix doesn’t immediately respond, Hermione continues, “Don’t act like you aren’t curious. Go on, I’m giving you permission.”
“I don’t need your permission.” Bellatrix scoffs, but there’s a tone in her voice that’s new to Hermione. She’s afraid.
After a second, Hermione feels something running along her right forearm. It’s the same as before, like the drip of cold water, raising the hair along her arms. It isn’t quite a touch, but if Bellatrix’s hands are on her and Hermione can feel it, then what else is there to call it?
“Can you feel me?” Bellatrix whispers, devoid of her usual hostility.
Hermione’s stomach is in knots when she murmurs her response.
Hermione gasps when she feels Bellatrix at her other arm, slipping up and along her skin. Her head is full of questions but she can’t seem to get them out. Bellatrix Lestrange, dead for months, a bodiless vengeful spirit tethered to life by Hermione’s blood, is reaching from beyond and Hermione can feel her. She should be terrified, but even as Bellatrix’s hands climb further up until she feels them at her throat she doesn’t feel anything but awe.
Hermione tilts her head back as she feels freezing air tickling along her jaw, her eyelids heavy. Her pulse is thrumming, emotions she can’t make any sense of churning in her stomach. She knows she’s embarrassed, even ashamed that she’s letting someone as evil as Bellatrix touch her, but her head feels as cloudy as it did the day she pulled Bellatrix out of the Cabinet.
“I remember the day I first saw you in the Department of Mysteries. A lost, stupid girl with her stupid friends. Do you remember that? I’m sure you do. It wasn’t so long ago for you. For me it was another life.” Bellatrix’s voice is soft, melodic, pulling Hermione deeper under her spell.
The student’s eyes slip shut and she leans into Bellatrix’s faint touch, shivering and locked in place.
“You’re different now. Not so stupid and annoying. I’m glad. If you were more annoying I’d have tried to kill you by now.”
A breathy laugh slips out of Hermione’s lips. “Can you?” She asks.
“Try to kill you? I don’t know. Probably. I’ve thought about lightning your room on fire and sealing your door shut while you sleep. Most of the time I watch you in your restless sleep and think about all of the ways I could try.”
“But instead you just wake me up.” Hermione says dryly.
Bellatrix chuckles and Hermione feels her fingers combing through the hair at the base of her neck.
“Look at you. You’re like putty in my hands. Is my influence so strong? I could do whatever I want with you. Killing you would take all of the fun out of it. I have much better things planned.”
Hermione opens her eyes and Bellatrix is there in front of her, smirking down at her. Hermione drinks in the sight of her, the way she stares like she wants to devour her. Her hair is black and as wild as the day she died, and her eyes even blacker. Hermione feels like she could fall in if she gets too close. She doesn’t know how she can feel hypnotized by someone who tells her plainly the way she imagines killing her. She’s a monster, but Hermione doesn’t feel afraid. She feels cold everywhere except her scar, where she always burns when Bellatrix is close.
“What did you mean before? You said it only could have been me. Do you mean that I’m the only one who could bring you back?”
Bellatrix just smiles at her, and then she’s gone.
“That is so not fair.” Hermione mutters.
Ginny is waiting for her outside of her quarters. The two of them walk in silence to the Headmistresses office. Hermione, finally free from Bellatrix’s spell, can’t stop replaying what just happened. She shouldn’t have let her touch her, no matter how morbidly fascinated Hermione is by her changing abilities.
There are moments where Ginny seems like she wants to say something before she glances nervously around them and decides against it. By the time they arrive at the office neither of them have spoken a word to each other beyond initial pleasantries.
Ginny gives the password and the gargoyle steps aside, and behind it waits Bellatrix, who turns and ascends the steps ahead of them. They’re halfway up the stairs when they hear the sound of McGonagall talking to someone. The three of them hesitate at once, the two students glancing at each other.
“It’s alright. We’ll be quick about it. Besides, we’re definitely McGonagall’s favorites.”
Hermione nods, and as the two of them move to continue, Bellatrix’s eyes go wide and she vanishes once again. She can just make out the second voice, a woman, but can’t immediately place who it is.
When they reach the top of the stairs, the first thing Hermione sees is Bellatrix. She’s standing beside McGonagall’s chair, her eyes huge as she stares at the person sitting across from the Headmistress.
“Pardon us for interrupting, Headmistress,” Ginny says, drawing McGonagall’s eyes away from her guest, “We just have a quick request and wanted to get it out of the way seeing as it’s the weekend.”
“Oh, please come in, you two. Perhaps you can join me in convincing Mrs Tonks here to take up the mantle as our Transfiguration professor.”
“Andromeda, you know Ginny through Harry by now I’m sure. As for Miss Granger, if I’m not mistaken the two of you have managed to come this far without meeting. Is that right?”
Andromeda’s soft brown hair falls over her shoulder as she turns to smile faintly at them. Ginny and Hermione are both rooted to their spots at the room’s entrance, equally at a loss of what to do. Ginny’s shoulders are tense, like she’s expecting all of the glass in the room to explode at any moment, and Hermione can’t exactly blame her.
“Lovely to finally meet you, Hermione.” Andromeda says, her voice much softer and kinder than the ghost that haunts her.
Hermione has heard stories of Andromeda’s resemblance to her older sister, but she didn’t expect to be as startled by it as she is now. The similarities seem to be only heightened by the subtle changes in Andromeda’s appearance from months of grieving. The dark circles under her brown eyes make them appear darker, and her hair has lost some of its rich brown luster. She’s thinner, making her high cheekbones stand out the way her sister’s do. She doesn’t have the same motherly warmth that Harry described her as emulating.
A soft babbling draws the two students further into the room, and Hermione’s stomach drops when she sees the baby boy fussing in Andromeda’s lap.
“Oh, hello, Teddy.” Ginny says, taking the seat beside Andromeda to be closer to the baby.
Hermione walks further in to stand beside Ginny, shooting Bellatrix a glance. Bellatrix looks about as sick to her stomach as Hermione feels, and she hasn’t looked away from her sister and the baby for a second.
Hermione will never understand the sort of evil that could’ve possessed Bellatrix to take her sister’s only daughter away from her. She searches her face for any remorse but finds her impossible to read. The student is sick with herself for letting Bellatrix touch her before. She shouldn’t spare someone like that a second of her kindness.
“So, Transfiguration,” Hermione says, forcing an awkward smile, “I can see it. I’ve only heard lovely things about you.”
Andromeda lowers her eyes and runs her fingers along Teddy’s soft hair, blonde and running with turquoise as it shifts colors before their eyes.
“I don’t think I’m ready for all of that. To be here, where-” Andromeda stops talking abruptly, but she doesn’t need to finish her sentence for everyone to know where she was going with it. “Besides, he’s not ready to be left alone.”
“I’m not going to push you, dear,” McGonagall says, “But you can always bring the little one along. After all, he’s a quiet one. Hasn’t so much as considered crying since you’ve been here! And it pains me to think of you all alone in that house.”
Hermione shifts on her feet, feeling like this is a conversation she shouldn’t be witnessing. Although Bellatrix certainly deserves to be stuck in a room and be forced to face the fallout of her own ruthless actions.
Andromeda doesn’t respond. Teddy tugs on a lock of her hair and giggles. Bellatrix hasn’t moved an inch, hasn’t so much as taken a breath since they entered the room.
“You don’t need to give me an answer now,” McGonagall turns to look between the two students, “Now, what did you need to ask me?”
“We wanted to ask your permission to go to Diagon Alley. We’re researching something and the books at the library here are-”
McGonagall cuts Ginny off with a wave of her hand, “I appreciate you asking, but I think we’re past the point of the two of you needing my permission. Just be back by sundown.”
Ginny visibly brightens, “Can we use your-”
“Go ahead. Try not to get into any trouble. I will still expel you if I have to.”
Ginny springs from her seat and the two of them approach McGonagall's fireplace. Hermione’s eyes linger on Andromeda as they walk away.
“Thank you, Headmistress. It was lovely to meet you, Mrs Tonks. I hope to see you more soon.” Hermione says.
Ginny echoes her sentiment and Andromeda lifts her hand in a halfhearted wave goodbye. Bellatrix, still motionless, doesn’t move until the floo powder sends Hermione and Ginny hurtling out of the room.
They arrive at the Leaky Cauldron, although it is not their final destination. The place is empty this early in the morning, so they leave quickly, their steps loud on the creaky wooden floors. Bellatrix isn’t with them.
It’s a gloomy day in London, and the back doors of the pub open straight to drizzling rain on Knockturn Alley. They wind through cobblestone streets shining with fresh rain and diluted morning light, coming upon the shop they’re looking for after only a few minutes of walking.
They could have used the floo to go directly to Borgin and Burkes, but they knew they would have more questions to answer if they were honest about their intentions. Truthfully, the only place aside from Black Manor itself that would have books on arts as dark as these is Borgin and Burkes.
The bell above the door announces their entrance, and although Hermione spots Borgin immediately, the man doesn’t acknowledge them. They’re the only people in the dimly lit shop, and for a moment Hermione is overwhelmed by the volume of items. She feels sick just being there.
“Well, if any place is going to have it, this has got to be it.” Ginny mutters.
“I agree. We should split up. You take the back of the store, I’ll take the front.” Hermione whispers back.
Ginny gives a short nod of confirmation and the two split up.
Hermione quickly finds one four shelf bookcase near the front counter. A quick skim of the spines is enough for her to know that nothing would be of any use to her. She sighs and stands up, casting her eyes around the shop. Ginny catches her eye from the last aisle and gives her a helpless shrug before resuming her search.
Hermione turns to look at Borgin, figuring the quickest way is probably to just ask, no matter how much she wishes to avoid talking to him. He’s organizing the displays on his front counter, wiping dust off of different animal skulls and still paying her no mind. She clears her throat.
“You want something?” He asks gruffly.
“Yes, erm,” Hermione glances around, making sure that they’re still alone in the shop, “Do you happen to have any books on soul bonds or…blood magic, perhaps?”
Borgin eyes her up and down, no doubt wondering what a Hogwarts student is doing asking for such a thing.
“I have one on blood magic, but it’s not for sale.”
Hermione stares at him, waiting for him to offer further assistance. When he doesn’t, she says, “Well then, perhaps I could take a quick look at it? Or alternatively, could you let me know where I might find another one like it?”
Borgin goes back to dusting his skulls, “Aren’t any others like it. Got it from an estate sale from the House of Black after their eldest passed.”
Hermione’s mouth drops open. The book is practically hers by right considering she is harboring the eldest Black daughter in her very soul. Only if she were to tell him that, she’d be laughed out of Knockturn Alley altogether.
“That is quite unfortunate for me. Please, sir, I must insist that I take a look at it. It is of dire importance. I can pay you.”
Borgin is squinting at her, not seeming to have heard a single word she’s just said. “Aren’t you that kid from the golden trio? Been seeing you in all the tabloids.”
Hermione’s gaping mouth clicks shut as she levels him with a glare. “If I say yes, will you let me look at the bloody book?”
Borgin snorts and turns away, lumbering towards his office without answering. Ginny joins her, poking at the freshly dusted skulls.
“Not helpful, I take it?”
“He has the book I need here, but he’s refusing to let me look at it, let alone sell it to me. It’s the book, Gin. The very one she got the spell from. He got it at an estate sale.”
Ginny taps her chin thoughtfully, “Well, is your little…passenger offering any assistance? How does she take to this twit profiting off her precious family heirlooms?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen her since we left Hogwarts,” Hermione says, glancing around to be sure, “I doubt she’d help, though. She wouldn’t want me learning anything more about the bond. She wants to stay in control, keep her upper hand.”
Ginny hums in agreement and discreetly draws her wand. She aims it, keeping it hidden beneath the countertop, and whispers, “Accio…Evil Book.”
“Gin, you’ll pull down his entire collection that way.” Hermione hisses, but thankfully nothing moves.
“Do you have a better idea?” Ginny hisses back.
Hermione rubs her temples, thinking. She wishes she had Harry’s invisibility cloak right about now. She doesn’t even know what book to look for, or where he’d keep it at all. She rises up on her toes, peeking through the window to Borgin’s office. He’s sitting with his back turned, going through a ledger.
Hermione checks over her shoulder again, confirming that the alley outside of the shop is still empty, before slipping silently around the counter. Having successfully stolen from Gringotts has her cooler under pressure than she would’ve been a few years ago, and she’s learned that sometimes a little thieving is necessary for the greater good. Besides, if she finds the book she’ll leave some sort of payment behind.
Ginny keeps her eyes on Borgin, prepared to alert Hermione if he looks like he’s going to make his way back over. There are books beneath the counter as well as above the displays along the back wall. Hermione sifts through them, her frustration building with every second.
“Psst,” Hermione jerks her head up, initially thinking Ginny made the noise. Instead she finds Bellatrix standing directly beside her, pointing above them, “It’s that one there.”
Hermione follows the outstretched finger and sure enough, a black leather book with scrawling silver writing that says The Art of Blood Bonding sits on a shelf beside the doorway to Borgin’s office, just too high for her to comfortably reach. She could use accio, but she might knock over one of the other books resting beside it and alert him.
The student presses her lips together and reaches up for it, her anxiety climbing now that she’d be in full view if he were to turn around. Her fingertips brush against the spine of the book as she tries to nudge it towards her.
There’s a sudden loud clang from just beside her. Hermione jumps, knocking the book down and snatching it out of the air. She looks to see what fell, and sure enough Bellatrix is grinning at her as she stands beside a fallen silver candlestick.
Hermione bolts from behind the counter just as she hears Borgin’s enraged roar.
“Stop right there, you filthy thief!”
Hermione and Ginny sprint towards the shop door, but just as they reach it it swings open and Hermione barrels into someone soft and solid. She stumbles backwards, but two hands reach out and steady her.
“Stop them, ma’am! They’re thieves!” Borgin yells.
Hermione finds herself looking up at none other than Andromeda Tonks, who is staring down at her with a furrowed brow. Beside them, Ginny is gawking, and Hermione is scrambling to construct a comprehensible question. Before she can, Andromeda is speaking.
“And just what is it that they’ve stolen?” The woman’s eyes don’t leave Hermione’s even as she asks the question. Neither do her hands, still holding Hermione firmly in place.
“The only edition of a book on blood bonding, ma’am. I told her it wasn’t for sale, and she took it and tried to make off with it.”
Hermione tenses as she hears Borgin’s thundering steps behind her, but before he can grab the book from her, Andromeda beats him to the punch, sliding it out of Hermione’s grasp.
Borgin stops directly behind her, and Hermione watches Andromeda’s face as she reads the cover.
“It’s yours,” Hermione says quietly, pulling the woman’s eyes back to her own, “It was owned by your family. If anyone deserves to have it, it’s you.”
Andromeda’s eyes burn with questions, but she doesn’t ask them. Instead, she looks over Hermione’s head at the shop owner.
“Miss Granger is correct. My name is Andromeda Tonks, formerly Black, and this book belongs in my family. I trust you won’t give me any trouble should I offer to buy it from you.” Andromeda levels him with a cold, challenging look.
Borgin splutters as he scrambles for an excuse, clearly not wanting to part with it. Andromeda cuts him off, her tone harsh.
“Or I could take the matter to the Ministry and see about having all the items you purchased from that estate sale returned to the remaining family members they belong with.”
Five minutes later, the three of them are walking out of the shop with the book in hand. Hermione grins gratefully at her savior, who looks mystified and exhausted. Andromeda guides them wordlessly back to the Leaky Cauldron, leading the way with the book in hand, thus leaving them little choice but to follow.
The pub is bustling already with a breakfast crowd, already a far cry than it was a short thirty minutes ago. Andromeda chooses a semi secluded table towards the back and orders the three of them breakfast. Hermione and Ginny watch her nervously the entire time, and it isn’t until after they’re served their tea that Hermione notices that Bellatrix is either invisible or gone again.
“Right, then,” Andromeda begins, running a hand through her hair before resting her elbows on the table. She looks between the two of them with apprehension. “Now that I’ve saved both your arses, do you mind cluing me in on what it is that you want with an old family book of mine?”
“Did you follow us?” Ginny blurts, and Hermione elbows her.
“Yes,” Andromeda answers with a shrug, “The two of you were obviously up to something, and quite frankly I have errands to run in Diagon. It was a convenient excuse to leave Teddy with Minerva, and she was all too happy to watch him.”
The answer settles between them as the students look at each other, trying to decide between them what to disclose to the older witch. Hermione is sure she doesn’t want to tell anyone else what’s going on with her, certainly not Bellatrix’s sister. Still, she doesn’t want to outright lie after Andromeda helped them.
“Well?” Andromeda prompts.
“It’s my scar. It’s been burning ever since I’ve been back at school, and I’m worried that Bellatrix may be haunting the place,” Andromeda flinches at Bellatrix’s name. Hermione continues with her explanation, brushing off the guilt she feels at her partial lie, “Mostly I’m hoping to get some reassurance that the scar she gave me isn’t some sort of messed up blood magic.”
“She-she scarred you?”
Hermione rolls up the sleeve of her white shirt and holds it out over the table for Andromeda to see. Sure enough, the letters are bright red and raised as if it just happened hours ago instead of months.
“Oh, my poor dear.” Andromeda says, her warm, gentle fingers sliding around Hermione’s wrist to get a closer look. “I’m so sorry.”
Hermione blinks at her, confused. “No need to apologize for your sister. I may not know you well, but it’s clear you’re quite different than her,”
“It’s just habit, I suppose,” the older witch says, tracing her fingers over the angry red lettering, “apologizing for her.”
Beneath Andromeda’s touch, the scar cools and before her eyes becomes less red and puffy. Hermione sighs in relief, turning her hand over in Andromeda’s to squeeze it gratefully. “Thank you.”
“I wish I could do more, but I’m afraid you’re right to think that it’s no ordinary scar. I…” Andromeda trails off, looking uncertainly at Hermione.
“It’s alright. There’s not much that scares me anymore. You can tell me.”
Andromeda swallows and continues, “I have reason to believe that the scar is meant to react to her presence. I think you’re right to have found this book. Although I feel it is my duty to manage your expectations-”
Their breakfast arrives at just that moment, and Andromeda stops talking abruptly. The three of them smile gratefully at their server, sitting in uncomfortable silence until they’re left alone again.
“I have not known blood magic to be reversible. That’s the trouble with it. There’s not much in the way of stronger magic.”
Hermione looks down at her eggs forlornly.
Andromeda sips her tea and sets it down gingerly. “I’m surprised to hear Bellatrix managed it. She tried tirelessly with this damn book while we were in school and never came close.”
Hermione stares at the book, imagining a young Bellatrix drawing a knife across the skin of her palm again and again, working constantly and failing. She wonders what she was like at Hermione’s age. Would she fly into fits of rage, even then? Was she every bit as ruthless, as volatile?
She looks at Andromeda, wanting to ask but unable to find the words. Hermione bites her tongue, not wanting to force her to talk about the woman who killed her daughter.
“It’s okay, Hermione. You can ask.” Andromeda says.
Hermione raises her eyebrows. How had Andromeda known?
“Don’t worry. I’m not a Legilimens. You’re just easy to read.”
“She’s got that right.” Bellatrix comments, materializing behind her sister. She looks tired and sad, lacking the manic energy that Hermione has grown used to. A crease forms between Hermione’s brows and she presses her lips together. “Ah, see, that look right there. You’re annoyed at what I’m saying but trying to force yourself not to react to me. I see that one quite a lot.”
“What was she like? I only knew her as she was when she died. An irredeemable monster.” Hermione says pointedly.
Ginny tenses next to her, but Bellatrix is unbothered by Hermione’s words and Andromeda only nods in agreement.
“Opinionated. Fiercely protective. Driven. God help you if you got on her bad side. All of the qualities that remained, but she chose to follow someone who fed the worst parts of her until she was out of control.”
“I’m sorry for what happened, Mrs Tonks. To have your sister do what she did. I can’t imagine-“ Hermione starts.
Andromeda waves off her apology. “I lost my sister a long time ago. Dora was killed by a madwoman in war, not the sister I loved. Anything I loved about her died a long time before Molly put her down like the rabid animal she became.”
A lantern behind Hermione shatters and everyone but her flinches. Hermione has stopped being surprised by Bellatrix’s outbursts.
“A blood traitor and a mudblood bonding over the death of their superior. How heartwarming.” Bellatrix hisses from behind her.
Hermione can feel the energy emulating from Bellatrix, crackling in the air like lightning before it strikes. Bellatrix is so close that Hermione can feel the cold air flowing off of her, raising the hair on the back of her neck. She does her best not to appear tense, even as Ginny mutters a curse and picks glass out of her hair. It isn’t hard. She feels a wave of exhaustion wash over her, so intense that her head spins.
Hermione watches Andromeda, who is staring just above Hermione’s head. The student follows her line of sight, turning in her seat to find Bellatrix, staring at her sister with a mix of anger and surprise. Hermione turns slowly back to look at Andromeda, who seems to pull her eyes away from Bellatrix with great effort.
“Sorry…” Andromeda says slowly, “I thought for a second I felt…it doesn’t matter. Hermione? Are you alright?”
At first Hermione doesn’t know what she means, but then the world is tilting on its axis and her head is rushing, blood pounding in her ears. She hits the ground before anyone can react.
Hermione opens her eyes to an unfamiliar room.
She sits up in an unfamiliar bed, her head pounding as she tries to remember what happened. She looks around the simple, empty room.
The place is all wood; old wooden floors and plain wooden paneled walls. The sheets are white and well worn, betraying nothing about her location.
Across from her, Bellatrix lounges in a desk chair like it’s a throne, regarding her with cool disinterest. Hermione feels a small measure of relief to see a familiar face.
“Where am I?” She asks.
“A room at the Leaky Cauldron,” Bellatrix answers simply.
Hermione feels a rush of gratitude at Bellatrix’s compliance before she remembers that the woman is just doing the bare minimum and she shouldn’t be grateful at all.
Bellatrix is looking annoyingly beautiful. Her hair shines in the dimly lit room, and her skin has a healthy flush to it. Her eyes glint, dark and inviting. Hermione can just barely see through her, the only quality of her appearance that betrays her ghostly status.
“Why do you look like that?” Hermione asks, rubbing her head. She can feel that her own hair is a rat's nest in comparison to Bellatrix’s flawless curls, and her annoyance only grows.
“You look…” gorgeous, “nice.”
The corner of Bellatrix’s mouth twitches, “My, my. You flatter me, mud girl.”
Hermione glares, “I take it back. You’re actually looking especially inbred today.”
Bellatrix's expression darkens, but before she can respond the door creaks open and Andromeda walks through. She glances around the room, and the memory of the witch staring directly at Bellatrix over her shoulder comes rushing back to Hermione.
“Were you talking to someone?” Andromeda asks, her eyes landing back on the student after determining that the room is empty.
“Um…” Hermione scrambles for an excuse. How is it that years of lying her way alongside Harry and his messes hasn’t made her a better liar? “Just myself.”
“...Oh.” Andromeda says. She sets down the paper bags she’s carrying and walks further into the room, sitting down at the foot of Hermione’s bed, “Well, how are you feeling?”
“I feel fine. Tired, still, but fine. What exactly happened?”
Andromeda tells her how she fainted, how she instructed Ginny to return to Hogwarts to tell McGonagall that Hermione would be assisting her with her errands that day. Andromeda, who is evidently quite proficient at healing, was able to discern that the student would be up in a matter of hours.
“Mrs Tonks…I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me today. It’s just…why? Why go out of your way to help me? Not that I don’t appreciate it-”
Andromeda cuts her off with a hand on her knee. Bellatrix is at her side in an instant, her breath on Hermione’s neck.
“I don’t like this at all,” Bellatrix hisses.
“It’s hard for me to explain, even to myself.” Andromeda says, her gentle voice a stark contrast to her sister’s, “I just feel this sort of…connection to you. It must sound so silly.”
“It doesn’t.'' The words rush out of her, and she has to suppress a gasp of surprise when she feels Bellatrix pressing into her, cold against her skin even through the layers of blankets and clothes, “I mean, we’ve both been through so much, side by side without our paths ever crossing. Not that what I’ve been through compares.”
Andromeda’s gaze falls at the reminder, her smile faltering. Bellatrix is muttering something, clearly agitated. Hermione clutches her stomach when it rolls, the way it does every time she remembers what Bellatrix did to Andromeda’s family. And now this parasite is stuck to her, making her an unwilling conduit for her to remain in the presence of the woman whose life she destroyed. Bellatrix doesn’t deserve to be around Andromeda, not for another second.
“I should get you back,” Andromeda says, moving her hand from Hermione’s knee to her wrist. She gasps, her hand tightening, “You’re ice cold, Hermione.”
Hermione shivers, all too aware of Bellatrix’s icy presence beside her. She tries to pull away but Andromeda’s grip is too tight, and her eyes bore into her with unsettling intensity.
“It is cold in here, isn’t it?” Hermione says, her voice trembling, “You’re right, we should get back.”
Andromeda’s stare lingers for a long moment, before she sighs and releases her. She rises from Hermione’s bed and smooths down her robes with her hands. She casts another glance around the room before looking at Hermione.
“Well, then. Let’s go.”
That evening, Hermione finds herself in the Gryffindor Common Room with Ginny. Rain thunders against the windows and two mugs of hot cocoa steam on the table in front of them. The two students sit close together, sharing a loveseat away from the small group of fifth years studying by the fire.
The book of blood magic sits open on the table in front of them, and they loom over it, scouring its pages for information. Ginny’s finger traces the sentence beneath the passage titled Blood Links.
“Merlin’s tits, ‘Mione, listen to this. ‘An athame infused with the wielder’s blood may be used to create a tether to a vessel. This tether can be used by the soul of the wielder to find their way to the vessel, wherever they may be-’”
Hermione leans forward, dragging the book out of Ginny’s grasp and closer to herself. She scans the passage, her blood rushing, her scar burning. She doesn’t want it to be true, not any of it, but at the same time it makes sense. The pieces of Bellatrix’s plot fall together, right in front of her, and dread washes over her.
“It was her plan all along,” Hermione whispers, “She used me. I was nothing more than a doorstop for her to come back.”
Ginny watches her silently, her face pale, as she struggles to come up with something comforting to say. For once, her words run dry.
“It’s only the first part,” Ginny murmurs, pointing at the following passage, “There’s more.”
Hermione’s voice is fragile, trembling as she reads it aloud, “‘The curse will lie dormant until the…vessel performs the following portion of the spell. The vessel must repeat the incantation Umbra Tenetur Anima. However, the vessel will already be susceptible to the influence of the wielder. If such influence is used correctly by a powerful or practiced wielder, they may use it to force the vessel to do their bidding.’”
Hermione swallows as bile rises in her throat. She never had a choice. The day Bellatrix carved that word into her arm, she was doomed to this fate. Nonetheless, she still doesn’t feel absolved of her guilt. She should’ve been smarter. She never should’ve responded to the Cabinet’s message.
“Where did my control end and hers begin?” Hermione wonders.
Ginny grabs her hand, making Hermione painfully aware of how clammy her own hand is. Her friend doesn’t seem to mind, squeezing tight.
“It doesn’t matter. She never would’ve stopped. She used you as a failsafe before she even knew if they would lose or not. She was never going to let a curse like that go to waste.”
Bellatrix saunters over from where she’s been perched by the fire, a self satisfied smirk on her face. The warm light from the fire dances across skin as she rounds the couch, running her fingers along the back.
“She’s right, you know,” Bellatrix says. She runs her fingers over Hermione’s shoulders, sending a violent chill down her spine, “you were mine from the day I made you bleed. I was never going to let you go.”
Tears sting in Hermione’s eyes. She shuts them, unable to look at the face of her tormentor. The flawless, glowing face of the woman who is meant to be dead and gone.
She hates her.
“What’s wrong, mudblood?” Bellatrix asks, her voice velvet in Hermione’s ears. “Are you going to cry? Is the itty bitty baby sad?”
“I hate her,” Ginny says, with so much sudden vitriol that Hermione has to look at her. “My mother put her down like the rabid dog she is. She should’ve stayed down.”
Fury creases Bellatrix’s expression and the fireplace crackles with increasing intensity, “The blood traitor should watch her tone. She’s on borrowed time, her and her filthy bitch of a mother.”
“It’s alright, Hermione. If my mother could take her down then so can we. She’s not as strong as she pretends to be,” Ginny says, oblivious to Bellatrix’s rage, “She’s arrogant, that’s her weakness. She thinks that her magic is the most powerful there is just because it’s pure, but you and I both know how delusional that is.”
The fireplace roars, and the fifth years stand up and move away. Ginny doesn’t notice, too engulfed in her own anger to care. Hermione feels dull, lifeless, hopeless. She wants Ginny’s rage to fill her with life, but she feels too far away to feel anything but her own emptiness.
Bellatrix stands before her, hair glinting orange with firelight, eyes blazing. She’s shimmering with magic, with power.
“She’s nothing but a lost dog without her owner, meaningless without a master. She was nothing without Voldemort while she was alive, and now that she’s dead she’s nothing without you. You, who represents what she despises most in the world, is all that stands between her and oblivion. She owes your blood her entire existence.”
Despite the fact that it’s Ginny who’s talking, Hermione can’t take her eyes off of Bellatrix. Her words fill her with anger that Hermione can see coming off of her in waves, the air shimmering around her. Ginny lapses into silence as the lights in the room flicker, and even the fifth years stop their conversation.
“What’s going on?” One of the girls asks.
Hermione goes to open her mouth to answer, or to try to calm Bellatrix down, but she can’t. She can’t do anything at all.
Bellatrix walks closer to them slowly, her hair lifting in the air like inky tendrils underwater. Hermione can feel her anger in her gut, powerful and foreign. She feels it even though it isn’t her anger, and the closer Bellatrix comes the stronger it is. She can’t turn her head to warn Ginny, she can’t do anything except watch Bellatrix advance.
She’s close enough now that Hermione can smell her, smoke and amber, hanging heavy in the air. This close, she looks more alive than she ever has, and if Hermione could move a muscle she’d be trembling with fear.
Ginny is saying something beside her but she sounds so far away, like she’s on the other side of a long tunnel. She grabs Hermione’s shoulder and shakes her, but Hermione can’t respond.
What has she done to me?
Hermione doesn’t know how it happens, but one second Bellatrix is looming over her and the next second she’s gone, and all Hermione sees is the three fifth year girls watching in horror as Hermione stands.
Only Hermione hasn’t decided to stand.
The world flickers around her, and the next thing she knows she’s on top of Ginny, the two of them sprawled out on the floor. Her hand is around Ginny’s throat, her grip iron, and Ginny’s face is bright red.
Hermione rages against her body to no avail. She doesn’t want to be doing this, but she can’t stop, she can’t so much as will herself to blink. She’s not in control, not in the slightest, and the horror of what she’s doing is unimaginable.
Someone stop me. Please.
Hermione hears a fifth year screaming, and she can smell smoke. The narrow space between her and her friend is cloudy with it, and the fire crackles loudly. Hermione’s hand burns, the pain so intense it sears up her arm.
Ginny’s eyes are bulging, bloodshot and terrified. Her face begins to turn purple.
Why isn’t anyone stopping me? Please don’t let me kill her. Please, please, please! Stop, stop, stop, stop-
“Shut up,” Hermione hisses. Only it isn’t her. She didn’t say that.
What is happening? Bellatrix?
Ginny’s mouth is open, a horrible wet gurgling the only noise she’s able to make. Hermione can’t bear to watch herself do this, but she can’t close her eyes. She can only watch her white knuckled hand choke the life out of her best friend.
She can feel something—someone forcing her down, muffling her, and the edges of her vision begins to go black. She knows it’s Bellatrix, trying to tuck her away, to shove her into some dark corner of her own mind so she can remain in control. Hermione struggles the best she can, clinging to consciousness. If she blacks out again, Ginny could be dead the next time she wakes.
“Miss Granger!” A voice shrieks.
Bellatrix doesn’t flinch, forcing Hermione’s gaze to remain on Ginny. Her hand tightens with urgency and Ginny claws uselessly at her wrist.
“Hermione!” The same voice, McGonagall shouts.
Hermione feels a surge of hope, right before an electric current crashes into her. Her body seizes, and the world shifts as she tumbles off of Ginny. She hears her friend suck in a loud, ragged breath, the most beautiful sound Hermione has ever heard, right before her world goes black once more.
Hermione wakes up and immediately recognizes the towering stone ceiling of her own room. For a moment she thinks it was all just a terrible dream, but then she feels it.
Her hand sears with white hot pain, and her wrist burns, the skin red and raw. She lifts her hand to examine the damage, tears immediately beginning to fall as she realizes that it was all true.
The palm of her hand is an ugly red and blistering as if she held it to a stovetop. Her wrist sports the deep red gashes from Ginny’s nails, halfway to her elbow. She winces when she tries to flex her fingers, biting her tongue until she tastes blood.
“Miss Granger, I must ask that you look at me.”
Hermione jerks her head to the side to see McGonagall sitting at her bedside, a grave expression on her face. Hermione meets her eyes, tears streaming down her face as she struggles, at a loss for words.
McGonagall brings the bright tip of her wand to Hermione’s face, right at the corner of her eyes. Her shoulders relax subtly as she searches her gaze, and her wand retreats.
“How much do you remember?” The headmistress asks.
Hermione blinks away her tears, lowering her hand slowly to rest at her side. She tries to recall exactly what happened, but gaping pieces are absent from her memory.
“I remember…just-suddenly not being in control. First I couldn’t move…I just felt so far away. Then I stood, then-then I was on top of Ginny. I-I think I was holding her down with magic, maybe, or I was just too strong for her to stop me. I was…choking-I was ch-choking her-“
Hermione breaks down, sobbing. She can’t bear it. How can she continue to live not knowing when she could lose control? She almost killed Ginny. She almost killed her best friend.
“I-is she alright?”
“Miss Weasley sustained quite severe tracheal damage, but she is in good hands with Madame Pomfrey. She’s well on her way to being back in full health. I am more concerned about the psychological damage to you both, quite frankly. She refused to disclose the specifics of the matter. She said it’s your secret to tell, not hers,” McGonagall places a hand on her shoulder, drawing Hermione’s eyes back to her face, “Now, do you mind filling me in on just what is happening with you?”
Hermione nods, and with great trepidation tells the Headmistress everything, starting with the Vanishing Cabinet and ending with the blackout. McGonagall is silent the entire time, her pale eyes never leaving Hermione’s face. When she’s done, the Headmistress is quiet for a very long time. When she finally speaks her voice is quiet, solemn.
“While I wish you had told me sooner, we are well beyond that now. I do believe it is my duty to fill you in on what I’ve seen in Miss Weasley’s memories, which I examined with her consent. You have a right to know what was done with your body.”
Hermione notices for the first time that Bellatrix isn’t there with them. It’s the first time she’s been gone in days, and it makes it just barely possible to keep herself from having a panic attack as she awaits McGonagall’s account.
“The memory I examined begins with you standing and turning to look at Miss Weasley. It’s immediately apparent that you are not yourself based on the expression on your face. She calls out to you, but you don’t respond. Rather, you produce your wand and point it at Miss Weasley. Before she can react, you begin to cast the killing curse.”
Hermione gasps, covering her mouth in horror. “I did that?”
“You tried,” McGonagall says, her tone grim. She nods towards Hermione’s hand, “But your wand burned you before you could get the words out. When magic failed, you cast aside your wand and tackled Miss Weasley to the floor. When you began to choke her, the students in the Common Room tried to intervene. Without your wand and without words, you pushed the three of them across the room and the fireplace overflowed with flames, licking across the room and preventing any further interference.”
Hermione presses back against the mattress, unsure if she can handle hearing any more. She feels like she’s listening to a scary story, not a factual retelling of something she did. She recalls the flickers of her own memory with a shudder, not understanding how it was possible for her to have no control. How could Bellatrix take total control of her own body? How could Hermione have been so helpless?
“When you turned to look into her eyes, to watch the life leave them, your eyes were not your own. They were black. Completely black. Fortunately for both you and Miss Weasley, one of the students managed to leave the room to fetch me without you noticing. Had I been there moments later, I would have been too late.”
Hermione’s entire body feels cold as she imagines Bellatrix’s eyes in her face. To think that it could’ve been the last thing Ginny ever saw-it’s unimaginable. Bellatrix almost ruined her life the moment she had control. Hermione has to do something, anything she can do to stop her for good. And if she’s going to do that, she has to work with McGonagall.
“It was Bellatrix. All of it. She-she took control-“
“I know. Of course you would never do such a thing. I don’t want to mince words, Miss Granger. After everything we’ve been through together, don’t you think we owe each other the truth? She could have died, Hermione.”
“I know. I know. I should have been honest with you from the beginning. I’ve made a lot of mistakes.”
Hermione takes a deep breath, and the two of them begin to discuss a plan of action.
Minerva McGonagall is nothing if not effective. Less than six hours after their conversation, in the early hours of the morning, the Headmistress leads Hermione, Ginny, and Andromeda across the grounds of the school, towards an unassuming patch of soil at the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
After Hermione gave McGonagall permission to inform Andromeda of the truth about her sister, the woman had come straight away. McGonagall and Andromeda formulated a plan together, and by dawn they were ready to enact it.
Despite Andromeda’s wordless support, the middle Black sister hasn’t met her eyes since she arrived. Hermione can’t blame her. She’s harboring the spirit of her daughter’s murderer. Still, Hermione can feel her eyes on her when she isn’t looking. Her gaze lingers, searching, and Hermione wonders what she’s thinking.
Bellatrix hasn’t appeared since the possession. Hermione spent hours wanting to scream at her until her voice went raw, to curse her, to tell her exactly how much she despises her. Then in the silence, her anger faded. She just wants her gone.
Fortunately, McGonagall came to her the following morning with Andromeda in tow and a solution. The entire time McGonagall informed her of her plan to rid the world of Bellatrix Lestrange once and for all, Andromeda’s eyes remained downcast. She hadn’t looked at or spoken to the Gryffindor even once, and only when they set out did Hermione feel her gaze.
Hermione wonders if she’s looking at her or if she’s looking for some sign of her sister in her. They trudge through the overgrown grass, damp with rain, and Hermione takes comfort in Ginny’s labored breath beside her.
“Are we okay?” Hermione asks her, still struggling with the burden of guilt.
Ginny sends her a small smile, “You’ve apologized enough, Hermione. It isn’t you I’m angry with. Now, let's end this bitch once and for all.”
“Indeed,” McGonagall says, coming to a stop in front of them. She turns to face them, observing the three women with a cool, confident gaze, “As Miss Weasley so eloquently put it, we are here to put an end to Bellatrix Lestrange. As Andromeda and I have discussed, certain studies of the Dark Arts suggest that there is a way to rid the land of the living of a parasitic spirit by burning their corpse.”
McGonagall pauses, running her eyes over the trio, as if to ask without words if they’re ready for what they’re about to see. There once was a time where Hermione may have felt sympathy for Bellatrix, before she murdered Tonks and attempted to murder her best friend. Now she feels nothing but contempt for her. She gives the Headmistress a nod, and turns to look at Andromeda.
Andromeda looks paler than usual, unsteady on her feet. Hermione rests a hand on her arm, steadying her, and feels her trembling through her wool coat. Andromeda looks at her, finally, and her dark eyes are watering, full of remorse.
“I used to think about what could’ve been different if I stayed,” Andromeda says quietly, “Maybe I could’ve saved her from this…from dying a slave to another man’s will. From a burial in a mass, unmarked grave.”
In the blink of an eye, Bellatrix is behind her sister. She’s translucent again, her hair limp with a streak of grey, so barely there that she could be a figment of Hermione’s imagination.
“She couldn’t have. Nothing could have saved me.”
Andromeda notices the shift in Hermione’s gaze, “She’s here, isn’t she?”
Hermione nods, and Andromeda blinks away her tears, her gaze hardening, “Good. She deserves to see this.”
Andromeda steps forward until she’s at McGonagall’s side. Together, the two women raise their wands and point at the soft soil shadowed by the trees of the Forbidden Forest. Slowly, the fresh grass disintegrates, giving way to dark soil. Then the soil crumbles and parts, bit by bit, piling off to the sides as a crease appears. The crease grows to a gash, to a hole, larger and larger.
Then Hermione smells it.
She recoils, raising a hand to cover her mouth and nose. Her stomach lurches as she sees Ginny stumble back a step. From where the students stand they can only see the edge of a pit the size of the Great Hall, but from that pit pours the smell of hundreds of decaying bodies, hundreds of people who died in service to a monster.
Ginny steadies herself and steps forward to see the aftermath of that final battle. Hermione is rooted to the spot. She can’t stomach it. Instead she stands beside Bellatrix, who looks ahead with vacant eyes.
“Aren’t you going to try to stop us?” Hermione asks, quiet enough that no one but Bellatrix can hear her.
Bellatrix continues to look ahead, “I couldn’t, even if I tried.”
“It’s because of the possession, isn’t it?” Hermione asks, “You’re weak because it took a lot of power for you to accomplish.”
Bellatrix is silent for a long moment, and Hermione wonders if she’s still intent on keeping her cards close to her chest this close to the end. Then she shrugs weakly, turning her endlessly black gaze to Hermione, “It took all of it. Everything I took from you.”
“The longer you’re with me, the more you take,” Hermione says, as it all finally begins to make sense. She’s felt weaker the longer the ghost has been with her, but all this time she’s chalked it up to exhaustion from the stress of her torment. Only it had been so much worse than that. What would happen if Bellatrix stayed with her indefinitely? If she could drain and drain until Hermione had nothing left to give?
Bellatrix’s gaze bores into her, unblinking, unmoving, “You’d become an empty shell for me to inhabit for the rest of our days.”
The blood rushes from Hermione’s face. “How do you know what I’m thinking?”
“All morning, little whispers. Your thoughts.” Bellatrix muses, “Funny how different they are from my own. I knew they were yours straight away. Sweet little things.”
Hermione shudders. Would her invasion ever reach an end? Was there a corner of her mind or her body that would remain only her own? She only has to last a little longer, mere minutes and her body would be her own again.
Bellatrix’s lips curve into a smile, “We’ll see.”
“There she is,” Ginny says, pointing.
“Oh, Bella,” Andromeda chokes out a sob, wrapping her arms around herself. She turns her head away from the mass grave, and Hermione sees the tears running down her face.
“You’ve caused so much suffering, and even now that you're dead you still hurt people. For what? What does blood status or revenge matter when you’re rotting?” Hermione asks in a vicious whisper.
Bellatrix doesn’t respond, watching her sister’s silent sobs. Hermione wants desperately for her to understand, for her to feel a shred of remorse in her final moments. She doesn’t know why she still cares about such a bitter, resolutely evil soul.
McGonagall’s wand hand raises, and along with it rises the decaying body of Bellatrix Lestrange. Hermione forces herself not to look away, feeling some sort of responsibility for her.
McGonagall rotates the body and lowers it to the ground between them. She’s falling apart, and Hermione can only take in a small number of horrifying details before she has to look away; skin that should look cut from marble is loose, hair that should be full and black is grey and missing in patches, a body that should be warm and powerful and viscous is barely held together by exposed bone.
She looks at the translucent specter instead. Bellatrix stares, wide eyed, at the version of herself that Hermione couldn’t bear to look at. Hermione watches as her jaw works, at the way her throat moves when she swallows, at all of the minuscule signs of life that exist despite the lack of it. Her full lower lip trembles and her eyes shine, and Hermione wonders if ghosts can cry.
“D-don’t you think that Narcissa should be here?” Ginny asks, sounding like she is barely keeping herself from vomiting.
“I asked,” Andromeda responds hollowly, “She wanted no part of it. She didn’t even want to know why we were digging her up.”
Hermione expects Bellatrix to defend herself, waiting for some enraged retort that no one but her could hear, but she’s silent.
“I thought they were close,” Hermione says, looking past Bellatrix’s body to her sister, “I mean-on the same side, at least.”
“They were. I don’t think Narcissa could handle seeing her like this. Draco would’ve shared her fate if Bellatrix had any say in it, after all. Seeing this would only make that fact harder for her to ignore.”
“What will you do with her ashes?” Hermione asks. Her mouth clicks shut as she wonders why it matters to her.
“Let the wind have her.”
Hermione swallows the bile rising in her throat and nods.
“Right then. Miss Granger, I do believe you’re owed the honors,” McGonagall says.
Hermione shuts her eyes and images of Bellatrix’s corpse flash in the darkness. She can’t even stand to look at it. She can’t make herself look at her again. She shakes her head, a cold sweat breaking out along her forehead.
She hears the soft footfall of someone approaching her, and a moment later a hand touches her arm, steadying her. She opens her eyes and Andromeda stands beside her.
“It’s alright. I’ll do it,” Andromeda says, “Her soul may be yours now, but I’m the one who shared her blood.”
Andromeda produces her wand and points it at her sister’s body. With a whisper, she sets it aflame. The fire consumes her body in moments, bathing them all in its warmth. It’s the only time Bellatrix has ever warmed her, Hermione realizes. Her final act.
They stand in silence for a long while, bathed in the light of the burning Death Eater and the rising sun. McGonagall fills the open grave behind them with a flick of her wrist. Then Andromeda steps back, turning away from the fire.
“I can’t watch anymore. I should get back…I just want to be with my grandson.”
“Of course,” McGonagall says, walking towards her, “I’ll take you. There’s no need for all of us to stay. Miss Weasley, you need rest more than any of us.”
Ginny nods and starts to follow them, stopping when Hermione doesn’t move to join them.
Hermione shakes her head, watching the still present spirit as she stares at her burning body.
“She’s still here. I’d like to stay until she’s gone.”
Ginny starts to protest, but McGonagall stops her with a hand on her shoulder.
“Whatever you need, Miss Granger,” she says. When Hermione doesn’t turn to look at her, she continues, “Hermione. If she doesn’t leave, find me in my office. Don’t think that this was my only plan.”
Hermione nods, and listens as the only other living souls leave her alone by the fire. It burns for a long time, and after a time she sinks down into the grass. She curls her knees to her chest and wraps her arms around them, sitting in silence with her ever present companion.
The morning is quiet, and the only sound is the crackling in front of her. She thinks about how she would feel if the roles were reversed. Had things shaken out differently, it could have been her and everyone she loved in a mass grave at the site of their failure, with evil ruling on the land above them.
She ruminates on this, and decides that in a world conquered by evil, she wouldn’t mind sharing a grave with the people she died alongside fighting it. In fact, she’s not sure where else she would rather be. She wonders if Bellatrix feels the same.
The quiet, single word breaks Hermione’s train of thought. She looks at Bellatrix, still beside her, mirroring her position. She looks so small, so sad, so unlike herself, that Hermione can’t help but stare. She is exactly as present as she has been all morning, even now that the fire runs low and her body has turned to ash.
Hermione examines her face, trying to imagine what she could possibly be feeling in this moment. She doesn’t look victorious that she remains, even though Hermione feels a bottomless dread in the pit of her stomach at the sight of her. Was her single word of denial an admission of remorse? The student feels small, suddenly, like she’s an unremarkable but vital cog in a grander machine, like maybe all of this has a purpose after all. Maybe all of this horror hasn’t been meaningless if someone like Bellatrix can even glimpse the error of her ways.
Despite this, she can’t let her friends continue to be at risk for the sake of one Death Eater’s potential for redemption. She probably doesn’t deserve it, after all.
“I’ll never stop,” Hermione tells her, “I can’t, now. Not after what you’ve done.”
“I know,” Bellatrix says looking at her, “You won’t succeed. This magic, it’s irreversible.”
She doesn’t sound smug. She isn’t bragging, isn’t even happy about what she’s saying. Hermione is almost certain she can feel it, the trickle of an emotion that doesn’t belong to her. Bellatrix is…sad.
So, Hermione doesn’t respond. They sit together in silence, feeling one another’s emotions, until the body Bellatrix used to commit unforgivable evils turns to ash and is carried away on the wind.
It doesn’t feel like an ending at all. It feels like a beginning.
The weeks following her possession and the exhuming of Bellatrix’s body quickly turn into the least eventful of Hermione’s life.
She has been confined to her room following the incident, with nothing to do but await further instructions from McGonagall. She’s not even allowed a wand, or unsupervised visits. She’s only allowed books and access to the incoming month of coursework to keep her busy. That, and the shadow that is Bellatrix.
Bellatrix, who has been acting like a wolf confined to a cage. A tired wolf, but a wolf nonetheless. She has been slowly regaining her strength, or rather Hermione’s strength, since the possession. She’s become the most entertaining part of Hermione’s life, often content to spend hours watching with morbid fascination as Bellatrix tries repeatedly to push a book off of her desk.
Sometimes the student couldn’t stop herself from laughing as she watches the former Death Eater reduced to such an ineffectual state that she can’t even cause the damage of a house cat. Bellatrix has long since abandoned wasting her stolen energy on yelling at Hermione, casting only a withering glare upon such outbursts.
Hermione finds herself lately unable to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. She spends her time having sleepy, senseless conversations with the ghost. Bellatrix seemed to enjoy indulging her the most during those late night hours, proving to be a surprisingly adept conversationalist. The following morning, the conversations tend to feel like a dream.
One night, Hermione asks if seeing her own body changed things for her.
Bellatrix’s answer comes shockingly candid.
“I believed myself superior because of my blood my entire life. To see myself, dead and rotting in a pile of other pure bloods…yes. It changes things. I wish I hadn’t seen it.”
“I’m glad you did,” Hermione mutters sleepily, her words lacking any venom. Bellatrix only hums thoughtfully in response, watching the Gryffindor fade off into sleep.
By the second week of confinement, Bellatrix is able to shove that dreaded book off of the offending surface. A few days later, she can manipulate the candlelit sconces, and following that, the fireplace. Hermione despises the witch’s fascination with fire. She’s begun to associate the smell of smoke with the possession, which she’s been unable to lessen the burden of guilt from, even with Ginny’s forgiveness.
It doesn’t help that Ginny doesn’t visit. She hasn’t seen her since the useless destruction of Bellatrix’s body. The only ginger Hermione sees is Crookshanks, who at the very least is becoming less bothered by Bellatrix’s presence. Sometimes Hermione worries that it’s a result of Bellatrix stealing her energy, or essence, or whatever it is she’s doing exactly. Most of the time, though, Hermione is too exhausted to keep worrying.
Another night, long past midnight, Hermione rolls over to see Bellatrix leaning by the window, looking out at the world bathed in moonlight. The silver light makes her translucent skin glow, and for a long time the student simply stares in silence.
“What did you see after you died?”
Bellatrix turns to look at her, and her gaze is disarmingly soft.
“Are you sure you want to know? You could be seeing it soon yourself.”
The words make her chest sting with sadness. She doesn’t want to die. She isn’t done yet. Still, she nods.
“For some time it was just dark. I’m not sure how much time passed. Then, one day, I heard voices. I opened my eyes and I was in the Great Hall. I looked around and there were so many people walking around, alive and dead.”
“There are more souls trapped here? Souls no one can see?” The thought makes Hermione incredibly sad.
Bellatrix nods. Her eyes shine with moisture.
“Does that scare you?” Hermione asks.
“Yes. Before you performed the spell, the weeks I wandered around where no one could see or hear me were the worst of my life.”
Tears slip down Hermione’s cheeks, and she isn’t sure if she’s crying for Bellatrix or for the souls that were trapped in that existence. Bellatrix sits on the edge of her bed and watches over her until she falls asleep.
When there’s a knock at her door three weeks into her confinement, Hermione is certain that it’s the Headmistress on the other side of the door. She’s the only person to visit regularly, although Andromeda visited once to inform her that she’s taken up the post as the Transfiguration Professor.
“Miss Granger,” McGonagall says once she opens the door, “How are you feeling this afternoon?”
Hermione shrugs and opens the door wider to allow her inside. She didn’t sleep much, but that is hardly a new development so she doesn’t mention it. “I’m well, thank you. How are you?”
“Pleased to see that you’re holding up,” McGonagall says, brushing past her and taking a seat at her desk chair. “I come with two bits of good news. Hopefully they will lift your spirits.”
Hermione shuts the door and leans her back against it, waiting to hear what the Headmistress has to say. Despite the positive words, Hermione finds it hard to feel any hope. Bellatrix stands beside the Headmistress, trying and failing to knock her pointed hat off of her head.
Oblivious to the ghost’s antics, McGonagall smiles encouragingly at her.
“The first bit,” she begins, “is that the potion we discussed is not only certainly possible, but nearly ready for you.”
Bellatrix stops trying to poke the hat, her hand falling to her side as she glowers at the Headmistress. The potion in question is McGonagall’s plan B, a plan that initially sounded improbable to the Gryffindor. Her eyebrows raise in surprise at being proven wrong, something that doesn’t happen often.
“It will work as we discussed?” Hermione asks.
“Indeed,” McGonagall confirms. The light in the room flickers, but neither witch acknowledges it, “It will stop Bellatrix’s ability to drain your energy. You’ll be able to regain your strength, although I am uncertain how it will affect hers. Her progress will either halt and freeze, or she will slowly lose the stolen energy until she fades away to nearly nothing.”
Hermione stares at her, struggling to believe the possibility. It seems too easy, too good to be true.
“How does it work?”
“It’s hard to say for certain until we try it, but the idea is that it will put an end to your ability to see or hear Bellatrix. We-Andromeda and I, believe that she draws strength from your acknowledgment. If we’re able to make it impossible for her to get your attention, we can stop her.”
Hermione is quiet for a long moment. She glances at the ghost, and sees that she actually looks nervous. She’s excellent at concealing it, but Hermione has been around her long enough to notice the subtle tells; a clenched jaw, a flighty gaze, her tense, restless mannerisms. If Bellatrix is scared, perhaps there is some merit to this solution after all. She walks further into the room, sitting down slowly on the edge of the bed.
“What’s the catch?” She asks, still dubious, even as hope springs up in the cracks of her stoicism like a weed, “ There must be one. It can’t be that easy.”
“Well, it isn’t easy. The potion isn’t a simple or inexpensive one to produce, but we are working on it. The only uncertainty is the longevity of the solution. We fear that there may be a risk of you developing a tolerance to the potion. We can always make it in larger batches despite the expense, but I worry about the side effects to your body as the dosage increases.”
“How long will it take for me to develop a tolerance?”
McGonagall sighs, “It’s difficult to determine. Optimistically, it could last you months.”
“Weeks, at the worst. The important thing is that it will buy us time to find a more permanent solution.”
“I can think of a permanent solution,” Bellatrix says, her curls bouncing as she whips around to glare at Hermione, “Off yourself. If you do it quickly, I’ll be released with you and you’ll prevent me from having full access to your body.”
And if I don’t do it quickly enough? Hermione thinks, long past the point of being offended at Bellatrix suggesting she kill herself.
“Then I will get your body, and you’ll be free to do…whatever it is there is to do after death.”
Maybe I’ll haunt you.
The corner of Bellatrix’s mouth twitches like she’s actually amused at the idea. McGonagall clears her throat and Hermione looks back at her with an apologetic smile.
“Sorry. You’re right that this is excellent news, even if it isn’t the perfect solution. What’s the other news?”
“Well, I know we discussed keeping this between those of us who know. You know that I don’t feel comfortable involving the Ministry, however I’m also not comfortable leaving you alone all hours of the day or night with nothing but a madwoman for company. We should have someone here to observe you, to keep your spirits up. If you have nothing to do but interact with Bellatrix, then I fear the situation will only get worse.”
Bellatrix stiffens, and without a word strides out of the room, straight through the door. Hermione watches her go with a frown before looking back at the Headmistress.
McGonagall only smiles with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Bellatrix appears back at Hermione’s side in an instant, glowing with rage.
“Unbelievable. What a sick fucking joke. I ought to come after her next for doing such a thing,” Bellatrix rants, her voice a frantic whisper, “It’s as if she chose him just to annoy me. I’ll kill him too, him and his brat of a sister. Filthy blood traitors everywhere I look-”
“Ron?” Hermione asks McGonagall, tuning out Bellatrix’s rambling. Besides, her comments about blood status come off more as a reflex rather than her actual thoughts on the matter.
“I take it she peeked,” McGonagall chuckles. Hermione nods, and McGonagall raises her voice, “Come in, Mr. Weasley.”
The door creaks open, and Hermione scrambles across the room to throw her arms around her friend before he’s all the way inside. He catches her instinctually, hugging her tight enough to lift her off her feet. Hermione could cry with relief.
“Hey, ‘Mione. Heard you’re getting into trouble without me.”
Hermione pulls back to grin at him. His hair is shorter and scruff lines his jaw, and he’s dressed in Auror robes, but little things are still the same. His crooked smile, his smell, his light blue eyes. She missed him so much more than she realized.
Bellatrix makes an obnoxious gagging noise behind her, but Hermione doesn’t let it bother her.
“Just a bit,” she answers. She lets him go and steps back to an appropriate distance, shooting her Headmistress a grateful look. “Nothing I can’t handle.”
The smile falls from Ron’s face as he looks her over, “I know you’re being sarcastic, but…I’ve been worried sick. About you, and about Gin. I heard what happened.”
The smile slips from Hermione’s face, too, as reality sets back in.
“I’ll leave the two of you alone to catch up. Ron, you’re free to use the floo in my office to come and go as you please. And please do remember to keep this between us.” McGonagall leaves the two of them with a lingering look that suggests she might think a bit more of their relationship than what there actually is between them.
“Is she here?” Ron asks once McGonagall leaves.
Hermione sighs and sits back down on the bed. Ron glances around the room with trepidation, not letting down his guard.
“She’s always where I am,” Hermione explains, shrugging helplessly, “Nothing to be done about it just yet. It’s best to just pretend like she isn’t.”
Ron frowns but sits down beside her. His leg bounces restlessly, though, and he glances around the room periodically. “I don’t know what to say, to be honest. I hate that this is happening.”
Hermione nods in agreement. “How much did McGonagall explain to you, exactly?”
Ron relays it to her, leaving nothing out. McGonagall had done a thorough job of filling him in, and Hermione isn’t sure if she’s grateful or resentful of the fact. The details of her situation feel extremely personal, almost intimate, and she believed McGonagall wasn’t going to be sharing them. Still, she should be glad that she wasn’t involving the Ministry in any official capacity despite being well within her rights to do so.
“Does Harry know?” Hermione asks, struggling to believe that Ron was the only one in on the secret after everything they’ve been through.
“He knows that there’s something you need help with at school, but he doesn’t know the details. Believe me, he pressed, but he respects that you want to keep it private.”
“Oh. That’s good of him, although I’d expect nothing less,” Hermione says. She misses Harry, too, but the whole thing is humiliating. She doesn’t want anyone to know what’s become of the golden girl who doesn’t have to.
“He’s busy, anyway. Everyone at the ministry is eager to see what’s next for him, so he’s always got the first pick of assignments despite being new and all,” Ron says, a hint of bitterness in his voice, “There’s so many Death Eaters still running around out there, lurking in the shadows. The other Auror’s look at Harry as a symbol, they want him leading the charge against the stragglers.”
Hermione feels a surge of sympathy. It doesn’t feel good to hear that Ron is still feeling like he’s trapped in Harry’s shadow. If that feeling didn’t go away after Voldemort’s defeat, then when would it?
“Are you sure this is what you want to do? I mean, we did what we had to during the war, but what other choice did we have? The war is over now, Ronald. We can do whatever we want.”
Hermione regrets the words almost as soon as she says them. He can do whatever he wants, but she can’t. Her future looks grimmer than it ever has, especially in contrast to the future of her friends.
Ron is oblivious to her spiral, staring at the flickering fireplace glumly, while Bellatrix is anything but. She stands beside the fireplace, watching Hermione’s expression closely, listening to her every thought.
“I guess it’s just hard to go back to normal after everything,” Ron says, “After we defeated Voldemort, we were heroes. I just want to keep feeling that way. It seems like our purpose in life, doesn’t it?”
Hermione tries to pull herself out of her downward spiral to lend a sympathetic ear, but it’s difficult to feel much pity for Ron when she envies him. His future is hindered only by his own choices, while Hermione has been robbed of hers.
“I thought he was here to make you feel better,” Bellatrix comments, looking at her friend with a disgusted sneer.
He’s always been a bit wrapped up in himself.
“Clearly. And people think I’m a leech.”
Hermione raises her eyebrows at Bellatrix’s animosity. She’s not surprised at her dislike of Ron, only that it seems to be in her defense. If Bellatrix hears her line of thought she doesn’t comment on it.
When Hermione doesn’t respond, Ron looks at her sheepishly, “Sorry, ‘Mione. We’re here to talk about you, not me.”
Hermione forgives him, and the subject changes to the way things have been aside from Bellatrix. It feels silly to discuss anything but the elephant in the room, but Ron has always been an expert at skirting around the things in life that are less than pleasant. He’s the perfect distraction, really, able to help her procrastinate thinking about her own impending demise.
The hours tick by, and the longer they talk the more their familiarity returns. Hermione ends up propped against the headboard with his head in her lap. She runs her fingers through the shorter hair, watching the way the light glints in the copper scruff on his face. It’s odd to see the way time has changed him, likely more apparent after all the stress they’d been through.
She wonders how much the war has changed her, and if it’s anything compared to how Bellatrix is changing her.
Bellatrix, who has been watching the two of them silently in her spot by the fire. Hermione finds her mind wandering from her visitor to the specter often, wishing the mind reading thing went both ways. Bellatrix is the most difficult person to read that Hermione has ever encountered, which is simply unfair considering she has free access to Hermione’s every thought.
Sweet little things, she’d called them. She wonders what Bellatrix’s thoughts are like in comparison. Sharp, bitter things, she imagines. She wonders if she’s bothered by Hermione’s thoughts, if she despises the muggleborn’s constant presence. She wonders how exactly she feels about the world now that she’s watched her body go up in flames.
“Don’t you have a guest?” The ghost asks. She doesn’t sound annoyed, only genuinely curious as to why Hermione’s thoughts were with her and not the boy in her lap.
Technically I have two guests.
For the second time that evening, Bellatrix appears to be struggling not to smile at Hermione’s thought.
“You didn’t answer the question. Why are you thinking about me when you have a boy so obviously in love with you wanting your attention?” Bellatrix’s voice is smooth, and Hermione doesn’t need to look at her to know she’s smirking.
She does anyway, though, watching the way the fire dances across her smooth skin, glinting in her dark eyes. Hermione shivers beneath the prying gaze.
He’s not in love with me.
“Just admit you find me more interesting than him.”
Ron tugs lightly on the end of her hair before she can think of a response, drawing her attention back to him.
“Where’d you go?” He asks.
“Sorry. Uh…she was talking to me.”
He glances to the spot she had been looking at like he’s annoyed at the ghost for interrupting. When he looks back at Hermione, his eyebrows are furrowed over his light eyes, “Can’t you just…y’know, ignore her?”
Bellatrix mutters something Hermione can’t quite catch.
“Not exactly. She’s not the easiest person to ignore,” Hermione says.
“I guess. I wish we could go somewhere, get out of this bloody room. I’d make you forget about her.”
“Oh, the blood traitor wants to take his little muddy out on the town!” Bellatrix says, her voice high and mocking. She snickers at their expense and Hermione glares at her.
I’m not his.
“That’s right,” Bellatrix says, smiling victoriously, “You’re mine.”
Something stirs in Hermione’s stomach at the words. It isn’t the first time Bellatrix has referred to her as such, and each time it leaves her with an unfamiliar burning feeling in her stomach that she can’t quite make sense of.
Hermione doesn’t dwell on it, because Bellatrix is advancing, crawling onto the bed next to her until the chill of her presence chases away the warmth of Ron and the fire. She leans in close until Hermione is shivering, and she whispers right in her ear, quiet enough that Ron wouldn’t be able to hear even if it were possible for him to.
“Nothing he does could make you forget me. It’s an insult to suggest otherwise. I could leave you in peace right now and you’d remember me for the rest of your life. Some of my soul will always be a part of yours.”
Then some of my soul is with you, too. It goes both ways, doesn’t it? Doesn’t that bother you?
“I don’t mind. Your mind, your soul…” Bellatrix sighs, and Hermione feels the words running across her skin like a caress, “Being inside you was like biting into a fucking peach. So bloody sweet—”
Hermione gasps as the words send a sort of electric current shooting across her skin, from her belly down, in a way she absolutely can’t handle. The sound of her gasp has Ron sitting up, and the moment she’s free she scrambles off the bed.
“What?” He asks, looking around like he’s missed something, “What’s happened?”
Bellatrix is cackling so loud that Hermione can hardly hear herself think as she waves off Ron’s concern.
“Nothing-it’s nothing. I think I’d like to be alone now, actually. Do you think you could come back tomorrow?”
Bellatrix continues to laugh, absolutely elated at the reaction she got from Hermione. Hermione is blushing furiously, painfully aware that Bellatrix can hear her thoughts, that Ron is still in the room staring at her like she’s spouted a second head.
“Well-are you sure? I actually thought that-that maybe you’d like me to stay tonight. It must be scary to be here all alone with her every night,” Ron says, his own cheeks going red at the suggestion.
Bellatrix’s laughing stops abruptly, and then she’s behind Hermione, whispering gleefully in her ear, “Oh, poor Weasel. If only he knew his dirty girlfriend prefers my company to his. Don’t you, pet?”
“N-no,” Hermione says, both to Bellatrix and Ron, “No, I’m quite alright, thank you, Ronald.”
“Are you sure?” Ron says, his shoulders sagging.
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“So eager to be alone with me again, aren’t you?” Bellatrix purrs. She’s found a sore spot in Hermione and she presses on it relentlessly, intoxicated at the flow of humiliating thoughts she’s causing, “He may be your friend, but I know you better than he ever has. I know you better than anyone ever will. You and I have something that no one else can ever understand.”
“Well, alright.” Ron walks around the bed to sweep her up in another embrace.
Hermione’s heart thumps against his chest, so hard that he must feel it. Her entire body is flushed, and she feels embarrassingly weak in the knees. She rests her weight on him, thinking only of Bellatrix pressed against her back as she throbs between her legs.
What the fuck is happening to her?
“Love and hate. It’s such a fine line, isn’t it?” Bellatrix murmurs.
“I missed you, ‘Mione,” Ron says, his voice muffled by her hair. His embrace lingers, encouraged by the heat emanating from her skin.
“I-I missed you too, Ron,” Hermione steps away and he reluctantly lets her go, “I’ll see you soon, alright?”
Ron nods his head, walking slowly towards the door with his head hanging. He gives her one more forlorn look as he opens the door, like he’s waiting for her to change her mind.
“See you soon,” He mutters, giving her a sad wave before leaving her.
Hermione turns wordlessly away from Bellatrix, walking to the washroom to prepare for bed. Bellatrix follows her, hot on her heels. Hermione slams the door behind her but of course, Bellatrix walks through it.
“What’s the rush, pet? Don’t you want to play?”
“I do not. I-I don’t know what you think you know about me, but you’re wrong.”
“Ah, ah, ah, you can’t lie to me. I know your mind, I know what you’re feeling-”
Hermione twists the knob on the shower before whirling around to face her, simmering with anger, “Maybe you’re confusing your feelings with mine.”
Bellatrix barks out a laugh, stepping forward until she’s directly in her space, “Nice try, but there’s a distinct difference.”
“Oh, that’s rich,” Hermione says, her hatred for the ghost boiling to the surface, “You think this is all on me? With your little nicknames and your obsession with me? You’re always saying I’m yours, that my body belongs to you. I think you’re the one who wants me, and you’re just projecting your feelings onto me.”
Bellatrix’s face twists with fury, her eyes burning with an intensity that would’ve frightened Hermione only a few short weeks ago. Now she faces her, fearless. What could she do to her that hasn’t been done already? Besides, she can’t touch her.
“You’re a filthy liar,” Bellatrix hisses, “I know you, I feel your mind, I feel the heat of your soul. I know you’re dripping for me, little peach.”
Hermione despises the way her entire body responds to the words, searing heat spreading from her chest to her stomach, making her throb in exactly the way Bellatrix is accusing her of. She thinks about what Bellatrix said, how being inside her was like biting into a peach, and now all she can think of is Bellatrix between her legs, with Hermione’s juices running down her chin, the flavor of her in her mouth, running down her throat.
Bellatrix’s pupils are blown, her chest heaving with every breath as she listens intently to Hermione’s every filthy thought. Steam pours out of the shower, filling the room until the usual coldness caused by Bellatrix’s presence fades in the heat.
“I hate you,” Hermione pants, her head spinning with overwhelming lust.
How can she feel this crippling want for someone she despises?
“I hate you, too,” Bellatrix responds with equal vitriol, her voice huskier than it had been before.
The ghost steps closer until she’s standing partly inside of Hermione with every heaving breath she takes. Hermione is done with this, done talking to her, and she turns away with a huff. She’ll just ignore her until she has the potion, until she doesn’t have to hear from her at all anymore. She’ll finally have some peace and fucking quiet-
“Don’t you dare turn away from me.”
Hermione shrieks when she feels an ice cold hand on her wrist, nails biting into her skin, pulling her back around. She meets Bellatrix’s eyes which are displaying an equal level of shock before the shock melts away to viscous glee.
Hermione sucks in a panicked breath, preparing to scream, but Bellatrix acts quickly. She shoves Hermione back until she slams against the wall, hard enough to knock the breath out of her.
Bellatrix presses against her, and for the first time since Bellatrix’s death, Hermione feels the entirety of her body flush against her. She hears every frantic breath from lips inches from her own, sees in vivid detail the swirling heat in wild, black eyes. Bellatrix wraps a hand around Hermione’s throat, shoving until her head smacks against the wall with enough force to make her dizzy.
“Nowhere to run now,” Bellatrix shrieks, her joy petrifying.
Hermione gasps for air even though the hand at her throat isn’t squeezing, merely holding her in place. Bellatrix leans in close, her sharp thumb pressing into her jaw to twist her face to the side. She licks a path from Hermione’s collarbone to her ear, and the moan that tears its way out of her is high and painfully desperate, foreign to her ears.
“You’re so warm,” Bellatrix says, arching into her, molding herself to her, “Fuck, it feels divine.”
Hermione is shaking like a leaf. Bellatrix is ice cold, and the feeling of her pressing into her the way she is has half of her mind screaming for more and the other half scared shitless. She doesn’t know if she wants her to let her go or if she wants her to shove a hand into her underwear and feel the slickness dripping down her thighs.
Bellatrix presses her face into her neck, her sharp nose snug against her pulse point, her hands grasping every inch of the student that she can reach.
“I can feel your heart,” Bellatrix sighs, breathing in deep, “I can feel-I can feel everything you’re feeling, hear everything you’re thinking. It’s wonderful, you feel fucking exquisite, pet.”
Bellatrix shudders against her, mad with emotion, and Hermione is swept up in it, unable to differentiate between her emotions and Bellatrix’s, winding through her own like ivy through a trellis.
“Bellatrix-” Hermione gasps, “Please.”
“Yes,” Bellatrix whispers, her hands snaking around to hook in the waistband of Hermione’s trousers. She unbuttons them in one twist of her fingers and slides her hand inside. Hermione’s core aches with an almost unbearable need, and her thighs are trembling with anticipation. “I want to feel your tight, wet heat,” Bellatrix pants the words into her neck, her words almost perfectly matching Hermione’s half formed thoughts, her fingers ice between her legs, “I want to feel the mess I made.”
Hermione’s fingers slip around to the front of Bellatrix’s shoulders, fisting in the soft, expensive fabric of her dress. Then her hands slide up, into her hair, the thick, heavy curls wrapping around her fingers like they have a mind of their own.
Then, all at once, Bellatrix falls through her, and Hermione feels like she’s been plunged into arctic water, her blood turning to ice.
She crumples to the floor, the two witches passing through one another, Hermione hitting the hard tile of the bathroom floor with bruising force. Hermione sobs, shaking violently, and Bellatrix screams so loudly she has to cover her ears.
“The-c-c-cold-” Hermione sobs, curling into a ball on the floor.
Bellatrix is wailing like a wounded animal, sounding as if she’s in every bit of excruciating pain as Hermione is. It feels like Hermione will never be warm again, the pain unbearable.
She crawls to the shower, using one trembling hand to yank the glass door open so she can pull herself inside. She cries louder, tears streaming out of her eyes as the hot water touches her deathly cold skin, soaking through her clothes.
It’s an excruciating five minutes beneath the hot spray of water before Hermione has the presence of mind to open her eyes to look for Bellatrix. She finds her sitting where they had fallen apart, mirroring her position with her knees curled up to her chest.
She looks like a lost, feral animal, her body trembling violently and her eyes wild. She looks like she’s equally as traumatized by what transpired as Hermione is. As the intense cold melts away in the heat of the water, Hermione tries to make sense of it.
Bellatrix touched her. She touched her, and she didn’t hurt her. Hermione has never felt anything like it. She has never felt that kind of hatred, that sort of painful desire, like she would die if Bellatrix didn’t slip her fingers inside her. And she wanted that desperately, that and more. She wanted Bellatrix inside of her in every way possible, and she nearly was.
Bellatrix’s wild gaze meets her own, and all they can do is stare at one another.
The potion tastes like burnt hair and bitter fruit.
If Hermione’s resolve was any weaker, she’d have thrown it up immediately. Fortunately, her resolve is stronger than ever with Bellatrix’s black eyes boring into her from across the room.
McGonagall’s encouraging hand at her shoulder helps counteract the ghost’s presence. Her office has hardly changed since it became hers, and many of Dumbledore’s trinkets are on the desk and throughout the room, the addition of his portrait the most noticeable change. It makes it easy to pretend that it was a smooth transition from Dumbledore to McGonagall, that there wasn’t any mess in between. He watches Hermione with a sadness that feels foreboding, all things considered, and she can’t bring herself to look at him after she notices.
She coughs after she swallows the last drop, then clenches her jaw and forces it to remain down despite how desperately her body wants to reject it. She gives Bellatrix a hard look once she recovers.
“She’s still here,” Hermione says through her gritted teeth.
Bellatrix, deadly serious, sticks her tongue out at her.
“Give it time to work. This is all highly experimental, we don’t know exactly how it’s going to work. It may take a moment for her to become invisible to you.”
Hermione continues to glare at her, as if she can will her to disappear faster. Bellatrix stares right back at her, mirroring every last bit of vitriol Hermione holds for her.
Memories of the night Bellatrix touched her flash in her mind, as they often have over the past few days. She’s given up on trying to smother them, knowing the emotions the memory elicits are too strong for her to shove away. The hair on her arms rises as she remembers, her heart rate increasing, her breath quickening. Bellatrix, her black mirror, reacts the same way to the thoughts, her breath rising and falling visibly as her eyes gloss over, losing herself in Hermione’s thoughts.
She’s survived a war, she’s fought for her life, she’s helped kill the most feared wizard of all time, and nothing could compare to the way she felt when Bellatrix touched her. Certainly not her fling with Viktor Krum or her kiss with Ron, although it feels ludicrous to even compare. She hates that undeniable fact almost as much as she hates the witch herself.
She hates how much she aches for her to do it again.
“You’ll regret it,” Bellatrix hisses, her pupils blown wide, “You’ll want me back the moment you can’t see me anymore.”
The ghost slinks across the room towards her, and the heat in Hermione’s gut increases with every step until it’s her own personal inferno. It’s hardly the first time she’s tried to talk her out of taking the potion. Hermione knows that deep down, she’s afraid. She relishes as she imagines Bellatrix’s suffering. There’s no thought more pleasing than Bellatrix damned to a lifetime of isolation. Hermione won’t be able to see her, hear her, or ever worry about being touched by her again. She’ll be suffering in a hell of her own creation, and Hermione can live her life in willing ignorance until she forgets of the ghost’s continued existence.
“You’re lying to yourself. I know how badly you want me to touch you again. I know how much you need it. You need me. You’ll let me back in, one way or another.”
Bellatrix’s words grow quieter the more she talks, despite the ghost drawing closer. She walks around Hermione as she talks, and when the words stop Hermione whips around to find that she’s vanished.
Relief crashes over her, so dizzying that she slumps down in one of McGonagall’s armchairs.
“Gone?” The headmistress asks.
“Gone,” Hermione confirms.
Watching Andromeda teach isn’t the distraction Hermione hoped it would be. It’s her first class of the day, an intentional choice both by the new professor and the Headmistress. That way, if any side effects pop up as a result of her morning dose of anti-Bellatrix potion, Andromeda will be close by with a potion pre-concocted to counteract the effects.
Hermione tries not to consider that possibility as Andromeda walks through the rows of desks. Her voice is incredibly soothing, not unlike the velvet tones of her sister, but when the words are delivered by someone well intentioned they have the opposite effect. Bellatrix’s voice only ever served to unnerve her, to make her skin prickle with adrenaline. She doesn’t miss it.
Listening to Andromeda's lecture while jotting down a summary of each sentence has an almost trance-like effect on Hermione. It’s easier than it has been in a long time to focus only on her professor’s words and filter it through her quill. It’s only been an hour since the first potion, and already she almost feels like herself again.
The class is over before she knows it, but Hermione knows to wait behind her classmates until the room is empty. She takes a seat in front of her desk as they discussed, and Andromeda produces a leather bound journal from her drawer, before sitting across from the student and readying a quill.
Hermione waits, interested to see the sort of questions McGonagall and Andromeda came up with to monitor her progress.
Andromeda looks up at her through half rimmed reading glasses, her quill at the ready.
“Hello, Hermione,” she greets, a soft smile spreading across her face.
Hermione smiles back, relaxing into her seat. “Hello, professor.”
Andromeda is already writing something down as she talks, “You seem better than the last time I saw you. I take it the potion is having its intended effect?”
Hermione nods, even as she casts a reflexive glance around the room. She tries not to wonder what Bellatrix is doing, or how she’s handling her newfound utter invisibility. “That’s correct. No sign of her since she vanished in Headmistress McGonagall’s office.”
Andromeda pauses writing to look at her, her glasses low on her nose as she assesses her. She finds whatever she sees satisfactory, continuing, “And how is your mood today?”
“Better. I found it easier to focus on your lecture, and despite knowing that she’s still…around, I am not as tense.”
“That’s lovely to hear. I was worried that you may start out more tense. It’s good that you’re adjusting to the change even though we can’t fully get rid of her yet. It must put you at ease to not have to worry about her interfering with your life on the level that she has been.”
Hermione nods in agreement, noticing how Andromeda’s eyes flit about the room as she finds herself doing often. How had it felt for her to recognize her sister’s magic in the room, even before she knew of her presence?
“So, would you say you feel the way you did before the binding?” Andromeda continues.
Hermione’s gaze drops to her lap as she considers this. The binding . Something about that sounds so…permanent. She supposes that it’s aptly named. She fidgets with the strap of her bag as she mulls over her answer
“I suppose something does feel…off. I can’t say I feel exactly the way I used to,” she admits.
“Can you elaborate on that?”
Hermione pauses, her thoughts racing. What did feel different? The silence rings in her ears as she tries to reflect on the question, struggling to put her finger on exactly what it is.
“It’s difficult to describe. It’s sort of like…the feeling of walking to class and feeling like I’ve forgotten something. That little bit of dread in the pit of your stomach when you can’t recall exactly what it is, or how important it is. So you continue on, because there’s nothing else to do when you can’t remember what it is you’re missing. Only I know what I’m missing, and it’s good that I’m missing it.” So why does it feel wrong?
“Is that what it is, then? You feel like you’re missing something important?”
Hermione shifts in her seat. She doesn’t like it being phrased that way, but she doesn’t have a better way of putting it.
Andromeda hums, the smile slipping off her face as she records the answer.
The Three Broomsticks with Ron wouldn’t have been her first choice for a distracting evening, but she isn’t exactly swimming in options. Ginny still hasn’t come back around to feeling comfortable being around her one on one, and Harry doesn’t know about Bellatrix yet. She needs someone who understands what she’s going through, and as ridiculous as it sounds, Ronald Weasley is as close as she’s going to get.
The two of them are tucked away at one of the more private tables, a spot Ron had dutifully saved for them when he arrived a half an hour ago. He’d dropped what he was doing at a moment’s notice to come and see her, living up to his promise of being there for her in her time of need.
It’s nice that she’s been afforded special privileges by McGonagall after everything she’s been through. At the beginning of the year she hadn’t wanted to use them, wanting instead to hold herself to the same standards as the other students. The rules that used to mean a lot to her suddenly don’t seem so crucial anymore. If she wants to take advantage of having free access to Hogsmeade whenever she pleases, then she’s damn well earned that right.
The unsettling feeling of missing something only grows throughout the day, and Ron’s familiar presence isn’t having the effect she was hoping for. She watches the dim candlelight glint off of his orange hair and sips on the glass of firewhisky he retrieved for her, wishing to feel normal again.
“I know I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’m just so relieved that the potion is working,” he says with an elated laugh, “When McGonagall first told me what the plan was, I was like, this sounds way too good to be true. A potion to fix all of your problems? Got one for me?”
Hermione smiles hollowly, “Well, it’s not as though it’s a permanent solution, but I see where you’re coming from.”
Ron nods his head sympathetically, “Yeah, yeah, I suppose it’s not. Still, though, maybe it’s just wishful thinking but I swear you’re looking better already. Are you feeling better?”
Hermione takes a long drink, wincing at the burn before answering, “Yes. I feel great, Ron.”
It’s mostly true. She does feel great, if she ignores the pit in her stomach. It feels like the sort of thing she ought to keep to herself, though. Somewhere in the pub, Bellatrix agrees, Hermione is certain of that.
“How are things as an Auror?” Hermione asks, ready for the subject to change,”The last time we spoke it sounded like Harry was doing well. How is it for you now?”
It’s Ron’s turn to take a long swig of his firewhisky, “More of the same. I listen to people kissing Harry’s ass so much that it feels like it’s part of my job description. It feels like I’m the only one out of the two of us under any real pressure. Kingsley wanted most of the remaining Death Eaters rounded up by now, but all of our ‘leads’ only lead us to dead ends.”
Hermione pats his arm. If only she could turn over the Death Eater she’s harboring, but alas, life is cruel.
“I wish you’d joined with us,” Ron mutters, “Sometimes I think that Harry and I are bloody useless without you. It feels like the two of us make up a body without a head, you know? Just fumbling uselessly around without a clue of what to do next.”
Hermione laughs into her hand, and Ron glares at her even though he’s smiling, too. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up!”
Hermione shakes her head, “I’m sorry! Really, it’s not true. You just need to have more faith in yourselves. Work as a team. You need each other.”
“We need you. ”
“You just need to adjust. You and Harry have always been perfectly capable of doing things on your own. You’re new right now, Ron. The two of you have never had an actual job, all of your experience has been out of survival. It’s only natural for you to need to adjust.”
“You’re right,” he grumbles, poking at his drink so it scoots across the table, “It’s just hard. And I know it hasn’t been easy for you either. I wish we could all be there for each other, the way we used to.”
He grabs her hand, and Hermione lets him, squeezing it. He isn’t commonly this sincere or reflective of his emotions, and she appreciates it. It almost makes her feel normal. It almost makes her forget.
Nothing he does could make you forget me. The memory of Bellatrix’s words hit her so suddenly, so clearly, that Hermione tenses as if she’s hearing them for the first time. Some of my soul will always be a part of yours.
The thoughts come flooding in like water through a burst dam, dampening her spirits immediately. She can’t stop herself from wondering what Bellatrix is doing, if she’s trying to get her attention or if she’s sulking. She wonders what Bellatrix is feeling, what she’s thinking about. Is she thinking about Hermione? What is she thinking about her? Is she as haunted by the memory of their touch as Hermione is?
“Hermione? Where’d you go?” Ron’s voice brings her back, and she tries to pull herself out of the pit she’s fallen into.
How long is it going to be like this, one misstep away from drowning in her ache for the dark witch? How can she long for someone who is a betrayal of everything she stands for? Does it matter that it’s Bellatrix, or would she feel exactly the same if anyone bonded themselves to her?
Hermione’s glass shatters in front of her, and Ron yelps in surprise, jumping out of his chair. The entire pub quiets, staring at the two of them. Hermione only stares at the shards, hating the way joy blooms in her chest. It could only mean one thing.
“She’s still here, isn’t she? I was hoping she’d just fade away now that you can’t see her or hear her.” Ron sits back down, his cheeks ruddy with embarrassment at how startled he became. The patrons in the pub go back to what they were doing as Ron struggles to look relaxed beside her.
“Yes, she certainly is still here. I don’t think we should expect her to give up her plan any time soon.”
Rosmerta magics away the broken shards of glass from across the room, behind the bar, and Hermione gives her a sheepish, grateful wave.
“Well, I guess you’d know. You know her better than I do. Hell, you probably know her better than anyone does at this point.”
“That’s not true. She may know me , but the connection doesn’t afford me the same advantages as it does her. I couldn’t read her thoughts, and I only got rare glimpses into how she was feeling. I hardly know the woman.”
It’s a strange feeling, and it doesn’t feel exactly true even though Hermione hadn’t meant to lie. She’s very familiar with her soul, she could accurately predict her moods, she could imagine fairly easily what she was thinking at certain times. Yet she doesn’t know her in any normal sort of way. They bared their souls to one another, albeit not willingly, but she doesn’t know anything normal about her.
Ron is looking at her strangely, and when Hermione finally notices her spiraling thoughts come to a halt.
“I didn’t know she could read your thoughts,” he says, “That’s…that’s terrible, ‘Mione. To have someone so vile be able to…to…violate you like that.”
Hermione nods, even as something turns in her stomach. Strangely, having Bellatrix able to hear her thoughts never felt like a violation. It should have. It should’ve been humiliating, it should have been an unwelcome intrusion. Instead it felt intimate. It felt like Hermione’s mind was their own special refuge from the world. It felt rare. It felt special.
Hermione’s stomach rolls with disgust at the thought.
“It’s getting late,” Hermione says, her quiet words barely reaching his ears in the noise, “I think I ought to be getting back.”
Ron’s disappointed at the sudden end to their night, but he keeps it to himself. He’s come a long way when it comes to managing his own feelings, even though Hermione can always see them written clear as day all over his face. She appreciates the effort though, and after he helps her into her coat she gives him a grateful hug.
They say their goodbyes, and Hermione casts one final glance around the pub before she leaves.
One glimmering highlight of Hermione’s seventh year is her private bathroom. It of course comes with the added responsibility of being Head Girl, but it’s a price she’s willing to pay for having her own bathtub.
It’s about time she uses it.
The steam pours from the purple water, the smell of dried flowers and the herbs from the potions she added permeating the room. She can’t wait to slip into the water and let it soak into her skin.
She strips off her clothes slowly, doing her best not to imagine Bellatrix somewhere in the room, watching her with heavy lidded eyes. It’s fortunate that she can’t interact with her; Hermione can’t imagine the sorts of things she would have to say about her.
What ways would she choose to press her buttons? Would she disparage her body, or would she flirt with her? Hermione isn’t sure what she’d prefer from her.
The last of her clothes join the pile beside the bath, and she shivers with pleasure as she steps into the hot water. It’s almost too hot to bear, but she sinks into it anyway, the water coming up to her neck once she’s all the way in.
She hasn’t had a proper bath since before the war, and god is it exquisite. She’s chosen potions specifically meant to relax her, and relax she does, slipping down until the water is lapping at her chin, delightful smells drifting up her nose.
The image of Bellatrix lurking somewhere in the shadows returns, even as the hot water begins to relax her muscles. She sighs, a soft moan slipping from her lips despite the dark thought. She wonders again what Bellatrix is thinking. Is she boiling with hatred, wishing she could shove her head under the water? Is she wishing she could slip into the tub behind her and drown herself in Hermione’s warmth?
Is she every bit as addicted to the memory of her touch as Hermione is?
Hermione takes a deep breath through her nose, her head spinning with the different smells pouring from the water. That dreaded prickling warmth that accompanies her thoughts of the ghost spreads from her chest and crawls over her skin. Bellatrix touched her for only a few seconds and it almost ruined her sanity, what would it be like if she had uninhibited access? What would Bellatrix do to her, exactly?
She looks around the empty room, a terrible pinprick of disappointment in the back of her mind when she can’t find a single hint of the witch. Surely she’s watching her at this very moment, wishing Hermione’s eyes could meet her own.
Hermione shuts her eyes, letting her head fall back against the back of the tub. She can’t see her, so she imagines her instead. She will never admit that she misses her, but she can afford herself this one private moment of weakness. She pictures her black eyes, running over her body. She pictures the way her jaw works when she struggles with her thoughts. She imagines that Bellatrix is thinking of all the ways she wants to touch her.
She lets herself imagine, just for a moment, how it would feel if Bellatrix could touch her again. She recalls the devastating intensity, the searing heat, the desperation of that very first touch. If only they’d had a moment longer, if only Bellatrix’s fingers had found their destination-
Hermione gasps as her own fingers find that spot that Bellatrix had been seconds from touching, that hard bundle of nerves that has white light bursting behind her eyes. No, Bellatrix wouldn’t have stopped there. She would have continued straight to the place she wanted, she would have laid claim to her, right there in this room. She would have taken her, and Hermione would have let her.
Hermione’s fingers slide inside herself, Bellatrix’s face in perfect detail painted behind her eyelids. Her legs fall open, her back arching as she pushes in all the way. Bellatrix would have gone in all the way, she would have fucked her with abandon until it hurt-so Hermione does it, something tugging loose inside her chest as she lets go.
Fuck, Bellatrix is here right now, watching her, listening to her thoughts. The thought sends a thrill throughout Hermione’s body, but she can’t stop herself. The water sloshes with every thrust inside herself, and her lips part as sinful noises slip out. She half expects the mirror to shatter, for the candles to topple over, for something, anything. Bellatrix could stop her if she wanted to, Hermione is sure of that. At the first sign of her presence Hermione would stop, but the ghost watches, letting her fuck herself in undisturbed silence.
She would use this against her if Hermione ever gave her the chance. Hermione will never be able to face her now, not after she’s crossed this line, no matter how badly she may want to.
Curses fall out of her mouth as she barrels towards the edge with embarrassing speed. She can feel herself fluttering around her own thrusting fingers, her thighs begin to tremble as she does her best to recall Bellatrix’s voice in her ear.
Guilt builds in Hermione’s chest alongside pleasure, part of her mind screaming at her to stop before she tumbles over an edge she can’t come back from. Only it’s too late, it’s been too late from the moment Bellatrix touched her.
Bellatrix is watching her now, Hermione can feel her eyes on her. Her free hand slips up her body as she imagines Bellatrix stepping into her, possessing her, forcing her hand. She wraps her hand around her throat as her fingers pump a relentless pace. Bellatrix would squeeze, she would do it tight, she would make her sweat, worry.
Hermione does the same, until every steam filled breath is barely accomplished. One leg comes out of the tub to hook over the edge, spreading even wider. The only thing keeping her from being fully on display for the watching specter is the tinted water, but there is no mistaking what she’s doing. Not when she can hear her every thought, not when she is somewhere in this room feeling exactly what Hermione is feeling.
She aches on a primal level to say her name. She wants to come with her name on her lips, and she knows Bellatrix wants it, too. It’s that simple fact, that absolute knowledge that stops her. She’s already giving Bellatrix far too much by doing this, she will not give her the added satisfaction by saying her name. It’s by far the filthiest thing she’s ever done, and somewhere in the back of her mind she wonders if this is Bellatrix’s influence. Has her soul being bonded to her for all this time left fragments, or is this all her? As she approaches oblivion with reckless abandon, she decides that she doesn’t care.
Curses pour out of Hermione’s mouth as she tightens around her own fingers. She barely manages to keep Bellatrix’s name from slipping out in the string of curses, until she can’t bear it. The hand at her throat comes up to cover her mouth, and she bites into her knuckle as she pulses around her fingers.
Bellatrix, Bellatrix, Bellatrix-
It’s all she can think of, the woman’s name pounding in her head like a prayer. Or a curse.
When her orgasm fades, shame takes its place. All at once, self hatred slams into her, and her head lulls back against the porcelain. She looks up at the ceiling, wondering how on earth she could have been so weak.
She can’t bring herself to look anywhere else in the room, as if she’s afraid to see the ghost despite knowing it’s impossible. She slips her leg back into the water and stares at the ceiling until the calming potions finally do their job, and she slips into a fitful sleep.
She knows she’s dreaming the moment Minerva McGonagall appears in her bathroom to chastise her for falling asleep in the tub. It’s humiliating anyway, especially considering what she’d been doing before falling asleep. She banishes the headmistress from her bathroom with sheer force of will, before climbing out of her dream-bath and pulling on a robe.
She creeps through the bathroom, drawn to the door to her bedroom. She knows something terrible lies on the other side, but she’s powerless to stop herself from reaching for the doorknob.
Even in the dream, the metal is cool in her hand as she twists the knob. The door swings open to darkness, and when she steps through she finds herself standing in a forest.
It’s nighttime, and the forest is dense. Dim moonlight is the only thing keeping her from total darkness. Hermione stands in the slice of light from her bathroom, lingering in the doorway, wondering where she’s meant to go.
A woman’s scream shatters the silence, and Hermione whips her head around to search for the source.
It’s just a dream.
Hermione leaves the safety of her bathroom doorway and walks towards the sound. The soil is soft and damp beneath her bare feet, and the wind is cold on her face. It’s the most vivid dream she’s ever had, she realizes, unable to recall ever feeling such realistic sensations while asleep.
There’s another scream, this one belonging to a man. Somewhere in the forest, a man and woman are in pain. This is her dream, and she’s going to help them. She trudges along towards the sound, ignoring the crawling of her skin as she approaches.
The night is disturbingly silent in between each scream. There are no sounds of rustling leaves or scurrying creatures. No birds or bugs, no wind, nothing. Only silence, and then ear-splitting screams.
After a short distance, Hermione can make out the dark silhouette of a cabin in the woods. It blends in with its surroundings, and it’s the sort of place that you could only find if you knew exactly where to look. Hermione breathes in deeply, tasting saltwater in the air, hesitating just outside the cracked door. She’s not sure she can handle what lies on the other side of the door, even if this is only a dream.
Before she can decide what to do, hurried footsteps approach from behind her. She shrieks as she sees Bellatrix Lestrange rushing towards her, her pale face bright and furious in the moonlight. She stumbles backwards, tripping over a root and falling on her ass.
Bellatrix walks right past her, the bottom of her heavy black skirt brushing Hermione’s bare feet as she enters the cabin without hesitation. Hermione stares after her in shock. This is her dream, and she’s just been completely ignored!
She scrambles to her feet and walks in after her.
She stops the moment she enters. Bellatrix is right beside her, also having stopped just inside the doorway. The single roomed cabin reeks of piss and something metallic.
Blood, Hermione realizes.
Aside from her and Bellatrix, there are five figures in the room. Two tall, lanky men lurk in one corner, their features disguised by the shadows. A man with his back to them has light hair, illuminated by moonlight. His wand is drawn, his hand trembling.
Seated in the center of the room are a man and a woman, their hands and legs tied to the chair. The man's head falls back, his body limp aside from the occasional twitch. The woman beside him is still somewhat lucid, her head twisting as she looks from person to person. They’re both dressed nicely, the woman in a modest baby blue dress and the man in a collared shirt and sweater vest. Blood seeps through their closes and stains their skin. The man’s trousers are stained dark, and Hermione’s stomach lurches when she realizes what it’s stained with.
“ What have you done ?” Bellatrix asks. Her voice has Hermione’s blood running cold. It’s every bit as fearsome as she remembers, commanding in a way that bends the people around her to her will. She doesn’t speak to her this way, not quite, not since before her death.
The fair haired man turns around, and Hermione recognizes him as Barty Crouch Jr. Part of her knew what was going on when she saw Frank and Alice tied to their chairs, but this confirms it beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Why would she dream about this?
While Bellatrix is locked in a heated exchange with Crouch, Hermione rushes over to Neville’s parents. If she’s here, she has to be able to do something. If she can’t save them in reality, then at least she can save them in her own mind.
Only her hands pass through their hands when she tries to untie them. She tries Frank first, then Alice, but she’s helpless.
She looks up when Bellatrix approaches Frank, grabbing him by the back of the head to force him upright. His eyes are empty as Bellatrix stares into them, her brow furrowed with barely contained rage.
She slaps him across the face, and his head only falls back again as he dissolves into terrible, high pitched, shrieking laughter.
“Frank? Frank?” Alice yells, twisting to look at her husband. Blood mats her hair to one side of her face, partially obstructing her view. “What have you done to him? What did you do?”
Bellatrix ignores her, slowly raising her head to stare at the men behind Hermione. The Lestrange brothers. The crime Hermione has found herself in the middle of is a famous one, the details of which Hermione read once and could never forget.
“He was our only lead. Our only chance. ” Bellatrix’s lips curl into a snarl as she speaks, her teeth bright in the moonlight. Hermione marvels at her beauty through her sickening horror. She’s younger than Hermione has ever seen her, her hair long, thick, falling in perfect curls over her shoulders. Her cheeks are full with youth, her eyes round and bright and furious. She’s a force to be reckoned with, even in her youth and still is, after death.
Frank continues to laugh, his head bouncing and his neck taut as it lulls back as far as it’ll go.
“He’s barking mad,” Bellatrix spits, letting the man go. She produces her crooked wand and points it over him, straight at her husband and brother-in-law.
“You’re late,” Rabastan says, walking around Frank’s chair to loom over Bellatrix, “You were supposed to be here four hours ago.”
Bellatrix’s wand sparks with a curse that hits Rabastan in the foot and sends him hopping backwards, cursing with pain as he catches himself against the wall. His brother comes around to steady him, shooting Bellatrix a withering glare.
“Then you should have fucking waited. Legilimency is useless on him now. How am I meant to tell one thought from another in a broken mind?”
“ That’s why we grabbed his wife!” Rodolphus points at her, desperate for her to turn her attention away from him, “We didn’t mean to go so far. We didn’t think he’d snap so easily-”
“ We didn’t think!” Bellatrix mocks, wiping faux tears from her eyes. Her piercing voice cuts off his excuses effectively, and even in the midst of all this horror, Hermione almost admires the fear she commands. “You’re not supposed to think, Rod, you’re supposed to fucking wait for me!”
“We don’t have time for this!” Crouch interrupts, striding towards Alice. She screams before he raises his wand. Hermione tries to stand, suddenly feeling weak in the knees as she struggles to breathe.
Bellatrix whirls to face him, swinging her arm around to aim her wand at him. Hermione clutches her chest as it clenches with a painful pressure, like a cinder block has been dropped on it.
All of the sudden, she falls. Before she hits the ground she jerks awake, floundering as she pulls her submerged body out of the water. She spits out the water she swallowed and throws herself out of the tub, gasping for air.
She clutches at her burning chest as she grips the edge of the tub, forcing herself to stand. She tugs the robe around herself in reality this time, her fingers clutching at the fabric as she drags in each ragged breath, reminding herself that the nightmare is over and that she’s awake, now.
She raises her eyes to look at herself in the mirror, but it’s fogged over. Words appear in the fog as she watches.
Hermione wishes she could forget. Forget her burning stare, her voice, her touch. It feels as though remembering is her curse, and if she could just forget, if it could just go away, it would be as if it never happened. As though Bellatrix never altered the fabric of her soul.
Sometimes, rarer times, Hermione wishes to relive that moment in the bathroom. If she could relive it just once, knowing it was the only time Bellatrix would ever touch her, then maybe that would be enough. She could commit it to memory; her warm scent, her voice in her ear, the weight of her hair, the exhilaration of her touch. Hermione is most ashamed of these quiet, sinful desires, only affording herself such thoughts in the privacy of her own room. She’s afraid someone would smell it on her, see it in her eyes and know that she’s damned.
What sort of person does that make her? To crave someone who committed such atrocities, who ruined lives, who shredded minds…it’s unthinkable. If what Hermione dreamed was true, if Bellatrix had no hand in the torture of Frank and Alice, it doesn’t matter. Bellatrix may be partially absolved of one atrocity, but countless others were carried out by her hand. Sirius, Nymphadora, and so many others. It changes nothing, if it’s true.
Despite it all, the desires persist, and with them the dreams.
Every night, Hermione shuts her eyes and dreams of Bellatrix. The first few nights, Hermione convinces herself that the dreams are just that-dreams. They just happen to always include Bellatrix. Sometimes the dreams will start out normal; she’ll be working in her classrooms, or spending time with her friends, but eventually, she’s always drawn away. She’ll walk around a corner, or through a doorway, and straight into a dream of Bellatrix.
Eventually, it becomes impossible to deny it. The dreams must in fact be Bellatrix’s memories. No one can ever see Hermione, and Hermione can never interfere with the course of events. And always, the dreams are incredibly vivid. Impossibly so. She can smell the air, feel anything she decides to touch.
Tonight, she follows behind a young Bellatrix as she walks through a lush garden. The girl couldn’t be older than eleven or twelve, likely in her first or second year at Hogwarts. They certainly aren’t at the school now. Hermione looks around as they walk, searching for any distinguishing features that may tell her their location.
Above the treetops, Hermione can see the defined, sharp rooftop of a manor in the distance. They’re most likely at Bellatrix’s childhood home; Black Manor. Fog shrouds their surroundings, and the cool air and chirping birds suggest that it’s early morning. The young Bellatrix clutches a book to her chest as she walks, the tailored hem of her skirts cutting through the fog with each measured step.
They reach a stone fountain with curling, intertwining serpents. Their mouths are open wide, water raining down into a pool below. At the base of the fountain sits another girl, younger than Bellatrix. Her loose, brown locks hang around her face as she looms over a book of her own.
“Andy, you stole my spot,” Bellatrix whines. Her fingers clench around her book as she glares at her sister, “Get up.”
Andromeda looks up from her book to glare at her older sister, “I was here first.”
“You only read here because I do. You’re always copying me, it isn’t fair!”
Andromeda rolls her eyes, and Hermione has to stifle a laugh. How odd it is to witness two women, one who she respects greatly and one she…fears, squabbling as children.
“You’re so full of yourself that you always think everyone is copying you,” Andromeda retorts.
Bellatrix relents, folding her legs beneath her to sit beside Andromeda. She opens her book with a huff, pointedly ignoring her sister in favor of reading. Andromeda eventually relaxes beside her and continues reading.
With a sigh, Hermione sits beside them. She contents herself with listening to the birds, the gentle trickle of water from the fountain, and the sound of turning pages. It’s the most relaxing memory she’s been a part of, and the one where Bellatrix is the youngest. She hopes that if she has to continue with these dreams, there will be more like this.
Before long, Bellatrix’s shrill voice ruins any hope of Hermione’s continued relaxation.
“What do you think it is you’re reading?” The girl shrieks, snatching the book out of her sister’s hands.
She slams the book shut, and the cover reads Jane Eyre, by Currer Bell. Andromeda snatches it back, her entire face flushing pink. She jumps to her feet and Bellatrix follows, grabbing her arm before she can get far.
“Where did you get it? You know what mother and father would do if they found you with something like this! How reckless can you be?”
“A-a friend from school gave it to me. And I’m being careful. I have a hiding spot for it out here. They won’t find it, Bella. I promise-”
“A promise isn’t good enough. It isn’t safe. You know Mother's predilection for Legilimency. All it takes is one peek for her to see you reading it. And now you’ve put me in danger, too. If she sees that I knew-”
“She won’t find out!”
Bellatrix makes another grab for the book, but Andromeda wrestles away from her, clutching it to her body. Hermione watches with sympathy. It’s clear how much the book means to her, but it’s also clear the sort of danger they’re in.
“Are you suddenly a skilled Occlumens? Otherwise, we have no way of being certain she won’t find out. And I know you don’t know how to do Occlumency because even I haven’t been able to do it! Hand it over now, Andy.”
Hermione’s heart aches as she imagines these children trying to learn something as advanced as Occlumency just to protect themselves from their parents. She had always assumed that life in one of the sacred pure-blooded families would be less than cozy, but to use Legilimency on your child? It’s outright cruelty.
Andromeda shoves Bellatrix down, and the moment she hits the dirt, regret flashes across her face. Bellatrix is furious, tears of betrayal stinging in her eyes as she glares at her sister from the ground.
“Is a book more important to you than your own blood?”
“N-no, Bella. I’m sorry,” Andromeda stutters, a tear falling down her cheek.
Bellatrix rises to her feet, brushing the dirt off of her skirt. Her jaw clenches, the muscle twitching in a way that Hermione has grown familiar with.
“If you’re really sorry, you’ll throw the book in the fountain and be done with it.”
Andromeda’s lip trembles as she tries to control her tears. She swipes her sleeve across her face, and then tosses the book into the water. She runs off, leaving Bellatrix alone in the garden.
Hermione watches Bellatrix’s still figure, waiting for the dream to end. Surely this is the end of it. She can’t even be angry at the child. She only wants to protect herself and her sister. It isn’t her fault.
After a long, quiet moment, Bellatrix approaches the fountain and sits at the edge. Hermione follows her, sitting across from her. Bellatrix hasn’t shed a tear, but one look at her face makes it clear how upset she is at the interaction. Slowly, she reaches her hand into the water and pulls the book out.
She produces her wand and points it at the book. With a whispered spell, she dries the book. Hermione stares at her, wide-eyed. What is she doing?
Bellatrix’s smooth forehead crinkles with concentration. She moves her wand silently, as though she’s practicing a complicated movement before attempting it. She does the same intricate movement three times, and on the third time she whispers another spell.
The letters on the cover transform. First the title changes to Jane Weier, then the author to Beatrix Bloxam. Then, it makes sense. If Bellatrix’s parents find the book, they’ll think it’s some novel they’ve never heard of by a well known witch author. They’d never know it was a muggle book. It’s still a massive risk, mainly to Bellatrix if her mother is to find this memory.
Hermione looks back at Bellatrix’s face, at the childlike innocence that still remained. The fact that she was able to perform such delicate Transfiguration at this age is impressive in itself. What’s more impressive is her kindness in the face of terrible risk. How could this be the same witch who would go on to kill her own niece? What happened to the child sitting in front of her, smiling softly down at a kindness she didn’t need to perform?
The image slips away and Hermione wakes up, her mind full of questions.
Hermione finds Andromeda in her classroom while the rest of the school eats breakfast in the Great Hall. After her first week at the school, Hermione noticed that she never attended any of the mealtimes with the rest of the faculty. This is the first time Hermione tried to find her though, and she’s relieved that it wasn’t difficult.
Andromeda freezes with a forkful of eggs halfway to her mouth when Hermione walks in the door. She lowers her fork slowly, looking the student over with concern.
“Is everything alright, Hermione?”
“Sorry to interrupt,” Hermione says walking across the room and sitting in the chair in front of her desk, “There’s been a new development.”
“With B-“ Andromeda stops abruptly, clearing her throat as she stumbles over her sister’s name, “With Bellatrix?”
Hermione nods. She can’t stop herself from looking at the professor but seeing the child in the garden. What a terrible childhood she must have had. And to think that she had never been able to fully escape it, to have lost the family she worked so hard for…
“What is it?” Andromeda asks, cutting off Hermione’s train of thought before she could get too upset.
Hermione takes a deep breath, then tells her about the dream. Andromeda’s face is frozen in shock, but she doesn’t interrupt Hermione once. When she reaches the end, an unfathomable sadness clouds Andromeda’s expression, and Hermione worries that she’ll make her cry.
She doesn’t. Andromeda composes herself quietly after the story ends, and then she’s reaching into her drawer and pulling out her leather notebook that charts Hermione’s progress. She writes in silence while Hermione stares, and when she’s done she looks back at the student with a neutral expression.
“So, you’re having dreams of her memories, then. Is this the first one?” Andromeda asks, her voice devoid of emotion.
“Well-no, it’s not. I wasn’t completely sure that they were real. As you can imagine, I’ve been thinking about her a lot, so I thought they may just be a strange way for my subconscious to be…I don’t know, seeking her out. Or trying to humanize her in some way. This is the first memory I’ve seen that I was able to verify with someone. With you.”
Andromeda taps her quill against the page, watching Hermione. Hermione shifts in her seat, uncomfortable with the woman’s cool appraisal. It’s the first time Andromeda has been anything less than warm with her, although she supposes the story couldn’t have been an easy one for her to hear.
“Well, yes, it certainly was a memory that you witnessed. One I haven’t thought about in years. We may need to increase your dose. How are things otherwise? Have you had any other interactions with her?”
Hermione shifts in her seat and tries not to think about her night in the bath. Dishonesty is what got her in this mess in the first place, though, so she supposes that she ought to be as honest as she can be, even if she feels a strange reluctance.
“She wrote on my bathroom mirror the other night. A week ago. Other than that, it’s only been the dreams.”
Andromeda hums, writing down the latest development. “What did she write?”
“That’s interesting. She did this while you were in the shower?”
Hermione blushes and looks at the wall behind the professor to avoid her eyes, “Um, I was in the bath, actually. I had just finished up.”
Hermione’s face burns even hotter at the hidden meaning in her words. She can only pray that Andromeda doesn’t notice. The professor sets down an object in front of her, and Hermione pulls her eyes away from their fixed spot to see what it is.
“I was going to give this to you after class today. I think it would be wise for you to record your progress once a day to ensure you aren’t forgetting anything,” Andromeda says.
Hermione looks down at the leather bound journal placed in front of her. It’s a dark red version of the one Andromeda has been recording her progress in. She runs her hand across the smooth leather before picking it up and putting it in her bag.
“Don’t worry,” Andromeda continues, finally giving Hermione the kind smile she’s used to, “We’ll still do our weekly sessions and you can share only what you feel comfortable sharing. The journal is for you alone.”
“That sounds good to me. I think you’re right, and it’ll be a useful tool.”
Andromeda claps her hands together, “Well, now that we have that business out of the way, I do have some good news for you. We have someone visiting from the Ministry, someone I think you’ll be happy to see. I know Teddy was.”
As if waiting for a cue, the door opens behind her. Hermione twists in her seat to see Harry Potter walk in, a squirming Teddy Tonks in his arms and a grin on his face. Hermione is out of her seat before the door shuts behind him, running across the room towards him.
He shifts Teddy onto his hip in time to catch Hermione in a tight, side-armed embrace. She pulls back to look at him properly, admiring his long, black cloak embroidered with gold. His hair is shorter and neater, and like Ron, scruff is beginning to grow along his jaw.
“How long has it been?” She murmurs, tears filling her eyes. How embarrassing , she thinks. She hadn’t been expecting the intense joy of seeing him, and she hasn’t felt so much happiness since the mess with Bellatrix had begun.
“A few months,” Harry says, his voice a familiar rumble, “Too long. You want to walk with me and fill me in on what I’ve missed?”
“Of course. Yes,” Hermione agrees.
Harry walks across the room to hand Andromeda her grandson, and on his way out holds the door for Hermione. She exits with a wave to Andromeda, and Harry offers his arm as they walk down the hall.
She takes it, and even after the short amount of time they’ve been apart she notices the extra muscle he’s developed. She looks up at him, proud and overwhelmed at how much he’s grown. He glances down at her, smiling, his eyes shining with a similar emotion.
“We have about thirty minutes to talk before your first class, but it needs to be in private. Should we go to your room, Head Girl?”
Hermione shakes her head. The more time she spends out of her room, the more she feels like a functioning member of society. “How about the Astronomy tower, your Aurorship?”
Harry snorts and steers them right, in the direction of the tower. They walk in companionable silence, and Hermione watches with amusement at the amount of younger students that stop and stare at Harry. They’re used to Hermione, but Harry is a different story. He’s a legend, a hero.
He’s tense, though, uncomfortable with the staring. Hermione is surprised that he isn’t used to it by now, especially since he’s been a novelty for his entire life.
“It’s never been this bad,” Harry says, as if he can tell what she’s thinking. They ascend the stairs of the tower in a light jog, “Before the war ended, at least everyone at school was used to me. I didn’t feel so-I mean, there weren’t so many stares and whispers. Now it’s constant, everywhere I go.”
“It’ll get better, again. You just have to put up with it for a bit. A few years, maybe. You know, being a hotshot Auror probably doesn’t help things.”
“Who called me a hotshot? Ron?”
They reach the top of the tower, walking towards the edge to look out at the school grounds. The wind whips Hermione’s hair behind her shoulders and she sighs, breathing it in.
“Yes, it was Ron. You know him, he’s…”
Harry smiles sadly, looking down on the students milling around on the grass before class. “Yeah, I know. Speaking of Ron, he knows something that I don’t about you. Which is fine, but, you know you can tell me anything, right?”
Hermione smiles, “I know. Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing here, first, and if it’s really good I’ll fill you in.”
Harry runs his hand through his hair, attempting to tidy it in the strong winds. He gives a short laugh and leans back against the railing. “Well, it’s nothing too interesting, I’m afraid. We received reports of a Death Eater sighting in Hogsmeade.”
Hermione straightens, the smile falling off her face, “What? Why on earth would a Death Eater go to Hogsmeade? That can’t be true. How reliable are your sources? And what are you doing here if-”
Harry cuts her off with a chuckle, “You haven't changed a bit. You’re spot on, really. I’ve already checked the area, but just as a precaution. We don’t actually think there’s any stock in the tips. They were all anonymously submitted, in quick succession.”
“Do you think it was a misdirect? Drawing your attention elsewhere?”
“Yeah, probably. What we don’t know is why. We haven’t even come close to finding any stragglers. All of our leads have been duds.”
“Well, maybe you’re closer than you think. What was the last lead you followed? I’d be willing to bet that you were closer than anybody realized.”
Harry looks at her, his eyes brightening, “I was starting to think the same. We were looking at two different places. One trail led us to Antarctica, and the other a spit of land off the coast of Norway.”
Something monumental occurs to Hermione. Her eyes widen as she tries to contain her revelation, knowing that she can’t just blurt it out without context. “Harry,” she says slowly, “I think it’s time I fill you in on everything that’s been happening.”
She meets his eyes, forcing herself not to look away as she tells him everything, starting with the Vanishing Cabinet. She watches his eyes change from bright, to horrified, to stunned, before filling with pain on her behalf. She leaves out the intimate details, of course, knowing that it was a cross she has to bear alone. He pulls her into a hug when she finishes talking, crushing a protective.
“Hermione, I’m so sorry. I should’ve been here. If I hadn’t gone rushing off to be an Auror, maybe this wouldn’t have…”
“Didn’t you hear? I never had a choice. The moment she scarred me, I was hers. I don’t think there’s anything you could’ve done.”
Harry pulls back, his jaw tight, and grabs her wrist. His hand is gentle as he rolls up her sleeve until the ugly scar is glaring up at him.
“You said it hurt sometimes, when she was around. It reminds me of…”
“Of yours,” Hermione finishes, surprised she hadn’t made the connection herself. She feels incredibly foolish all of the sudden. If anyone would have understood what she’s been going through, it’s Harry. Both of them are scarred by evil people, creating a connection against their will. Although Hermione doubts that Harry’s connection to Voldemort was the same sort of…intimate connection she’s discovered with Bellatrix.
Harry brushes his hand over his own scar absentmindedly. Hermione turns her wrist over in his hand to link their fingers together and he blinks at her, clearing whatever thoughts that clouded his gaze.
“Well, the reason I wanted- needed to tell you now is the dreams,” Hermione says, “The first one I had, the one about the Longbottoms? Well, I think it happened at a safehouse. The Ministry never did find out where the torture occurred, did they?”
Harry shakes his head slowly, his eyes growing large again as his hand tightens over her own.
“What if the safehouse I saw is on that spit of land you were looking at? I mean, it’s one hell of a long shot, but I think it’s worth looking into.”
“You think it could have been off the Norwegian coast? The climate and everything lines up?”
“Well, their torture occured in the early winter, so it would’ve been really cold, but probably no snow yet. I was barefoot in the dream, and it was a very cold night. It was a heavily wooded area, but I could taste saltwater in the air.”
“Could you hear anything? Any signs of life, planes, cars? Could you hear waves crashing?”
Hermione thinks back to it, recalling the terrifyingly vivid dream with ease, “No. I couldn’t hear anything. I remember thinking how silent it was.”
“One island we’re looking at is big, heavily wooded, and completely unpopulated. If we’re going to find that cabin, this is going to be the place.”
Hermione grins. To finally have something good come out of all this horror is more than a relief, it’s everything. She just wishes she could see the look on Bellatrix’s face as they use her memories against her. It’s the least she deserves after what she’s done to Hermione.
“Thing is…it would be helpful if you came along. I think we could get the department to agree to it, all things considered. I have some pull with them as well. We would just need to get McGonagall agree to let you go for the day-“
“Wait, you want to do this today? And you want me to come along? Harry, I’m just a student. I have no Auror training.”
“Come on, ‘Mione. You and I both know that we wouldn’t have been able to defeat Voldemort without you. You’re just as qualified as Ron and I, even without proper training. You may have seen this place, so you’ll know straight away if it isn’t right.”
Hermione considers it. She hasn’t had a proper adventure since returning to school, and she does miss it more than she thought she would. It is probably exactly what she needs to get her mind off of Bellatrix. Besides, doesn’t she deserve to be a part of the mission that wouldn’t exist without her knowledge?
“How will you explain it to the Ministry? They can’t know about her, Harry.”
“I know. I’ll just say you’re considering joining up after graduation and want some on the job experience. It’s not exactly a lie, seeing as you do want a Ministry job. Even if it isn’t with the Aurors, it’s plausible you’d entertain it.”
“I think I’d really love to come along, actually. To be with you and Ron the way we used to be…I would almost feel normal again.”
“You are normal. Even with that crazy bitch attached to you, you’re still you. Honestly, she chose the absolute worst person to bind herself to. You have the strongest soul of anyone I’ve ever met. You will always be you, I can promise you that.”
Hermione wishes she could believe him.
Harry visits Ginny before they leave, needing to see that she’s alright after her part in Hermione’s story. Hermione watches from afar, torturing herself with guilt as she watches their embrace in front of Ginny’s first class. She reassures him, and before heading inside the classroom she gives Hermione a halfhearted smile.
An hour later she, Harry, and Ron are standing in the woods of some unnamed island in the middle of the Norwegian Sea. The Aurors that had been searching the island before them left traces of magic visible only to Harry and Ron, marking the areas that had already been traversed.
The boys lead her to the unexplored section, deep in the woods. The sound of the ocean grows quieter and quieter until she can’t hear it at all anymore. The woods grow denser around them, and the deeper they go the more certain she is they’re in the right place.
“This is it,” Hermione tells them, “We’re close.”
Harry and Ron share a look, and then they draw their wands. Hermione follows suit, adrenaline rushing through her veins. The boys flank her on either side, and together they step forward slowly.
“Keep going straight. It blended in in the dream, and I imagine there are wards concealing it now.”
Ron and Harry nod, each step forward cautious. They move with a new level of confidence that’s admirable, and it fills her with bravery. The Death Eaters are shattered and weakened, and they won’t be expecting them. They’ll have expected their false tips to work, and their spontaneous mission is sure to come as a surprise.
One moment there’s nothing ahead of them but more trees, and the next they take a step and the cabin appears before them, exactly the way it was in the dream. It’s silent, and the windows are dark and motionless. It doesn’t appear occupied at first glance, but they approach with extreme caution nonetheless.
“This is going to be bloody huge,” Ron whispers, shooting his friends a grin, “Have I told you I love you lately, ‘Mione?”
“Don’t celebrate yet,” Harry cautions, his eyes remaining on the cabin door.
Harry motions for Ron to go around the back while he and Hermione approach from the front. After a moment passes for Ron to get in position, Harry rears back on one foot to kick down the door. There’s a clatter from the inside, and before Harry’s foot reaches the door, it swings open wide and a man comes barreling out at full speed.
He shoves Hermione over at the same time she casts Reducto, catching him in the shoulder. He howls in pain, stumbling as he clutches his wound. He continues to run, but in a moment Harry is on his feet and firing curse after curse at the man.
Ron rushes straight through the cabin and is at their side in an instant. Realizing he won’t be able to make a clean escape, the man turns around.
“Rockwood!” Harry shouts, “Lay down your wand and we’ll take you in peacef—”
“Protego!” Hermione shouts, seeing his arm twitch before Harry was done speaking.
She catches his curse in time, and at the same time Ron casts a Leg-Locking jinx, Harry casts Stupify. He twists in time to avoid Harry’s spell, but Ron catches him in one leg. With a roar, Rockwood casts a powerful Confringo, and the three of them dive in opposite directions to avoid it.
Hermione takes shelter in the now damaged cabin, keeping an eye on the Death Eater through the shattered front window. He’s ducked behind a tree, and Ron and Harry are each behind support beams in front of the cabin. The air is deathly still for several beats, before Ron loses his patience and casts a Confringo of his own at the base of the tree.
Rockwood takes off and Harry is hot on his heels. Hermione and Ron sprint after them, but she can barely keep sight of them through the trees. She aims as far ahead as she can manage, then points upwards.
She blasts a line through the treetops, shattering them and sending several branches toppling down into Rockwood and Harry’s paths. She and Ron catch up moments later to see Harry standing over the Death Eater, who he’s locked in a full body binding spell. Harry has scratches on his face and leaves in his hair, but he’s standing with a grim, victorious smile on his face.
He meets Hermione’s eyes, and she can tell they’re thinking the same thing.
They were right. Bellatrix is the key.
Hermione collapses on her bed at the end of the day, exhausted at the events that unfolded. She spent the rest of her day filling out paperwork at the Ministry and fending off compliments. She’d even received a heartfelt offer for a spot in the Auror’s training program alongside her friends from Kingsley himself. She said no, inwardly wincing at what a disaster it would be for her to join with her current hitchhiking Death Eater situation.
Still, it had been nice to do some good and be recognized for it. Rockwood had been packed and ready to flee, as they discovered after his capture. If they hadn’t followed Hermione’s theory straight away, they would have missed him. Harry and Ron were both more than happy to give her the credit, but she insisted they keep her involvement to a minimum. She didn’t need people asking questions on her “hunch” that led them there.
She rejected her friend’s offers to get celebratory drinks, exhausted after one day of adventure. She’s just happy to be in her own bed. She’ll have to fill McGonagall in tomorrow, and she has a feeling that conversation is going to take a lot of energy. Tonight she needs sleep. Lots of it.
She’s nearly asleep when she hears it. The shower in her bathroom turned on by itself. She sits straight up in bed, lighting up the candles in her room with a flick of her wand. Beneath the closed bathroom door, steam is already beginning to creep out.
Hermione groans. She ought to ignore it, to just shut down her damn curiosity for one bloody night and go to sleep.
She stands up with a sigh. She just doesn't work that way. Besides, she does owe her victory to Bellatrix, after all. She may as well see what she has to say about it.
The bathroom door creaks open, a blatant invitation. For a second she imagines how annoyed Bellatrix would be if she simply got back in bed and went to sleep like she knows she’s perfectly capable of doing, but then she’s trudging forward, bracing herself for whatever message awaits her.
She walks into the steamy bathroom and stands in the center of the room, watching the mirror and waiting. Then the words appear.
Stop the potions.
Hermione laughs. Maybe it’s the exhaustion, or maybe it’s the exhilaration of the day she’s had, but it’s the funniest joke she’s heard in months. The words steam over, disappearing, and then another message begins to take form.
The laughter dies in Hermione’s throat.
I’ll help you.
I can never tell you all enough how much your comments mean to me, even if I don’t always reply. This story is a really important one to me, so to have you take the time to leave a comment truly means so much. So thank you all and I hope you’re enjoying!
Heavy scene ahead, tw for abuse in the first half.
Hermione doesn’t respond.
She shuts off the shower and quietly leaves the room. She doesn’t know what Bellatrix expects her to say. The answer cannot be yes, so it has to be no. She cannot let go of control again, she can’t remove the only variable that is guaranteeing her free will.
It doesn’t matter that some part of her wants to stop taking the potions. It doesn’t matter that there are Death Eaters out there, hiding in plain sight that she could help capture. It isn’t her job to do so. It’s not her responsibility.
It’s her life. Not anyone else’s, and certainly not Bellatrix’s. She will not hand it back over just because she asked.
Hermione crawls back into bed, extinguishing the candles with a flick of her wrist before setting her wand down. Her body relaxes into the covers and she sighs, long and deep, the exhaustion returning to her.
The room is quiet, the stone walls thick enough to block out any remaining noise outside of it. She stares at the ceiling and waits to fall asleep, hoping to avoid any more trouble from Bellatrix.
The minutes tick by, and instead of relaxing into sleep, Hermione finds the hair raising along her arms. She shivers, pulling the covers tighter around her body. She shuts her eyes, ignoring the obvious fact that Bellatrix is nearby.
Before long, her entire body thrums with an electricity that she’s only ever felt around the ghost of the dark witch. She grabs her wand once more, sitting up just enough to point it at her fireplace and set it alight. She settles back down, refusing to give the ghost another inch by acknowledging her presence.
She knows it must be torture for Bellatrix to be ignored. The ghost had told her as much, that the weeks after she died were the worst she’s ever experienced. Hermione could laugh at the thought. The woman had grown up with abusive parents, lost her family, and followed a madman to the ends of the earth only to lose his war, but being ignored is the worst thing to ever happen to her.
Well, she better get used to it, because Hermione has no intention of releasing her from the hell she created for herself. She made her bed, and Hermione is just forcing her to lie in it. She will keep taking the potions, clinging to this solution until she can find a permanent one, no matter what it costs her.
The fire does little to warm her skin, but even the cold can’t hold off Hermione’s exhaustion for long. Eventually she begins to succumb to it, but not before she starts to wonder about Bellatrix. She must be incredibly close to be causing Hermione’s body to react the way it is. She could be curled around her, running her hands over her skin, and Hermione would be none the wiser.
She falls asleep with that image in her head, and when she dreams, she dreams of Bellatrix.
She’s inside a dark, damp room, and someone is crying.
Hermione looks around frantically as she tries to determine her surroundings in the darkness. Her eyes adjust, and in the dim light she sees a young Bellatrix curled up on the floor.
There’s a dripping sound coming from somewhere, and as Hermione looks around for the source she sees Andromeda standing just behind her, her wand trembling in her hand.
The girls are older than they were the last time Hermione saw them, but still young enough to be at Hogwarts. It isn’t where they are now, though. Cygnus Black stands beside the young Andromeda, a hand clutching tightly at her slender shoulder. He’s a tall, physically imposing man. His black curls are slicked back, and he has a thick, short beard and grey eyes. Hermione recognizes him despite not having seen him before. It wouldn’t have been hard to guess, but something inside of Hermione recognizes him; the part of her soul that is a part of Bellatrix.
Hermione looks around again. If she can recognize Bellatrix’s father, then she should know where they are now. After a moment, it comes to her. The cellar of Black Manor. On the far wall sit hundreds of bottles of wine, undoubtedly many years old and priceless. Behind her, there’s a steep staircase leading to a large wooden door. The same part of Hermione that knows Cygnus knows that there are charms on the door that seal it shut for anyone but him.
Hermione looks back at the man, her eyes cold. As her hatred for Bellatrix wavers, it grows for Cygnus.
“You have to do this, Andromeda. This is a lesson for the both of you. You’re doing this so you can both learn.”
Andromeda is trembling, her eyes glued to the floor.
“Father, please,” Andromeda begs, tears streaming down her cheeks, “I’ll never talk to him again, just please don’t make me hurt her.”
Cygnus’s lips spread into a cold smile, “This is her fault as much as it is yours, dear. She should have told us the moment she found out about you and your little pet mudblood, but instead we had to hear it from the Lestranges. Now you both need a reminder of where your loyalties lie.”
Don’t beg. Just do as he says. A small voice drifts into Hermione’s mind, and she stares at the young Bellatrix with wide eyes. If she begs, Father will only make it worse for us.
Hermione covers her mouth in horror. She’s just heard a thought from Bellatrix for the first time, and to have it delivered in the form of the young girl’s terrified voice is painful. Hermione’s heart bleeds for her as she wishes desperately that she could change her path.
“I-I don’t know how to do it,” Andromeda says, her eyes still fixed on the floor.
Hermione sinks to the floor beside Bellatrix as nausea overtakes her. She knows where this is going, and she’s helpless to stop it. The witches she knows have already gone through this, and their wounds have closed, even if their scars will never fade.
“I’ll teach you,” Cygnus says.
He produces his own wand, long, thin, and made of birch. It’s a sliver of light in the darkness, an irony that isn’t lost on Hermione.
“It’s easy. You're pure-blooded, dear, and you need to be reminded of that. There are no intricacies. You just have to mean it.”
“But I don’t. I-I don’t hate her, father. I don’t want to hurt her. How can the spell work?”
Cygnus leans down in front of her, tilting her chin up with a finger to force her to look at him. “You don’t have any ill feelings towards her at all? You should. She is the heir to the Black fortune. She will have her pick of marriage candidates. She excels in all that she does, and before today I was more proud of her than I ever have been of you. She is everything that you aren’t, and now you’ve sullied yourself by allowing dirty hands to touch you. If the roles were reversed she wouldn’t hesitate.”
Andromeda doesn’t move. She stops trembling, going completely still as she waits for him to finish speaking. When he does, she remains motionless, paralyzed with fear. Cygnus lets out an irritated scoff and stands.
He points his wand at the cowering Bellatrix, and his lips move to form the word. Andromeda suddenly snaps into motion, and she puts a hand on his wrist to stop him.
“Wait! I can do it!”
It won’t hurt as much coming from her. Bellatrix is thinking. Tears well in her eyes but she blinks them away before they can fall. He will make it hurt as much as possible.
Andromeda points her wand at her sister. Her lower lip trembles as she tries to contain her emotion. Her father stares at her, his gaze hard, impatient. Bellatrix knows that if Andromeda waits any longer, he’ll do it himself.
“Crucio,” Andromeda whispers.
Bellatrix winces, but nothing happens. Andromeda’s eyes widen with panic, her eyelashes wet with unshed tears.
“You have to mean it, Andromeda. Again!”
“Crucio!” Andromeda shouts. This time, her wand sparks red but it still doesn’t reach Bellatrix.
Hermione chokes out a sob as she watches. Cygnus’ mouth twitches into a sneer and he grabs Andromeda by the back of her head, forcing her to look at him.
“Maybe you need a younger target, hmmm? Is that it? Do I need to drag Cissy down here and have you practice on her before you’re ready to do it to Bellatrix?”
No! Bellatrix’s thoughts are full of anguish, but she’s too terrified to let it show in fear of angering him further. She bites her lip as hard as she can, trying to chase her tears away with pain.
“Just do it, Andy,” Bellatrix says, “You have to do it.”
“You hear that, Andromeda?” Cygnus claps her on the shoulder and gives her a shake, “You have her permission.”
“I can take it,” Bellatrix says, looking only at her sister, “Andy, look at me.”
Andromeda looks at her and Hermione sees every ounce of the excruciating pain she’s feeling.
“I can take it.”
Andromeda sets her jaw, and as she stares at Bellatrix her eyes go glossy, as though she’s picturing someone else. Hermione is sure that she’s picturing her father.
Bellatrix doesn’t scream as soon as the curse hits her. Her body goes rigid and she falls to the hard floor, her head smacking against the stone. She seizes, the veins standing out in her neck as she jerks uncontrollably. Hermione is helpless to do anything but watch.
The curse ends as quickly as it began, and Bellatrix’s body relaxes abruptly. She pants on the floor, shaking and blinking as she tries to regain her senses. Hermione curls up into a ball, aching to touch her, to hold her close and shield her from the horrors of her own memories.
“Again,” Cygnus says.
No, no, no. Bellatrix thinks, her thoughts a disjointed mess of terror and pain.
“Again, or I will do it for you.”
“Just do it, Andy! Do it!” Bellatrix yells.
Andromeda does it with a strangled cry.
When the scream finally wrenches out of Bellatrix, it shatters Hermione’s heart. Bellatrix screams, and screams, and screams until her voice is raw. She screams until Hermione can’t take it anymore, and she covers her ears.
She is going to be haunted by her scream for the rest of her life. Covering her ears does nothing. She can’t watch anymore, she can’t be in this memory a second longer.
Hermione stumbles to her feet and up the stairs. She doesn’t care if the door is sealed, this is her mind, and she needs to leave. She wrenches the door open and stumbles through the doorway, Bellatrix’s screams cutting off suddenly as the door slams behind her.
Hermione stops in her tracks as a fog crawls through her mind. She looks around, knowing that she’s dreaming but not understanding when or how she got to where she is now.
The memory of what Hermione has just seen slips away all at once. She’s in the Hogwarts library after dark, in her school uniform, and she’s alone. She steps forward, compelled by some strange force to wind through the rows of shelves. She needs a book, that much she’s sure of. She needs it, and if she doesn’t find it…well, she’s not sure what would happen, only that it would be dreadful.
Once Hermione has looked through each shelf for the book that would satisfy her need, only to come up empty, she turns to the restricted section. She steps over the rope without thought or hesitation.
The quiet of the library has always provided comfort and peace, but the silence of it at this moment is stifling. The dim lighting provided by the flickering candlesticks provide little comfort. Something cold and terrible is nipping at her heels, insisting that she move faster, that she finds what it is she’s looking for.
As soon as she steps deeper into the restricted section, she feels a tug in her belly, urging her forward. The book she needs is close, she can feel it. She walks down the aisle, her footfall the only sound in the library until she approaches a window on the back wall. Then she hears the rainfall.
She pauses at the window in time to see lightning flash, distorted in the stained glass. A storm is raging outside, an angry one.
Hermione continues on her way, the gut feeling guiding her towards the last aisle. Thunder rumbles as her eyes climb up the shelf, and then she sees it.
Black leather with silver writing, the book of Blood Binding greets her proudly in its spot on the top shelf. Hermione has to stand on her toes to reach it, and the moment her fingers brush against the spine, a voice in her ear startles her off balance.
“ What do you think you’re doing, stupid girl? ”
Hermione stumbles away, falling into another shelf. She spins around to see Bellatrix, solid but pale and full of fury, rushing towards her. She shoves her back against the bookcase, a hand at her throat as she looms over her.
Hermione struggles against her, clawing at her wrist. Bellatrix’s breath comes in hot pants against Hermione’s face, and no matter how much she struggles, she’s trapped.
“People are going to die if you don’t let me back in,” Bellatrix tells her, her nails biting into the skin at Hermione’s throat.
Pinpricks erupt all over her body at the touch. The same painful pleasure is there in her dream as it was in real life, and even as she pushes at Bellatrix’s shoulders, something inside of her aches for her to press closer. Some small part of her is relieved to see her, but Hermione brushes it away. She knows she’s just seen something horrible, but she can’t quite recall it. She doesn’t want to. She shoves it back down along with any positive feelings she has about seeing Bellatrix again.
“You’re lying,” Hermione spits back at her, finding her gaze drawn to raging black eyes, “You don’t know that. It isn’t my job to find these criminals, it’s the Ministry’s.”
Bellatrix smiles cruelly and draws in a long breath, breathing Hermione in. “Like it wasn’t your job to kill the Dark Lord? What would have happened if you sat on your ass and did nothing then?”
People would have died. He would have won.
Hermione doesn’t say it aloud, but Bellatrix’s smile grows nonetheless.
“You know that I’m right. You know you want this.” Bellatrix’s tone softens into that low, velvet tone that has Hermione’s knees weakening.
She stops struggling, and Bellatrix’s grip on her throat softens as a reward. Hermione’s hands fall to her sides, and Bellatrix presses closer, her lips brushing against Hermione’s cheek, her jaw, her throat. Hermione’s blood is rushing, running painfully hot beneath her touch. She longs to touch her back, draw her closer, but she can’t give in, not even in her dreams.
“I know how much you missed this,” Bellatrix purrs, the hand at her throat moving to loosen her tie, “I know exactly how much you ache for my touch. You poor thing. I am the only one who can make you feel this way.”
Hermione presses her thighs together, desperate to relieve the building pressure. Bellatrix pulls her tie loose and it falls at their feet, and then one by one she begins to undo the buttons on her shirt. Still, she hardly touches her, leaning away to watch Hermione’s face.
“You’re so flushed, pet. So tongue tied, so nervous. What happened to your bravery in the bathtub?”
Oh, god. Hermione’s ears go red, and she can only pray that this isn’t real. Surely she’s made this up in her mind, or the real Bellatrix is manipulating her dreams, making her see and do only what she wants.
“Would that make you feel better? If I told you I’m forcing you, that you have no say in the matter? Very well, then, let's pretend.” Bellatrix smiles, as beautifully charming as she is terrifying. “Strip.”
Hermione feels her walls clench around nothing at the word, and she’s trembling with the adrenaline coursing through her veins. The throbbing between her legs implores her to listen, to do whatever the witch commands. Her expression darkens as if a cloud passed over it when Hermione doesn’t respond immediately.
Bellatrix only continues to watch her, her silence the only thing that could’ve scared Hermione more than her words. Bellatrix takes a single step backwards, and Hermione knows she could run, or force herself to wake up, but instead she stands still and lets the ghost devour her with her eyes.
She shivers beneath the appraisal, rooted to her spot, unable to decide what to do. Part of her wants it, to have Bellatrix absolve her of her guilt and take away the choice, to step forward and tear her shirt the rest of the way off. She lets herself imagine it for a second, watching as Bellatrix’s eyes darken as she does. Even as Hermione fantasizes about it, imagining Bellatrix yanking Hermione’s trousers down and shoving her underwear aside to push inside of her, she doesn’t move. Bellatrix only watches, waiting, her jaw tight and her breathing deep. Lightning flashes across her face, and when Hermione sees her eyes clearly she understands.
“You’re waiting,” Hermione finally says, “For my permission. You know what I want, but you won’t let yourself take it unless you know you have my consent.”
“You’re right,” Bellatrix says, and Hermione can hear the desire dripping from her words, “I know exactly what you want. I watched you fuck yourself to thoughts of my touch, my hands on your body, my fingers moving inside of you. I watched you flushed and wanting, your eyes searching for mine as you approached oblivion. It wasn’t good enough, was it? I could show you true oblivion.”
Bellatrix steps forward again as she speaks, and Hermione’s head falls back to look at her. She feels incredibly vulnerable, as though she’s baring her throat to her superior, surrendering to her as she allows her into her space. Bellatrix grabs a handful of her hair and shoves her harder into the bookcase, her body flush against her. Hermione’s breathing deepens as she tries desperately to get enough air in her lungs, feeling utterly robbed of her breath in Bellatrix’s presence.
“I’ve been watching you closely this last week, while you couldn’t see me. I watch your eyes search for mine in every room. I listen to your thoughts turn to me over and over, when silence lapses in a conversation. I see your darkest fantasies, I follow you in your dreams. I haunt your every breath, and I know the way you long for me.”
“What do you want?” Hermione asks, as Bellatrix’s other hand comes up to cup her cheek. She’s trapped against her, nowhere to go, nowhere to look but at her.
“Then why don’t you take me?” Hermione’s eyes drop to her lips, full and red.
Bellatrix leans in until her eyes swallow her whole, “I want you to beg for it. I want you desperate, I want you stripped of your morality. I want you to need me more than you need the air in your lungs.”
Hermione’s eyes swim with tears. The picture Bellatrix painted scares her as much as it warms her to her core because it’s possible. She’s not far from it, that much is clear as she finds her own hands running over Bellatrix’s body, her nails running up her back to keep her flush against her.
“Everything I do I do for you, because I need you,” Bellatrix sighs, the words hot on her mouth, “And I know you need me. So just let me back in, let me in, Hermione—”
The moment her name leaves Bellatrix’s mouth, something inside of Hermione snaps. Her head falls back against the books behind her and she goes pliant in the witch’s hands. Bellatrix feels her submission and she doesn’t waste a second of it, swooping forward to attach her lips to Hermione’s neck.
“Bellatrix, ” Hermione gasps, her gut twisting with heat at the wrongness of this moment. Her name on her lips feels like an admission, like surrender, and Bellatrix’s teeth in her neck feels like heaven.
“Say it again.”
“Bellatrix!” Hermione cries, and Bellatrix sucks bruise after bruise into her throat.
Tears slip down Hermione’s cheeks even as she wraps her arms around Bellatrix’s neck, her whines broken and desperate. She claws at every inch of her that she can reach, knowing only one thing; need, need, need.
Bellatrix cups her over her trousers and Hermione gasps, her hips jerking forward at the touch. The blood rushing through her veins has her lightheaded and beyond reason as she grinds hopelessly against the hand between her legs. Bellatrix’s head is burrowed in her neck, her teeth and her lips and her tongue driving Hermione to insanity. Hermione understands what Bellatrix wants intrinsically, as much as she understands her own desires. Bellatrix wants her marked, she wants the entire world to know she belongs to her. She never wants anyone else to touch her like this. She knows she is the first, and she needs to be the last.
“Yes,” Bellatrix sighs, turning Hermione’s head so she can sink her teeth into the skin on the other side of her throat, “You belong to me.”
Bellatrix’s hand slips inside her trousers, now, touching her over her soaked panties. Hermione cries out, her hands twisting roughly in Bellatrix’s wild hair, her hips rutting against her hand with pathetic desperation.
“Say it,” Bellatrix growls against her, her mouth moving lower until she’s sucking at the skin at the curve of Hermione’s breast.
Something seizes up inside of Hermione. To say those words out loud, to admit what she’s become-
Bellatrix’s other hand comes up to shove her bra down, her fingers tweaking a hardened nipple. Hermione yelps, and Bellatrix looks up at her as she sucks her opposite nipple into her mouth. Her dark eyes are magnetic, and Hermione can’t look away. She’s beautiful like this, so beautiful it hurts.
Bellatrix’s voice reverberates inside of Hermione’s mind, and the invasion is so thorough that Hermione shudders violently. Bellatrix is inside her in every way but one, and Hermione needs it, she needs-
Tell me that I own you. Say it, Hermione.
Hermione’s jaw tightens, even as her hands remain in Bellatrix’s hair, forcing her to continue touching her the way she is. Bellatrix’s tongue laps at her nipple, once, twice, and then she pulls away, saliva glistening on her full bottom lip.
“So stubborn,” Bellatrix says, rising again to her full height and looking down her nose at the trembling student, “I can’t wait to break you.”
“You won’t,” Hermione says, her chest heaving with every breath, “You can’t break me.”
Bellatrix smiles, her eyes filling with malice as her hand slips past that final barrier, coating her fingers with the wetness between Hermione’s legs. She’s sopping wet, her juices covering the ghost’s long fingers with ease as they slide against her, and it feels better than anything she’s felt in her entire life. Hermione grabs her wrist to keep her there, terrified she’ll pull away and leave her on the edge. Her walls are fluttering already with the beginning of an orgasm and she’s hardly touched her, hasn’t even gone inside of her yet.
Bellatrix’s smirk screams superiority as she looks down at her.
“I will. I am going to break you completely, and then I’m going to fuck you raw, pet, until you’re begging me to stop.”
Bellatrix spits the word pet with so much animosity, delivering it as a reminder of Hermione’s place. It’s enough for hatred to rear its head, the ugly feeling intertwining with Hermione’s lust, amplifying it until she obeys Bellatrix’s first command. She lets the hate rise up inside her, lets Bellatrix see it in the way she looks at her as she strips out of her shirt. Next, her bra, her nipples brushing against the fabric of Bellatrix’s dress as she arches to pull it away.
The ghost’s eyes gleam victoriously and she tilts forward, resting her forehead against Hermione’s as she slides two firm fingers over her clit. The tips of her fingers press against her entrance, teasing, torturing.
“Now tell me who you belong to.”
Hermione whispers the words against Bellatrix’s mouth, using every last morsel of willpower that still exists inside of her.
The last thing she sees is Bellatrix’s disbelieving rage, jerking away from her as if she’s been slapped. Then the dream falls away and Hermione jerks awake, sitting up straight in bed.
The room is ice cold, but Hermione’s skin is searing with heat. The fire rages in the stone fireplace, bathing the room in warm light despite the frigid temperature. Hermione is shaking still, her thighs slick with her desire, her own hand between her legs as though she’s been touching herself in her sleep, mirroring Bellatrix’s actions. The memory of the first dream comes rushing back to her, turning her stomach.
She looks around the empty room, panting, bruises blossoming on the skin of her throat.
Hermione writes furiously in the journal given to her by Andromeda the following morning. She records the dream, the abuse the Black sisters endured at the behest of their cruel father. She includes her own dream next, every last detail down to the storm, but then—
She knows what comes next. Bellatrix. Bellatrix, and the way she touched her, the things she said to her. When Hermione first woke, she hoped her dream had been just that-a dream. Only she was aching and wet and wanting, so she went to the bathroom to see, and sure enough, there it was.
Bruises marring the column of her throat, glaring evidence that something evil, something otherworldly laid claim to her flesh. It made her shiver when she touched them, it made her ache all over again. She’s certain that the very evil that touched her watched her from the shadows, admiring her handiwork.
Hermione healed them without hesitation, hoping that the sight of them vanishing with ease would sting for Bellatrix to watch.
It was too much proof for Hermione. It’s proof that she wishes never existed. She can’t bring herself to add more of it by including it in her written account. The moment they shared could go ahead and vanish alongside her bruises, it didn’t need immortalizing.
She slams her journal shut, the ink fully dried after the minutes she spent deliberating. She’ll go to class and forget about last night, forget about Bellatrix and her desperate attempt at getting her to stop taking the potions.
She’s out her door in a few minutes, walking down the staircase to her first class, her thoughts in a furious haze as she tries to shake off the events of the night.
Surely Bellatrix had only pulled what she did as a way to manipulate her. She doesn’t actually want her, someone like her couldn’t let herself want a mudblood, after all. It’s humiliating enough that Hermione wants her the way she does, but to think that it’s all just a manipulation on the ghost’s part only makes it worse.
She’ll just have to hold onto that one simple fact and let it motivate her to hold onto her dignity the next time she sees her. Surely there will be a next time, even if it isn’t in real life.
Hermione huffs with annoyance as she thinks about the ghost’s persistence. The potions were supposed to be the end of it. Bellatrix wasn’t supposed to have any way of communicating with her, but still she manages to find a way. Hermione needs to let her go.
She opens the door to the Transfiguration classroom, and she’s the first one there. Andromeda doesn’t seem to notice her come in, too absorbed in whatever she’s reading.
Hermione does her best not to disturb her. She sets her bag down quietly and slips into her seat, staring out the window and continuing to torture herself over what happened.
She couldn't believe she was so weak. Something comes over her in the dark witch’s presence that turns her into something unrecognizable. She despises that side of herself, and wishes she could go back to the person she was before it existed. Did it exist before Bellatrix? Did Bellatrix create that darkness in her, or was it there all along and Bellatrix only woke it up?
“Oh! Hello, Hermione. I didn’t hear you come in.”
Hermione smiles at Andromeda, even if it feels forced. Andromeda’s smile looks every bit as forced, though, and the dark circles beneath her eyes indicate that she’s been sleeping about as well as Hermione has been.
“You seemed busy, so I decided against announcing myself.”
“Oh! Well, don’t hesitate to do so next time, although I appreciate your politeness.”
A silence stretches between them as Andromeda looks like she’s going to say more. Hermione waits, her brow furrowing as she imagines what it could be. A flurry of emotions flicker across the professor’s face, and Hermione feels an odd surge of guilt. She knows Andromeda better than the woman ever consented to, all as a result of knowing Bellatrix better.
Before she can say any more ,the door opens and a pair of students join them. Andromeda’s face falls, only for a moment, before she’s smiling in greeting at the rest of her students.
The class passes in a blur, as they always seem to these days. Hermione has been doing her best not to think about how these classes may just be a waste of time if the connection she has with Bellatrix really is going to end her life. Sometimes she wonders if she should be at school at all, or if she should be enjoying the last of her time in control of her body by seeing the world, or at home with her parents and their newly restored memories. She always snuffs the thoughts out quickly, refusing to accept that her death could really be looming.
Once the class is over, Hermione stays behind. A thought occurred to her during class, one that seems so obvious now that she berates herself for not thinking of it sooner.
“Is there something I can help you with?” Andromeda asks, erasing the chalkboard of the day's lesson.
Hermione leans against her desk, folding her arms and watching the professor’s movements. “I had a thought, actually. You know how I’ve been having these dreams?”
Andromeda’s hand pauses, before she resumes what she’s doing, responding, “Yes. Have you had more?”
“Nothing that can’t wait until our next session. I was just wondering if you would be able to get something for me. Something that I think could help. I would go to Slughorn myself, but I figured he would have less questions if you were to ask him.”
“What is it, Hermione?”
“A Dreamless Sleep potion.”
Andromeda sets the eraser down and turns around, her brow furrowed. “Oh. I hadn’t considered that.”
“Me either. Honestly, it’s like I’ve been operating with half the brain power I normally have. I thought that the dreams could be useful, and they were once, but for the most part they’re just…”
Hermione nods. Andromeda sighs, stepping forward until she’s in Hermione’s space, her brown eyes running over her features. Hermione shifts under the scrutinization, but Andromeda relaxes and takes a seat at her desk.
“My only concern is that we don’t know if or how it may interact with the potion you’re already taking. You’re the only person to take this potion, so we have no way of knowing if the ingredients in the Dreamless Sleep draught could have an adverse effect. So, I suppose my only question for you is if it’s worth the risk?”
Hermione thinks about how close she was to surrendering to Bellatrix completely last night.
“Yes. It’s worth it.”
“Very well, then. I’ll have a vial delivered to your chambers this evening.”
Hermione could hug her, but instead she settles for a polite “thank you, professor,” before leaving the room. The moment she steps outside, she nearly runs straight into Headmistress McGonagall. Her eyes widen when she sees Hermione, but before she can apologize and move out of her way, the Headmistress grabs both of her arms, holding her in place.
“Hermione. You have visitors from the Ministry again.”
Hermione’s eyes widen. “The Ministry? Do you mean—”
“You‘ll see. If you’d just accompany me to my office—you’re excused from classes today.”
“Again?” Hermione asks, as McGonagall pulls her along.
“It must be urgent.”
McGonagall doesn’t respond.
They walk the rest of the way in silence, the Headmistress guiding her at a hurried pace that is just slow enough so they don’t stand out to the other students on their way to class. Whatever it is, it must be urgent, and it must be something that the Headmistress wants to keep quiet.
Hermione’s suspicions are confirmed when they enter her office to find Harry and Ron sitting in wait for them. She expects them to spring up and greet her, but they remain seated. Ron is pale, his eyes fixed in his lap, and Harry meets her eyes, his expression grim.
McGonagall leaves Hermione by the door, walking to the counter behind her desk to fix them each a cup of tea. Hermione is frozen, looking between her friends as if their expressions will clue her in to what’s going on. The room remains stiflingly silent aside from the quiet clinking of McGonagall’s silverware.
“Well, what is it? What’s happened?”
Ron’s eyes flit to Harry, and Harry stands, walking over to Hermione to guide her further into the room. She goes begrudgingly, wishing they would release her from her suspense and just tell her. Harry walks her over to the chair he previously occupied.
“Sit down,” Harry tells her.
Hermione does, staring at Harry the entire time. Once she’s seated, he sighs, and leans back against McGonagall’s desk with his arms folded.
“I can see that.”
Harry produces a rolled up newspaper from his back pocket, handing it to her. She snatches it and unrolls it, first seeing that it’s from the Daily Prophet, and next reading a headline that makes her blood run cold.
“This was just released this morning. You would have heard about it soon, but we wanted to be here to…to answer questions, and…well, we have to ask you something that isn’t going to be easy.”
Hermione is silent, reading the headline again and again, Bellatrix’s voice ringing in her ears.
People are going to die if you don’t let me back in.
“Malicious Muggle Murder-Ministry Mismanaged?” Hermione reads the headline aloud, her eyes scanning over the article, her blood rising. “An entire family was killed?”
“Not just killed,” Ron says, “They were torn apart. They were in shreds. A mother and father, and their little girl-”
Ron’s voice hitches and he stops abruptly. His hands are shaking in his lap.
“You saw them?” Hermione asks.
“We tried to get more safe house locations out of Rockwood, but it led nowhere,” Harry says, “The one we found him at was the only one he knew of. We tried everything, and he didn’t even put up a fight. Legilimency, Veritaserum…we didn’t find anything new. Then the muggle authorities discovered the family…”
“Who?” Hermione asks, her voice cold, “Who did it?”
“It had to be Fenrir. No one else is capable of what we saw. They had…there were sheep that he was…he was living off of. We think he did it because they’re out of places to hide that we haven’t already found. They lived in a little house on a lot of land, out in the countryside. It took weeks for them to be discovered, and by then he’d already left.”
“He’s going to do it again,” Hermione realizes, looking up at Harry as tears spring to her eyes, “If he really has nowhere else to go.”
“We know,” Ron says, “That’s why we have to ask you. Hermione, if we had any other option, any other lead, we wouldn’t…but—”
“We’re under a lot of pressure from Kingsley, and now with this, the entire Wizarding World will be looking at us, at our department. We’re failing.”
“What is it that you want to ask me?” Hermione asks, although she’s already sure of what it is. And she already knows her answer.
“We were hoping that…and, you know that you can say no, but…” Ron stops, struggling to get the words out.
“You’re our only lead, Hermione. Bellatrix is our only lead.”
People are going to die if you don’t let me back in.
Hermione agrees, of course, although it doesn’t feel like much of a choice anymore.
They formulate a plan. She won’t stop completely, but she’ll cut back on the potions. Half a dose every other day, to start with. The idea is that Bellatrix will be able to interact with her again but she won’t be able to drain her dry. If it goes the way that they’re hoping, that is.
So, Hermione doesn’t take her dose that evening. She showers without glancing at the mirror to see if Bellatrix has anything to say, and she dresses for bed. The Potion for Dreamless Sleep had been delivered as requested, waiting for her at her doorstep when she returned to her room after dinner.
That potion she still intends on taking. If she’s going to have to deal with Bellatrix in person tomorrow, then she deserves a night of peaceful sleep. One last night of rest before Bellatrix is able to terrorize her again.
She downs it in one gulp and settles into bed with a book. She keeps her mind occupied, refusing to think about the family or her friends or Bellatrix. There’s only her and the words in front of her, until the drowsiness kicks in and she falls asleep with her book on her chest.
The world around her is completely black. There is nothing to see, there are no sounds, no sensations, nothing but utter darkness.
Is this what dreamless sleep is meant to look like? Hermione had rather hoped that she would sleep and wake, not having remembered sleeping at all. Instead she walks, in nothing but her nightgown, through the darkness of her own mind.
She hopes it's her own mind.
She worried that she would see Bellatrix’s life as she always has, seeing as they’re not actually dreams, but the witch’s memories. She’ll take the darkness over what she’s been experiencing. She’s seen enough of the witch’s nightmarish life that even her endless curiosity no longer remains.
She walks until she grows bored of it. It’s obvious that there’s nothing to see, nothing to discover, so she lays down. It feels like lying on a cloud, and above her lies only more endless darkness. The place is as dark and as fathomless as Bellatrix’s eyes. Hermione almost prefers them to this nothingness.
A cackle erupts around her, and Hermione shoots into a sitting position, looking around for the source. Her eyes drink in the blackness, desperately searching and turning up empty.
“I know it’s you,” Hermione says, glaring, “There’s no use in hiding. Why don’t you come out and gloat? I’m sure you’ve heard the news.”
“You always want to spoil my fun,” The disembodied voice of Bellatrix replies, the pout audible, “You lock me away and ignore me, you take our dreams away. You’re such a killjoy. I’m shocked you have any friends at all.”
Hermione falls back against the comfortable darkness with a heavy sigh. She can’t be bothered at Bellatrix’s feeble attempts at needling her. She is too downtrodden to care.
“What are you so sad about?” Bellatrix asks, her voice closer.
“What do you care?” Hermione says, shutting her eyes as though it will do anything to block her out.
Bellatrix doesn’t respond. Hermione opens one eye, then the other, looking around to see if she’s alone. She finds Bellatrix lying next to her, staring in silence.
“What?” Hermione asks.
“I’ve been awfully nice to you lately, and you still despise me.” Bellatrix finally says, narrowing her eyes.
Hermione stares at her in disbelief. “Are you serious? How have you been nice to me?”
“I’ve allowed you to see my memories. I could have just tucked you away in here and left you to eight hours of excruciating boredom, but I let you see.”
Hermione takes in the new information, raising her eyebrows. She hadn’t expected that Bellatrix was showing her anything willingly. She wonders why, but instead of asking, she says, “I would hardly call that a kindness.”
Something flashes across Bellatrix’s face, almost like the words have hurt her, but then her expression flattens.
“I said your name.”
“That’s true,” Hermione acquiesces, “You did. Although I would call that basic human courtesy before I would label it a kindness.”
“It’s kind for me.” Bellatrix snaps.
The ghost rolled onto her back, pointedly ignoring her. Hermione could laugh at the witch’s particularly childish mood, but instead she lets herself enjoy the silence for as long as it’ll last. She watches Bellatrix’s face, glowing even in the darkness surrounding them, and then she realizes something.
Bellatrix tenses before Hermione shares with her, and Hermione knows that she must’ve heard her thought.
“You haven’t been calling me a mudblood. Not in…weeks, actually. Why is that?”
Bellatrix doesn’t respond. She stares resolutely above them, doing her best to pretend she hasn’t heard a word. Hermione can’t stop herself from smiling, knowing that the witch is only appearing because she wants to. She wants Hermione to see herself being ignored.
“The last couple of weeks must not have been easy for you,” Hermione says. Bellatrix’s nose twitches, but she otherwise gives no indication that she’s listening, “You told me once how much you hated it. Surely you’re happy to know that it won’t be continuing.”
Bellatrix’s jaw twitches this time, and really, Hermione doesn’t know why she’s bothering. It’s not as though she owes the ghost an explanation or an apology. She should just let her sit there in silence. She should cherish it, even.
Instead, she reaches out. She has never been able to hear Bellatrix’s thoughts outside of her memories, but she has been able to feel her emotions before. She focuses on that now, on that ever-present desire to be close to her over any sense of self-preservation.
She can’t quite seem to accomplish it, so she reaches out instinctually. She touches Bellatrix’s hand, startlingly cold as always. What’s more startling is that Bellatrix turns her hand over, letting Hermione hold it.
A pinprick of adrenaline rushes through her at the simple touch. Bellatrix has touched her before, but it’s always been about power, about control. Hermione has never been the one to reach out, and to do it now in this gentle way and have it be received is entirely unexpected.
Bellartix’s feelings wash over her, and Hermione tries to pick through them, overwhelmed at their intensity. She feels angry, desperate, scared, and…sad. Rejected. Hermione sees her own face in Bellatrix’s eyes, and hears herself whisper “ no one”.
“You’re angry that I rejected you,” Hermione says, “You’re angry that I’ve left you all alone for so long, that letting me see your memories hasn’t made a difference. It’s all been a manipulation though, hasn’t it? You don’t…you haven’t done any of this without an ulterior motive. You don’t actually want me-”
Bellatrix reacts, finally, her hand tightening over Hermione’s until it’s trapped and twisting so that she’s pinned beneath her. Hermione shudders, the coldness of Bellatrix’s skin seeping into her body as she looms over her.
“You think that I don’t actually want you? I thought you were supposed to be bright. Don’t you feel this?”
Bellatrix grabs her other hand and traps it above Hermione’s head. She leans forward until they’re pressed flush against one another, Bellatrix’s face nestled into her neck, close enough that Hermione can feel her trembling.
She struggles to hold onto her rational thought even as it does its best to slip away from her. She feels the intensity of what Bellatrix is feeling; the warmth of her body, the addictive rush of need that consumes her, blending with Hermione’s own need. Bellatrix matches every bit of insanity that Hermione feels when they touch, every bit of irrational need that drives her to be closer, closer, closer.
“Why?” Hermione whispers, “Why does it feel like this between us?”
“I have my theories,” Bellatrix whispers, her lips brushing against the shell of Hermione’s ear.
Bellatrix hums, a pleasant thrum against Hermione’s throat, “I’ll show you.”
Bellatrix vanishes and the floor drops out from beneath Hermione. She falls into the abyss, and lands on a hardwood floor. A scream pierces her ears. A familiar scream.
Her own scream.
She knows where she is.
Her stomach plummets, even as she forces herself to rise to her feet.
“You thought you could block me out?” Bellatrix’s voice echoes around the room, but Hermione can’t see her, “all you’ve done is give me full control. This is no longer your domain. Tonight you’re at my mercy.”
Hermione takes in the scene before her as Bellatrix’s voice rings in her ears. It had all been a lie, then. The darkness was all another manipulation, was only Bellatrix letting her think she’s safe.
Figures appear in the empty room, falling exactly as she remembers them. She sees herself, sprawled in the center of the room with Bellatrix, still alive, on top of her.
“What else did you and your friends take from my vault?”
“ I didn’t take anything, please! ”
Hermione’s scar burns with searing pain, causing her to cry out and drop to her knees. She knows what’s happening, what’s about to happen. Why is Bellatrix showing her this?
This is the girl. This is the one. So sincere, so honest that I almost believe her. Listen to the way she begs and cries. She’s perfect. My poor, sweet thing.
The thoughts hiss in Hermione’s ears, a stark contrast to the thoughts of the young, innocent Bellatrix whose thoughts she first heard. No, this is someone entirely different. This is a monster.
“I don’t believe it,” Past-Bellatrix responds, almost flippantly. Hermione knows now that it wouldn’t have mattered what she said in that moment. Bellatrix had already decided what she was going to do. She chose Hermione in one split second.
Past-Hermione screams when the knife touches her skin, and it burns nearly as badly now as it did then. These were no ordinary cuts given to her by Bellatrix. The curse burns in her skin like a brand.
Bellatrix is trembling on top of her as she works on her arm. Hermione hadn’t noticed it then, too lost in the excruciating pain of the curse sinking into her skin.
Such a good girl. She submits to me even in the face of unbearable pain. She’s a natural. She was meant for me. I will make it small, I’ll carve it fast.
Bellatrix runs her hand over Hermione’s head before trapping it in place once again, ensuring she couldn’t watch her work. Her lips move in a silent incantation, and the girl beneath her screams and screams.
If the Dark Lord kills me for allowing the sword to be stolen, so be it. At least I’ll be reunited with her soon.
“You wanted me, even then,” Hermione says, watching her most traumatic moment unfold in a new light, “You didn’t cherish my pain.”
The moment the words leave her mouth, a new flood of thoughts reach her from the witch from the past.
It will be over soon, darling. A few more cuts and the pain will end.
The thoughts are revenant, so soft that they reach Hermione’s ears in what feels like a caress. The way she thought darling sends a shiver down her spine.
Bellatrix finishes with her and rises to her feet, ordering Pettigrew to fetch her Griphook. Lucius and Narcissa enter the room now that the screaming has stopped, and when Narcissa sees her body, she covers her mouth in horror.
“Bella, what did you do to her?”
Hermione watches herself drifting in and out of consciousness. She remembers vividly the relief so powerful that it bordered on euphoria, even as she struggled to stay conscious. She doesn’t remember the next few minutes. She only remembers the fight breaking out, and Bellatrix using her as a shield.
Narcissa kneels beside her to examine her arm, but the moment she touches her, Bellatrix shrieks.
“Don’t touch her! No one touches the mudblood. She’s mine.”
The scene fades to darkness like a black curtain falling closed at the end of a show, and Hermione is submerged in darkness once again. She wipes the tears off her cheeks as the pain in her scar begins to subside.
“Why did you choose me, Bellatrix?” Hermione yells, her voice raw from crying.
“You heard me, didn’t you?” Bellatrix asks, appearing behind her.
Hermione turns around to face her, and Bellatrix is close, too close. She’s close enough to grab her to touch her again, to make Hermione feel the wonderful way she does every time they do. So, Hermione backs away, needing space, needing to think clearly.
“You…you felt this way about me before the bond?”
“Felt what way?” Bellatrix asks, the picture of innocence.
“Possessive. You…you liked me, in your own twisted way. It isn’t just because of the spell.”
Bellatrix shakes her head, stepping closer, and closer. Before Hermione can step away again, she reaches out and snatches her by the front of her nightgown, tugging her in close.
“You like me, too,” Bellatrix says with a grin.
“I-It’s because of the bond for me. I was terrified of you. I didn’t have any positive feelings for you. These feelings only exist now because I have no choice.”
“You’re wrong,” Bellatrix says, closer and closer until they’re breathing the same air, “Maybe you didn’t feel it then, but you feel it now. And it’s all you, every bit of it. The spell can’t make you have feelings for me.”
“It’s just the spell. You’ll never convince me otherwise.”
“Oh, I think I can.”
The darkness melts again, and this time Hermione is jolted into consciousness. Her eyes fly open, and she’s in her bed, bathed in firelight, and Bellatrix is on top of her. Her covers are shoved aside, and the short hem of her nightgown allows her to feel Bellatrix’s skin directly on her own. A violent tremor wracks her body.
Bellatrix’s hair is loose and wild, surrounding Hermione, her scent overpowering. She smells warm, like amber and wood and smoke, and it tugs at something low in Hermione’s stomach. Her eyes are bright, drinking in the shocked expression on Hermione’s face.
“What are you doing?” Hermione asks, a fragile whisper.
“Proving you wrong.”
Bellatrix’s voice is gentle, uncharacteristically so. Her eyes drop to Hermione’s mouth and they darken, and Hermione knows exactly what’s about to happen. She could stop it. She could turn away, she could shove her off. She doesn’t.
And Bellatrix kisses her.
Her mouth is cool, and wet, and so, so soft. She kisses her gently, carefully, and Hermione’s head spins with the tenderness of it. She kisses her once, twice, and before leaning in for a third she stops a breath away.
So, Hermione kisses her.
Bellatrix’s mouth warms against her own, and her lips part like the gates of heaven. Hermione fills with overpowering need, a fluttering erupting in her stomach as their mouths move together in perfect harmony. Bellatrix anticipates her every move, kissing her exactly the way she wants. She has never been more in sync with another person in her entire life.
Bellatrix’s full lip slips between Hermione’s teeth like it belongs there, so she bites down. The kiss changes, Bellatrix winding a hand through her hair and tightening. Bellatrix’s tongue slips into her mouth, sliding against her own, and the invasion is so different than any kiss she’s ever had, cool and gentle and demanding. It’s otherworldly.
Hermione doesn’t know how long she has until they pass through one another again. The errant thought fills her with urgency, and she sits up, pressing into Bellatrix hard until they’re toppling over, falling to the side with Hermione on top.
Bellatrix’s hair fans out around her, framing the flawless features of her face. Her lips are parted and her eyes are impossibly dark, fixed on Hermione’s mouth. She wants her to kiss her again, but she waits, her chest heaving, her eyes hungry.
Hermione kisses her again, and when Bellatrix moans into her mouth, heat floods Hermione’s body. Bellatrix arches into her heat like a cat, moaning again, her hands sliding against the bare skin of Hermione’s shoulders. Her cool hands are a stark contrast on her feverish skin, and she wants more. She wants her hands everywhere. She wants her hands on her all of the time.
“What have we done to each other?” Hermione whispers, stealing Bellatrix’s response with another kiss. She can’t be away for long. She’s addicted. She needs to kiss her more than she’s ever needed anything in her entire life.
Bellatrix’s mouth curves into a smile beneath her own in a silent gloat. She knows exactly what Hermione is thinking, what she’s feeling, and she knows that she’s right. She knows that Hermione won’t be able to deny it after this. Heat builds between them, prickling and wonderful, a glow unlike anything Hermione has ever felt before.
Bellatrix’s hands push through her hair, her nails scratching against her scalp. The sensation spreads from her head down to her toes, her entire body tingling pleasantly. She’s like a drug, each and every touch felt everywhere, so overpowering that she can’t stop. Hermione pauses only when she needs to regain her breath, her chest aching at how beautiful the ghost is.
“You’re mine, precious thing,” Bellatrix murmurs, “In this life and the next.”
When Bellatrix passes through her this time, the unbearable cold is not any less painful than it was the first time. Hermione rolls to the opposite end of the bed, wrapping her arms around herself and groaning into her pillow. Bellatrix sobs, sounding every bit like the broken child in her memories.
It takes each of them an excruciating thirty minutes to recover. Hermione manages to drag herself, wrapped in a blanket, to the fireplace, letting it chase away the deathly cold. She comes back to her senses now that there’s distance between them, and any fondness she harbors for the ghost becomes inconsequential in the face of the monster Hermione knows her to be. She can’t keep forgetting. Bellatrix is still Bellatrix.
When she’s finally able to speak again, the ghost is sitting up on her bed, watching her with an unreadable expression.
“I’m not yours,” Hermione says, her face slipping into a glare, “What we just did…it won’t happen again. I won’t allow it.”
“You’re a fucking liar,” Bellatrix spits, scowling at her, “When are you going to admit it?”
Hermione stands up, letting the blanket fall off of her shoulders. If she could curse Bellatrix into oblivion, she would. Now that her ability to touch her is gone, anger rises up inside of her, overshadowing any tenderness that she allowed to exist.
Bellatrix swallows hard, her heated gaze dropping to Hermione’s bare shoulders, her breasts, all the way down to her legs and slowly back up to her eyes.
“When are you going to admit that it’s crazy for you to want me? According to you, I’m beneath you. I go against everything you believe in.”
“You think I want this?” Bellatrix shoots to her feet, her hair lifting just barely around her shoulders, her power crackling in between them, “You think that I’m allowing myself to want you? It goes against everything inside of me, it rages against every shred of will that I have. I don’t want to want a-a—”
“What? A mudblood? What’s the matter, Bellatrix? You’ve never had a problem saying it before. You didn’t have a problem cutting it into my arm. So why now, what’s stopping you?”
“You! You’re what’s stopping me!” Bellatrix screams, and her eyes are orange, reflecting nothing but fire at her, “I saw my rotting corpse decomposing with people I despised. I burned, and no one could stay with me except you, the mudblood.”
Bellatrix spits the word with vitriol, like she despises the fact that it exists. Hermione watches her with wide eyes, stunned into silence.
“All I could think was what does it all matter? Blood purity and status, where did it get me? It got me a hole in the ground. It’s all so fucking stupid. It was all a waste. And now all I have is—”
“Me,” Hermione whispers, and she finally understands.
Bellatrix’s hair falls loose around her face, and her eyes cool to ash.
Thank you to WhenVioletsAreDone for brainstorming with me, it was a huge help. And thank you to everyone who commented, each one is a major motivator.
Bellatrix is quiet the following days.
She follows Hermione from class to class, finding some spot to settle down in her line of sight while the student goes about her day. She’s different than she ever has been before, in life or death.
She’s still. She’s quiet.
She often spends Hermione’s lectures staring out the window, but sometimes, Hermione will catch her looking at her. She always looks to be deep in thought, her black eyes as infuriatingly unreadable as ever. She watches Hermione with a furrow in her brow, and when Hermione does catch her, she never looks away.
Each time it happens, this prolonged, silent eye contact, something stirs in Hermione’s chest. Something deep inside of her reaches for her, and she can’t help but wonder if it’s the bond or if it’s as Bellatrix says.
It’s all you, every bit of it, Bellatrix had said.
Hermione watches her and wonders.
One evening, Hermione brings her coursework down to Black Lake for a change of scenery. And although she’ll never admit it, she thinks that the fresh air might do Bellatrix some good.
“Like I’m some sort of mutt you’re taking on a walk,” Bellatrix mutters.
Right. Hermione forgot that Bellatrix can hear her every thought for a moment.
“Some privacy would be nice, you know. My thoughts are…well, they’re private,” Hermione says, a blush climbing from her neck all the way to her ears. She’s been having quite a few private thoughts about the ghost, and although Bellatrix has been keeping to herself, Hermione knows that she hears them.
“You could learn Occlumency,” Bellatrix comments, dipping the toes of her boots in the lapping water. She glances at Hermione over her shoulder, the setting sun coating her black hair with fire, “It’s what I did.”
“I know Occlumency,” Hermione says, her fingers tightening around her notebook as she writes. She pauses, her quill bleeding ink onto her parchment.
“Knowing Occlumency and practicing it are two very different things. It’s like a muscle. If you don’t work it every day, if you don’t push yourself, then merely knowing how to exercise is useless when you need your strength.”
She sounds like me, Hermione thinks sullenly.
“Annoying, isn’t it?”
Hermione wishes she could shove her into the lake. She’d look hilarious, wet hair and skirts weighing her down like a drenched, feral cat. It would serve her right.
“Would Andromeda teach me?”
Bellatrix shrugs, kicking at the water as it passes through her undisturbed, “She might, but she’s not that good at it anymore. She didn’t keep up with it after she left our family. She never needed to again.”
“How do you know that?” Hermione asks, bottling her ink as she resigns to the conversation meaning the end of her coursework.
“Narcissa was always the natural,” Bellatrix continues, as though Hermione hasn’t spoken at all, “It’s a shame she can’t teach you.”
“We could always ask her,” Hermione says, struggling to keep a straight face when Bellatrix looks at her like she’s suggested they resurrect Voldemort, “Show up at her door, tell her that I’m harboring the vengeful spirit of her dead sister and ask her to train me in the complicated skill that she’s a master at.”
Bellatrix catches onto her joke, sneering and rolling her eyes. Hermione lets a smile bloom across her face, and Bellatrix’s eyes linger on her before she turns away.
“You think you’re so funny.”
Hermione lays back in the grass. The soil is hard beneath her back, a reminder that winter is on its way. She’s comfortable under the protection of her warming charm, grateful that it allows her to enjoy the lake in private serenity. During the warmer months it’s crowded, the foot traffic making it difficult for her to focus and get any work done. When it’s quiet and empty like this, with only the lapping water, the chirping birds, and the wind in the leaves to keep her company, she feels like she could stay here forever.
She watches the heavy grey clouds pass above them, covering the setting sun and plunging them into a grey darkness. Bellatrix is so quiet that it’d be easy to forget she’s there, to blame the electricity in the air on the storm on the horizon. Only Hermione never lets herself forget.
She turns over onto her stomach and slips the red notebook out of her bag. She empties the contents of her mind onto the pages, everything she’s thinking and feeling, and the different way that Bellatrix has been acting around her. Lately she’s only dreamt about simple, easy memories; watching the sisters chase each other through the gardens of Black Manor, or Bellatrix taming Andy’s hair into a braid while Narcissa begged to be next. She didn’t find herself trapped in that oppressive darkness again, and she resolved not to try her luck with the Sleeping Drought ever again.
Boots appear silently in Hermione’s line of vision, and Hermione ignores her as she finishes penning her last sentence. Once she’s done, she glances up to see Bellatrix frowning down at her, hands on her hips.
“Yes?” Hermione asks.
Wind gushes in from the surface of the lake, but Bellatrix’s hair remains heavy and unmoving around her face.
“You haven't asked for my help. Isn’t that why I’m back?” Bellatrix glares, “I’ve been waiting for days. What am I here for if you’re not going to even try?”
Hermione’s eyes narrow in confusion. She shuffles so that she’s back in a sitting position, leaning back against the beech tree that looms over them.
“Well, Harry and Ron are busy trying to track Fenrir from where he was seen last. Do you actually have useful information to offer?”
“Oh course I do,” Bellatrix hisses, tossing her hands up into the air.
“And you’re just going to share it with me out of the kindness of your heart?”
“Well, what does it matter? If I’m getting something out of it, that’s not really any of your business so long as you’re getting what you want, too.”
“That isn’t true. Anything you do is my business so long as you’re bound to me. It isn’t fair for you to know my every thought and emotion while I don’t know any of yours.”
Bellatrix rolls her eyes, “As I said, learn Occlumency if you want to even the playing field.”
“I will,” Hermione quips, glaring at her even as the wind whips her hair into her eyes. Bloody Bellatrix and her stupid, flawless hair, unaffected by the natural elements-
“We could always trade places. Let me deal with your unruly hair and you’ll never have to again.”
Anger runs hot in Hermione’s skin, “Fuck you.”
Bellatrix cracks a smile, “Well, I’ve offered to let you do as much, but you refused.”
Unbidden, thoughts of her suggestion rush through Hermione’s mind. What it would feel like for Hermione to be the one inside of her…if she would be just as ice cold there, what it would feel like for her to have the heat of Hermione inside of her—
Bellatrix’s eyes darken, her brows drawing together, her hands curling into fists as she’s swept up in Hermione’s mind. She turns away from her so Hermione can’t see the changing expressions on her face.
“I wish that you’d just fucking give into your blasted desires or learn Occlumency and stop torturing me with them already.”
“That’s why you want me to learn to conceal my thoughts from you? You don’t want to hear me think about…about—” Hermione can’t manage to finish her sentence, heat rising in her cheeks as she chokes on her words.
“You can’t even admit it out loud, yet you can’t seem to control your thoughts on the matter. I’m beginning to think that you were right before, when you told me I’d created a personal hell,” Bellatrix paces to the edge of the water and back, and the clouds seem to grow heavier and darker as her mood blackens.
“What more can I give you? I’ve admitted that your blood no longer matters to me, I’ve called you by your name. Each night you see pieces of my life, and each day you touch parts of my soul. You know me nearly as well as my sisters, maybe even better, and still you turn me away. Still you recoil in disgust from what it is you want, yet you torment me with thoughts of it day in and day out. You imagine touching me, you imagine my hands on you, inside you, every which way you long for me to possess you. I feel your heart pound, I feel the rush of your blood, I feel the tightening in your stomach. You fuck yourself and you need me but you don’t even give me the satisfaction of saying my name. You erase any mark I leave on you. You keep me at bay the best you can and dangle yourself before me. You’re cruel.”
Hermione can only gape at her as Bellatrix works herself into a frenzy. Her hair picks up in the wind the longer she talks, her skirts billowing around her ankles. Hermione watches as the air changes around her, infusing with energy from her anger coming off of her in waves. Her stomach is in knots as The ghost tells her how she feels, how she’s in pain because of Hermione’s own thoughts and feelings. Yet Hermione knows that she’ll never be able to reconcile them, that she’ll never accept them, never submit to them.
Bellatrix is in front of her in a flash, hands braced on the tree on either side of Hermione’s head. Her hair floats around her and her eyes burn, black fire that threatens to burn through her defences.
“What is the use in fighting this when your soul already belongs to me? I will make your passage into the other life an easy one, a pleasurable one. Do you really intend on fighting this until you draw your last breath?”
The fury Hermione feels is white hot and painful. She wishes she could slap her, hurt her, make her regret everything she’s done to her. It wasn’t enough for Bellatrix to take her life, but to taint her soul before robbing her of it is a cruelty that no one deserves.
“You want more from me than what you’ve already taken? How am I supposed to give you anything when I don’t trust you? Showing me your memories isn’t enough when you have unrestricted access to my thoughts. I don’t know your motivations, I don’t know if you’re using my feelings to manipulate me, I don’t know what it is that you actually feel for me.”
“You want to know? I’ll show you, but you aren’t going to like how it has to happen.”
“Show me how?”
Bellatrix removes one hand from the tree and holds it in front of her, palm up.
“You have to let me in. Let me in, and I’ll let you hear everything, feel everything, see everything it is that I want from you.”
Hermione laughs, the sound colder than the wind off the lake, “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to agree to that.”
“This is a one time offer, Hermione. I’m not going to give you the chance again. You’ve been taking half doses of the potion, haven’t you? You just took one this morning, which means I can’t even touch you, let alone occupy your body without your explicit consent. The moment you want me out, I won’t have a choice.”
Hermione’s eyes flicker between Bellatrix’s as she considers the insanity of her offer. It doesn’t seem like a lie, but then again nothing with Bellatrix ever does. She can feel their tether trembling at their proximity, like a physical appendage stemming from the center of her chest that’s connected to the ghost, reacting to her with extreme sensitivity. It vibrates with anticipation at the mere idea of Bellatrix stepping into her again, at that ultimate feeling of closeness. It’s what the tether wants, the union of their souls for all eternity, that much is undeniable.
Hermione doesn’t feel the way she did the last time Bellatrix took control. The last time she felt weak, like she was barely clinging to her own body, as if a strong wind could’ve pushed her out. It couldn’t have been difficult for Bellatrix to take control. Now she feels entirely in control and at her full strength. She’s almost certain she can push Bellatrix out whenever she wishes, and she already knows her wand won’t obey the dark witch’s wishes.
“You’ll get out the second I want you to?”
Bellatrix stares into her eyes, unflinching. “I won’t have a choice.”
Hermione moves her hand so that it’s hovering over Bellatrix’s, “If you’re lying to me, I will go back to taking full doses of the potion. I will take it for as long as I possibly can, and I will not give you an inch. Do you understand?”
“I wouldn’t risk that. You know that.”
Hermione does. Slowly, she lowers her hand with the intention of touching her, with the intention of lowering her defences and letting her in.
It happens in an instant. One minute, she’s just her, and the next she’s full to the brim as a second soul merges with her own. It’s different this time, now that it’s a willing union, and Hermione shivers violently with the pleasure of it.
“See? Isn’t that better?” Bellatrix says, the words uttered from Hermione’s lips with a smirk.
Euphoria pulses through her body, and Bellatrix lulls her head back against the tree as she shudders from it. Her fingers twitch and Hermione can feel their desires merging, wanting to slip beneath the waistband of her trousers and relieve the pressure there. Bellatrix curls Hermione’s hand into a fist, her nails biting into her palm as she resists the urge.
“Don’t worry, little peach. I’m not going to do anything you don’t ask me to do.”
Alongside the pleasure, fear runs like ice through her veins at the sensation of speaking against her will, at the loss of control. She bristles, struggling with the instinct to shove Bellatrix right back out.
“Don’t,” Bellatrix grits out, her jaw tense as she struggles against the pressure Hermione is applying on her, “You have to relax and let me show you or you’ll suffocate us both.”
Hermione tries to quell her panic, as Bellatrix stands up on wobbly legs and walks to the water. She kicks off Hermione’s shoes and steps in, gasping at the freezing temperature lapping at her ankles.
The sensation grounds Hermione and the panic ebbs away. She feels Bellatrix take full control, and she shuts her eyes and her mind opens up, reaching out and letting Hermione inside.
Can you hear me?
Hermione feels a jolt at the sound of Bellatrix’s voice in her mind. It’s different than when she hears it out loud. It fills her up like an orchestra in a cathedral, flooding into every corner of her mind and body.
Information floods Hermione’s mind as their connection flows both ways for the first time. Flashes of memories light up behind her closed eyelids, images of Bellatrix drawing a knife across her palm again and again, perfecting the blood ritual. Flurries of thoughts assault Hermione’s mind, some angry, some frantic, some terrified. Bellatrix was scared of death, scared that they were going to lose the war. She was afraid of who she might see in that final battle, of who she would be forced to turn her wand on. She was afraid of seeing Andromeda again.
Hermione sees herself in Bellatrix’s mind, dirt and blood smearing her face, black singes marring her jean jacket as she fights in the courtyard. She feels Bellatrix’s mind rejoice at the sight, feels her heart soar as she reacts to her beauty. She longs for Hermione’s eyes to turn and find her own, longs to see the fear bloom inside of them.
The world shifts as though gravity is pulling Bellatrix towards her. She takes a step in her direction, everything blurring around her. While she was alive she felt towards Hermione the way Hermione feels towards Bellatrix after her death. It’s as though the tether already existed from Bellatrix’s side. Had she felt anything at the time? She can’t recall much aside from the adrenaline and fear coursing through her body. She knows that she and Bellatrix are going to fight, only it’s not meant to happen yet, not here. They fight later, inside of the Great Hall.
Someone steps into Bellatrix’s path. Nymphadora Tonks eclipses Bellatrix’s line of sight, her wand at the ready, fury burning bright in her eyes.
No. Not this, Bellatrix thinks, yanking the both of them straight out of the memory.
Hermione tries to steer them back, but finds herself unable to control Bellatrix’s mind. She wants to see how it happened, she wants the reminder of the monster that Bellatrix truly is, because lately it’s been getting increasingly difficult to remember.
It isn’t for you to see. Not yet.
Instead, she finds herself in another memory as Bellatrix rejoices in the feeling of the wind on her face, and the water so cold that it makes her toes numb.
In her mind, Bellatrix walks towards a cottage through a field of tall grass, waves crashing behind her. The cottage is nestled on some foreign countryside, a dense thicket of trees behind it as it faces a shore. It’s made of stone, moss and vines growing untamed so that it nearly blends in with the dark green surroundings. Bellatrix opens the round top wooden door with a wave of her wand and strides inside, her hair falling loosely around her in the absence of the wind.
With another flick of her wand, the fireplace and all of the candles come to life. The room is unexpectedly cozy, with a large, green velvet couch in the center of the room and built-in bookshelves adorning either side of the large stone fireplace.
Bellatrix sinks into the worn couch cushions and sets a book on the coffee table before her. Hermione recognizes it as the book on Blood Bonds that she’s now in possession of. Next Bellatrix produces a notebook of her own, and in the warm light of the small cottage, begins to plan.
Where are you? Hermione wonders.
A safe place, comes Bellatrix’s gentle reply, A place for us once all of this is over.
The word ought to be comforting, but instead it sends a prickle of dread through her that has the hair rising on her arms. Bellatrix opens her eyes to look out over the lake as Hermione continues to observe the memory.
Bellatrix’s plan comes into focus before her, and the more that’s revealed the more Hermione’s stomach turns. It’s a kind of fear she hasn’t felt in weeks, and it’s worse. It’s all encompassing. It’s awful, but worst of all, it’s possible.
Bellatrix writes it all out, and alongside the scribbled words on a white page Hermione can hear her thinking it through. Bellatrix plans to take full control of Hermione’s body, but she doesn’t plan to rid herself of Hermione’s soul. Not completely, anyway. She wants to keep her around so that she’s forced to watch as Bellatrix inhabits her body permanently. She plans to let Hermione back in control of her body if she’s ever threatened by the Ministry. She’s going to use her like a fucking bargaining chip to stay out of Azkaban.
She knows that Kingsley would never condemn the golden girl to that horrid place. If he ever so much as considered it, then Bellatrix would hide behind Hermione as she cries and begs for help. No one with a heart would make Hermione suffer more than she’s already going to be suffering at Bellatrix’s hand.
Bellatrix writes out bullet points, fucking bullet points, of alternatives to imprisonment. Ideas to sell the Ministry on her rehabilitation. She’ll promise to release Hermione’s soul in exchange for her freedom, and if she’s denied then she’ll hold onto her forever.
Now I think that I’ll hold onto you forever regardless of what the Ministry decides, Bellatrix thinks in the present, I quite like you, now. Wasn’t expecting it, but I do. Wouldn’t it be nice? Just you and I, nothing standing in the way of an eternity together.
Hermione shoves Bellatrix out as hard as she can. The moment she’s back in her own body she’s collapsing onto her hands and knees and vomiting on the shore. Bellatrix watches her from a few feet away, her forehead creased in bewilderment at Hermione’s reaction.
“What’s the matter with you?” Bellatrix asks, “Didn’t you hear me? I’m not going to run loose wreaking havoc in your skin. I just want some fucking peace for once in my life—”
“It isn’t your life, Bellatrix!” Hermione shouts. She drags herself out of the water, curling up on dry land as hot tears stream down her face, “It’s mine. You lost your chance at peace in your life because you swore loyalty to a mass murderer. You don’t get to rob me of my life just so you can get a second chance.”
“It wouldn’t be that bad,” Bellatrix says, and she actually has the audacity to look offended, “We would have each other. I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about you. You make me feel alive, you make me feel warm. I know that you feel the same. I’m not going to torture you, Granger.”
“It is torture,” Hermione sobs, her throat burning as she gives up trying to choke back her tears, “It would be torture to have my body stolen from me. You can’t do that to me, Bellatrix. Please.”
Bellatrix blinks rapidly, moisture building in her eyes. She stares at Hermione with a mixture of horror and bewilderment.
“You’re my soulmate,” Bellatrix whispers, the words carried over to Hermione on the wind, “We are meant to be with one another forever. There is no other way for us.”
Hermione laughs, a crazed sound, as sobs continue to tear their way out of her chest. “You’re fucking crazy. You’re crazy.”
“I’m not,” Bellatrix says, and all at once Hermione’s warming charm vanishes, plunging her into cold. While Bellatrix had inhabited her body, night had fallen, and the chill in the air pervades flesh and blood to settle in her bones. “I won’t listen to this nonsense. I will make you see the truth.”
“I will never see it from your perspective. You’re not right, Bellatrix. You’re mind…you’re sick. You can’t see reason.”
“You’re the one who can’t see reason,” Bellatrix vanishes, and her voice fills the air around Hermione, coming at her from all sides. Hermione covers her ears, but Bellatrix’s voice invades her mind, “I will make you see it. You’ll beg for me to come back, and I won’t until you admit the truth.”
Hermione rocks back and forth, hyperventilating as she tries to block the ghost out. Her shoulders tremble in the bone deep cold, her breath coming out in visible white puffs with each exhale.
“I will leave you with one final gift, only because you trusted me enough to let me in. It’s our nature. Our souls want to trust one another, and you’ll see that sooner or later.”
Hermione's ears begin to ache with how tightly she clasps her hands over them. She never should've stopped with the potion. She never should’ve let her back in. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“The Dark Lord would not have allowed an untamed beast like Greyback to do his bidding free of regulation. He planted something in him, a rune he designed himself on the back of his neck. He would not honor him with the Dark Mark, no, but saw this as a fitting replacement. Find out which rune it was, and you’ll find Greyback.”
The moment Bellatrix stops speaking, the wind stops. Hermione lowers her shaking hands and looks around, but the ghost is nowhere to be seen. There’s a dull ache in the center of her chest, the only thing Hermione can feel as the rest of her body goes numb from the cold.
The ache comes from the tether embedded in her chest, reaching out and finding nothing.
“Bellatrix?” Hermione asks.
The night is silent around her. The air is empty. It isn’t like last time, when she could still sense her presence nearby, when she could still feel her eyes on her.
Bellatrix is gone.
Hermione is alone.
Thank you all for reading and being as invested in this as I am. This story means so much to me, and I hope I can do it justice.
Bellatrix is nothing if not stubborn.
It’s her first year at Hogwarts, and she’s snuck away from Slughorn to explore the castle on her own terms. One moving staircase later she’s lost. Winding stone hallways and arched ceilings have never felt taller than they do this day as she wanders the halls, determined to get her bearings.
She’s convinced herself that if she just keeps going down, she’ll find her way to the dungeons eventually. If she can just find the Slytherin common room, then everything will be alright. She’ll be proven right.
She wanders the castle for hours until the sun sets. With curfew fast approaching, she ought to find a professor and ask for help. She refuses, unable to bear the embarrassment of having to admit her mistake. She knows that she’s on her own for the first time in her life, without her parents to guide her or her sisters to look out for.
It’s in some empty hallway, far from the dungeons, and long past sunset that she sees her first ghost.
The woman is tall and willowy, seeming to glide down the hallway without touching the ground. Her long, dark hair flows behind her even in the absence of wind.
Bellatrix stops to stare at her from the other end of the hall. The translucent woman is barely visible in the dim light from the nearby sconces, and for a moment Bellatrix thinks that her eyes are playing tricks on her.
“Lumos,” Bellatrix casts.
The ghost turns to look at her, her dark eyes seeming to look straight through her. Bellatrix refuses to show any fear.
“Who are you?” Bellatrix asks, proud of the way her voice remains steady.
The ghost doesn’t respond, a distasteful sneer appearing on her haughty face before she turns to walk away.
Bellatrix sets her jaw, not keen on being ignored. “I asked you a question.”
When the ghost continues to walk away, Bellatrix casts a hex at her feet. The stone floor sparks with her effort, but the ghost remains, of course, untouched. Despite this, she pauses again and turns back to the stubborn witch.
“You are a very disrespectful child,” the ghost comments as she appraises Bellatrix from beneath a sharp, noble brow.
“I need you to tell me how to get to the dungeons,” Bellatrix says. If she has to admit her mistake to someone, she’ll begrudgingly settle for a ghost.
“How unfortunate,” the ghost says, turning to walk away once again.
Bellatrix follows her with a huff. She catches up just as they turn a corner, scurrying into the ghosts path to stop her escape. The ghost merely walks through her, plunging Belltrix into an unpleasant chill. She shudders and turns to watch as the woman continues to glide away from her, further from the light and deeper into the darkness.
“Wait!” Bellatrix cries, taking aim with her wand once again, “Don’t ignore me.”
The ghost seems to vanish into the dark hallway, leaving Bellatrix staring forlornly after her. A second later, she comes rushing back out of the darkness at an inhuman speed, her features blurring as she flies down the hallway straight at Bellatrix.
“Why are you here?” She screeches, sending Bellatrix’s hair flying back behind her shoulders.
Bellatrix refuses to flinch. She will not show fear. Her brows scrunch together as the woman’s hair floats around her in suspended gravity. She looms over her, glaring down at her with cold eyes, reminding her of her mother.
“Why am I…here?” Bellatrix repeats the question slowly.
The question rolls around in her head, lingering in the space between them as she ponders it. The answer seems to evade her, slipping through her grasp like smoke each time she reaches for it.
“Why are you here, Bellatrix?”
The question sends a chill down the first year’s spine. The woman’s gaze shifts from cold to calculating, as though she knows something that Bellatrix doesn’t. Why does she know her name?
“Who are you?” Bellatrix asks. This isn’t right. This isn’t how it happened.
“You know who I am. We met 35 years ago.”
Bellatrix steps away slowly. The candlelight flickers, and expressions pass over the ghost's face too quickly for her to read as the light shifts. The sun rises outside in a matter of seconds, bathing the both of them in cold, grey light. The contrast fades from the specter until she’s washed in grey. The Grey Lady. Helena Ravenclaw.
“I don’t belong here,” Bellatrix realizes.
Her heart hammers in her chest, pounding and pounding, and then it just…
Memories rush back as a slow smile spreads on the Grey Lady’s face. Hermione’s face rushes to the forefront of her mind, and the Grey Lady throws back her head and laughs.
Bellatrix turns, barreling back down the hallway and around the corner. The floor falls out from beneath her, sending her hurtling through floor after floor, the castle passing in a blur around her.
She lands on a stone floor hard enough to have killed her if she wasn’t already dead. Dead. She’s dead, she’s not a first year. She’s lived a life that should’ve been longer, and now she’s gone.
She scrambles to her feet, rising to her full, adult height. She looks around at a Great Hall that’s been washed of color, and there isn’t a student in sight. There’s only her and the floating candles all around, and it’s so quiet she could hear a pin drop.
She remembers where she is.
When she left Hermione, she didn’t know where exactly she was going, only that she needed to go. She couldn’t be around the bloody witch a moment longer, couldn’t stand her heated, lustful, longing thoughts and her eyes, her honey tinted eyes that watched her with contempt. Bellatrix couldn’t stand another rejection, yet at the same time she knew she couldn’t stop herself from reaching out anyway. As long as she’s around Hermione, she can’t control herself.
She needs her. She needs her warmth, she craves her approval, her love, her body, her soul. And she fucking hates it. Bellatrix hates her, every bit as much as she needs her.
So, she forced herself to leave, go as far as the tether would allow. She meant to go inward, into that hollow, dark place inside her mind she often went when she didn’t want Hermione to see her, only she went a step too far. It’s as though she stepped straight through a tear in the physical world and went plummeting into purgatory.
She’s been here before. Before she followed the tether to Hermione, before she found her in the Room of Requirement working on the Cabinet. In her desperate scramble to escape Hermione, she found herself in the one place that’s worse than the torment of Hermione’s presence.
The afterlife. Or rather, the not-quite-after-life. The in-between.
Bellatrix’s eyes dart around the Great Hall. She steps forward, walking down the middle aisle towards the exit. Her teeth are on edge, her senses bristling. She feels eyes on her. She isn’t alone.
Her feet fall silently on the cold stone ground. The candlelight dims the closer she gets to the exit, and overlapping whispers begin to fill the Hall. The whispers grow louder and louder as she makes her way to the door, reaching a deafening cacophony as she shoves through.
The door slams behind her and the whispers cut off.
She looks forward into endless darkness, her eyes straining in search of any source of light. She finds nothing, and with a heavy sigh she steps forward.
She despises this place, and she despises Hermione. It’s her fault she’s here, after all. Bellatrix would’ve been perfectly happy to stay around her if she didn’t make it so fucking unbearable.
Now, she’s stuck. She has no idea how to get back, if she even can get back. Hermione must be overjoyed to finally be rid of her. She gets her life back, and Bellatrix gets the fate she deserves; an eternity in purgatory where no one knows who she is, and those who do despise her.
All there is to do is walk forward. She knows this place and its dirty tricks, just as she knows there’s no outsmarting it. She walks forward until the blackness turns to grey, and bit by bit shapes form around her.
She recognizes the wallpaper first. White peonies on a dark green backdrop, winding in a flawless pattern. Furniture fades into existence, dark mahogany and rich, white velvet loveseats and armchairs. A shape begins to form, leaning on the windowsill and looking out at the gardens. Jaw length black hair frames her severe face, her ruffled dress hiding her from neck to ankle. Her eyes are grey and cold on Bellatrix’s face.
Bellatrix isn’t afraid.
Her mother can’t hurt her anymore. She’s dead. Her mother and herself, although as each detail of the memory comes into sharp focus these simple facts begin to fall away.
“Hello, Bella. I’ve been waiting for you to come and see me.”
“Hello, mother,” Bellatrix says. She empties her mind carefully and her Occlumency shields fall into place slowly. If she does it too quickly, her mother will know she’s hiding something.
“Have a seat. I want to hear all about the year you and your sisters have had. Leave nothing out.”
The words are not delivered with the gentle curiosity of a typical mother. Druella asks her in a measured, calculated tone, without a hint of warmth in her eyes. She wants to know exactly what her daughters have been up to. She wants to be assured that they are representing their family with the utmost pride, and if Bellatrix doesn’t give her enough to satisfy her then she will pull the details from her by force.
So, Bellatrix tells her. She lowers herself into the armchair across from her and fills her in on the usual details. She recites the classes she took, the classes her sisters took, as well as which ones were strengths and which were points of weakness. She knows what her mother wants to hear and what she expects to hear. It has been the way of things for the past four years, and this fifth summer will be the same.
“And have any boys shown interest in you or your sisters?” Druella asks. She wraps her long, pale fingers around the arm of the chair, her sharp, white nails biting into the wood.
Bellatrix watches the gesture, trying to quell her rising nerves. She keeps her mind sealed like a vault as images of Edward following Andy around like a lost puppy fill her mind. Her sister claimed not to care, of course. She said she was only amused at his devoted persistence, but Bellatrix knows her sister. Andromeda is her sister, her blood, her everything. Andromeda and Narcissa are her purpose in life, the reason she lives and breathes. She knows Andromeda’s heart as well as she knows her own, and she knows that it’s in jeopardy.
“The Lestrange boys have both taken an interest in me. Andromeda doesn’t care for any of the boys. You know her. She thinks they’re beneath her. All she cares about are her books and her plants.”
Druella’s eyes brighten for the briefest of moments at the mention of the Lestranges, before her face twists into a sneer on the subject of her middle child.
“She needs to grow up and accept the way of things. There are many suitable matches in her year and yours, and Slytherin House is the ideal place to find a boy of acceptable blood. Once you complete your schooling the clock starts ticking. The three of you need to be ahead of these things or you’ll be stuck with the leftovers. Our bloodline is not suited for leftovers, Bella.”
“I know, mother.”
Druella raps her nails on the mahogany, tap, tap, tap, as she observes her.
“Which Lestrange boy do you prefer?”
Bellatrix doesn’t prefer either of them. She knows she deserves better than anything she can find at that school. Her housemates, particularly her male housemates are reckless, immature, and think far too highly of themselves. It disgusts her to think of settling for any of them.
“It’s…difficult to choose. Rabastan is brash and stubborn, and although he doesn’t care enough to get decent marks, he’s smart. Rodolphus is far more muted, a follower, and he works hard to get what he wants.”
Druella purses her lips, her eyes flitting over Bellatrix’s face. She can feel the press of her mother at the edges of her mind, testing her, wanting to see if Bellatrix lets anything slip so she can snatch it up. Bellatrix is far too practiced for that.
“Rodolphus would be easier for you to control,” Druella comments, “Rabastan would want to turn you into a housewife, would want nothing of you but for you to carry on his bloodline and keep the house. You’d end up killing him.”
A smile ghosts over Bellatrix’s lips at the words. Druella’s face remains hard, severe. She’s only stating a fact. She knows her daughter, no matter how much Bellatrix tries to conceal her true nature from her, her mother still understands her intrinsically.
“You need to mind your sisters,” Druella continues. She paces across the room, crossing in front of the fireplace and back to the window, “Especially Andromeda. She isn’t like you, like us. She’s guided by her heart and she forgets to step back and think. You need to do it for her, Bella. You need to think for her.”
“I am,” Bellatrix promises, tightening the walls of her mind as much as she can. A headache builds behind her temples, “We share everything with each other. She listens to me. I’m being careful, mother.”
“I would hope so,” Druella stops in front of her, and the room darkens. Her mother’s proportions shift, elongating as though she’s a shadow made flesh. She reaches out a long, clawed finger and places it in the center of Bellatrix’s forehead, “You know what will happen to you when you fail, Bella.”
Druella’s voice reverberates around the room, loud, too loud. Please, Bellatrix thinks, shrinking away from her, Father will hear.
“Your father will hear,” Druella says, plucking the thought from her head with ease, “He will hear that your sister’s heart has been tainted. Don’t you remember, Bella? Don’t you remember what he does to you?”
Despair crashes over Bellatrix, sucking her under its suffocating tide. Tears leak from her eyes as her mother’s long, sharp nail bites into her forehead, trapping her in the armchair.
“It wasn’t fair, was it Bella? Your sister abandons you, leaves you to bear the force of your fathers wrath. All you ever did was love her, protect her, and what does she do?”
She didn’t know. Andy didn’t know what he was going to do to me.
“Oh, but she did. She knew as well as you did, and she left anyway. She chose him over everything. Over her family, over her duty, over you. You aren’t enough for her, Bella. You will never be cherished. You will never be loved. You will never be first.”
Bellatrix covers her ears and screams. She screams as loud as she can but her mother laughs, the noise tearing through her mind and drowning out all other sound. She shoves out of her chair, and runs from the room, the laughter halting when she steps back through the doorway.
Back at Hogwarts. Back in the winding, senseless halls, back amongst the lost souls. Bellatrix is trembling from head to foot, steadying herself with a hand braced on the wall, as translucent spirits hunched and barely formed pass by her.
How long has she been here? Has it been hours, days? Weeks?
She wonders what Hermione is doing. Is the Gryffindor sad, does she regret what she said? Bellatrix needs to get back to her. She found her way out of here before, and their bond is stronger than ever.
She lets herself feel it. The tether is there, faint, but there. She lets it lead her, trudging forward down the hallway. She straightens her posture as she walks, raising her chin and relaxing her shoulders until she’s gliding. She refuses to be like the other slumping, sallow souls meandering without purpose. Bellatrix is better than that, better than them.
She turns a corner, and she’s back in the Great Hall. Bellatrix scowls in annoyance, glancing behind her to see the heavy wooden door that she hadn’t walked through to get here. The whispers begin again, and she tries to open the door only to find it sealed shut. She yanks on it, but it doesn’t budge an inch.
“Leaving so soon, Auntie?”
Bellatrix freezes with her hand on the door handle. Her stomach sinks at the voice, and she wishes desperately to be anywhere but here. She would take the torment of any memory, relive any trauma if it meant escaping this moment, because this isn’t the past, this isn’t a figment of her own tortured mind. This is real.
Slowly, she turns around.
In the center of the Great Hall, Nymphadora Tonks stands tall, watching her with a scowl on her bloodied face. She is the least translucent of the spirits Bellatrix has seen in this place. She’s like Bellatrix. Just as Bellatrix is tethered to this world by Hermione, Nymphadora is tethered by something else.
Love for her son, and hatred for Bellatrix.
“You shouldn’t be here,” Bellatrix tells her. Her jaw tightens as pain sears through her chest, her eyes meeting her niece's for the first time since the day they both died. She shoves away the pain and remorse, knowing it will do her no good to wallow in it.
“Neither should you,” Nyphadora says, “Don’t you have a golden girl to attend to?”
Bellatrix shakes her head and steps further into the room. She refuses to cower against the door as if she’s afraid. She’s not.
“I needed space,” Bellatrix says in a clipped tone, “Why are you here, Nymphadora?”
“You know why,” she says, her scowl deepening, “I won’t leave him. He needs me. He lost his father, his mother, he lost everything. I can’t leave without him.”
“He didn’t lose everything. He has—”
The name gets lodged in Bellatrix’s throat. Her stomach turns, boiling in acidic guilt as she thinks of her sister. Andromeda is the one who lost everything, and Bellatrix is largely responsible. Her daughter, her husband. And now she has to carry on, raising the baby who was robbed of both parents in one fell swoop.
Nymphadora knows what Bellatrix meant to say without her having to say it. The fire in her eyes cools, and her shoulders slump. Sadness fills her eyes, so powerful that it spills out and into the room.
“How is she?”
Bellatrix walks further into the room with trepidation, her niece’s features coming sharply into focus the closer she comes. Nymphadora has not faded as much as the other souls trapped here. She’s every bit as strong as Bellatrix, which is impressive considering Bellatrix is tethered to this world through magical means, bound to the life force of someone who still walks the earth. Nymphadora is bound only through her love for her son, and her anger at being taken from him too soon. She’s here through sheer force of will.
“She’s going to be alright,” Bellatrix says, stopping a few feet shy of the trembling ghost, “She’s taken up the Transfiguration position. She brings Teddy with her. He loves it.”
Nymphadora looks at her, tears spilling down her cheeks. The lighting in the room fades until they’re washed in blues and greys. Bellatrix had feared her anger, her resentment, but her sadness is even more painful to witness. This is what Bellatrix should’ve been afraid of.
“I should be with him. It isn’t right. I never should’ve gone—that war. What does it all matter?”
“It mattered,” Bellatrix says. It should’ve pained her to admit it, but all she feels is Nymphadora’s despair. Her own personal feelings ebb away with the force of it, “Your side won. It wouldn’t have happened without people like you.”
Bellatrix feels Nyphadora’s mood shift before she sees it—a tightening in her chest, a surge of survivalist fear that warns her to run. The color floods back into the room until it’s over saturated, the colors burning as if the place is on fire. Then, Nymphadora’s expression morphs into a scowl, her body trembling with the force of her rage.
“None of it would’ve happened without you. You fought for him, you killed for him, you rallied people to his cause. You were his right hand. You killed me. It’s your fault my son is an orphan, your fault that I’m trapped here—!”
Nymphadora advances on her and Bellatrix steps away, sorely missing the days where she could draw her wand to defend herself. She could’ve ended the fight in an instant, decommissioned the enraged mother if she so wished. She’s done it before, after all.
Fear stabs through the room, puncturing the air between them and Nymphadora hesitates as she sees the expression change on Bellatrix’s face. The tether connected to Bellatrix’s chest is pulled taught as she recognizes that the fear belongs to Hermione.
It isn’t a choice. One moment Bellatrix is inbetween worlds, looking at the frozen shock on Nymphadora’s face, and the next she’s standing in Hermione’s bedroom.
The relief that washes over Bellatrix is immediate and overwhelming. Hermione is sleeping, the blankets wrapped haphazardly around her body, and Bellatrix rushes to her bedside.
She can feel the heat emanating off of her body, and it sends a shiver of pleasure down her spine. She missed being in her presence, feeling the warmth of her skin. She breathes in deep, filling herself with her scent—wildflowers and parchment and something sweet like honeysuckle.
Hermione twists in her sleep, her face scrunching up. There’s a sheen of sweat on her body, making her skin shine in the moonlight. Bellatrix longs to reach out and touch her, to cool her skin with the touch of her hand. She couldn’t bear it if she were to reach out only to pass through her, so she contents herself with watching.
Hermione makes a small, pathetic noise in the back of her throat. She tosses over onto her side, her hand falling to rest right beside Bellatrix, almost reaching for her. Nothing is more important to Bellatrix in the world than keeping Hermione safe from everything except herself.
“It’s alright, pet,” Bellatrix murmurs, watching Hermione’s forehead smooth at the sound of her voice, “Nothing’s going to hurt you.”
Hermione huffs, her face slipping into a pout. “Bella.”
Bellatrix stares at her, shocked. The word strikes a chord in her, emotion slamming through her body at the sound of her name on Hermione’s lips. So effortlessly spoken, so forbidden, and Bellatrix wants to hear it again and again.
“I-I’m here,” Bellatrix says.
Hermione’s thoughts trickle through Bellatrix’s mind, and if her heart could still beat, it would be racing. Hermione dreams of Bellatrix’s face, her hair, her hands. She’s worried about her, she misses her, she worries she’ll never see her again.
Bellatrix takes a deep, shuddering breath, as that addictive rush of need fills her body. Hermione is feeling everything Bellatrix hoped she would, everything that Bellatrix needs her to feel. When she wakes, will she continue to blame it on the bond?
There’s a shuffling at Hermione’s door that draws Bellatrix’s attention away. Bellatrix wants to ignore it, wants to stay in this moment for as long as she can, but something deep inside warns her not to ignore it.
Still, Bellatrix is nothing if not stubborn.
She ignores the noises on the other side of the door. She knows, somehow, that the sounds are not from this world. The in-between is calling her back, it isn’t done with her yet. The only thing keeping her here is Hermione’s fear, outweighing the pull of the other dimension. Bellatrix can cling all she wants, but sooner or later it will drag her back.
Bellatrix frowns, contemplating this as she watches Hermione’s eyelashes flutter. She wants to fall into Hermione’s dream and find her there. She wants to be with her all of the time, every second of every day. She’s hopeless.
A voice, a child’s voice drifts through the door. Bellatrix curses under her breath, and against her better judgement she reaches out to brush the tips of her fingers along Hermione’s cheek.
Bellatrix gasps when her fingers make contact, sparks of electricity climbing up her hand at the touch of her feverish skin. She presses her palm against Hermione’s cheek and a small noise of joy escapes her throat.
Hermione’s eyes fly open and lock on her own.
“Mother!” The voice shatters the silence in the room, piercing the air between them. Only, Hermione doesn’t seem to notice.
Honey brown eyes flicker between Bellatrix’s, a mixture of surprise, disbelief and joy crossing her features.
“Hermione—” Bellatrix says, just as she begins to feel herself being pulled away. How utterly cruel, to only be allowed this brief moment before being yanked away.
Hermione’s lips begin to form around Bellatrix’s name, but Bellatrix doesn’t get to hear it. She’s pulled away, straight through the door of Hermione’s room and back into the in-between.
She’s lying in a field of grass, staring up at a grey afternoon sky, her chest aching. Where her heart should be is instead the tether, straining and crying out in desperation for its other half.
There are birds chirping, leaves swaying in the wind. It’s warm; Bellatrix knows it even if she can’t feel it. The sounds, the sensations of the world around her aren’t real, they haven't been for a long time. The voice comes to her again, a child’s voice calling out for attention.
“Mother! Look at me!”
Bellatrix rises to her feet, brushing off the dead grass that clings to her skirt. Up ahead, a little girl is doing handstands in front of the kitchen window of a modestly sized house. The house is white with weathered brown brick, surrounded by an overgrown garden.
Bellatrix stares at the scene before her as despair fills her. The little girl is Nymphadora, and the woman doing dishes in the window is Andromeda. She remembers it well enough without having to be reminded of it in purgatory.
It’s early September, in 1980, and it’s the first and only time Bellatrix’s resolve wavered.
Voldemort would meet his first death in less than a year's time.
She remembers the humid heat on that end of summer day, when she had to see her sister. Years had passed since she last laid eyes on her, and this would be the very last time she did while she was alive.
Andromeda is up to her elbows in dish soap, still managing to send her daughter encouraging smiles through the windowsill. Bellatrix remembers standing in the thicket of trees for hours, just watching as her sister lived out her perfect little life with her perfect little family. Bellatrix wasn’t sure what she expected to feel that day, but she remembers the jealousy burning in her chest like a branding iron.
It isn’t fair. All her life, Bellatrix has done everything in her power to protect her sisters, to protect them from her parents, to protect them from the way of the world they live in. In Andromeda’s betrayal, she destroyed Bellatrix’s love for her, robbed her of her trust, stole away one of the few lights of her life. And in doing so she created everlasting peace and joy for herself.
Bellatrix is in a loveless, childless marriage, following a man who erodes her soul from her with every passing day. She’s nothing but a rotten corpse decaying in the soil, fertilizer for the people she loves to flourish. It isn’t fair.
Nymphadora’s wrist gives out and she topples backwards. With a flick of her wrist, Bellatrix breaks her fall to spare her the pain. Andromeda comes rushing out of the house, and Bellatrix turns, disappearing back into the woods she came from.
It isn’t long before the woods begin to change around her. Tree trunks expand and bleed together, changing to stone. The soil beneath her feet hardens, until her heels are hitting the cobbled floor of the Hogwarts courtyard.
It’s nighttime. Heavy, dark clouds obstruct any light from the heavens, and the courtyard is silent. That’s the thing about purgatory—no bugs, no birds, no wind in the trees. The only sounds come from memory, figments of her imagination.
A translucent figure at the edge of the courtyard is nearly enough to make Bellatrix hesitate. She brushes off the feeling. She’s sick of this place, sick of the memories and the ghosts. She continues on her way, ready to walk straight through the figure.
Only, it turns around moments before she reaches it.
“Little Bella Black,” the Grey Lady says, “I always knew I’d see you again.”
“Helena,” Bellatrix responds, disguising her rising irritation and panic with a cool tone, “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I came here to see you, of course.” Helena says, a slow smile creeping onto her face, “I can’t see you out there. Only Hermione Granger can.”
Bellatrix bristles at the name, possessive even over the syllables. Helena chuckles at the change in her expression, gliding closer. Even from such a short distance, Bellatrix can hardly distinguish her from the darkness.
“So it’s true. You bound your soul to her, the golden girl.”
“Why do you care?” Bellatrix raises her chin, looking down her nose at the ghost.
Helena ignores her question, “You know, I always knew a sad fate awaited you. What an awful child you were. I could see the tragedy written all over you. You had it coming though, didn’t you?”
Bellatrix’s jaw tightens, her feet glued to the spot, and the ghost drifts around her as she speaks.
“Following that awful man. Killing for him. For him. Such wasted potential. With all your gifts and power, to squander it on a man so misguided. And now, like the coward you are, you bind yourself to someone good and pure. Were you hoping Hermione’s nobility would rub off on you?”
“You have no right to say her name,” Bellatrix hisses, her control slipping away. She whips her head around to watch Helena as she drifts around her, tracking her with her eyes like prey.
“And you do?”
“ Yes. I have every right to her. She’s mine. Hermione is mine.”
Helena laughs, drifting further away, just out of Bellatrix’s reach. The coward.
“Oh, look at you. You poor thing. You’ve fallen in love with her.”
Bellatrix jumps at the word as though it physically shocked her. In love? Somehow, Bellatrix finds herself recoiling at the word. Hermione is her soulmate, sure, that much is certain, but love? Bellatrix has never been in love. She isn’t capable.
“I have watched Hermione Granger all her years at Hogwarts,” Helena continues, her eyes twinkling. Bellatrix preferred her the way she knew her in school—hiding in dark corridors, shying away from the louder students, hardly seen. “The girl is pure of heart. She has a bleeding heart, yet even she could never forgive someone like you. After everything you’ve done? You must know that she will never return your feelings.”
“You don’t know anything about her. You don’t know her the way I do. No one does. No one ever will.”
Helena continues as though she hasn’t said anything, “Is that why you chose her? To punish yourself for all eternity? It’s sick, little Bella Black. You’ll drain her of everything it is you love about her. If you win, if you steal her body, how will you ever live with yourself?”
The panic and anger clouds her mind until she can’t think straight. Her throat is closing up, and she claws at her hair, wanting desperately for the pain to bring her back into focus. Only she can’t feel anything, she can never feel anything unless she’s with Hermione.
“I’m going to keep her!” Bellatrix shouts, “I won’t ever let her go. And when I die, I’ll die with her and we’ll go together.”
“The war has really ruined you, hasn’t it? How sad. How delusional you must be to believe such a thing. How can you claim to love her when you want to rob her of everything she cherishes?”
Bellatrix rushes forward, out of the courtyard and back into the castle. She won’t hear another word of it. Helena follows her, clinging to her like smoke as she tries to escape.
“You cannot run from this, Bellatrix. You cannot do this to her, or you’ll damn the both of you.”
Bellatrix stops cold and turns to face her. Helena is directly in front of her, leering down at her, furious. It only makes Bellatrix angrier.
“How dare you presume to know anything about me or my relationship with her? You don’t know, you don’t understand anything— ”
“I understand wasted potential. I understand being loved by someone who didn’t love me at all, but craved ownership over me. Love and possession are not the same, Bellatrix. Do not do it to Hermione. Do not take her. She doesn’t deserve it.”
Bellatrix opens her mouth to argue, but a scream interrupts her. Helena doesn’t seem to hear it, her brow furrowing when Bellatrix freezes. Bellatrix turns her head towards the sound, and the tether vibrates like a struck chord.
It sounds as though it’s come from the door to her right. She forgets about the Grey Lady, she forgets about everything except for Hermione. Hermione is in danger. She can feel it.
“Bellatrix—” Helena says.
Bellatrix doesn’t listen. She doesn’t care. She walks straight through her and puts a hand on the doorknob. She walks through the doorway, leaving purgatory behind entering back into reality.
Reality is a cold, damp room, in an old, decrepit farmhouse. There are blankets and old towels strewn about the floor, as if multiple people had been sleeping there. Amongst the mess there are pieces of bone and rotting meat, dried blood staining the floor. All is silent, for a long, tense moment, as Bellatrix stands and trembles in unison with the tether. Something awful has happened, she can feel it in the air.
Then, there is another scream.
Bellatrix follows the sound, passing straight through the door and into the open air. In the middle of the field, the elongated, emaciated figures of three werewolves stand out in the darkness.
As Bellatrix draws closer, she passes the unconscious bodies of Ronald Weasley and Harry Potter. Above them, one werewolf lurks, long, sharp teeth bared and snarling as though it’s guarding their bodies like a limited resource. One quick glance tells Bellatrix that they are still breathing.
Partially concealed by the tall grass, Hermione is laying with Fenrir on top of her. The other two wolves are hunched nearby, snapping their jaws and licking their lips as though awaiting their turn with Hermione. Her girl is fighting tooth and nail, clawing at the broad, hairy arms pinning her down. Saliva drips from his hideous face onto hers as he snarls, his teeth bared in a viscous grin. Blood runs down Hermione’s arms, the red of it bright and shining and fresh even in the darkness.
Bellatrix is at her side in an instant. Hermione sees her over Fenrir’s shoulder, her eyes widening. Fenrir has her pinned down, one hand on her neck and the other on her shoulder, his nails tearing straight through her clothes.
Fury and fear overcome Bellatrix when she sees the terror and pain in Hermione’s eyes. How dare he touch what is hers, hurt what is hers? Bellatrix will make him pay.
Hermione lets go of Fenrir’s shoulder, reaching her hand out to Bellatrix. It trembles in the space between them, wet with blood. Bellatrix can see it in Hermione’s eyes.
Their situation is hopeless. There is no way for them to get out of this alive. And yet—
Bellatrix is nothing if not stubborn.
She takes Hermione’s hand.
Thank you all so very much, as always. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Bellatrix’s POV.
I’ve posted this before, but I’ll post it again because the people in this group have been really helpful to me as a writer. If you are a writer, aspiring or otherwise, give it a try!
The union of Hermione and Bellatrix’s souls comes with the immediate relief of Hermione’s pain. One moment her body is screaming with agony from the wounds of her battle, and the next she’s awash in the euphoria of all that is Bellatrix.
Bellatrix is back, and Hermione never thought she would be so relieved to see her original tormentor. The ghost appeared like a guardian angel, looking down at her with her head tilted and fury in her eyes, as if to ask her what in the bloody hell have you gotten yourself into?
Hermione thought that Bellatrix had abandoned her. She thought she was gone for good, and the thought that should have comforted her sent her spiraling into a pit of depression and loneliness. Almost from the moment Bellatrix left, Hermione ached for her return.
She blamed it on their bond, at first, as she always does. The excuse ran thin soon enough, when she found herself waking each night in search of the specter and finding herself always alone. She stopped sleeping with the fireplace lit, unable to bear its warmth. She always found herself too warm, having grown accustomed to Bellatrix’s cold presence. It just felt wrong without her. It all felt wrong.
Worst of all was the obvious lack of their bond. Hermione couldn’t feel her, couldn’t sense her presence. She couldn’t feel that telltale tug in her chest that reminded her of their eternal connection. Nothing. Which meant she had to reckon with the reality that Bellatrix was right all along, that Hermione’s lust and tenderness and constant aching for her had nothing to do with the tether at all, because all of it remained in its absence.
Hermione hates to be wrong.
The moment Bellatrix returned, Hermione could feel it. She sensed her return as Fenrir bore down on her, his claws biting into her skin, the blood from her wounds rushing with every frantic beat of her heart. It felt like waking with a gasp in the middle of the night, surrounded by the comforting darkness of reality. Bellatrix was back.
And now, as Bellatrix’s soul fills her body in a blaze of fury, Hermione’s own soul sings with joy. She’s saved. Bellatrix is back. She hasn’t been abandoned.
Fenrir sees the change in Hermione’s eyes. He hesitates, freezing in his pursuit of tearing her limb from limb as he stares into her blackening gaze.
Hermione feels Bellatrix magic seeping into her own. The combination is electric, like a live wire falling into water, and if Hermione could control her body she’d be trembling with the force of it.
Bellatrix grins, and her malicious joy drains the bloodlust from Fenrir’s face.
Their magic fills the air, infused with Bellatrix’s rage and Hermione’s ferocious rush of hope, frying the leaves off the trees and bursting forth, sending Fenrir flying backwards.
Bellatrix outstretches her hand and summons Hermione’s wand without a word, climbing slowly to her feet. There is no stumbling awkwardness that accompanied her the last time she possessed her, no, she rises with the grace of someone who belongs in this body.
This time, Hermione’s wand doesn’t resist. Before Fenrir can get to his feet, Bellatrix sends him flying back again with a twist of her wrist. She turns in time to do the same to the closest werewolf, blasting a hole through its arm with the force of her curse. It lets out a terrible howl of pain, rolling through the grass as it tries to escape the agony. The spells fly out of Hermione’s wand with eagerness, bursting forth without Bellatrix needing to say a single word.
Harry and Ron, Hermione reminds her, and as soon as she thinks it, Bellatrix pivots on the heel of Hermione’s trainer and sends fire spraying from her wand in one sweeping motion.
She catches the two werewolves in one spell, the fire licking through the air above the bodies of her friends to sear into the skin of the wolves. They scramble backwards, screeching with pain.
Bellatrix is merciless, each curse bursting forth from Hermione’s wand with impossible speed. With a single glance thrown over her shoulder, she sends ropes shooting out of the tip of her wand to catch the first werewolf around the ankles. She yanks her wand and sends it toppling to the ground with a yelp.
Fenrir is rushing her again. Bellatrix steps out of the way of his charge, throwing back her head to laugh. The sharp cackle cuts through the night air, and Hermione relishes in the moment of terror on Fenrir’s face before Bellatrix curses him with her favorite spell.
It should be shocking, the way her wand doesn’t hesitate to cast the Cruciatus Curse with every ounce of force that Bellatrix wills. Instead, Hermione feels only grim pleasure as Fenrir screams and writhes, bathed in the red light of Bellatrix’s vengeance.
Hermione feels Bellatrix’s fury in intimate detail, so closely intertwined with her soul that it almost feels like her own. The heat of it is intoxicating, addictive as she exacts her revenge. Lust pounds through Hermione’s body, watching as Bellatrix protects her and her friends with terrifying malice. Bellatrix would kill for her, that much is certain, but she won’t because it isn’t what Hermione wants. That simple fact clouds Hermione’s mind with want so powerful it tugs at the skirts of Bellatrix’s anger.
Bellatrix lets Hermione’s lust fill her curse with renewed vigor, her deranged laughter filling the air as Fenrir’s screams reach an inhuman pitch. Hermione takes sick pleasure in it all, and Bellatrix can feel it. Their thoughts run together in a blur of desire and anger and possessive need. Heat pounds between Hermione’s legs, and she doesn’t know if it’s her own desire or Bellatrix’s that her body is having a physiological response to.
Bellatrix releases Fenrir, allowing him to crawl away inch by inch on his stomach, only to blast him again, this time hard enough to send his body hurdling into the woods like a rag doll. She turns to grin maniacally at the remaining wolves, who promptly flee into the woods with pathetic whimpers. One wolf remains, the one that’s tied at the feet.
We know how to find Fenrir now, he won’t get far. Take the wolf in for questioning when we return Harry and Ron to the Ministry. Hermione requests the single coherent thought that she seems capable of. And then we’ll go back to our room.
The implication of her thoughts is not lost. Bellatrix obliges earnestly, practically skipping across the field to grab the wolf by its feet. She casts a feather-light charm and drags it the short distance to the unconscious bodies of her friends.
We need to check them to see if they can handle Apparition.
Bellatrix dutifully presses two fingers to Harry’s neck, measuring the strength of his pulse. It’s at that moment that he opens his eyes, focusing on Hermione’s face. His automatic relief changes quickly to horror when he meets her eyes, noticing the difference immediately.
He scrambles for his wand and points it directly between her eyes, bold from his half-sitting position. He’s furious, but his fury is no match for the intensity of Bellatrix’s every emotion.
“Get out of her. Now.” Harry orders.
Bellatrix scowls at him, but at Hermione’s behest she doesn’t raise her wand. “Don’t make me regret saving your sorry ass, Potter. The three of you would be dog food without me.”
“I don’t care,” Harry says immediately, “Out. Now.”
The anger is returning to Bellatrix. The Golden Boy ought to be thanking her, kissing her boots in gratitude for all she’s done for him. Instead, he threatens her and orders her around? Hermione pleads with her to control her anger, as her jaw clenches, her hand tightening around her wand.
“Just take your gift wrapped wolf and go.” Bellatrix grits out.
“If you think that I’m going anywhere without Hermione, then you’re even madder dead than you were alive.”
Just go, Bellatrix. Please. We’ve done what we needed to.
Bellatrix’s brows draw together.
You could just push me out if you wanted. Why don’t you? Bellatrix wonders.
Hermione isn’t sure. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t want Bellatrix to go, or maybe she’s weak from the fight, but she can’t seem to do it herself. She feels concern trickle through Bellatrix’s soul, before she begins to gently extract herself.
The moment Hermione is alone in her body, an overwhelming weakness comes over her. Her head spins as she becomes intensely light headed, her hands and her feet tingling with numbness.
The relieved expression on Harry’s face is short lived, changing quickly to fear when Hermione’s face slackens. Her wand falls at her side and she slumps down, falling heavily against his chest. The sound of fire crackling in the trees fills her ears.
“Hermione? Hermione, what’s happened?” Harry asks, his voice shrill with panic.
He grabs her by her arms to move her to face him. He pulls his hands away from her slowly, staring down at them. They’re bright red and shaking, covered in Hermione’s blood.
Oh, god. That’s a lot of blood.
Bellatrix’s fear is bitter in the back of her throat, too foreign and intense to be her own. Hermione can’t feel much of her own emotions, actually, and everything Bellatrix feels is doubled in intensity as they reel from the afterglow of the possession.
“He needs to get you to safety, now. I never should’ve left your body—Hermione—”
Her name, beautiful and delicate on Bellatrix’s lips, is the last thing Hermione hears before she loses consciousness.
Even in the darkness of Hermione’s unconsciousness, she misses Bellatrix.
She’s missed her for weeks, actually. Her dreams aren’t nearly as entertaining without the dark witch lurking in the shadows, waiting to slither out and steal her away. She has only her own pale imitation to keep her company, and the Bellatrix of her dreams doesn’t measure up to the real thing.
Hermione sleeps, trapped in the space between reality and imagination as she tries to claw her way back into consciousness, back to Bellatrix. What if it has all been a dream? What if Bellatrix isn’t actually back?
She spent so much time wondering if Bellatrix was gone for good, fearing that she hurt the ghost so deeply that she wouldn’t bother returning. McGonagall and Andromeda celebrated her disappearance as Hermione mourned. Grieved.
McGonagall had gone so far as to make Hermione the lead coordinator of the Winter Ball. ‘A taste of normalcy’ she called it, despite it being a new tradition. McGonagall was clear that it isn’t the Yule Ball, but something entirely different. Less formal, more…fun, as she put it. Hermione thought she was having a stroke watching the word fun leave the Headmistress’s mouth.
Hermione did her duty as Head Girl, collaborating with the other Heads in choosing the decorations, the music, the food and drinks. It had only served to give her imagination new excuses to incorporate Bellatrix. She thought constantly of what the ghost would have to say about the triviality of it all, of the way she would roll her eyes at Hermione’s suggestions. She wondered what Bellatrix wore to her Yule Ball, if she went at all.
It was infuriating. Maddening. Endless.
And now she’s back, and here Hermione is, wanting desperately to be awake just so she can bask in her presence. Bellatrix would laugh if she knew. Maybe she does know. Maybe she’s lurking nearby, eavesdropping on her pathetic longing.
Hermione hates her for making her feel this way. She hates her for proving her point. She hates that Bellatrix accomplished exactly what she wanted to by leaving her. Hermione is stuck in a bear trap of devastating need, ready to chew her own foot off at the ankle to escape her own depravity.
Her eyes flutter open to a consciousness of immediate regret. Her entire body aches so badly she feels an instant wave of nausea. The room is too bright, any minor sound too loud.
A dark shape moves into her vision, an immediate relief from the too-bright light in the infirmary.
Bellatrix, she realizes, a wave of emotion too intense to identify washing over her.
She chokes out a laugh, her voice shredded, and her chest erupts in pain. Bellatrix frowns disapprovingly at her.
“Don’t do that,” she says.
Hermione wants to laugh again just to spite her. That, or she’s just really, really happy to see her. She licks her lips, wanting to tell her as much, but she remembers at the last moment that she’ll look crazy if they aren’t alone.
“We’re not alone,” Bellatrix tells her, glancing across the room as her brows furrow in annoyance, “We have Pomfrey keeping us company. You’ll wake her up if you’re too loud.”
With extraordinary effort, Hermione turns her head to the side to see Madam Pomfrey fast asleep in the armchair at her bedside, her chin slumped against her chest. She must be seriously injured to be under her constant watch.
“You are,” Bellatrix says, and when Hermione looks back at her she looks deeply inconvenienced by that fact, “What were you thinking, Hermione? You could have died.”
Hermione glares at her with as much heat as she can muster, but Bellatrix is unimpressed.
What do you care? You left. Hermione thinks sullenly.
“You wanted me to leave,” Bellatrix snaps, “You don’t get to complain when you’re the one who didn’t want me around.”
I did want you around. I do. I always do.
The thoughts drift through her mind unbidden. She doesn’t want Bellatrix to hear them, but she does. Her glare softens and she rakes her eyes over Hermione’s body, lingering on her wrapped wounds.
“I’m so angry with you,” Bellatrix whispers, like she’s admitting an embarrassing secret. She pins Hermione with a look that has her heart racing, “I felt your fear like it was my own. And it is. Don’t you see? Your fear is my fear. Your life is my life, your heart...You can’t be so reckless.”
Hermione swallows against a sudden lump in her throat. The words lack the usual threat that they may have normally possessed. They don’t scare her. The confession stirs something in her, something that ought to be buried deep.
Where did you go?
Bellatrix averts her eyes, staring at the flowers at Hermione’s bedside instead. When she looks back at her, her expression is carefully neutral.
“You don’t need to know everything. I was gone.”
Bellatrix’s lack of an answer only morphs Hermione’s annoyance into concern. She knows Bellatrix well enough by now to be able to tell when she’s hiding something. She watches Bellatrix’s face closely as the ghost avoids her gaze.
I couldn’t feel you. It’s like you were really gone…like you weren’t here anymore. Were you…did you still exist somewhere, or were you back in that place you wandered before you found me?
A muscle in Bellatrix’s jaw jumps at the train of thought, and Hermione knows she’s close. Maybe she ought to feel bad about it, but she doesn’t. Bellatrix has uninhibited access to her every thought, Hermione will gladly take any insight into Bellatrix’s mind that she can manage.
Did you mean to be gone for three weeks?
Bellatrix eyes snap back to hers, and the answer is written all over her face.
“Yes,” Bellatrix lies.
Hermione’s glare returns. She’s too tired for this. She sighs and her eyes flutter shut.
I wish you’d join me.
Hermione begins to drift back off the moment her eyes close. She feels the chill of Bellatrix drawing closer, and instead of speaking, Bellatrix’s voice slips into her mind, low and intimate.
I can’t follow you. You’re too deep in your consciousness. I think I’d get lost in there.
The corners of Hermione’s lips twitch into a weak smile as she imagines Bellatrix trapped in the recesses of her mind, a place where Hermione can keep her for herself, at her mercy.
I wouldn’t mind.
I would, Bellatrix says, the words tinted with amusement.
Hermione slips back into unconsciousness with a tired smile.
When Hermione wakes again, Ginny is standing at her bedside. Her eyes are locked on Hermione, widening when she wakes. Hermione glances around the room, but if Bellatrix is around, she isn’t visible.
“Um…hey,” Ginny says, her voice hoarse.
Hermione looks back at her, swallowing nervously. They haven’t spoken privately since Bellatrix tried to kill her. She wonders if that’s why Bellatrix isn’t here, and Hermione appreciates the illusion of privacy.
“Hi,” Hermione replies with a weak smile.
Ginny shifts her weight between her feet, crossing one arm over her body to clutch her elbow. Hermione tries to sit up, wincing when her ribs scream in protest. She lifts up the blanket and peeks down the loose front of her gown to see four angry gashes running down the length of the right side of her rib cage. She grapples with the superficial urge to cry at the sight of it, knowing that there is no way to heal scars from a werewolf. Fenrir left his mark on her body forever.
“You won’t turn, if that’s what you’re worried about,” Ginny says, sitting down slowly in the chair at her bedside, “Scratches weren’t deep enough. Thank god he didn’t bite.”
Hermione nods, pulling the covers back up around herself. She blinks the tears away and focuses on her friend’s concerned, freckled face.
“You three were stupid for going after him without backup. I know that you want to be involved, to feel like your parasite is worth something, but it isn’t. You should’ve left it up to them, Hermione.”
Hermione nods, staring at her lap. She has no defense for herself. It was a stupid attempt at trying to find some value in her situation.
“I know it was stupid, but he was supposed to be alone. There was no evidence to suggest that he was changing people.”
“Children,” Ginny says, “He was changing children. Muggle children.”
Hermione’s gaze snaps back to Ginny’s face as her stomach plummets. She’d noticed that the wolves were smaller than she remembered Lupin being, but they were still big enough for her to not wonder why. To do that to children. Muggle children. She wants Ginny to be wrong, misinformed, but the expression on her face is all Hermione needs to know that she’s certain.
Ginny continues after Hermione’s long, stunned silence. “I know. Harry filled me in. He and Ron spent a lot of time here waiting for you to wake up after recovering from their own wounds, but the Ministry had a lot of questions for them.”
“The children…we—I hurt them to escape. Are they going to be alright? Did they get Fenrir? Does the Ministry know about—”
Ginny stops the flood of frantic questions with a hand on her knee. “Yes, the children are alright. Ron brought you here and Harry sent for the Ministry to come and round everyone up. Despite everything, it was a successful mission. They captured Fenrir and all three of the children he turned. It’s a mess for the Auror department, and it’s only going to get worse once it gets out to the general public. And no, the Ministry still doesn’t know about your involvement, which means your dirty little Death Eater secret is safe.”
Hermione allows herself to feel a measure of relief, sinking back against the headboard. Still, her stomach churns as she thinks about the lives of those three children being ruined forever. She can’t even begin to imagine how the Ministry would handle it.
“There’s something else,” Ginny says.
Hermione looks at her, exhausted. She’s not sure she can take anything more.
“Ron’s planning on asking you to the Winter Ball.”
Hermione’s eyebrows furrow. “Seriously? How can he even think about that sort of thing when everything’s gone to shit?”
Ginny shrugs, “Well, you know him. He’s set on righting the wrongs of his past, and I guess that includes making an ass of himself for the last Ball.”
Hermione stares at the ceiling, trying to disguise her annoyance. She knew that McGonagall only wanted to throw the Ball to lift everyone’s spirits, most especially Hermione’s, but the event is turning out to be more of a burden on her spirits than anything. She has no desire whatsoever to choose an outfit, dance, and eat with her friends. She was just planning on making a quick but necessary appearance before escaping to the privacy of her own chambers, but now Ron has gone and ruined that.
She’ll have to say yes, of course. Ron needs it. Their friendship needs it.
“If it makes you feel any better, I’ll be tagging along. Harry wants to go, but he knows the night will just become about him if he does. Ron, on the other hand, won’t mind the extra attention.”
Hermione laughs, short and hollow, and her gloom quickly returns. The events of the last week weigh heavily on her, and she still has healing to do. Ginny seems to sense her exhaustion, rising to her feet to adjust Hermione’s pillows. Hermione slides back down until she’s horizontal again.
“I’ll leave you to rest. I know I’ve just dumped a lot of information on you.”
Ginny turns to leave, and Hermione watches her go until she pauses at the door.
“Gin? Thanks for visiting me.”
Ginny smiles at her, and for the first time in a long time it feels like they’re going to be alright.
“Of course, ‘Mione. I’ll always be here to help you recover from your rare, stupid mistakes.”
Hermione snorts, and Ginny leaves her alone. Only she’s never alone. She senses Bellatrix nearby, watching her, and the thought comforts her enough to slip back into fitful rest.
Hermione knows she’s in a memory instantaneously. Scenes from Bellatrix’s life have a discernible quality to them, perhaps because she’s seeing them as Bellatrix saw them. Everything just seems a bit sharper around the edges.
She’s in an empty hallway, with tall, arched windows lining the wall to her right overlooking an endless expanse of dark green trees. It’s early morning, the cold light reflecting off the dense fog that permeates the forest outside. Her shoes are silent on the polished wooden floor as she walks. Bellatrix is around here somewhere, Hermione just has to find her.
She turns a corner and hears voices just up ahead, coming from the one door that lies open. Hermione walks towards them, and the voices grow louder. Two women are speaking, one tired and severe, and one irritated. The annoyed voice belongs to Bellatrix, Hermione realizes with a soft smile.
When Hermione enters the room, she can only see part of Bellatrix’s hair, the rest of her blocked by a slender, older woman with greying, black hair. Hermione knows intrinsically that the woman is Druella Black, Bellatrix’s mother.
Druella fusses over Bellatrix’s hair, and Hermione can only assume that she’s been at it for a long time. Bellatrix swats her hand away and Druella tosses her hands in the air and steps aside, handing Bellatrix a silver, handheld mirror. Hermione gasps when she sees her.
“I’ve done all I can,” Druella says, “It’s as good as it’s going to get.”
Bellatrix looks to be exactly Hermione’s age. Her cheeks are fuller, her skin flushed with life, and her wild dark hair falls in shining curls over one shoulder, embedded with diamonds that twinkle like stars. She’s wearing a wedding dress; a fitted white corset with silver stitching resembling a sprawling galaxy, with endless constellations tapering down the skirt.
A house elf kneels at Bellatrix’s ankles, stitching the hemline to perfection. Birds chirp just outside the open window, and morning light pours into the room, losing itself in Bellatrix’s hair.
Hermione is drawn closer, unable to move her eyes away from the young witch. She’s never seen her this way, so untouched by war and killing but fully grown into her beauty. Hermione’s chest aches. She wishes she could have found her sooner, found her at this age, before Voldemort could sink his teeth into her. Everything could have been so different.
Hermione would have saved her.
Bellatrix’s large, dark eyes move to look just past Hermione. Hermione reaches out, wishing desperately to be able to brush her fingertips along her full, flushed cheek and feel the warmth of life. Before she can reach her, Bellatrix stands up and passes straight through her.
Hermione turns to follow her, her blood running cold when she sees the man standing at the doorway.
“My Lord,” Bellatrix bows her head, her hair falling in a curtain that conceals her expression from Hermione, “You have honored me greatly with your attendance.”
“Bella,” Voldemort greets, using a single finger to lift Bellatrix’s chin until she’s meeting his eyes, “That is not the only honor I am giving you today.”
Bellatrix looks up at him, adoration shining in her eyes, and any fear Hermione had of Voldemort is replaced tenfold by jealousy. It’s unlike anything she’s ever felt, burning hot in her gut.
He is handsome enough to bother Hermione because she can just barely see the appeal. Stil, he isn’t quite…right. His eyes are that unsettling, blood red, and the pallor of his skin is inhuman. He still has a full head of hair, black and slicked back from his face.
“It’s lovely to see you again, my Lord,” Druella says, coming to stand beside her daughter, “we do so appreciate your endorsement of this union.”
“It is an ideal match,” Voldemort says, giving Bellatrix a sly smile that twists Hermione’s gut, “I endorse it so fully that I thought I might officiate the ceremony.”
Bellatrix gasps with such joy that Hermione feels physically repelled at the scene. She slinks to the furthest corner of the room, wishing she could will herself awake. She doesn’t want to see another second of this day.
The conversation continues despite Hermione’s reluctance to hear it. She stares out the window and does her best to tune out the sound of Bellatrix falling all over herself for the Dark Lord.
When they leave the room, Hermione is compelled to follow. She’d rather sit in this room and wait for it to be over, but if she’s going to be trapped in this memory for the night, she may as well learn this corner of Bellatrix’s life, no matter how much it pains her.
Bellatrix’s wedding to Rodolphus is nothing like Hermione could have imagined. She thought that a union of two wealthy, well known, pure blood houses would be extravagant, celebrated in obscene luxury. Instead, she watches as they marry in the garden of the Lestrange family home, with only Bellatrix’s parents, sister, and the Lestrange family in attendance.
Hermione watches the arranged marriage take place from as far away as she can manage, and all she can seem to think about is whether or not Bellatrix is cold. She didn’t see anyone cast a warming charm on her, and she finds herself wishing that she could be the one to do it. It pains her to be a silent spectator, a ghost in Bellatrix’s memories, unable to do anything to change the course of her life.
This isn’t the way weddings are supposed to be. Promising oneself to another for eternity ought to be romantic, not the stiff affair that Hermione is witnessing. Voldemort delivers his lines with practiced, charming ease, as though he’s done it a thousand times. Hermione resents him for it.
There is no exchange of rings. Bellatrix merely offers her cheek, turning her face towards Voldemort as her new husband places a chaste kiss on the corner of her mouth. The Dark Lord’s unnerving eyes glimmer with some secret Hermione isn’t privy to as he watches Bellatrix’s every move.
When they part, a young Narcissa tugs Bellatrix into her arms and whispers something in her ear. The words reach Hermione’s ears as if they were whispered to her, and Hermione straightens with a start.
“ Don’t let him tame you.”
Bellatrix pulls back to smile at her youngest sister, and it robs Hermione of her breath. In her eyes Hermione can see the true savage underneath her poised exterior. Her teeth shine between red lips, a mouth that Hermione knows will go on to curse men to their knees, her voice the last thing they’ll hear in this life.
She doesn’t say a word, but her smile says ‘ never’.
When Hermione wakes up Bellatrix is beside her in the infirmary bed, and they’re shrouded in darkness.
Hermione lies on her side, facing her, and Bellatrix is a perfect mirror of her position. Dark eyes watch her face, running over her features, prying in a way that Hermione has never minded coming from her.
Hermione stares at her translucent features; the hollow beneath her cheekbones, the dark circles around her eyes, the worried furrow of her brow. Hermione lowers her eyes to the red scar expanding like veins, like red lightning, crawling out from beneath her dress and stretching over her collarbone. Hermione remembers the moment she died as though it happened to her rather than in front of her. She remembers watching the light vanish from her eyes.
“Why are you crying?”
Somehow, Bellatrix noticed the tears before Hermione did. Then, the floodgates open and all of Hermione’s anger and jealousy and sadness come pouring out in a broken sob. Bellatrix reaches for her, but her hand stops just short of her face and panic flashes in her eyes. She’s afraid she won’t be able to touch her.
Hermione only cries harder.
“Hermione…” Bellatrix says, her tone softer than Hermione has ever heard it, “I can’t understand…your thoughts are too jumbled.”
Hermione doesn’t want this. She can’t handle Bellatrix being anything less than the monster that Hermione needs her to be. The longer they’re together, the more her emotions overwhelm her logic, and the harder it is to remember all of the horrible things she’s done.
And it hurts.
The more Hermione softens to her, the more painful it is. It’s painful to see her full of life and ferocity and promise, with the world at her fingertips, only to wake up and see the vengeful spirit that is all that remains of Bellatrix Black.
“I saw…” Hermione takes a long, trembling breath, steadying herself as much as she can before continuing, “Your wedding day.”
“That? How awfully boring that must’ve been for you. I see now why you’re crying so hard.”
Hermione laughs, a raw, ugly sound through her tears that has a smile tugging at Bellatrix’s lips. She lowers her hand to Hermione’s cheek, and to both of their disappointment, she intangible. Hermione can just barely feel a cold, tingling chill where Bellatrix’s fingers hover, and it’s enough to slow her tears.
“Can you feel anything?” Hermione asks.
Bellatrix nods, “I can always feel how warm you are when I’m this close. Can you…am I making you cold?”
Hermione stares at her for a long moment. She hasn’t had a chance to notice it until now, but something is different about Bellatrix since she came back. She’s every bit as sharp and angry and full of fire, but something has changed in the way she looks at her.
Bellatrix lowers her eyes at the train of thought, and Hermione knows she’s right. Something is different.
“Did you ever love him?”
Bellatrix’s eyes jump back to her face. It’s rare that Hermione manages to surprise her with a question, and she makes a mental note to blurt out her thoughts more often before Bellatrix has a chance to listen in. She waits for the answer, watching the myriad of emotions play out across the ghost’s face.
“No. I never even slept with him. I didn’t believe in…in marriage for love, I didn’t believe in spending my life with someone in that way. It wasn’t for me.”
“And Voldemort?” Hermione asks. She isn’t sure she wants to know the answer, but she finds herself asking anyway. Like pressing on a bruise—she knows it’s going to hurt, but she can’t resist the urge.
Bellatrix’s jaw works as her gaze hardens. After a long silence, she responds, “Yes. I loved him.”
The flood of jealousy returns immediately, and Hermione sucks in a breath at the sting of it. It runs through her veins, hot and acidic, and no matter how hard she tries to conceal it, she knows that Bellatrix can feel every ounce of it.
“How could you love someone like that?” Hermione asks, struggling to get the words out through the tightness in her throat.
Bellatrix’s jaw twitches the way it does when she’s annoyed, “You wouldn’t understand it.”
“Try me,” Hermione says, “What was it? What attracted you to him? The power, the lack of remorse, the dedication to his cause? I’m sure I can manage to wrap my mind around why you wanted him.”
“I want you,” Bellatrix hisses, and her gaze is burning hot on Hermione’s face.
Their anger warms the air between them, and Hermione feels the magnetic tug of their souls, needing to be closer together. Desire coils in her stomach at the words, nearly overshadowing her jealousy.
Bellatrix’s hand makes contact with her cheek at that moment, and she doesn’t waste any time winding it through Hermione’s hair to draw her closer. Bellatrix’s eyes swallow her whole, and she can feel the chill of her breath on her skin, drawing goosebumps out along her arms. “How many times do I have to say it before you understand?” Bellatrix asks, “I never believed in eternity until I found you.”
Pain shoots through Hermione’s chest at the words. Everything inside of her screams at her to close the distance, to draw Bellatrix against her, to let her inside in every way they can manage. The need is so powerful it’s painful, it’s terrifying, because she can’t want Bellatrix.
It doesn’t matter. She does. She wants her, needs her, worships her with everything she has. And it’s going to kill her.
“Stop,” Hermione pleads, “I can’t do this—I can’t need you like this.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Bellatrix whispers fiercely, her mouth inches from Hermione’s, her hand painfully tight in her hair, “You do.”
It’s going to kill us.
Bellatrix’s voice rings out in her head, invading every corner of her mind.
Sorry for the long wait! Writers block is no joke. I hope you all enjoy! I’m as excited for this one as I am nervous to share.
Hermione’s recovery is long and slow, in open defiance of Wizarding medicine. Bellatrix’s presence is the obvious culprit, and Hermione wouldn’t trade it for the longest, healthiest life she could be afforded. She knows that should worry her, but she finds that any attempt at grasping for her sense of self preservation leads to it slipping through her fingers in the shadow of Bellatrix’s heavy gaze.
When she wakes to her usual dose of the protective draught at her infirmary bedside, she pours it down the bathroom sink with little hesitation. Her wounds are healing, even if it is at half the pace they should be. She admits her darkest secrets only to her journal, its red leather her own personal confession booth, only she doesn’t expect to be forgiven for her sins. Despite her recklessness, she’s back in class and resuming her duties as Head Girl by the following week.
Her recovery just so happens to coincide with McGonagall’s Winter Ball, and when she exits her morning Potions class to find Ron leaning against a pillar in wait of her, she isn’t surprised.
He holds a red, long stem rose in his hand, twirling it between his fingers with a smirk. The seventh year girls exiting the classroom in front of her stare at him as they pass, giggling when he sends them a wink. Hermione can sense Bellatrix rolling her eyes without having to look at her.
He holds it out to her when she stops within arms reach, and she accepts it with a tight smile. He grins when she takes it, and Bellatrix’s irritation crackles through the air, raising the hair on the back of Hermione’s neck.
“I’m happy to see you’re back on your feet,” he says, straightening to step closer to her, “Even if it took long enough to have us all worried.”
A group of students slow down to pass them, casting curious glances their way. McGonagall has kept Hermione’s injuries under wraps, and all anyone aside from Ginny knows is that she was injured on a secret mission for the Ministry. Ron notices their stares and glares at them. When they walk away, he calls after them.
“That’s right, mind your business!”
Hermione twirls the rose in her hand, reminded of the roses in perpetual bloom at Black Manor each time she visits in her dreams. She wonders if Bellatrix likes them despite the horrors endured in her childhood home.
“The garden was always safe,” Bellatrix murmurs, her voice soft as velvet in her ear, “I do like them, although I prefer them in white.”
Hermione files the information away, although she isn’t sure how it would ever be relevant to her considering their situation.
“Sorry about that,” Ron says, drawing her attention back to him, “You can probably guess why I’m here.”
Hermione pretends to think about it, as though she hasn’t been dreading this moment for the last week and a half. Ginny’s warning about her brother’s plans has proven to be a blessing and a curse.
“You know…” Ron continues when she doesn't respond, “I thought…with the Ball coming up, you would appreciate some company.”
“Well, I do have Ginny,” Hermione says.
Blood darkens Ron’s cheeks at the words, and he stumbles over his next sentence, “Right! Well, of course I know that, but I thought you’d…I mean, considering how the Yule Ball went, I thought it’d be nice to…I dunno…”
“Right…” He swallows, glancing around the sparsely populated hallway, “I wanted to make it up to you…to ask you like I should have the first time.”
“As friends?” Hermione blurts, unable to stop herself.
Ron laughs nervously, scratching at the back of his neck, “I suppose I was hoping for another chance at something…uh well, I thought that we could give things another shot. Everything that’s happened with Lestrange has just made me realize that even though the war is over, I could still…we could lose each other at any moment.”
Hermione stares at Ron, stunned. He has never, in all of the years they have known one another, been so straightforward about his feelings and intentions. If he had only done so sooner, they may have had a chance before she was lost to him forever. Or maybe it would have only been a matter of time before she realized that she doesn’t feel that way about men.
Her brow furrows as she considers for the briefest of moments the life she could have had without Bellatrix. Is she strictly interested in women, or is it only Bellatrix? Would anyone ever hold a candle to the ghost of the infamous witch, man or woman? She can’t bring herself to imagine it, her stomach plummeting in despair at the very notion.
Ron clears his throat and her eyes jump back to him. Her train of thought ends with a surge of guilt as she recalls that she hasn’t told anyone that she doesn’t plan on continuing with the potions. At least, not for now. She doesn’t know where Bellatrix went when their bond fell slack, but the ghost has been different since her return. Hermione can see it in her eyes; she had been someplace awful. Hermione can’t bring herself to banish her back into obscurity.
The potions weren’t going anywhere. If she needs them, she’ll take them. For now, however…
“Hermione?” Ron asks, his cheeks maintaining their flush through her internal battle.
“I can only agree to accompany you as a friend, Ron. I’m sorry,” Hermione says, another pang of guilt ringing through her when his face falls, “I’m just not…in the sort of headspace to consider something like that.”
Nor will I ever be, she thinks, her eyes flickering to Bellatrix’s figure lurking in the hall behind Ron. She’s leaning against the wall, facing away, her edges blending with shadow as she pretends not to listen.
Ron surprises her again by saying, “Alright. I get it. Friends it is.”
Hermione sighs, the tension draining from her shoulders, “Then I’ll see you Friday evening.”
The corner of his mouth twitches into a weak, crooked smile, “Meet me at the stairs?”
A laugh rushes out of her lungs at the memory of her last appearance at a Ball. It had been the first time she felt so many eyes on her, looking at her with something other than annoyance. It meant everything to her back then, and looking back, the memory feels so small.
“Friday night. Stairs. Got it.”
Bellatrix glances over her shoulder to meet her eyes, her face bright in the shadows.
After a night of fitful sleep, too restless to even meet Bellatrix in her unconsciousness, Hermione walks down to Black Lake before the break of dawn.
Even the quiet of the evening just before sunrise isn’t enough to quell her nerves. The Ball is the culmination of weeks of hard work, it will be what she’s remembered for as Head Girl. With the year she’s been having, it’ll be the only thing she’s actually accomplished as Head Girl.
McGonagall is counting on her. Ron is counting on her. Her peers are—
“You’re Hermione Granger,” Bellatrix interrupts, the fog parting beside Hermione as she materializes, “On the list of things you’ll be remembered for, this will be the last.”
Hermione hazards a glance at her companion, her feet sinking into the soft, damp earth beside the lapping waves as she walks, “I’m running out of time to accomplish anything. It has to be perfect.”
Bellatrix’s eyes narrow, “You aren’t running out of time. You are not— ”
“This could very well be one of the last happy memories I can create with my friends. It needs to be perfect for Ron, for Ginny, for Luna.”
Bellatrix vanishes and reappears in front of her in the blink of an eye. Hermione steps backwards, startled, and her ankle twists in the soft soil. Bellatrix reaches out and grabs her by the arm before she can fall.
“Stop it. Just shut the bloody hell up, Granger. You aren’t running out of time, you aren’t dying. You have the potions, you can close the drain any time you’d like.”
Hermione’s pulse is thrumming, goosebumps erupting on the right side of her body from the place Bellatrix is touching her. Even through her jacket, their connection holds an undeniable rush of intensity.
“You can’t honestly believe that. This has been your plan all along, and you’re succeeding. You must see that. Just look at me, Bellatrix.”
Bellatrix’s mouth sets in a hard line as her eyes rake over her face. Her expression falters, and Hermione knows exactly what she’s looking at. Ever since Bellatrix’s return, life has been slowly trickling out of her once again. Her eyes are hollow, framed by dark circles. Her skin shines with a pallor that rivals Bellatrix’s, and she’s barely maintaining her weight. Food tastes like ash, water smells rotten. Her very senses rebel against sustenance, against life. She only craves one thing, every hour of every day.
And it’s killing her.
“I thought you’d be happy,” Hermione says, her cheeks warming beneath Bellatrix’s solemn scrutiny. She feels embarrassed, suddenly, at her own fragility.
Bellatrix is quiet for a long time, the only sound the lapping waves and the gentle winter breeze making the old trees groan. In their silence, the birds begin to sing their first songs of the morning. Fog from the lake caresses Hermione’s ankles and passes through Bellatrix’s skirt undisturbed.
“I thought I would be, too.”
Hermione’s despair chills her to the bone. She doesn’t want Bellatrix to be sad, she doesn’t want her to care about her this way. If Bellatrix was gleeful, celebratory, it would reignite Hermione’s will to live, to fight. Instead, the ghost’s tortured, raging emotions only soften Hermione further to her.
“It has to be perfect,” Hermione murmurs, a tear slipping out of her eye and falling down her cheek.
“Alright,” Bellatrix responds, resigning quietly to her will, “What can I do to make it perfect?”
Hermione’s chest warms and her lips lift into a weak smile, her gaze climbing up Bellatrix’s body to her face. She’s bathed in cold blue light, and sadness radiates off of her, hanging around them like the fog. Hermione reaches up to cup her cheek, watching as her heavy lashes when she touches her. A month ago Hermione couldn’t have imagined touching her like this, but now she can’t seem to help it.
“Do you know how to dance?” Hermione asks.
Bellatrix glances around, ensuring they are completely alone. The points of the castle peak at them from above the trees, but they are thoroughly shrouded. Even if they weren’t, they are hours away from any other students waking. Starting tomorrow, students will be leaving for the holiday, and for today they will all sleep late into the morning, warm in their beds.
Bellatrix and Hermione may not have much, but today they have Black Lake.
Bellatrix holds out her hand, and Hermione pauses, appraising the long, elegant fingers and skin soft and pale as fresh snow. Her eyes dart to Bellatrix’s face to be certain she isn’t misunderstanding her, and she’s met with Bellatrix’s shrouded dark eyes, holding secrets that Hermione fears she’ll never be privy to.
Hermione reaches for her, brushing her fingertips against the upturned palm, watching as Bellatrix’s eye’s lower. She takes her hand, and the moment she does, Bellatrix is sliding her opposite hand around her waist and pulling her flush against her.
“I am of the Noble House of Black,” Bellatrix murmurs, her red lips inches from Hermione’s, “Of course I know how to dance.”
Hermione rests a hand on Bellatrix’s shoulder, feeling the cold of her skin even through her dress. Bellatrix steps back, taking Hermione with her, and just like that she’s weightless.
The breath leaves Hermione’s lungs, appearing between them in a fleeting cloud of vapor before vanishing as Bellatrix guides her along. She always thought that dancing without music would be incredibly awkward, but in this moment music is far from her mind. All she sees are Bellatrix’s eyes, darker than the night sky, and all she hears is the cold wind whipping past her ears as Bellatrix leads her every graceful movement.
Bellatrix moves with inhuman grace, each step measured and practiced, and Hermione is swept up in her magic. The longer their bodies are pressed together, the more a kind of warmth grows between them. It isn’t the normal warmth between two living bodies, but a crackling, electric warmth that Hermione has never felt before. It makes it so she never wants to be apart from her.
Bellatrix guides them in a flawless path in their secluded clearing, sensing their surroundings despite her gaze never leaving Hermione’s face. Each time they near a tree, Bellatrix changes direction, twirling their bodies back towards the lake. Before Hermione’s boot can touch the damp soil of the shore, Bellatrix is pulling her away with ease.
It almost feels like she’s flying. Her feet hardly touch the ground with every step, and she’s enveloped in Bellatrix’s arms. She doesn’t have to think about where she’s stepping, how she’s moving, how she looks cradling the vacant air in front of her on the shore of the lake, the fog her only dancing partner.
She craves to know what Bellatrix is thinking. She’s never had someone’s attention on her so completely the way she does right now. Bellatrix hasn’t looked away from her once, her eyes taking in each and every emotion that flickers across Hermione’s face. She knows the specter can read her mind, but she’s never felt more exposed to her than she does right now. She could so easily get lost in her eyes and never wonder what lies outside of their darkness ever again.
“I don't think…” Hermione begins, hesitating at how breathless she sounds, “I don’t think anyone is going to live up to you tonight.”
“Good,” Bellatrix says, and in one fluid movement she turns Hermione so that her back is flush against the ghost’s front. One hand creeps over Hermione’s stomach and the other across her neck. Hermione’s head falls back onto her shoulder, bearing her neck to Bellatrix’s mouth, “No one will ever live up to me.”
Bellatrix’s icy lips brush against the skin of her throat, and a violent shiver wracks Hermione’s body. She allows her full weight to rest back in Bellatrix’s arms, trusting completely that she won’t fall through her. Their connection has never been stronger than it is in this moment, and the bare branches are trembling in the absence of wind with the force of it.
“Bella…” Hermione murmurs, watching each breath she expels appear and dissipate in the air before them.
Her heart races in her chest, and the hand on her throat presses against her pulse point. She feels the rise of Bellatrix’s chest at her back as she breathes her in, and her own breath quickens. They have stilled completely, and Hermione feels as though she’s standing on a precipice with Bellatrix behind her, one step away from tumbling into the unknown.
Adrenaline licks across her skin as Bellatrix’s lips drag over her flushed throat. Her pulse quickens against Bellatrix’s fingers as though it wishes to leap forth and into her hands.
“I can feel the beat of your heart everywhere,” Bellatrix says, “In the silence it almost feels like my own.”
“If I could breathe life back into you, I would,” Hermione says, her voice fragile and trembling. She wonders if she could achieve the impossible, if she could give Bellatrix a true second chance without sacrificing her body, would she run from her? Would she return to her former ways, Hermione nothing but a passing fling from her afterlife?
“If I could live again while you still walk this earth,” Bellatrix says, “You would never take another step without me at your back.”
Hermione turns to face her, and Bellatrix’s hands are on her face, running through her hair, and trapping her against her as though she could entertain any thought of leaving. Bellatrix’s eyes absorb her once again, and Hermione loses herself in them until she can’t recall right from wrong.
Hermione stares at her for a long moment, and time freezes around them. The swirling fog settles, the wind ceases, the water freezes in its reach for the shore, until all that remains is Bellatrix before her and the precipice behind her.
Hermione’s fingers sink into Bellatrix’s shoulders, her nails biting into her flesh. Bellatrix only watches her, her eyes wide and flickering between Hermione’s eyes and her mouth. Hermione touches her jaw, her fingertips caressing her skin until they reach her full bottom lip. She remembers what she tastes like, what she feels like.
Bellatrix is frozen, enraptured by Hermione’s every thought and movement. Her eyes settle on Hermione’s darkening gaze, her breath ceases in the space between them. The gust of wind that pushes Hermione’s hair behind her shoulders passes through Bellatrix as if she isn't there, a reminder that she belongs only to Hermione.
I need to feel her lips on mine. If I don’t have her now, I don’t think I’ll survive. She’s mine, mine, mine—
A small gasp leaves Hermione’s lips as the thoughts trickle through her mind, thoughts that don’t belong to her. Bellatrix’s thoughts. She doesn’t give herself time to dwell on it, even as Bellatrix’s eyes widen as she realizes that Hermione heard her.
Bellatrix’s thoughts are the most beautiful sound she’s ever heard.
Hermione surges forward, wrapping her arms around Bellatrix’s shoulders and kissing her. It’s unlike anything she’s ever felt, unlike their last kiss. It fills her with life, her blood pounding through her veins as Bellatrix grasps desperately at her waist.
The sound of her name in Bellatrix’s mind rings out as clear as a bell, full of so much desire and euphoria that Hermione forgets how to breathe, how to stand, how to think for herself. She sinks into Bellatrix’s arms, the edges of their souls blending into one another. She feels possessed by Bellatrix’s desire, as if their souls are one once again, the only reminder that her body is her own lying in the way Bellatrix is touching her.
Their mouths move together in a blur of teeth and saliva and tongue as Bellatrix invades her in every way she can manage. Their thoughts blur together in a haze of need, heat flushing through Hermione’s body and bleeding into Bellatrix’s. She almost feels alive beneath Hermione’s touch as they clutch at one another.
Bellatrix’s lips part against her own, and in tandem with her thoughts she whispers her name again.
Hermione melts against her, desire a burning furnace low in her gut. Bellatrix’s emotions creep into her, a slow moving fog that invades her senses. She feels her desire blending with Hermione’s, she feels her fear, her tenderness, her remorse.
All at once, Bellatrix buries her face in Hermione’s neck, dragging her teeth against her skin and sucking on her. The sensation sends a hot, fluttering sensation from her stomach through the rest of her body. The wind brushes against her flushed face and her eyes open to see that they’re bathed in sunlight.
She looks down at her hand, at the inky tendrils of Bellatrix’s hair falling over her skin like a bleeding shadow. The silence of their union is shattered by Trelawney’s warning, prickling in the back of her mind.
You must not be seduced by the darkness. Two must never become one. You must not let the darkness touch you. You must not let it claim you!
Hermione shudders in Bellatrix’s arms, dread warring with lust in her gut. If Bellatrix hears the memory, she pays it no mind, set only on marking Hermione’s throat for as long as time allows.
A soft, pathetic moan slips out from Hermione’s throat as the heat in her stomach slides lower, pooling between her legs.
“Don’t worry,” Bellatrix purrs, low in her ear, “The old bat’s predictions seldom come to pass.”
The ghost nips at Hermione’s earlobe before returning to her throat, this time sinking her teeth into the pulsing skin beneath her jaw. Hermione draws in a desperate, haggard breath as she allows Bellatrix to guide her backwards until she’s pressed against the trunk of the nearest oak tree.
Hermione presses a trembling hand against Bellatrix’s chest, keeping her from claiming her mouth again. Her chest heaves with every breath as she tries to regain her senses, struggling to do so beneath the burning of Bellatrix’s gaze. She needs to stop them, she can’t allow herself to do this. She can’t cross this line.
“Hermione,” Bellatrix says, her name hanging between them as her heart thunders in her ears. Bellatrix lowers her head until her forehead is resting against Hermione’s. She can’t look away from her black eyes, can’t pull herself away from her cold embrace. “ Please .”
The word is highlighted by Bellatrix’s desperation, so strong that Hermione can feel it bleeding out of her. Her desperation, her pain, and her need, settling over Hermione with crippling weight. Bellatrix has never begged her for anything until now.
In the back of her mind, she hears the pleas of her friends, of her professors, of everyone who loves her. They all pale before the whim of Bellatrix Lestrange. Of Bellatrix Black. Of her Bella.
Bellatrix steps forward, and Hermione’s moral compass is crushed beneath the heel of her boot.
“What if someone sees?” Hermione murmurs, her words muffled in Bellatrix’s hair as she brushes her lips along her jaw. Hermione glances at the peaks of Hogwarts castle piercing the morning sky, knowing that at any moment a student could intrude upon this moment.
“I’ll know if someone’s coming. Trust me,” Bellatrix says, the words soft as she leans in to steal another kiss, “Do you trust me, Hermione?”
Hermione whines against Bellatrix’s mouth as her fingers tease against the hem of her skirt.
I would never let someone see you. You belong to me and me alone. I will protect you against all who wish to take you from me. No one will find us. I promise you. Hermione, my love, please…
The word love sets something alight in Hermione’s chest, and the feeling is so warm, so full of need that it overcomes her. Bellatrix’s words burn through her mind like a wildfire, burning away any sense of self preservation. Any shred of resistance slips away in the heat of her words, my love, and she surrenders to Bellatrix completely.
Hermione collapses back against the tree at the same moment Bellatrix slides to her knees, her hands up the student’s skirt. She hooks her fingers in Hermione’s stockings and slides them down, along with her underwear. Hermione shivers, bracing herself against Bellatrix’s shoulders as she kicks off her shoes.
The moment her stockings are gone, Bellatrix’s mouth is hot on her thighs, and the heat spreads everywhere until the December chill is nothing but a distant memory. She looks down, her head spinning at the sight of the former Death Eater on her knees before her.
Bellatrix catches her eye, and Hermione is robbed of her breath at the sight of her. The morning light casts long shadows on her face, but her eyes warm in the rays as she looks up at her with an almost religious devotion.
She looks alive.
I feel alive—because of you.
Hermione trembles as Bellatrix rises before her, shrouding her from the sunlight. Hermione is invincible. She can be strong enough to sustain both her life and Bellatrix’s. She will be strong enough. She has to. Hermione clings to the tether that was once unwilling, pouring her life eagerly into Bellatrix and holding her in this plane of existence. She won’t let her go. She can’t
Bellatrix kisses her again, and again, roughly, sweetly, deeply, until Hermione’s mouth is swollen from the assault. Only then does she move her attention to Hermione’s shirt, unbuttoning it slowly and following each inch of exposed skin with her mouth. Once her shirt hangs open, only her lace, black bra covers her straining nipples from Bellatrix’s touch.
Bellatrix pulls the fabric out of the way and lowers her mouth to the peaks, her tongue swirling hotly over them. Hermione gasps and arches into her, feeling the touch everywhere , all at once. Lust pounds in her head as the sun burns away the fog, leaving them exposed to any passerbys.
Hermione flushes, hardly able to comprehend the humiliation that would occur if she is discovered. She has no choice but to put all of her faith in Bellatrix, to trust in her word that she would not allow someone else to see her like this.
Bellatrix’s hands tighten at her waist at the thought, a reassurance that borders on painful. Hermione focuses on it and surrenders herself to the ecstasy of Bellatrix’s touch.
Bellatrix rakes her nails down Hermione’s sides until she reaches her thighs. Her right hand slips up her skirt and her left guides Hermione’s leg until it’s hooked around her hip, opening her up. Hermione is already a panting, melting mess of desire, and Bellatrix hasn’t even touched her where she needs her.
“I want to hear you say it,” Bellatrix says, the quiet words sharp against Hermione’s mouth, “I want you to beg me.”
Hermione arches her hips, seeking the fingers that hover nearby. Bellatrix hisses, narrowing her eyes and pressing her hips harder against Hermione’s until she’s trapped against the tree.
“ Please,” Hermione pleads, tears stinging at the corners of her eyes. She needs this, more than dignity, more than self preservation, more than anything. She knows Bellatrix can feel how much she needs this.
Still, Bellatrix is cruel. “Please what? ”
I want you inside of me, Hermione thinks frantically, digging her fingers into the fabric of Bellatrix’s dress to drag her impossibly closer.
Bellatrix’s words are clipped, ruthless, “Out. Loud.”
“Please…” Hermione hesitates. She wants to ask her to make love to her, to become one with her, but it feels too soft. The word Bellatrix wants is more vulgar. She doesn’t want to make love to her, she doesn’t want tenderness. She wants to claim her. She wants to be rough and hard, she doesn’t want to bring Hermione gently to orgasm, she wants to screw her, she wants to force her to cum on her pumping fingers. And as much as she wishes she could deny it, that is exactly what Hermione wants, too. “Please fuck me, Bella.”
Hermione feels filthy the moment the words leave her mouth, but the feeling dies in the wake of the sinister glint in Bellatrix’s eyes as her fingers push inside of her, taking her. Hermione’s head falls back against the tree, her eyes screwed shut as she revels in the feeling of Bellatrix’s cold fingers inside of her, filling her up, touching her in a place no one has before.
“No one else?” Bellatrix asks, low and breathless, even though she knows the answer.
Hermione shakes her head, shaking like a leaf as her walls grip at Bellatrix’s intrusion. Lust, heady and thick, clouds her mind as she struggles not to cum immediately. She’s certain that this isn’t normal, that it isn’t common to come apart the moment someone pushes inside for the first time, but this is her and Bellatrix, and nothing about them is normal.
This is so wrong. Hermione’s last shred of logic reminds her, but the thought is chased away with overwhelming pleasure. Bellatrix Lestrange is taking my virginity.
The thought should repulse her, should horrify her, but it only fills her to the brim with desire, with an almost twisted sort of pride. The most fearsome warrior she’s ever met is inside her, trembling with the force of how much she needs her . Bellatrix had once been her most menacing adversary, and now she’s looking at her with obsessive reverence.
The moment she adjusts to Bellatrix’s fingers, she knows, and she begins to slide them out and thrust back in. She sets a slow pace, fucking Hermione deep, her gaze boring into her, past her eyes and straight into her soul the entire time.
The cadence of Bellatrix’s every thought fills Hermione’s mind until she’s drunk on it; a stream of curses and loving possessiveness unique only to her. There is no one like Bellatrix in this world, and Hermione is honored to belong to her. She shouldn’t be, she shouldn’t be doing any of this, that much is clear.
What she should and shouldn’t do just doesn’t matter to her anymore. Bellatrix is what she needs and she’s tired of fighting it. It feels so fucking good to give in.
Bellatrix drags her hand up Hermione’s hip to palm at her breast, her eyes leaving her face to watch Hermione arch against her. Bellatrix’s eyes settle between her legs, but Hermione’s skirt blocks the view of her hand. Knowing exactly what she wants, Hermione reaches down to hike her skirt up and out of the way so Bellatrix can watch.
Hermione is only interested in the dark witch’s face, watching as her eyes glaze and her lips part as she watches her fingers pumping in and out of her. The pure, untethered desire only makes Hermione wetter, until the sound of them fucking fills the small clearing.
She winds her fingers through Bellatrix’s hair, holding the wild curls back from her face and urging her to meet Hermione’s eyes again. Hermione moans when their eyes meet, pulsing around Bellatrix’s fingers. She’s never been looked at with such uncontrolled lust, and the blackness of Bellatrix’s gaze is as frightening as it is exhilarating.
Hermione belongs to her completely.
Bellatrix surges forward to connect their mouths as Hermione plummets over the edge. Her cries are lost against Bellatrix’s lips as she climaxes, and the muffling of her sound is a blessing because she’s loud. Some small part of her mind finds it humiliating, her utter desperation as she cries and cries against Bellatrix’s mouth. Bellatrix fucks her through it, even as Hermione clenches and gushes and pulses around her, her hips jumping forward to meet every thrust.
Bellatrix‘s eyes are screwed shut as she experiences the force of Hermione’s orgasm for herself, her lips parted in a silent cry. Hermione marvels at the sight of Bellatrix lost in her pleasure, in awe as they experience it together. No one else in the world has experienced what they’re experiencing now, neither muggle or wizard. It’s theirs and theirs alone.
When the waves of pleasure slow and fade, Bellatrix slowly opens her eyes, swallowing when she sees Hermione watching her. For a long moment they just stare at each other, Bellatrix’s fingers still inside of her.
The fog in Hermione’s mind begins to clear, and Bellatrix slowly withdrawals her fingers. Hermione aches in the sudden emptiness, as guilt begins to churn in her stomach.
Fuck, Hermione thinks.
The walk back up to the castle is quiet and cold. The wind on her bare legs, absent her stockings, is a constant reminder of the way she’s just betrayed her friends. A storm cloud of thoughts hangs over her head the entire way as she dreads the night to come.
She can’t let it happen again.
Bellatrix’s voice sings in her mind, despite her lack of appearance.
I look forward to seeing how long you’ll stick with that.
Hermione shivers at a particularly strong gust of wind along with the new ability to hear the occasional thought from Bellatrix. She could cast a warming charm on herself, could have put her stockings back on, but she deserves the punishment of the icy wind.
She wonders if her newfound ability to listen in on Bellatrix’s mind will be permanent, or if it will fade with a potion.
Or maybe you’re only hearing what I want you to hear.
Hermione rolls her eyes, detecting the petulance in the ghost’s tone. She grinds her teeth together, electing to ignore her rather than engage. She’s engaged with Bellatrix quite enough for the day, as a matter of fact.
Her cheeks burn with embarrassment, even in the winter air.
Her stomach sinks when she looks up from her path to see someone waiting for her at the entrance to the castle. The wind makes her hair wild, and her brown eyes are dark with anger.
Andromeda has never resembled her sister more.
Once Hermione draws closer, Andromeda storms towards her until she’s blocking her path. Hermione looks up at her, all too aware of the bruises on her neck, her bare legs, and the disheveled state of her hair.
Hermione’s heart races as Andromeda looms over her, her eyes furious. When she speaks, Hermione’s blood runs cold.
“I know what you’ve done. I know everything.”