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Ribon o hodoku || Untying the ribbons

Chapter Text

How can I change her fate?

Do I have to change all the fates of those tied to her?

If it's what she wanted of me, I'd do anything.

But then, how can I change their fates?

If I did it differently, would this time be it?

Maybe if I changed their fates, hers would change too.

For her fate here is intertwined in theirs, and she will react to their outcomes.

But is it enough?

Will, her happy world be achievable, can fate really be beat, or am I merely pursuing a naive dream?

Will it be enough to stop her, and will I be free?

Only time will tell, as I am unable to know my fate.

.

It was pouring down rain outside, and it seemed so perfect, so fitting, that it was almost scary. Walpurgisnacht continued to thunder outside, destroying everything in its path. Innocent lives were being taken at that very moment, but Homura could care less about that now. All she cared about, Madoka Kaname, had already been stricken down, so she no longer saw a purpose to fight. Not in this world, anyway. Maybe the next would be better, but that probably wouldn't happen. She's yet to have anything she could call success, you see.

It gets tiring after a while, but it's all she has left, anymore. So Homura Akemi has to fight in the endless maze because it's all she has left. She must fulfill the wish she made at the very beginning, and giving up isn't an option, anymore.

Madoka was limp on the cold, muddy ground, her uniform dirtied and her pretty hair was distraught. She turned weakly over to Homura and smiled a little. It was a sad smile, almost apologetic. "I'm sorry," She remarked softly, her voice weak and croaky. Judging from her soul gem, Madoka didn't have much longer to live, and Homura only had one more grief seed. She's tried offering it to Madoka before, but Madoka always refuses, telling Homura to fight on.

"Why... are you sorry?" Homura asked with a stiff cough. She reached her free hand into her skirt pocket and gripped the grief seed inside. Grief seeds, (earned from witches after fighting,) were essential to magical girls. It was also quite convenient to the incubators, as they forced the magical girls into fighting and conducting them energy.

Madoka looked up the at cloud sky, and her face was pelted upon by the pouring rain. "Isn't this what you don't want?" She asked, her lower lip quivering a little. "You fight like this... so I won't become a magical girl, and this will happen to me, right?"

Homura looked at Madoka and nodded. "It's okay, though. Don't blame yourself."

Tears began to sprout from Madoka's gentle eyes. "H-how... how many times have you had to watch me die?"

"I've lost count. It's happened in every timeline I've seen so far, and probably more to come," Homura answered grimly. Madoka let out a weak gasp, but she choked it back just in time.

"You're very brave, Homura, you know that?" Madoka stuttered. "Sayaka... she was a little intimidated because you always seemed so cold, and maybe that's why you didn't get along with Mami either... you've seen... so much..."

There were increasing pauses in between her words, as Madoka coughed more life out of her lungs. It wouldn't be long now, and Homura winced. No matter how many times it happened, Madoka's death was always painful to witness.

"Madoka..."

"Homura... I want to ask you something, and you can consider this my final request..." Madoka coughed.

Homura's eyes widened. No...no... no! Not yet! "Yes, Madoka?" She squeaked.

"This... it may seem like a little much but," She stuttered.

"That's okay. I can handle it," Homura assured her, hoping it was a promise she'd be able to keep.

"I want you to... save them."

"Them? Who?"

"First of all, please, if you can, don't... don't let Sayaka become a magical girl..." Madoka was caughing and sputtering more now, and her voice was getting weaker and weaker. "It may be a selfish thing to ask but... Sayaka is my best friend... and... You know what it's like to want to save your... best friend... so... please, could you try to save her, too? Remember me, and let me live within you... let me inspire you to... create... a happy world for everyone... because there are things here... that are worth protecting... not just me..."

Homura nodded. "It's not going to be easy, but I swear I'll try, for you, Madoka. I promise you I'll try," Homura told her.

"Could you also... try to save Mami, too?"

"She's already a magical girl though. When I get there, she's already a magical girl..."

"I know, but... maybe if she could live a little longer, and Sayaka and I... she was just so happy when we became her friends... and in a happy world, she deserves to be a part of it..."

Homura nodded, a determined look burning behind her eyes. "Alright, I'll try to save her, too."

"Thank-" Madoka sputtered, but her breath ran short. She was dead. Homura turned around, not wanting to look at the sight. She'd let this Madoka live into the next world, and she'd save everyone. If creating a happy world for Madoka is what Madoka wants her to do, she'd be more than happy to do it, no matter how difficult. She gripped the grief seed, then warped herself away, into the next Mitakihara. In the distance, Kyubey was watching everything, through it's cold, emotionless strawberry-colored eyes.

'Homura Akemi... you really are a strange case,' echoed the monotone voice in her head, before she drifted into a heavy slumber, only to awake in the same hospital again.

.

Homura slowly opened her deep violet eyes and sniffed the cold and anticipating air. It smelled like a hospital room, no changes there. The scent wasn't old to her, though. At this point, Homura was beyond used to it. She didn't really take much time, though out if her day to reflect on such meaningless happenings. Homura was here for one reason, and it was Madoka Kaname. Anyone else at would just have to wait.

Homura used to feel remorse with the others, believe me, but that's changed. Now, she only really cared for Madoka. Every time she'd try, it has been the same. Tomoe Mami would get her head bitten off by a witch, and Sayaka Miki would fall into despair and become a witch. Homura had, of course, wondered before if saving them would change anything else, perhaps causing a domino effect. She knew however that this didn't exactly mean everything would fall into place, though. Homura knew she couldn't do this forever and that every timeline could be her last.

So, she didn't beat around the bush. She was in this for Madoka Kaname and Madoka Kaname only - it would just have to be tough luck for the others.

But this time, it was different. She had made a promise, not one with guarantees, but a promise nonetheless. A promise she had made to the previous world's Madoka, to try and save everyone, and create a happy world for everyone. She had to try, as it was too late to back out of the promise now.

It wasn't going to be easy, though.

Then again, it was partially Sayaka's fault Madoka even considered becoming a magical girl... no. Homura shook her head, slightly amused by that sort of thought. Sayaka may have been foolish, but it wasn't her fault. Ultimately, the decision had rested on Madoka, whether Madoka wanted to admit her faults or not, that indeed was a completely different story.

She stood up, flipping her hair in elegance. It was time to begin her journey once more. It was time for another battle with fate. From the windowsill, the fluffy white alien was watching; with its emotionless eyes of strawberry-red.

.

Madoka slowly opened her eyes, the warm daylight violating her sleepy face. She stared at the ceiling in wonder, recalling the strange, reoccurring dream she has had of the raven-haired girl. What did it mean? She had no idea whatsoever... hell, she didn't even know where to start. She's sure she's had that dream before, and it seemed so familiar. This feeling of familiarity was too strong to be deja vu, she was certain of it. 

But... who was she? Why does she keep showing up in Madoka's dreams?

Madoka considered that it may be some sort of prodigy, but then again, she doubted that she was really that special. Madoka was just an everyday eighth grade girl, right? She didn't feel like she was particularly good at anything either...

She rubbed her tired eyes with her hands and sleepily glanced over at her alarm clock. Her eyes snapped open when she saw the time. Oh no! She was going to be late for school!

Madoka leaped out of bed and got dressed in a flash. All she had left to do was her hair, and she stared down at the red ribbons, wondering. "Which one, which one should I wear?"

One of the ribbons was a modest, pale yellow. It would compliment her uniform and look very pretty in her soft, pink hair. Beside the yellow ribbon lied a flashy, ruby red ribbon. Madoka was a little more hesitant with this one, as it was rather show-offy. She felt such a rich and flashy ribbon was too... well, bright and flashy. Would it suit her? Or would it draw too much attention to herself? After careful thinking, Madoka reached for the more modest, yellow ribbon.

However, a third hand suddenly reached over, slapping the red one with certainty. Madoka turned around, startled. Luckily, it was just her mother, Junko Kaname.

Madoka's eyes widened as her mother tied them in her hair. She looked in the mirror, sighing. The red ribbons looked very pretty, yes, but they might attract unwanted attention...

"Aren't they a little too... flashy?" Madoka asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Not at all!" Junko exclaimed, brushing that thought aside. "The red ribbons look adorable on you, Madoka! They may be bright, but with these ribbons, your popularity will soar! Boys will be fawning over you, dropping to their knees and begging your attention!"

Madoka flushed red, giggling. 'As if that'll ever happen,' she thought, taking one last glimpse in the mirror for extra measure. She smiled at her reflection.

It smiled back.

The sun shone brightly outside, and the birds were singing happy songs. Even the grass seemed greener than ever, like a vast emerald sea, swaying in the wind. A bluebird landed on a tree branch, and Madoka's eyes slowly lowered.

"A nest!" she remarked happily. "It's got a cute little straw-made nest, in our very own garden too!"

Suddenly, Madoka's birdwatching was interrupted by her father's announcement. "Breakfast is ready!" He exclaimed, eyeing Madoka.

"Yay, breakfast!" Echoed Madoka's little brother, running around in circles. After enjoying a yummy breakfast, Madoka went running out the front door, her backpack slung over her shoulders. "See ya!"

"Bye-bye!" Her parents waved goodbye to their cheerful daughter.

Madoka smiled to herself. She had a nice feeling about today, and she had almost completely forgotten about the dream she had last night. After running for a while, Madoka caught up to two other eighth grade girls, standing on the sidewalk by the school gates.

One of them had short, sky-blue hair that fell down around her lower jawline. She had big blue eyes that nicely complimented her hair, and a slightly more mature figure than the other two, while still being the same height. Her name was Sayaka Miki. Standing beside Sayaka was a second girl, whose face was just as sunny. Her name was Hitomi, and she had wavy seaweed green hair that fell farther past her shoulders, green eyes, and a soft, but more melodious voice. They both waved their hands happily at Madoka, greeting their friend.

"Sayaka-chan, Hitomi-chan!" Madoka cried, cheerfully. "Good morning~!"

Once they were reunited, the three friends skipped down to school together, without any trouble.

"Kaname Madoka-chan!" Hitomi laughed, "You're late again!"

"I'm so sorry!" Madoka bashfully apologized, "But I guess I overslept again!"

Sayaka arched her eyebrows a little, noticing the difference from Madoka's usually yellow hair ribbons. "Eh? You're wearing different ribbons!"

Madoka lowered her head, embarrassed at how quickly Sayaka noticed the difference. "W-what do you think?" She stammered nervously. "Does it suit me?"

Sayaka narrowed her eyes playfully. "Oho? You're trying to lure in guys like Hitomi-chan, are you?" She urged, a wicking grin spreading on her face. Hitomi's eyes widened at this remark.

"S-Sayaka!"

Sayaka's grin only widened. "Just teasing~"

Madoka frowned, pouting slightly. Hitomi, on the other hand, turned to Sayaka, still not having a satisfactory answer. "So, Sayaka? Are you implying that I'm a ho-"

The school bell rang, interrupting Hitomi's question. The three sprinted away to their class, as quickly as they could, without a care in the world.

"Everyone!" The teacher exclaimed, her eyes gleaming with fury. "Your teacher has something that is very important to tell you, and you had better take this to heart, you hear me!"

A couple boys in the front desks nodded nervously.

She was known by the students as the teacher who had relationship issues, to put it gently. Her luck with boys was about as bad as it got.

"Listen up, all of you!" She shrieked, pointing an accusing finger at a boy in the front row of the classroom. "Girls! Don't you ever date a guy who complains about the way his egg was fried! And boys! Make sure you never grow to be a petty adult like that!!”

Sayaka snickered as she elbowed Madoka. “Heh, looks like she hooked up with another loser, huh?”

Madoka turned around, smiling meekly at Sayaka. She didn’t want to admit it, but she felt really bad for her teacher. “Guess so…” She mumbled.

“Oh,” The teacher added. “We have a new transfer student! Akemi-san, you may come in now.”

Sayaka snickered again. “Shouldn’t she have done that first?” She remarked. Madoka giggled sheepishly in reply.

A medium-height girl (around 5’2) stepped inside, the click-clack of her shoes echoing across the room. She had long, dark hair that cascaded down to about her lower waist. Her eyes were a rich violet, and there was a distinct look in her eyes. Cold? Stiff? Sad? Madoka couldn’t tell. She was very pale, though she wasn’t sickly. Her face was clear, free from even a trace of blemish. Her eyes darted towards Madoka for a second, making Madoka squirm.

She… recognized this girl somewhere, but where? Wait... could it be? No, dummy, she told herself. It couldn't.

But it was.

This new girl was the same girl Madoka had seen in her reoccuring dream.

"My name," The girl said, facing the entire class and bowing her head with respect, "My name is Homura Akemi. It is very nice to meet all of you."

The teacher cleared her throat. "Now class, please be sure to make friends with her, okay?"

"H-hey," A soft voice urged. Madoka turned her head. It was Sayaka. Sayaka cupped her hand around her mouth before continuing. "...Is it just me, or did she just shoot a major laser beam over here with her eyes...?"

Madoka chuckled nervously. "Eh? You think?"

Sayaka nodded.

Hitomi, who sat in-between and behind both of them tapped on Sayaka's desk. "Would you check out that crowd? The new girl already seems pretty popular around here," she mused.

Madoka glanced over. Hitomi was right, a large crowd had gathered around the new girl's desk and everyone was obsessing over Homura.

"Akemi-san, Akemi-san! Where did you go to school!"

"Hey! Akemi-san! Want to sit with us at lunch?"

"Your hair is sooo gorgeous!"

"What brand of shampoo do you use, anyway?"

The questions just kept coming. The girls were swarming around Homura like bees swarming around their nest, buzzing obnoxiously.

Homura let out a very subtle 'tch,' under her breath. This always happened, and it never failed to annoy her. She stood up, and bowed to the students in apology. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid this is a little overwhelming on me, so I have to go to the nurse," she told them. She walked over towards Madoka, her heels clicking on the tile floor. Madoka was joking around with Sayaka and Hitomi and jumped a little when she saw Homura. (She wasn't exactly afraid, just startled.)

Homura twiddled her hair in her fingers (it made her seem more normal to the other students, she's learned,) and politetly adressed Madoka. "Kaname-san?"

Sayaka looked at her a little funny, but she didn't say anything. Madoka looked at Homura. "Hmm? Oh, hello! Homura, is it?"\

Homura nodded. "Could you please walk me to the nurse?" She asked. "It's your duty, right?"

Madoka nodded sheepishly. "Y-yeah... It is..." She sputtered, surprised that Homura knew it. She wasn't paying much attention, but she didn't see Homura ask the teacher anything...

.

Once the two of them were alone, Homura tried to relax her facial expression a little. She was wearing braids and glasses today, as she's learned that wearing her hair down on the first day always caused the students to be intimidated by her, for some odd reason. She figured if she maintained a cheery aura, Madoka would be able to relate to her better.

"Hey Homura... You're walking ahead of me. You seem to really know where you're going, fro a transfer student," Madoka remarked nervously. Homura turned around. Madoka was three feet back behind her. She must have been speed walking and not noticed it, she figured. Homura stopped where she was and waited for Madoka to catch up. "Aha... I guess I just have a nice sense of direction..." Homura answered hesitantly. 'Be friendly!' she mentally urged herself.

If she wanted to save Sayaka, she'd have to try and befriend her and Hitomi. She was a little skeptical when this occurred to her, but she was doing this for Madoka. (Madoka didn't even realize it at the time, but that's okay. She's not supposed to.) Homura tapped her chin and looked at Madoka. "I uh... I really like your hair ribbons," She told Madoka, causing the pink-haired girl to beam in embarrassment.

"Ahh...Thanks! At first, I was worried they may be too flashy, but... I decided to try something different, that's all... I'm not usually this bold though, but... sorry, I'm rambling, aren't I?" Madoka gasped.

Homura giggled. "Don't worry about it! I just think they're cute! It's a good look for you," She assured Madoka. Usually, Madoka wore pale yellow ribbons on the first day of school and didn't wear the flashing ruby red ones until later. Honestly, Homura liked the red ones better, she always had. Though it was a small difference, this sudden change in the timeline was already making Homura feel good. 'Perhaps this just might be the time,' she thought.

"Cute, huh..." Madoka mused, clearly flustered.

"Yeah," Homura confirmed. "You look cute."

Homura figured now would be as good a time as ever. If she wanted to save Sayaka, as well as Madoka and Mami, she had to get close to them, preferably enough to gain their trust. It wasn't going to be easy, but this was all for Madoka, she kept reminding herself.

"H-hey, Madoka," Homura began.

"Hmm?"

"May I please sit with you and your friends at lunch, today?" Homura asked, turning red with embarrassment.

"Of course! I'm sure you'll get along with the others just fine!" Madoka exclaimed cheerfully. "I'll be sure to let Sayaka know you're joining us," she said. Madoka came to an abrupt stop, and Homura raised an eyebrow.

"Uh, Homura," Madoka said.

"Eh?"

"The nurses' office, we're here..." Madoka said.

"Oh, ah, yes...!" Homura exclaimed as she went inside. "See you later, Madoka!"

Madoka cheerfully skipped away, and the nurse faced Homura. "Why, hello, I haven't seen you around before," she remarked with curiosity.

"Oh, right. I'm Homura Akemi, and I transferred in, today," Homura told her. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

The nurse raised an eyebrow. "Sick on the first day, are we?"

"Actually, I was simply a tad anxious," Homura corrected her. "It was overwhelming, you know? I think I'm better, now, though."

.

Homura was careful to watch the clock through one eye as she laid on the cot. She wanted to get back an hour before lunchtime, which would give her a solid twenty-five minutes in the nurse's office. Plenty of time to brainstorm ideas for fulfilling Madoka's wish.

All that Madoka wanted was to live a happy life with her friends, huh? Homura was one of them, too. Homura sighed. In previous worlds, she and Sayaka were not on the greatest of terms. Sayaka often found Homura to be cold and intimidating, and if the circumstances weren't what they were now, that wouldn't be an issue. However, here, Homura had to try and at least gain a sliver of Sayaka's trust. Sayaka Miki has always been naive compared to the others, so Homura figured it wouldn't be too hard.

Perhaps that's why Homura was so understanding about Madoka's request. She too, found it very hard to live in a world without Madoka, her closest and dearest friend, so of course, Madoka would want the same. Who knows; maybe Homura will be able to form genuine allies in the process. This could be good for her.

She glanced at the clock - it was time for her to go back. She signed out of the nurse and walked back to class. She was going to take this timeline seriously, and do everything she could to fulfill Madoka's wish. After all, it was the least she could do, anyway. Though her optimism was shattered to the floor when she saw kyubey walking down the halls.

'You're planning something, aren't you, Homura?'

"Get out of this school," She hissed. "You're not welcome here."

The creature stared at her, indifferent to her rage. It scuttled away, and she frowned. She was still going to try, and she refused to lose to it. She refused to lose to the likes of kyubey.

She turned the knob on the classroom door- and it was locked. She knocked once, twice, and it was opened. On the other side of the door stood Sayaka, and Homura smiled at her kindly and thanked her. Homura made a heavy effort to appear polite towards Sayaka, but she knew it was important not to seem as if she was trying too hard. Luckily, she found a decent boundary. 

"Yeah, no problem..." Sayaka remarked, skeptically. Something seemed off about this girl, but she couldn't place her finger on what. Maybe it really was her imagination.

Madoka appeared behind Sayaka, an excited smile plastered across her sweet face. "Hey, Sayaka! I forgot to tell you!" She exclaimed happily. "Homura-chan is going to sit with us at lunch today!"

Sayaka narrowed her eyes, but she softened them when Madoka noticed. "Okie-dokie," She replied. "It'll be a great chance to get to know her. Kudos to Madoka for being kind to the new kid!" She teased.

Madoka turned red. "A-actually, she was the one who suggested it..."

Homura's eyes widened. 'Madoka! Why'd you tell her that?!?'

Sayaka looked Homura in the eyes. "She did, eeh?"

Hitomi could sense the tension in the air, so she tried to break it as best she could. "Uh, of course, Homura-san can sit with us! I'm sure she's very nice!" Homura sighed in relief. She didn't know much about Hitomi, but she didn't seem like the type to stir up trouble, and that was good. Homura knew it was important to look out for people who might.

The lunch bell rang, and the four of them went out to the rooftop, where lunch was held. On the railing, Homura saw kyubey, watching them. She frowned. Something felt fishy, already. She hasn't done that much out of the ordinary, so why was this world so different? Perhaps it was her imagination, and the pressure and stress were starting to do a number on her. That must've been it.

Lunchtime went fairly well. Homura participated in the conversation and engaged as much as she could, respecting the other's opinions. She felt she was beginning to get along better with Sayaka, for starters, than she has in any other timeline. Things were going so well, almost too well. After traveling for so long, Homura has noticed that each timeline she travels too is fairly similar to the others, and they keep up consistent things. There wasn't too much dice-rolling involved, moreso strings attached.

She hoped, however, that she was the only one at that lunch table who could see the incubator.

Chapter Text

Homura had hoped she was the only one who was able to see the incubator. Unfortunately for her, she had no such luck, as Madoka was still going to encounter Mami Tomoe, as such a thing was inevitable in this world. Homura had always run into Mami on bad terms, and Mami usually ended up turning the two against her. She couldn’t have that, as then they’d leap back onto the regular path of previous worlds.

However, today, Homura had managed to prevent them from meeting at all, which would change Mami’s fate quite a bit. Fate works like that, in a way. Chain reactions root off the smallest things, and this should at least send Mami’s tumbling in another direction, even if it’s slight. Homura knew though, that this wasn’t going to stop Kyubey. Kyubey in previous worlds has called directly out to Madoka and Sayaka, begging them for help. Then he would act friendly and approachable, not telling them the things they wouldn’t want to hear.

This was something Homura especially despised - how the creature first acted around Madoka. It claims not to experience emotion, but Homura saw such an act as evil. Though, perhaps it was hypocritical of her to think such a thing, as she was trying the same approach as the incubator. She was trying to seem more approachable, only to steer their fates in the direction she wanted. When it all came down to it, it didn’t matter how she thought about it, as what she was doing was just that.

Though, she did it for a purpose - because she made a promise to a Madoka of the previous world. In that world, Madoka didn’t hate her, in fact, Madoka was the only one who saw good in her. By then, though, Mami, Sayaka, Kyouko - they were all dead. There was only Homura and Madoka now. Then, Madoka found out everything, and Homura felt more of a connection to her than ever, making her naturally feel obligated to fulfill the girl’s wish - even if she herself had to change (or rather, pretend to,) in order to do so.

This promise, it also gave her a new sense of confidence, that urged her to try harder.  Before, it got very dull. Over and over again with one goal, to save Madoka and stop her from becoming a magical girl. Admittedly, over time, this has caused Homura to grow depressed, and her more recent timelines hadn’t been much. She was barely trying, and almost entering with the mindset of ‘even if I fail, I’ll just do it again.’

Such a mindset was unhealthy, especially for her situation. She had to believe she could, or she would never succeed. The second she stopped would mean certain death for Homura. She glanced down at her soul gem, which was blackening. She was going to need to refresh it soon, she thought with a sigh. Still, it was alarming her just how often it was blackening. Such a thing reminded her that she can’t mess around - she had to try, each timeline, no matter how hopeless it seemed. Why? Because each timeline could certainly be her last.

She could feel the presence outside. There was a witch, and it was nearby. This would be more than convenient and she needed the freshen up. Though, if Mami gets the witch, she couldn’t steal from her. Homura didn’t want to be like Kyouko and fall under an addiction to their cleansing magic. There was a blur of white from outside her window pane, and she abruptly opened it.

"Get back here this instant," She demanded, her tone harsh and forceful. The white-furred creature turned it's tiny head around and glanced up at her. She narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing here?" she hissed, cooly.

'Oh, greetings, Homura Akemi,' the simple voice ricocheted across her mind, echoing like it was in an empty cave of sorts.

Homura narrowed her eyes even tighter, downright squinting. She quickly realized how awkward it looked, and opened them a tad wider. After regaining her composure, Homura raised an eyebrow.

“What are you doing here?” She asked though she didn’t even need an answer. She had quickly figured it out already. Madoka was walking home with Sayaka, but before she went home she’d drop Sayaka off at the hospital, to see Kyousuke. Kyubey was probably going to offer to contract with her, then Madoka would feel weak since Sayaka was fighting and suffering and she wasn’t. She’d eventually crack in the pressure, and become a magical girl. Or, if Homura was able to prevent that, she’d become one during Walpurgisnacht since everyone else is dead and she doesn’t want Homura fighting alone.

Kyubey would tell her she has the power to change Homura’s fate, by becoming a magical girl. She’d always think she was a noble hero in the process, only to fail. Each and every time. Homura has seen it so many times now, and she couldn’t let either of those things happen. She had to treat each timeline as her last, even if the downside would be a heavier disappointment when/if she failed.

Kyubey didn’t say a word. Homura glared at it, the light hitting her glasses at such an angle to make her look and seem all the more intimidating. This would make a human very nervous, but it had no effect on Kyubey, of course.

Homura grabbed the creature by its neck. She didn’t even bother attempting to kill it, as that doesn’t work. It cannot die from a magical girls blows. Of course they’d have an armor against their own creations, and it was naive of her to think otherwise.

Kyubey stared at her, that same old neutral expression plastered across its tiny face.

“Tell me something, Kyubey,” She snarled. “I sense a witch, you know. Gertrud, the rose garden witch,” she adds, remembering previous timelines. Not everything is going to change in scenarios like this. The labyrinth was an inferno of roses, similar to a stiff lady’s garden.

Kyubey stared at her. ‘Homura Akemi,’ the voice echoes, as it’s too lazy to bother using its mouth muscles. ‘You’re onto something, aren’t you?’

Homura frowned. “Don’t stray from the topic at hand,” she insisted. “Who is fighting it? Mami Tomoe, right? There’s no one with her?”

Kyubey blinks twice, it’s only facial change being the opening and closing of its eyelids. ‘Yes, that’s correct. Mami Tomoe is fighting that witch, alone as usual. Did you want to fight it?’

Homura shook her head. “That’s all I needed to know, Kyubey,” she said bitterly. “I have no desire to speak with you any longer. Would you be so kind as to get out of my sight?”

The creature scuttled away, it’s long, bushy white tail creating an uncanny blur. Homura closed her apartment window and drew the blinds shut.

Mami was fighting this witch all be herself, without Sayaka or Madoka. Though Homura didn’t usually pay too much attention, she did understand Sayaka’s situation. Sayaka would be feeling awful after Kyousuke snapped at her, and she’d form a contract for him. Then, he’d start dating Hitomi and break her heart, and she’d fall to despair and become a witch. It was the same every time, and Homura always had to be the one to kill the witch since Kyouko couldn’t bring herself to. As a matter of fact, Kyouko reached out to it, (a foolish choice on her part,) and ended up dead.

At least she died without having to become a witch.

Homura looked in the mirror. Her eyes were a pretty rich violet, but her gaze was stone cold.

“Homura-chan, you should smile more often!” Madoka’s cheery voice echoed in her memories.

“Huh? Why?” Homura has asked, confused.

“Because... you look really pretty... not that you don’t already, now!” Madoka had exclaimed, suddenly flushed red.

Homura stared at her resting expression. She supposed she did come off as cold, intimidating, maybe even creepy to some people. It did kind of make sense as to why Sayaka found her so... off-putting and questioned her intentions with her best friend Madoka Kaname.

Homura smiled at her reflection, but she wasn’t sure what Madoka meant. Her smile wasn’t pretty, it just seemed... dull, like it was missing something. ‘Perhaps smiles aren’t pretty unless the one smiling is truly experiencing joy,’ Homura mused curiously.

Perhaps she’d try this again later - this whole smiling business, she means. It was too tiring to do so now. Homura was certain her charismatic game was working, as it scored her lunch with Madoka and her friends. She’d have to work on her smiling another time, not like it’s going to kill her to not smile.

She carefully took her hair out of its braids and set the hair ties on top of her dresser. She has learned from previous timelines that braiding her hair on this first day back to school always made her seem friendlier and more approachable. She pulled off her pullover sweater over her head and laid it down on her bed. She was too tired to do laundry tonight, but she had no family or (like Mami’s case) motivation to do her laundry tonight. She slipped on her pajamas, and laid in bed, much more tired than usual. Eventually, she gave into the heaviness of her eyelids and drifted off into a deep, dreamless sleep.

.

The next morning, Homura slept in late. She worked herself harder than she was used to yesterday, and despite being a magical girl (she often forgets this, too,) she can easily tire herself out. When she saw her alarm clock, she almost leaped out of bed, startled. Funny, didn't Madoka do the exact same thing? The irony made Homura chuckle a little, but she was barely smiling. perhaps it wasn't something that came naturally to her, but she'd do better after getting some practice. That, she was sure of.

She stared at her reflection once again. Perhaps she should braid her hair again? As bothersome as it was to do, it did make her seem less intimidating to the others, which was key. On the flip side, if she did end up having to confront Mami, chances are that Mami wouldn’t really take her seriously, and that would be a major issue. Homura needed Mami to do so, as it was crucial for the futures of Madoka Kaname and her friends. ‘Oh well,’ she thought. ‘I could always take them out later.’ She stuffed a comb in her backpack for good measure.

She slowly opened her apartment door and walked down the hallway. It had people here and there, going about their lives, cheerful and happy. Their smiles came so naturally, Homura thought bitterly.

She stepped onto the elevator and made her way down. It was time for a new day.

.

“Akemi-San,” a voice asked as she walked into the building. Homura turned around. Staring at her suspiciously was Mami Tomoe, a ninth grader. Mami was a year older than Homura and the others, and her figure showed it. Her hair was a golden yellow, tied back into permed ponytails. Her resting expression was a gentle, unassuming but sweet smile. Now, however she was looking rather cross.

“I’m a bit surprised you allowed me to take that witch so easily,” she remarked. “Kyubey told me you displayed no interest in it… that seems a little unusual for you.”

Homura frowned. “And your point?”

Now it was Mami’s turn to frown. “Homura, you’re onto something, aren’t you?”

Homura raised an eyebrow suspiciously. “Either you’ve gotten cynical, or you’ve been talking to Kyubey, who pretends to be your friend.” She sighed in annoyance, then spoke again. Mami had opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again when she saw Homura wasn’t finished.“I have nothing planned against you, Tomoe-san. You found the witch first, right? So it was yours to defeat, and your grief seed to take. Simple as that.”

Mami laughed a little. “Okay then, if you say so, Homura,” She slurred, clearly skeptical.

Homura held up three fingers, counting them down. As soon as her last finger lowered, the school bell rang. “We’re both late, Mami - wouldn’t want to be any later, would you?”

Mami gritted her teeth, and turned around, abruptly walking away from Homura. Homura knew they were on rough terms, but she never realized it was this bad. Nevertheless, she went her own separate way, too. So, it was mutual, Homura supposed, at least before she transferred into this timeline. It was a strange thing to think about at times, that she was a different Homura than who Mami knew earlier.

"Hey... Honoka, was it?" A voice called out, and Homura turned around to see who it was. Were they talking to her? She found this new social game she was playing troublesome, but it was essential. She's never done it before, and therefore has always paid the price accordingly. Maybe that would change this time due to her new efforts, maybe it wouldn't, but being able to change even the slight, seemingly unimportant things made Homura feel reassured as if she truly wasn't failing entirely. Turns out, the source of the voice was the green-haired rich girl from earlier, Sayaka's friend Hitomi.

Homura remembered her cold gaze and made sure to soften her eyes as she waved to the girl. She'd need to seem pleasant if she was to play the role of their friend, anyway. "My name is Homura," she corrected politely.

Flustered and embarrassed, Hitomi turned bright red. "I'm... I'm sooo sorry!" She exclaimed in shame. "I'll try to remember from now on... Homur-"

"Don't worry about it!" Homura interrupted, causing Hitomi to glance at her confused, only to quickly let out a sigh of relief. "We've just met no? I struggle with names too sometimes, so..." Her voice slowly trailed off. Homura crossed her fingers in her pockets, hoping this reply would work, and not make her seem lower. She has learned though that people tend to react well when they relate to something.

Nevertheless, Hitomi seemed to calm down.
“Hey look, Sayaka must be looking for you,” Homura remarked, pointing to Sayaka. She was a couple yards down the hallway.

“Hitomi! Have you seen Madoka!” She called, and Homura stopped in her tracks. She was beyond late for class, but that no longer mattered. This could be really bad. Of course it was, Madoka wasn’t a model student, but she had an exceptional attendance record. Of course she’d know better than to just skip like this - it must’ve been something bad.

Homura turned to Hitomi and Sayaka. She cursed herself mentally for being so distant that she forgot to even greet Sayaka - but oh well. Sayaka would get over it, and she was probably too busy thinking about Kyousuke to notice. Homura bowed her head in apology. “Guys, I’m so sorry,” she apologized. “You two head to class without me. I had to do something, but I forgot.”
Sayaka looked like she was about to give Homura some serious questioning, so Homura did the best thing anyone could do in this situation, (Not like anyone truly could relate to her,) and ran for it. The problem was, she didn’t exactly know where to run to, as this has never happened before. If it were a normal timeline, such a thing would have happened yesterday, and Madoka and Sayaka would be together with Mami and Kyubey. But Mami already went inside, Homura assumed she went to class. Sayaka had gone into the classroom with Hitomi. Kyubey was nowhere to be seen, (Homura knew he was planning something regarding her,) and neither was Madoka.

This was bad, really bad.

She tried to think. ‘If I were an innocent eighth grader potentially being tricked by an emotionless alien, where would I be?’ No luck. Homura failed to think of anything.  Perhaps she got too used to previous timelines where everything was the same. Now that things were different, she was merely running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off - on steroids.

Homura was going to need help, and suddenly an idea occurred to her. However, it wasn’t an idea she particularly liked. The one in this school, other than her, who knew Kyubey the best was Mami. A senior Magical girl, one who didn’t get along with Homura. Homura wasn’t exactly afraid to talk to Mami, per say, but she was afraid it wouldn’t do anything. She was afraid it wouldn’t work, and would only be a waste of her time - which was crucial.

Nonetheless, it was better than doing nothing. The only other issue then, was actually reaching Mami. Both physically and figuratively. Mami was in class right now, and Homura was never friends with her. Therefore, she didn’t have a clue what Mami’s schedule would be like. Forget dodging one bullet, this was an active-shooting battlefield, and Homura had to run through it to even achieve hope and guidance of finding Madoka. She wouldn’t go through all this trouble if it had been for anyone else, of course. But it was for Madoka, she would go to any lengths. Homura would do absolutely anything for Madoka.

Anything.

Thinking of it as a battlefield was helpful, though. Homura has always been good at metaphors, and relating to them. So, if she was going to dodge these bullets, she’d need one real powerful shield. A shield of… deception, perhaps?

Homura honestly didn’t mind lying, especially for Madoka’s sake. It could almost be considered scary how little it bothered her. She just had to cook up a believable lie, as she knew to never underestimate her opponents. In this case, they were the school directory.

She made her way downstairs, the click of her heels following her as she walked.

Click, clack, click, clack, click, clack… speedy and abrupt with each step she took as she hastily made her way down the long flights of stairs.

“Hello, ma'am, you need something?” the lady at the desk asked, clearly tired. Homura knew she should never overestimate her opponents but… this woman looked a little too easy. She chewed her gum mindlessly as she stared into space, clearly bored with her job.

“Yes, actually,” Homura replied, maintaining direct eye contact. “Do you of a girl by the name of Mami Tomoe? She’s a ninth grader.”
“Mommy?” The woman looked a tad confused, but then chuckled a little. “Oooh, Mami - the girl with a pattern of unexplained absences. Yeah, what about her?”

Unamused, Homura frowned. “I need to give her important news,” she told her, keeping her voice steady, making sure to seem confident about what she was saying. Knowing how to lie this well required knowing how to detect them, too. However, Homura knew not to make her voice too flat, either. She had to find a perfect in-between. That was to key to it all. “You see, she hasn’t been answering her phone, so her grandparents messaged me, a friend of hers.”
Homura didn’t want to take the risk of referring to her parents, as the school probably knew they were dead. However, she was surprised at just how gullible this woman was… but she kept her surprise hidden. It seemed too easy that that was all she had to say, but the woman quickly called Mami down to the office for her.

“Thanks, Ma'am. I’ll take her to them,”  Homura said.
“Sure, sure,” the office lady slurred lazily. Mami came trotting down the stairs,  nbut her face showed visible surprise when she saw Homura. Though, she knew this wasn’t the time, nor was it the place to pick a fight. She reverted back to her resting expression - an unassuming, gentle smile.

“Hello, you called me down?” She asked. “I had my teacher write me a pass, anyway… if I do have to leave the school for whatever reason - let me know!”

The woman clicked her tongue and pointed at Homura. “Don’t ask me, ask your friend, her. She’s the one escorting you to where you need to be,” she told Mami.

“Friend?” Mami mumbled, though no one really heard her. Homura, however, nodded in reply.

“Yesterday, Mami,” She said, shooting the older girl a ‘just go with it’ look. “I’ll be your escort .”

Mami raised an eyebrow but walked out of there without making a fuss. As soon as they were outside the school building, Homura’s expression hardened again. “Mami Tomoe, you are ‘allied’ with Kyubey, right?”

Mami stared at the raven-haired girl dumbfounded. “And so what if I am?” She retorted, quick to grow defensive.

“I’m not trying to stir up trouble,” Homura tried. “Really, whether or not your willing to believe me…”

Mami raised an eyebrow. “What would you like to ask me, Homura?”

Homura sighed, giving up on satisfying Mami. “Do you know the whereabouts of Kyubey? Madoka didn’t show up to class and…” Suddenly, Homura realized how oddly that had come out, and instantly regretted about everything she just said.

Mami raised an eyebrow. “No, I haven’t seen Kyubey. Who’s Madoka?”

‘That’s right,’ Homura mused grimly. ‘They haven’t even met… I knew this was a bad idea…’ Homura cleared her throat. “Madoka is a friend of mine, that’s all. It has nothing to do with Kyubey, though. I’m not sure why I even brought her up in the first place. I’m very sorry for troubling you,” she said to Mami, bowing her head in apology.

Mami raised an eyebrow once again, but she slowly nodded. “Uh… don’t worry about it,” she muttered, walking back inside.

Homura felt drained - that idea really wasn’t a good one… can she really adapt to all this change?

.

It was lunch period, and Homura had joined with the class once again. She was sitting at the lunch table with Hitomi and Sayaka, though she felt awkward without Madoka. Nevertheless, she still was worried sick, and perhaps Sayaka would be able to contact that girl… that wasn’t a horrible idea, actually. She’d be smooth and casual about it, of course. All she had to do was out of nowhere, remark on Madoka’s absence.

“Hey, Sayaka,” She prodded. “Where is Madoka? Is she at home sick or something, do you know?”

Sayaka tapped her head, thinking. “Huh, Madoka isn’t the type to just skip school,” she replied. “You’re right, that is a little strange…”

“You know where she lives, don’t you Sayaka?” Hitomi asked. “Maybe you and Homura could go visit her! Check on Madoka and see what’s up!”

Sayaka frowned. “I wish I could but… I promised…”

Hitomi narrowed her eyes playfully. “Visiting Kyousuke again, are you? You do visit him an awful lot for someone who claims not to have feelings for him~”

Sayaka flushed bright crimson. “H-hey! No fair!”

Homura was already growing annoyed. Hadn’t she just asked a question? Was their attention span seriously that short? What about Madoka!? “Uh… what about Madoka? Sayaka, you said you know where she lives? Could you please give me some directions?”

Sayaka pulled out a slip of notebook paper. “Well, from the school,” she mumbled, scribbling away. “Then you turn another right…” her voice was mostly muffled as she drew on the sheet of paper. “And… then that’s where she lives!” She announced proudly, handing the paper back over to Homura.

Homura looked the paper over. It was a little messily drawn, sure, but it was still helpful. “Thank you Sayaka, I’ll be sure to stop by and check on her,” she said, smiling. At least, trying to.

.

School was over now, and the three girls had parted off their separate ways. Sayaka had gone off practically skipping to the hospital to visit Kyousuke, Hitomi had boarded a cab to drive to her piano lesson, and Homura was following the scribbled out map in an attempt to find Madoka.

Finally, she got to the house. She knocked on the door once, twice, three times… and it was opened. “Hello!” Junko Kaname, (who Homura figures was Madoka’s mother,) greeted her. “Who do we have here?”

Homura reached out a hand for the woman to shake. “My name is Homura Akemi, a friend of your daughter, Madoka. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she greeted politely. Junko smiled a friendly smile, and Homura decided she liked this woman enough.

“No need to be so formal, dear!” Junko exclaimed. “Friends of my daughter are friends of mine, so go ahead and make yourself at home!” She assured Homura. “Would you like any tea, or are you more of a coffee drinker?”

“Thanks for your kind offer,” Homura told her, “But I’ll pass for now. Perhaps I’ll stop by for refreshments a little later, though? However, I would like to check on Madoka to see if she’s okay… is she sick?”

Junko nodded. “Yes, she told me she wasn’t feeling well. I’ll let her know you’ve come to see her, though. Your thoughtfulness is appreciated!”

When Homura finally got to Madoka’s room, she decided to cut to the chase and get straight to the point. After greeting Madoka and cracking some general small talk, she asked the question that had been bugging her all day. “Hey Madoka. I want you to be completely honest,” she began. “You’re not really sick, are you? Something else is going on, isn’t there?”

Madoka nodded. “I don’t know what to do -“ she stopped herself abruptly. “Nevermind,” she chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe me, anyway.”

“Of course I would!” Homura insisted. “You can tell me anything Madoka, I won’t laugh or doubt you!”

Madoka sighed. “This will probably sound crazy but… but…”

“But?” Homura pried.

“This strange… a weird looking cat-rat-squirrel thingy offered me some kind of contract,” Madoka began, her voice trailing off ever so slightly. “It offered to grant me a wish and turn me into a magical girl, or something.”

Chapter Text

“The greater your capacity to feel love, the greater your capacity to feel pain” ~ Jennifer Aniston

When Homura finally got to Madoka’s room, she decided to cut to the chase and get straight to the point. After greeting Madoka and cracking some general small talk, she asked the question that had been bugging her all day. “Hey Madoka. I want you to be completely honest,” she began, her voice shaking, almost croaky. “You’re not really sick, are you? Something else is going on, isn’t there?”


Madoka nodded. “I don’t know what to do -“ she stopped herself abruptly. “Never mind,” she chuckled. “You wouldn’t believe me, anyway.” A distant look crossed her big, sweet doe eyes, and Homura no longer needed to hear a single word from her. She already knew exactly what was going on. Still, she didn’t want Madoka to be afraid to talk to her, as that would prove itself to be quite problematic later on. So, she decided to (gently) reel it out of her.

“Of course I would!” Homura insisted. “You can tell me anything Madoka, I won’t laugh or doubt you! I promise!”

Madoka sighed. “This will probably sound crazy but… but…”
“But?” Homura pried, trying not to seem too pushy or eager.

“This strange… a weird looking cat-rat-squirrel thingy offered me some kind of contract,” Madoka began, her voice trailing off ever so slightly. “It offered to grant me a wish and turn me into a magical girl, or something.”


Homura's eyes widened. "Madoka," She began urgently. "Don't do it."


Madoka looked at her with quite the expression. It was somewhere in between startled and confused. “Huh? Why not?" She asked, staring at Homura, oblivious to the situation she had just put herself in. Madoka never seemed to understand, but of course she didn't.

Then again, if she didn't watch Mami die, perhaps it would never occur to her how dangerous such a wish is. Homura knew this was an awful thing to think, but it was indeed true. Madoka was the type of person who'd need rock-hard proof when making any kind of choice. Homura was lost, and had no idea what to do now.


"I know it may sound too good to be true," she told Madoka, trying a gentle approach, "Because it is. I wish I could explain it further to you, but I really can't. Sadly, most girls don't learn the true results of their actions until it's too late, but... you trust me on this, right, Madoka?"


Madoka stared at Homura in question, but she slowly nodded. "Okay... So you mean," She started, trying to make sense of what Homura just told her. "So... becoming a magical girl isn't as good as it sounds, and isn't worth making a wish for?"

Homura took a deep breath. She didn’t want to scare Madoka, or overwhelm her. She wanted to make sure Madoka knew not to make a contract, but it wasn’t worth scaring her over. Therefore, dumping all the harsh realities over her wouldn’t work. Instead, she only needs to make it clear she knows what she’s talking about and be prepared to elaborate if prompted.

"That's a very gentle way to put it, but yes, you are right," Homura confirmed.


“What do you mean by gentle?” Madoka asked, staring at Homura with that confused look in her eyes again.


Homura sighed. “You need to trust me on this one, as it’s very hard to explain without solid proof, though whether you believe me or not - I am saving you a load of trauma.”

Madoka slowly nodded her head but was still obviously confused. Though Homura knew she was pretending not to be… it was scary, really. If only Madoka knew... the things the poor girl didn’t know. It was rather unfortunate indeed.

Homura was afraid, though. She was afraid that even as hard as she’s tried, she still hasn’t gotten through to Madoka. She cleared her throat as she zipped up her jacket, getting ready to leave. She set the homework assignments on Madoka’s lap, and stared into her eyes. “Madoka.”

“Huh?”

“If you truly treasure the life you have now… the friends, family, even your activities and happiness… you wouldn’t make this contract. Do you believe me when I say this? Those things are important to you, right?” Homura asked, watching Madoka’s reaction carefully.

“Yes,” Madoka confirmed. Relieved, Homura felt all the tension built up inside of her decompress with those comforting words. “I may feel troubled, or unlucky at times, but I really do love my friends, my family… my life, and I wouldn’t give them up for all the wishes in the world!” Madoka exclaimed, a surge of determination and certainty in her normally soft and timid voice.

Just then, Homura smiled. It wasn’t some fake smile she used whenever she needed to (seem as if) she related to another student, or appeal to someone. It was a real smile, one that was triggered from real joy that she really felt. Madoka smiled back at her.

.
Sayaka was still a problem, though. If Homura remembered correctly, Sayaka had made a wish to kyubey that had to do with Kyousuke, and he miraculously healed. This was going to be even more difficult, as Homura still didn’t know if she’s entirely gained Sayaka’s trust. Kyousuke wasn’t going to get better in this world if it wasn’t for her wish and sacrifice, so Homura knew she would be the biggest challenge yet.


Though it wasn't difficult to formulate a plan. It was a cruel one, yes, but in the end it was for Sayaka's own good. If there was some way that Sayaka would be stripped of visiting him, she'd never have to find out that he was never going to get better. It was a brilliant plan, but Homura just needed to figure out how she was going to go about doing such a thing. Perhaps she merely needed to avert Sayaka's infatuation with Kyousuke to someone else - but who?
If Sayaka never fell for him, none of the tragedy would have to happen. But she couldn’t change Sayaka’s feelings, she simply couldn’t. She then got a very dark thought, one could consider it. Though, she immediately brushed it aside. There were other, kinder ways to go about things. Staining her hands wouldn’t be something Madoka wanted her to do. Heh, perhaps that could be her new motto. ‘Would Madoka want me doing this?’ If the answer was no, or required thinking or hesitation, she shouldn’t do it.


Then, and only then did Homura consider what she was trying to do at all. Fulfill a wish - no, more than one wish for Madoka’s sake when she couldn’t save Madoka herself. Though, she couldn’t turn her down either.


Nothing good would come out of it, so Homura decided not to.


She suddenly felt a jolt in her gut, and looked at the clock. It was late at night, and Mitakihara slept peacefully. Well, most of them did, anyway. This witch... it usually waited longer to strike in other timelines, Homura noted. She remembered how things went, though, so she opened her window and leapt out. She transformed in midair, quite a show (sadly, lacking an audience, but it was better that way.) It wasn’t raining, but Homura was sure it was going to do so very soon. She felt it in the air, the thick, humid air on a cold, breezy night. It wasn’t Homura’s favorite combination, to be honest. She was shivering a little, but it’s not like it wasn’t something she was used to by now.


There was a witch nearby, and Homura could sense it. It was nearby, she noted. She could be inside the labyrinth with each step she took, and knowing this, Homura clutched her soul gem tighter. Her eyes widened as she realized which witch it was. (Say that five times fast :P) It was Charlotte, the dessert witch. All around her, the atmosphere and her surroundings began to change. Charlotte has a tenacious nature, and never gives up. This was the same witch that’s killed Mami over and over again, without fail. Not once has Mami lived passed this battle.


But it never stroke now, and that’s why Homura was confused. She had been messing around with fate, but she didn’t think her subtle changes would cause this heavy of a chain reaction. Maybe Mami would live to see the morning, this time around. It was a nice thing to think about, anyway.


Homura was certain it was Charlotte by now. The labyrinth was an inferno of sweets, sweets everywhere. Homura remembered the presence of a few familiars here, too, so she remained on the look out for them. Though, they were no where to be seen. She had yet to run into the witch, to, but she knew it was getting closer. More and more sweets were appearing in her path, and it was beginning to make Homura feel sick. Just the very sight of them, actually.


In the distance, Homura saw Mami. Unlike the other timelines, Mami was alone, again. She didn’t have Madoka or Sayaka along with her this time, but was fighting all by herself. Homura couldn’t help but notice that this was similar to her, in a way. Though unlike Mami, Homura very seldom suffered from true loneliness. They were so alike, but so different.
Homura’s never been a fan of sugar. She liked her coffee dark, without sugaring it up. Just as it was, without anything extra. Mami didn’t drink coffee at all, as it was never her thing. She was a tea drinker, brewing her tea herself. She liked to sweeten her tea with freshly picked berries from her window garden, but she didn’t like to use anything artificial. She wouldn’t admit it, but she occasionally tore open a sugar packet and poured it inside.


Madoka, though, was a coffee drinker similar to Homura, but she couldn’t stand the bitter flavors. She often found herself experimenting with different creams and sugars.


Sayaka didn’t have a preference - she liked both tea and coffee.


But in this brewing pot, it was two opposites fighting the same enemy. Dark, bitter coffee alongside the calming tea. They’d probably taste terrible together, and it was probably inevitable. But Homura wasn’t afraid, and she had to make this work. She made a promise to Madoka, after all. A promise she wouldn’t dare defy or go against. She didn’t promise guaranteed success, but she promised effort. So effort she put forward, as she tryst with the timeline.

This witch was relentless, but so was Homura. Though her and Mami’s fighting styles were different, and didn’t mix well, they both gave their all. The witch was defeated, and Mami was alive. Homura couldn’t believe it - Mami survived past Charlotte, the dessert witch. Mami would live to see what happened next. This change sent a surge of optimism through her, causing her to shiver. This heavy hope didn’t feel… right. It felt so foreign inside Homura’s body, but she couldn’t care less.

Homura felt such an overwhelming urge to express this newfound feeling, but she couldn’t. Why not, you may ask? Because she had no idea how.

The labyrinth was gone, and Charlotte was defeated. Homura offered Mami the grief seed, but Mami refused. She wasn’t usually this nice to Homura, so Homura took it as a sign. A sign that things were finally turning in her favor. A sign that her efforts finally meant something again. A sign that her battles weren’t impossible to win. She’d dodged a malicious fate! She saved Mami Tomoe, just as Madoka wanted her to. That was one down, then, and more to come.

This small victory meant everything, though.

As Homura walked back home, she stared up at the twinkling stars. They were usually hard to see behind Mitakihara’s bright street lamps, but from where she was standing she managed to catch a decent glimpse. Boy, were they pretty.

That night, Homura fell asleep right away. Her eyelids were heavy and she couldn’t stay awake any longer, so she feel into a long, peaceful sleep almost as soon as her sleek, raven colored hair touched the cool pillow.

She was surprisingly oblivious to just how… suspicious this all was. With a few things going differently, Homura let her guard down, despite it being so unlike her. She really should’ve known that such luck without hardship was merely too good to possibly be true.

.

The next morning, Homura woke up bright and early - early enough to have more  than just a usual granola bar for breakfast. Even after enjoying some freshly made French toast, Homura was still one of the first students to arrive at the school. She didn’t think she’d meet anyone she knew at the school gates, but she was wrong. “Hitomi-san, I’m a little surprised to see you here so early… aren’t you usually walking to school with Sayaka?”

Hitomi turned around, a little surprised to see Homura behind her. “Oh, good morning Akemi-san!” She greeted politely with a slight bow. “I have tutoring today, so I had to come an hour early,” she told Homura, answering her question.

“You don’t have to speak to me so formally,” Homura remarked.

Hitomi glanced at her watch, then she gasped. “Crap, I’m going to be late!” She exclaimed, and she turned tail and ran into the school. Homura watched her go. Hitomi wasn’t too important in all of this, yes, but she needed to get along with her because she was a close friend of Sayaka’s.

Homura looked at the clock, and it was still too early to go into the school. (Without a pass, that is.) She sat down on the bench, and waited for Madoka and Sayaka. She’d chat and walk with them, she decided. Why not? The more she interacted, the closer and friendlier she’d seem - it would make saving them much easier.

She didn’t know, though… she didn’t have to do much to save Mami, so perhaps Sayaka would be just as easy. Though, she shook her head at that thought. It was too naive, as Homura knew the smartest thing to do was to be prepared for the absolute worst.  She stared at the sunrise above, and sighed. “I won’t fail you, Madoka… I promise to do whatever I can in my power to make your wish come true… I won’t let you down,” she muttered.

Deep down, she was certain it wasn’t truly going to work, but please let it.

The school day was over, and Sayaka was on her way to the hospital. “Bye-bye!” She called, waving. Tucked under her arm was a couple albums that she had handpicked at the store earlier. Kyubey was sitting in a window sill of the school building. It maintained an emotionless expression, but it’s head turned slightly, following Sayaka in a borderline predatory manner.

Mami came prancing out minutes after, and Homura waved at her slightly. Mami looked back a little confused, but she waved back, in a friendly manner.

Maybe there’s a chance of it - a chance of (for the first time ever) being on good terms with Mami. It would be cool, and probably convenient to an extent, although she already saved Mami. She didn’t have much of a reason to associate with her anymore. Besides, Mami’s friendship with Madoka and Sayaka led to nothing good.It would probably be best that they stay away from Mami. She followed through on Madoka’s wish though, and prevented her death. That truly was an achievement for Homura to be proud of.

Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder. “Huh?”

She turned around to see who it was. It was Madoka. “Oh, hello Madoka!” Homura exclaimed with surprise, trying not to sound too eager. “Would you like to speak to me about something?”

Madoka nodded. “I… I do,” she told Homura.

Madoka stared at her. “You’re a magical girl, right?”

Homura nodded slowly, not sure where this was going but at the same time knowing too well where it was probably headed.

Turns out, the girl was in for a hollow, broken truth she wasn’t prepared for at all.

"What about you? What did you wish for?" She asked meekly, fidgeting nervously with her fingers. She didn't think much of the question, but to Homura, time itself seemed to freeze. (A metaphor with a bitter pinch of irony.) Still, it didn't take long for the tension in the air to hit Madoka, though at the time she couldn't identify just what it was. There's no way of knowing what  Homura would have wished for. The wish of a newly birthed magical girl, a desperate cry could be for any reason, and for many it had to be a sensitive topic.


The girl curses herself for not having been able to hold her tongue. But her curiosity had pushed her to ask this question. After all, why would a girl as talented as Homura Akemi wish to become a magical girl? In Madoka's eyes, Homura dazzled her with her beauty, skill, and intelligence. She blew her teachers away and her classmates either envied her - or tried to become her friend.


Homura worked to uphold her usual stiff expression, the one stripped of emotion. Still, a tiny voice urged to crawl out of her throat and shout the truth, right then and there. That it was her. She had become a magical girl for none other than Madoka Kaname herself. Madoka, Homura's best friend (who only seemed to grow more and more distant each damn time-) in a now far away timeline who she swore she'd protect - and now it's all she had left. She had sworn to save her from her fate and was still trying.  Still, she couldn't say a thing.


Kyubey had been pandering to Madoka, creating a beautiful propaganda contrasting the depths the lifestyle of a magical girl really had to offer. Signing her into a contract without giving her a chance to read the fine print. Madoka didn't understand Homura that day. If anything, she almost seemed to be afraid of her.


Homura was the only one to remember all that. It was a curse in the disguise of a prayer.  Nevertheless, the thought that she had for the moment all the time failed crossed her mind. Homura's mask cracked and Madoka could see an expression: the pain.


Resuming countenance, Homura turned to flee her friend, muttering “I don’t want to talk about it.” Farther away, she regained composure and thought back to her promise she had made only a few days from now in a time so far away.

Madoka reached out to her, but it was no use. She was already gone.