“Listen, Granger,” Bellatrix said, folding her arms over her chest in an attempt to hide her nerves at this situation. “I don’t know what you’re on about, but you need to back off. I know I’m great and all, but I never pegged you for a stalker, and it’s getting kind of pathetic.”
In front of her, Hermione Granger was standing far too close. Close enough that it took everything in Bellatrix not to back up further and press her back against the wall. She would not look weak to this girl, no matter how weird the situation was. Or how intently she was studying her face.
“Seriously, get the hell out of my face, mu—dblood.” Bellatrix’s eyebrows furrowed, not sure why it had felt so unnatural for that word to come out of her mouth. That’s what Granger was, wasn’t she? She’d always called her that. Then why had she paused? Why did the other girl look like she’d slapped her across the face? At least it’d accomplished what she’d set out to do; Hermione backed up a step and looked almost lost, deflated. Bellatrix curled her hands into her fists in the sleeves of her robes, resisting the strange urge to reach out and… what? Comfort her? Apologize?
Maybe Granger had been right when she’d insisted that something was wrong with her.
“You…” Hermione swallowed, looking uncharacteristically unsure. The girl always seemed to know exactly what she was doing. Even Bellatrix, who definitely did not pay attention to know-it-all Granger, usually admired that quality about her. Now it seemed to have fled. “Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve heard that from you.”
“Well then I haven’t been doing my job to remind you well enough,” Bellatrix said. She felt as if the words were coming from someplace else. Years of her father at the dinner table, cutting into his food while he lectured about what was expected of them as purebloods— as Blacks. Dinner parties where she had to smile and nod at the discussion of the menace that the mudbloods represented, how they were diluting magic and fracturing the very core of what it meant to be wizards. “Somehow, you’re comfortable enough that you think you can corner me like this, as if you deserve even a moment of my time. I should just hex you and be done with it.”
Hermione stared at her, eyes wide and shining. Was she going to cry? Bellatrix seemed to remember her having a stronger backbone than this. Last time they’d gotten into an argument she’d even… Bellatrix frowned. What had happened last time? She knew they’d had their share of altercations. Hermione Granger was infuriating, everything that she’d been taught to hate. A mudblood who dared think that she could rise above those who had a proper pedigree. They constantly competed in class for the highest grades. They sniped at each other in the hallways. They hated each other.
They… hated each other?
She couldn’t remember what had happened the last time they’d fought. She couldn’t even remember how long ago it was. Surely it wasn’t that long ago? But it felt fuzzy, faded.
“Why haven’t you hexed me, then?” Hermione’s voice broke her out of the haze she’d been in. The expression on her face had changed to one of determination. Bellatrix frowned at the idea that she’d somehow lost the upper hand.
“I don’t need to hex you to put you in your place.”
“Or maybe you just don’t want to.”
Bellatrix clenched her jaw, not appreciating the challenging tone of the other girl’s voice. How dare she speak to her like that? They might be hidden from view, but they were still in a public hallway. If someone heard her, if someone saw their current positions, she’d be forced to make her eat her words. She couldn’t let that go unpunished.
Wait, she’d be forced to? Usually it was a pleasure to reinforce her position on the top of the totem pole. She felt queasy. What was wrong with her?
“I’m being generous, Granger,” Bellatrix bit out, trying not to show any of her internal dilemma. “Leave now and I won’t have to send your pretty face to the infirmary.”
Completely contrary to any reaction that should have garnered, Hermione Granger smiled. “You do still think I’m pretty.”
Bellatrix sputtered. “Only you would be so full of yourself to be this stupid. Take the chance while you can. Offer’s up soon.”
“You do not get to call me that, mudblood.” The nickname rolled off Hermione’s tongue as if she’d said it many times before, even though Bellatrix knew for sure that she hadn’t. Only her sisters called her Bella. Only people she cared about were allowed. Hearing it from Hermione was… wrong. Was… it didn’t feel right. She drew her wand finally and pointed it at the other girl. “Time’s up. I don’t know what crazy you’ve been infected with, but I don’t want it spreading. Leave me alone.”
Her words were hard and angry. She knew the expression on her face had made first years wet themselves in fright before. Bellatrix Black was not someone you fucked with.
And yet Bellatrix still had not sent a hex at Hermione Granger.
She didn’t… want to.
The thought infuriated her, and yet it was true. She didn’t want to hex Hermione Granger.
“What happened when you went home?”
Hermione Granger seemed to desperately want to get hexed.
“Did you not hear me? Or do you just like pain?”
“Depends on the context,” Hermione said, staring at Bellatrix like she should understand some sort of inside joke. Bellatrix stared at Hermione like she’d grown three extra heads. Hermione frowned. “What happened at home, Bella? Did someone find out? Did he threaten you? No one’s here right now. You can drop the act.”
Bellatrix grit her teeth. Hermione Granger was not worth the headache she was starting to get due to all this confusion. “I said you’re not allowed to call me that!” The confusion and anger inside her built up, and Bellatrix almost didn’t care anymore about being nice to the mudblood. “Who the hell do you think you are?”
The other girl just stared at her, then down at the wand that Bellatrix couldn’t seem to keep from trembling, even if just a little. She saw the moment that something seemed to break inside Hermione, and soon her expression was practically pleading. For what, she didn’t know. “Bellatrix,” Hermione said slowly, carefully. Like one would talk to an animal not to spook them. Bellatrix’s lips curled up into a snarl. “Do you know who I am?”
“Like you’d ever let me forget your existence, mudblood,” Bellatrix said, sneering. “You’re the one that’s forgotten your place here.”
Hermione sucked in a breath.
For some reason, Bellatrix still had not hexed her. This was ridiculous. She should just do it. She should just go…
“What did you say to me before you left for the holidays?” Hermione asked.
“What did you tell me, Bella? Bellatrix.” Hermione corrected herself before she had even thought to complain again. “I said it back. I meant it. Please, it’s important.”
Bellatrix furrowed her brow. What was Granger on? She hadn’t said anything to her before the holidays. They barely even spoke. She couldn’t even remember what the last thing she’d said to her had been, actually. Some insult, she was sure. “How the hell should I know? I don’t keep track of every time we pass in the halls. You’re not that special, Granger.”
“You…” Hermione’s face paled so much that Bellatrix was suddenly worried that she might pass out without her needing to hex her. “You don’t remember?”
“Remember what?” Bellatrix snapped irritably.
The tears were back. Merlin’s tits, this was almost painful in how pathetic it was.
“I think I was on to something with getting you to the infirmary. Did someone spike your pumpkin juice, Granger? Calm down.”
Hermione stumbled back a step, and Bellatrix almost reached out to steady her. Almost. Instead, her wand lowered as she looked at the other girl in confusion. Hermione was shaking her head and the tears had not abated.
Bellatrix opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came to mind. What the hell had happened here? She hadn’t actually done anything to Granger. For once, she knew she didn’t deserve this reaction.
Hermione shook her head again, then turned away and fled from her. Bellatrix stepped out from the alcove they’d been in, watching as Granger pushed her way through a group of 5th years without even seeming to notice.
“Bella?” Bellatrix startled, the nickname jarring her again. “Bella, what did you do?” Andy’s voice was angry and worried, and it just left Bellatrix even more confused. She knew that her sister could be a bit of a bleeding heart sometimes, but the way she was staring at her felt like she’d taken Hermione’s state almost personally.
“What do you care?” Bellatrix snapped back, tired of everything to do with Hermione Granger already.
“Did you hurt her? Why do you have to be such an asshole?”
Had Bellatrix ended up in some bizzaro world accidentally? “What the hell, Andy? First of all, I didn’t even touch her. She’s lucky I didn’t put her in the infirmary for a week. Second, who cares? If the mudblood can’t handle some words, then that’s her problem.”
Her sister was silent as she stared at her, her expression turning profoundly sad for some reason. “Oh, Bella…” Andy held her hand against her mouth, her eyes misting with tears now.
What was with all the waterworks today?
Andy reached out suddenly, giving her a fierce hug. “I’m so sorry, Bella. I’m so sorry.”
Bellatrix patted her back awkwardly. “You got your pumpkin juice spiked too, didn’t you?” That was the only explanation for the past few minutes that made sense.
Andy shook her head. She pulled back, wiping at her cheeks. “I’m gonna… I have to go take care of something, okay? Are you alright?”
Was she alright? Bellatrix raised a brow. “I’m the only one who isn’t bursting into tears here. Why wouldn’t I be fine?”
“Right, yeah…” Andy bit her lip. “Okay, I’ll… I’ll see you later. I love you, Bella.”
“Are you okay, Andy?” Bellatrix asked. “Are you sure you should be going off alone right now?”
“I’m okay, I promise. Just… thought of something sad. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Okay,” Bellatrix said, letting Andy retreat. “I love you too. Don’t go spreading it around though.” The joke only got the barest hint of a smile. There was something really wrong here, but she didn’t even have a clue where to start to figure out what it was.
Andy walked away quickly in the same direction Hermione had disappeared to earlier. Bellatrix felt queasy, suddenly. She was missing something here. She hated not knowing things. What secret did Andy have with Granger of all people? And what the hell was wrong with Granger in the first place?
She sighed, rubbing her head, which really had begun to ache. She should probably care more that Andy was associating with a mudblood, but maybe for once it was better to just let it go. Whatever this secret was, knowing about it was apparently so bad that people just spontaneously burst into tears at the thought of it. Andy seemed to be reaping what she sowed with that association.
Just this once, Bellatrix could give Andy a pass for this.
It was probably better not to know.