The candle’s light flickered, a warning, that soon its flame will die off. Without looking away from her book, the woman reignited it with nothing but a movement of a finger, and turned a page. The constant quiet scratching of the quill as it grazed the parchment was a monotone riff in the background, something that irritated her at first, but now it was just a peaceful companion to her reading.
She glanced at the muggleborn witch in front of her, who didn’t stop the writing for the past two – three? - hours. She was supposed to write an essay there and then, without any book that would contain resources about the human psyche. How to consciously trap and manipulate one’s opponent in dueling. A fitting punishment for an insufferable know it all witch, who can’t keep her mouth shut during a lecture.
The girl sometimes raised her head, and though Bella wasn’t looking at her, she was ready to answer any question if the student had one. But she just pursed her lips, sometimes frowned, and mentally sank back into the essay. Bella would never tell her, but she was impressed at her work and at her lack of complaints.
Her eyes travelled to the clock on her left. Almost past eleven. Long past curfew. If she held Granger here any longer, McGonagall would have her head, that’s for sure. With a grimace, she closed her book and placed it on the oak table. If the girl heard the movements, she didn’t show any sign of it, still hovering over her work.
“Okay, that’s it for today.” Bellatrix said for the first time since she gave out the instructions when the Gryffindor stepped into her room.
“Will I have to continue it?” the girl asked. The witch took the parchment from her and raised her eyebrows at the length of the essay.
“No.” she simply said and placed it next to her book.
“Will you read it?”
Normally, she wouldn’t. She would just put it in a dossier next to the other detention works and never even look in its direction. Or simply throw it into the fireplace. “I will.”
The Gryffindor stood up from her seat and pushed the chair back into its place. Bella handed her a small red scroll, something she could show to Filch or the other Professors if they would catch her on the corridors.
“You know” Hermione started, with confidence and defiance sparking in her brown eyes. “I will marry you one day.”
Bellatrix raised her eyebrows again and couldn’t help to suppress a smirk. She half had the mind to curse the girl out of her quarters, straight through the door.
She just snorted. How amusing.
“Go to sleep, Granger.”
The ceremony was excruciatingly long. Bella was resting her head on her fist with an elbow supporting it on the long Professor’s table. She had been staying so long in this position, that if she removed her hand, she was sure it would leave a red mark on her cheek. Her eyelashes fluttered sometimes at the incredibly boring and unnecessary long monologue the Minister of Magic was giving to the senior students. It wasn’t Bella’s fault if her mind travelled elsewhere, or if her eyelids closed once or twice. Of course, McGonagall – the blasted woman – would dig her elbow deep into her ribcage or to clear her throat.
Why do they have to do the same thing, over and over? Every year. She could barely restrain herself from letting out a groan. Instead of trying to sleep – and receiving rude wake ups from her colleague – she looked around the Professor’s table.
At the left end, Snape sat with a straight back and with a look pointed at the wall in front of them. But even the potion’s master’s eyes were glassy, his mind was somewhere else. Next to him took place the herbology professor, whose – she only noticed it if she was looking at Sprout for long enough – hand sometimes sneaked under the table and was cautiously raised to her mouth.
Bella frowned and cursed herself for not thinking about bringing food sooner. She turned to her right and there she saw Dumbledore quietly humming with a smile under his beard. The witch noticed a crossword and a muggle pen in his hands. Great, she was the only one who didn’t bring anything to keep herself occupied. Of course, she mused, there is always Minerva to annoy.
But a warning look from the older witch made Bella change her mind.
Watching the students was amusing as well, after all.
Some of them rested their heads on their folded hands and the DADA teacher couldn’t blame them for it. Although one Hufflepuff boy was especially entertaining to watch, as he constantly banged his head into the wooden table, surprisingly the sound of it was muffled.
When she glanced to the Gryffindor table, the faces were similar. Dull and empty looking. Potter and Weasley was playing rock, paper, scissors. But one pair of eyes were shining with interest.
Not directed at the Minister though. The fiery chocolate-colored eyes met with hers and weren’t averted from her form. Full with energy and confidence. If Bella reached out with her magic, she was sure that she would find flaming hot fire burning in the witch.
Maybe it was only her imagination, or the fact that she had been staring too long into those eyes and been studying that face for so long, but she saw a smile on her face filled with promises. Promises she knew that the girl was intended to keep.
Bellatrix curled up the corners of her lips.
After an hour it was thankfully over. She retreated to her chambers and took a bottle of elven wine out of a cabinet, not even bothering to drink from a glass, she gulped down the red liquid. A knock on the door made her put down the bottle though and she wondered whether it was Minerva telling her off on something. Anything.
“Come in.” she said, even though she wanted to dismiss anyone who would dare bother her right now.
Curls of chestnut and a red Gryffindor robe slipped through the door and swiftly closed it behind her body.
Well, maybe she wouldn’t dismiss anyone.
“That was long” Granger concluded the whole event.
“An understatement” Bellatrix smirked. “But from your look, it was enjoyable for you. Happy that you could drool over me?”
Granger smiled, a light blush appeared on her cheek and she momentarily looked away. A small victory on Bella’s part.
“I received two offerings from the DMLE. One from the Auror Headquarters and one from the justice facility. I still don’t know what to choose .”
“ Auror work is interesting and entertaining. But after a while, you start to uncover the ugly parts, and your hand in those ugly parts. Covering for the Ministry, sweeping stuff under the rug.” her voice lingered, and Hermione’s eyes flickered down to her lips for a second. “You would be controlled and used there.”
“Justice and Law” she continued in a mocking tone. “They will suck you dry there. Sitting all day with a bunch of corrupt idiots, memorizing all the useless paragraphs and sections till your mind is full and your eyes are falling out of their sockets.”
“But after a while-” the girl joked with eyes sparkling.
“Well, if, you get there, that is. One mistake, and you end up as a mere assistant of some fat old fool. If you get there, you would be in control. You could morph and change things and - if your morals weren’t lost in the process – do actual good to the people. Maybe even change the system.”
“In conclusion, both are ugly.” Hermione pulled a face.
“Everything in life has an ugly part.” Bella shrugged. “It only depends on you. Whether you have the stomach for it, or not.”
The dark witch raised her wand and this time, she summoned two glasses for the drink. She filled them with the blood red wine, and gave one of the cups to the younger witch. She accepted it, and the two clicked the glasses together.
“I will marry you one day “ Granger stared deep into her eyes, and Bella could feel the girl’s fire reaching her. “And I am serious.”
Bellatrix snorted. She remembered how seven years ago, the small muggleborn witch pranced into the Great Hall. Ready to explore it and ready to conquer it. Her will never once wavered, and Bella knew that was why Hermione was placed in Gryffindor instead of Ravenclaw. How fitting.
She remembered when in the girl’s fourth year she simply walked up to the DADA Professor after a lesson, and calmly stated that she was in love with her. The dark woman had absolutely no idea what to say to that, but it looked like Granger didn’t expect an answer, for she simply sauntered out of the classroom. Bella thought that she would see shyness in the girl after that occasion, averted gazes and stammering when she was asked a question, but no such thing happened. If anything, her skills improved and she was more confident in herself than before. What a totally unashamed Gryffindor.
“I know you are.” she smiled. “Good luck, Granger”
Bella rolled her head and heard the satisfying clicking in her neck. She sighed and returned to marking the pile of tests which even after an hour of work was still too high.
“Okay, no writing or anything next time.” she mumbled to herself. “They will be paired up, and the first one to knock out the other gets an O.”
Out of nowhere, the lazy burning of the woods in the fireplace changed into a color of high green, and a human figure stepped out, carefully bending down not to hit their head.
The witch looked up, though not in surprise, knowing well who paid her a visit.
The girl – now quite a woman – emerged and brushed down the ash from her shoulder. She looked up and down on the lithe body, her eyes took in the way the deep blue ministry robe perfectly embraced her waist. Still, she wished her visitor would wear something... more revealing.
“I would say it’s a nice surprise seeing you here, but it’s not really a surprise.” she greeted the witch. “Nonetheless, it’s nice.”
Hermione smiled at her and sat down on the edge of Bella’s desk, eyeing the essays her former teacher was struggling with.
“Oh, the creatures. I loved the classes about them. And the tests.”
“Glad that someone appreciates it.” she aggressively underlined twice the wrongly written mauntichore, and giving up the fight, she threw the trash work on the smaller pile of marked tests.
“I heard that McGonagall took Dumbledore’s position.” said the witch. Dumbledore’s retirement didn’t come as a shock, even though he was a constant presence in the school for the past –more than hundred – years, he wasn’t getting any younger.
“Ah, yes. The merry days are over, from now on there will be strict instructions and zero tolerance!” Bella exclaimed in a clangorous voice.
“It can’t be that bad.” Hermione reasoned.
“No, Minerva said this herself.” the older woman answered and she heard a quiet oh coming from the witch .
“I also heard that he offered it to you as well. Why didn’t you take it?”
Bella laughed. “Do you know how much more paperwork that means? Oh, and the counseling and arranging things with the Ministry” her tone turned high in mocking and she grinned seeing Hermione pursing her lips and frowning.
“That’s where I work, you know.”
“I do” she widened her smile. “And is it to your liking?”
“I like it, actually.” she answered after a moment of thinking. “I need to be careful though, and it keeps me on my toes, but there are these office rivalries and taking risks and-” Hermione blushed and casted down her gaze. “It’s... exhilarating” she shrugged and finished the sentence.
“Law, huh? Hmm.. Can't wait when you will finally become a Wizengamot member” Bella said. “Please keep in mind that it should be mandatory for Professors to have more holidays and day-offs. Oh, and a state-funded luxury hotel.”
“You have money to build that yourself” Hermione huffed. Bellatrix winked and stood up, stretching herself and easing the kinks from her shoulders.
“What if I let you share a jacuzzi with me?” she wiggled her eyebrows.
“I will think about it.” the younger witch smiled. “I’ll see you on Saturday.”
“Where are you going?” Bella pouted. “You’ve just come.”
“I promised to see McGonagall as well” she replied as she was just about to turn away and open the door.
“ So you visited me first” a triumphant grin was plastered onto her face. Oh, she will gloat about this to Minerva all day. “You have your priorities right, darling.”
Hermione stopped dead in her tracks and Bella saw a shiver running through her. When she casted one last look at the older woman, her eyes shined confidence, the flames of the fireplace perfectly reflected in her eyes.
“I will marry you one day, after all .”
With that, the Gryffindor was out of her chambers.
Even though the dinner was delicious, and the conversation flew, Bellatrix was happy when they finally escaped from the noise and the warmth of the restaurant. They walked to the outdoor area, where it was still filled with guests, but at least they didn’t have to slalom between them, being careful not bump into anything or anyone. The narrow path of smooth stones led to a little garden guarded with giant sycamores , and white twinkle lights. The sanctuary was bordered by elegant iron fences.
Hermione went ahead, Bella smartly stayed a step behind, so she could admire the backless red dress her date wore, and all the skin it revealed. She wanted to run her fingers through the smooth back.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect myself to enjoy a muggle restaurant” she commented, when she saw the woman’s unsure eyes and contemplative expression.
It did the work, the brown orbs like crystals shined at her and she could spot a relieved exhale. Poor girl, how much has she worked up herself for this night?
“I’m glad you did” she answered and stepped closer. “I haven’t been here before, actually.”
“Well then, this could be our place.” Bella murmured and gently placed a hand on the girl’s bare hand. Sensing that this time she should take initiative, she closed the distance between them.
Once more, the unsure and slightly worried look crossed those eyes, hiding the fire for a moment. Her fingers cupped the burning cheek of Hermione, she leaned closer, slowly, so her companion could step away or stop her, if she wasn’t comfortable with the situation.
None of that happened, and Bella finally placed her lips on soft ones, feeling new flames –Hermione's? - igniting her from the inside. The woman lowly whimpered, Bella felt the vibration, and like it was a request, she grazed the rosy lips with the tip of her tongue. At last, she felt the confidence, the fire of a Gryffindor returning into Hermione, when her lips parted and the entrance was given to the older witch.
She couldn’t help but to sneak her other hand behind the woman and stroke the immaculate skin, up close to Hermione’s nape, and down, tracing the path of her spine, experimenting what makes her shivering under her touch or leaves her whining.
When they parted, she locked her eyes with hazel ones, and she was taken aback by the pure happiness she found in them. The white lights reflected in Hermione’s eyes, and Bellatrix was so lost in the sight, that she almost missed what the Gryffindor said next.
“I will marry you one day.”
The air was freezing cold and her limbs trembled when the icy wind blew in her direction. Even though, she wouldn’t cast a heating charm, wouldn’t touch her wand for anything. The bitter lump in her throat didn’t go away. No matter how many times she tried to gulp it down.
She was afraid to go back. Afraid to see the aftermath of their- her own actions. Bella closed her eyes, and felt the storm inside her dying down, no more vicious rain or lightning was striking down.
The door opened behind her and on the ground, she saw the living room’s light escaping into the night. A figure’s shadow stretched, but Bella didn’t turn around. She was afraid to turn, afraid to see.
The person stepped out to the garden and walked closer to her. A second later Bella felt the body standing directly behind her, although the person didn’t touch her.
“Bella,” her name fell from the lips like honey and flowers. “Please turn around.”
The witch did, bracing herself to see any traces of what happened not an hour ago. But when she turned around, she just saw Hermione’s soft, caring eyes, the chestnut curls flowing in every direction as the wind whipped into it. No bruises, no swollen lips, no blood.
“Please, come back to the house.” the words were calm, but Bella felt hot fury racing through her body.
“ Don’t you see what I can do to you?!” she wanted to shout, but her voice cracked and broke. “You’re mad, you’re insane if you still want this.” she spat out the last word. Her fingers clenched around the girl’s hands with the intention of shaking her, but it felt like the movement required too much energy, too much hate and fury.
“Surely you don’t want to marry me, after...” she couldn’t continue.
The eyes that were soft and caring turned hard in defiance and confidence. Hermione stepped closer, and Bella let out a sigh when she felt the woman’s warmth surrounding her. But the younger witch was still staring deep into her soul and had no intention of breaking their connected eyes, so Bella had to bend her head down, so she could still see the brown flames dancing in the darkness.
“But I still do.” before the woman could answer, Hermione sealed her promise with a kiss, and Bella didn’t know if it was the magic, or the Gryffindor’s soul that casted flames in her, all she know that she didn’t feel cold anymore. For Morgana, she was so, so deliciously warm...
Hermione nervously tugged at her dress, the habit she started to pick up just this morning. Although she knew tearing it was impossible, she released the fine cloth from her fingers. Oh God, I want to see Bella so badly. She felt anxious, every episode of this morning, and those that have yet to come ran through her head, mentally checking every point on her list.
She knew the muggle custom about seeing her fiancé just before the wedding, how it meant a bad omen for the two of them, but she couldn’t help herself. Screw it.
Just when she was about to bolt out from the dressing room for a spontaneous expedition for her future spouse, she heard the well-known clicking of heels and a door opening, then closing behind her.
Bella’s arms circled her and the older woman placed her chin on top of Hermione’s head. The witch resisted the urge to turn around and bury her head in the black suit her soon to be wife wore, knowing that Ginny would be hysterical if she ruined the foundation her friend had put on her face.
“You are beautiful” the woman said and placed a kiss on her neck. Tingles ran down on Hermione, wondering if Bella was hear for a quickie. “I felt your worry. What’s wrong?” her voice was low and soothing.
Nothing, she wanted to say, but she knew that Bella wouldn’t believe it anyway.
“It’s uh-” she searched the words, and couldn’t believe that on this day especially, she was speechless . She turned around and looked in the captivating black eyes of her partner. “Are you sure that... this is what you want?”
Hermione hadn’t been and wasn’t unsure about this day. No, she knew exactly what her goal was the moment she met the woman. But the question whether Bellatrix really wanted the same... Well, that plagued her even after they started dating.
“Don’t tell me you got cold feet now?” Bella snorted and her embrace around the Gryffindor tightened. “ This is exactly what I want.”
Hermione believed her.