The first day after autumn break was just like every other day at Hogwarts and students quickly fell back into their usual routines of classes, dinner, homework and whatever evening enjoyment they would choose. Still, Bellatrix had trouble keeping focus through it all. She went through the motions of her classes, undoubtedly giving the correct answers to questions she barely remembered being even asked while running all the things she had found about the magic pool through her head.
Truth be told, she was counting the minutes until today's witching hour. Not only because it had been a tumultuous holiday and she needed to vent a bit of steam to someone she trusted, but also because she desperately wanted to share what she had found. No doubt Hermione would approve of her diligence. She had been ordering her notes and her books for what seemed like twenty times today and had to do it twice because she had all the materials, including her oncle's painting, duplicated by Sebastian before she'd left.
By the start of the day, she was counting the hours. Right before dinner time she was counting the minutes. She walked through the hallways, still ordering her thoughts when she barely noticed being approached by someone. Still rifling through her notes, she bumped into someone, gave out an irritated shout to tell whoever it was to bugger off and kept going, only to be rudely pulled from her trance when someone grabbed her by the arm.
Bellatrix let out a hiss, drew her wand and pressed it against the offender's throat while protecting her notes by holding them behind her back. Only then did she realize that she had come face to face with Lestrange, him giving her a stricken look while he held up his hands.
Lestrange, the last person she had wanted to see.
"Whoa, whoa! Bloody hell, Black," he muttered. "What's gotten into you?!"
"Go.. away," Bellatrix hissed.
"I'm not allowed to speak to my fiancee now?" he raised an eyebrow.
"It's a business arrangement!" Bellatrix hissed. "Nothing more, nothing less. I've got nothing to say to you until the wedding. And quite possibly nothing after!"
"Look," Lestrange gave that annoying smirk of his. "I realize you prefer to make things difficult for yourself, Bellatrix, but get used to the idea... you will be my wife."
The curly-haired witch felt every muscle in her body tense up, clenched her jaw and narrowed her eyes. "It must be so wonderful for you. To get access to my family's wealthy, connections, our... pedigree. You don't deserve any of it, Lestrange!"
Lestrange smirked again. "Bellatrix, Bellatrix, Bellatrix," he chuckled, but his voice took on a more sinister tone as he grew quieter, glancing around to see if there weren't any eager ears nearby. "I do have plenty to offer you and you'll change your tune when you see my connections. Times are changing, Bellatrix. Soon, very soon, I will introduce you to someone. Someone extraordinary beyond measure! Someone who will change the world... for the better. Someone who can make blood purity mean something again. Once you see his magic, once you see his power, Bellatrix, you will beg to be my wife."
Bellatrix rolled her eyes at him. No doubt he was posturing like he always was. "Whatever," she muttered and brushed past him. She had no time and no mood for his pathetic antics.
Still, the encounter with him had soured her mood considerably, to a point where she elected to stick close to her sisters the rest of the day, starting at dinner at the Great Hall, doing homework together after dinner and then hanging around the common room between the three of them.
At her dorm, Bellatrix didn't get a wink of sleep and decided to slip out of the castle a bit earlier than usual. After a visit to the Hog's Head for another lovely pint of ale… which she had to vacate rather quickly when that stupid oaf Hagrid entered the common room… she made her way into the Forbidden Forest. At the pool, she sat on the largest root and leaned against the pillow she had brought. It was definitely getting colder now, so the magically warmed blanket she had brought and wrapped over her legs was very much a necessity. Wearing a woolly hat, Bellatrix unfurled her scroll and started writing a bit. Inspiration came quickly and a whole new tale started to form in her head.
After an hour or two of writing, Bellatrix gasped in joy when the pool sprang to life and once again bathed the clearing in a magical blue hue. She put away her quill and quickly leaned towards the water. "Hermione!" she exclaimed.
"Hermione?" she asked again.
Again, no answer.
She tried to peek into water to try to get a better look at the clearing on the other side of the reflection. Usually, Hermione was perched on the same large root she was currently sat on, but there was no sign of her.
Perhaps, she was just a little late?
So Bellatrix waited.
And she waited.
Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Still no Hermione.
Bellatrix swallowed hard. Had something happened to her? Was she alright?
Fifteen minutes. The curly-haired witch was really getting nervous now, pacing back and forth while she tried to control her breathing.
'She isn't coming. Something happened. Is she hurt? Is she alright? Does... does she still want to be friends? Was it something I said? Is she still angry with me for calling her a mudblood? Have I ruined our friendship somehow? What did I do? What did I do wrong?!' she repeated over and over in her mind, torturing herself with endless possibilities why Hermione would no longer want to be associated with her.
When the time passed the half hour mark, Bellatrix was fighting back tears. 'Where is she? Why isn't Hermione coming?' The curly-haired witch hopped off the root and started pacing back and forth, running hundreds of scenarios through her mind.
Had something happened? Had she been delayed? Was she ill? Could… could something had happened on the way here? The Forbidden Forest could be dangerous, after all. What if Hermione was hurt and needed help? Perhaps… perhaps she could warn someone in the future. How would she do it? Yes, she could perhaps formulate a note for McGonagall to be delivered at this date in 1998 so they could go look for her if something was wrong. She already had the paper, but she had yet to write it.
She ripped a page from her book and started. 'Hello, this is Bellatrix from 1968. I assure you this is not a jest or a prank. Hermione might very well be in danger…' Bellatrix grit her teeth and wondered how the hell she would even explain the Fae Mirror to someone in the future. "Relax, Bella, relax," she forced herself to calm down. "Even in Hermie is in mortal peril, she's still thirty years in the future. You have all the time in the world to get your note right."
When the clock was about to hit 3:35, Bellatrix heard some rustling from the other side of the mirror. The curly-haired witch tossed her note to the side, dashed to the pool and parked herself on the root and tried to act as nonchalant as possible, but was unable to keep the sheer joy from her voice when Hermione came into view, panting as she did so.
"Hermione! You came!" Bellatrix exclaimed before she caught herself. "I mean, uhm, of course you did."
Hermione, for her part, was panting heavily and needed a moment to catch her breath. "Sorry, I'm late. I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting," she offered. "I ran all the way here. I didn't get much sleep last night so I overslept today. I didn't mean to worry you."
Wearing a somewhat warmer muggle denim jacket rather than her robe, Hermione made a somewhat different impression. Honestly, she didn't look well: pale, with bags under eyes and the exhaustion clearly etched in her face, having all the markers of a woman for whom the wiser course had been to simply stay in bed that evening. Still, Bellatrix was beyond grateful that Hermione had shown up regardless and she saw past it all: to her, Hermione was an angel in denim.
"I wasn't worried at all!" Bellatrix lied. "I figured something must have kept you. Anyway, you won't believe what I found out!"
In the pool, Hermione offered a warm smile. "You certainly sound excited."
"Right," said Bellatrix as she held up a small wooden box. "In about half an hour, I'll bury this box underneath that root over there. You should be able to find it now."
In the pool, Hermione moved to the root Bellatrix had pointed out. "Here?" she asked. Bellatrix confirmed it and, after digging a little, Hermione fished up the wooden box and, after retrieving it and using a spell to unlock the box, had exactly the same books and notes in her hands as she had. For her part, Hermione seemed very much intrigued, especially when she took a look at her uncle's painting. Removed from the frame, Bellatrix had rolled it up to fit it inside the box along with copies of the rest of the books and notes.
"What we're looking at, what we're talking through," said Bellatrix. "Is called a Fae Mirror and they're really bloody rare. This had actually been the first sighting in the UK! Isn't that exciting, Hermie?!"
"A Fae Mirror," Hermione let the term roll over her tongue a few times. "Doesn't ring a bell."
Bellatrix was elated. Now was her time to shine. Now was her time to impress and excite her friend. "Grand-père did research on ancient legends from both the magical and the muggle world, right?" said Bellatrix. "Trying to determine how much was truth and how much was myth. He had labelled Fae Mirrors as myth until he found references in Russian Ministry accounts of magic forests, in particular the taiga woods in the Verkhoyansk river valley. There have been more sightings in Jiuzhaigou forest in China and the Sagano bamboo forest in Japan. The oldest known sighting in the Black Forest in Germany and the description is always the same: located in a clearing and among the roots of a long dead petrified tree. It always glows blue when it's active and, get this, all descriptions my grand-père found refer to the surface of the pool 'reflecting not the surroundings, but showing a reflection of a different time. Sometimes looking forwards, sometimes looking back'. Just like it is in my oncle's painting."
"Good work, Trix," said Hermione, causing Bellatrix to allow herself a satisfied smile. "Wait. A. Rosier. You are related to Achille Rosier? The artist?"
"Yes," said Bellatrix. "He is my oncle. Mother's side. Apparently grand-père told him the myth of the Fae Mirror and he was intrigued enough to make a painting about it. He was my lead to find out more about the legend."
Apparently Hermione was making a rather intense study of the painting. "Trix," said Hermione. "Have you taken a good look at the painting? What do you make of the reflection of the unicorn in the pool?"
"Hm, good question," said Bellatrix, remembering that in the painting, a regular stark white unicorn was peeking into the pool and saw the reflection of a unicorn which was black as night. "There's no such thing as black unicorns. Doesn't matter if the pool reflects past or future, it can't show what doesn't exist."
Hermione seemed lost in thought for a moment, staring rather intensely at her oncle's painting while nibbling down on her lip a bit. It looked, honestly, rather cute. "Perhaps... it is looking through the pool at something else entirely. This warrants further investigation. Have you found the original myth the painting is based on?" Hermione asked.
"I have," said Bellatrix. "It's in a book called 'Verlorene magische Geschichten aus dem Schwartzwald' but our library doesn't own it. In fact, no library in the UK owns it, but there are two existing copies in the German state library. Curious how a book about lost tales is in the verge of becoming lost itself, isn't it? Sadly, I didn't have time to get it, and getting books from the other side of the channel is a complete pain anyway."
"Let me," said Hermione. "I can ask a friend in the Ministry if he could put in a requisition form for it with the German Ministry. Requests from aurors always get fast-tracked. Well, fast-tracked is a relative term, but it should take weeks, rather than months."
"I'll take it," smiled Bellatrix.
Hermione suddenly let out a sigh. "Oh, bother," she muttered.
"What?" Bellatrix asked.
"This is a unique and rare magical phenomenon and we haven't been documenting any of it since we've started our chats," Hermione sighed. "Honestly, I could kick myself!"
"Never too late to start, I suppose," Bellatrix replied. "But I think we both enjoyed our chats a bit too much to really think about the particulars."
"There is that," Hermione smiled. "Again, great work, Trix. I'll see if I can find out more on my end and share what I find. Seriously, though, the artist Achille Rosier is actually your uncle?"
Bellatrix chuckled. "He certainly is. I'm glad you've heard of him," she said, rather gratified to know that her oncle was still well known for his work thirty years from now.
"Heard of him? It's hard not to know who he is," said Hermione. "He's a celebrated artist and a famous recluse."
"Yeah, he's not very social," returned Bellatrix. "Not outside of his family, really. If you ever have the chance to meet him, just tell him you know me and he'll chat your ears off, no doubt. Might even paint you something if he's in the right mood."
Hermione went really quiet for a moment. "I'll keep that in mind," Hermione spoke in a soft, almost neutral tone. Bellatrix found that a bit odd, but was in too good a mood to pay much mind to it.
"How was your autumn break?" Bellatrix asked. "Did you enjoy your time with your parents?"
Her answer came in the form of a slight nod and an ever slighter smile. "It was good. Funny thing is that you simply don't realize how quickly time passes until it's too late. I've spent far too little time with them over the past years. It always seemed that other things seemed more important at the time, you know? I've decided that I'm going to join them on their skiing trip over Christmas holidays. It's been a while since I've hit the slopes, so I think I'll be a little rusty."
"I've never skied," replied Bellatrix. "Seems a little dangerous to me."
"Skiing? Dangerous?" Hermione laughed. "Trix, you are a chaser of a Quidditch team!"
"So?" chuckled Bellatrix. "That's not dangerous. The worst thing that could happen is that I fall off my broom for a bit."
It was a statement that made Hermione sputter and struggle to form a responsible. "At, what? Twenty-five miles an hour speed?!"
"Not nearly as dangerous as standing on bits of wood in the snow," pouted Bellatrix. "I mean, come on, Hermie, how would you even stop once you get going?"
"It's quite easy, actually," replied Hermione. "You just fold your legs a little so that your ski's cross a little and the friction will slow you down."
Bellatrix made a face. "That sounds like a recipe for snapped ankles."
"Falling off your broom from a twenty meter height sounds like a recipe for snapped necks," Hermione replied.
"Nah, it'll fine," Bellatrix shrugged.
"Anyway, how was your autumn break?" asked Hermione, her face showing that kindly smile of hers.
"Fun," replied Bellatrix, meaning it. "I mean, once I got past the wedding rehearsal and usual bollocks. Got to spend a lot of time with my sisters at home, just enjoying ourselves, so it wasn't all bad. Had a good conversation with my father too. Oh, do remind me to show you Catterborough Woodhouse some day. Our mansion is a sight to behold."
The corners of Hermione's mouth formed a bit of a half-smile. "I'm not sure your family would like to have a muggle-born guest."
"Pfft," Bellatrix snorted. "I'll handle them. The servants are nothing but polite, oncle won't care, I'll keep my sisters in line and the house if big enough that you could stay there all week without even seeing my family once."
"I'd like to see it," said Hermione. "But there's a little bit of an issue."
"Thirty years apart," sighed Bellatrix. "And yet I feel we are so close together."
"Same," smile Hermione, just as the pool started to shimmer. "Oh, bother. I'm so sorry, Trix. I'll be on time tomorrow, I promise."
"It's fine, Hermie," replied Bellatrix. "Go get some sleep and we'll talk again tomorrow."
After the girls said their goodbyes and the magic of the pool faded away, Bellatrix set towards her final task of the evening, which was to put all the research she had done into the box, magically lock it and bury it underneath the root so that Hermione could find it in the future.
As she was doing so, her thoughts drifted back to Hermione and how relieved she was to see her today: no kidding, Bellatrix had really been worried about Hermione be it for having accidentally insulted her or her being injured somehow. And when she had appeared in the Fae Mirror, having that wonderful fuzzy feeling in the pit of her stomach. An angel in denim, such an apt description: Hermione was smart, witty and was someone who was willing to put up with her antics... someone she could trust.
Pretty too, though from her chats she could tell that Hermione didn't consider herself to be a pretty girl. Well, she was wrong. That lovely brown hair of hers, those eyes... that brief cute little half-smile dancing on her lips she shot at her whenever she told her something which amused her.
She briefly wondered what it would be like to kiss those lips.
Instantly, Bellatrix froze, her hands hovering over the box she had just set in place to bury.
Kiss those lips?
Where had that come from?!
Bellatrix let out a sigh. The point was moot anyway, as she reminded herself once again that they were indeed thirty years apart.
Hermione had been dead tired all day and running all across the Forbidden Forest certainly hadn't helped. Truth be told, she simply hadn't slept well after returning to Hogwarts straight from the Burrow. Perhaps her encounter with Pansy had been to blame, she had first considered, but dismissed that theory quick enough. Though seeing Pansy again had reignited old hatreds, perhaps even unfairly, it was falling back into the same routine she had been since the start of this school year which had been bothering her.
Sneaking back into the castle and getting back to her dorm room was easy enough, but sleep deprivation was starting to get the better of her. At least her first scheduled class tomorrow would rather late in the morning, so her schedule permitted her to sleep in. This, of course, meant that she would have to skip breakfast, but she needed sleep more than food at the moment. Hermione had a few chocolate bars on reserve, one of which would cover her until lunch time tomorrow.
Still, Hermione knew that she wouldn't catch a single wink of sleep if she wouldn't take care of one little thing first. Prepared as always, Hermione sauntered over to her oft-used and loved writing desk and opened a drawer containing all sorts of paperwork. One of those was a requisition form for books not owned by the Hogwarts library. Normally, she'd fill these out and hand them over to Madam Pince and, usually, Hermione knew not to bother unless it was for a long-term project since it would be a matter of months before she'd get the books in, especially if the book wasn't even on British soil. This is where Ron came in.
After filling out the form to requisition 'Verlorene magische Geschichten aus dem Schwartzwald' from the German State Library, she picked up another scroll and started writing a letter.
I'm sorry that we didn't have a chance to speak much at the Burrow yesterday, but I still had a fun time there. So, you and Pansy, hm? Harry told me a bit about how you and Pansy started dating. Don't worry, I'm not angry. Just surprised! Next time we speak, you should tell me all about how it happened. I'm certain it'll be a tale of circumstance worthy of a Weasley and I mean that in the best possible way.
Anyway, I'm hoping you could help me out. I'm trying to get my hands on a certain book and you know as well as I do how slow the Ministry gears grind. But if an auror were to requisition it, it would take six weeks to get here rather than six months. I've already filled out the entire form. All you have to do is sign your name and file it.
We'll talk soon. And thanks for helping.
She put down her quill and started to blow out the candles. Hermione'd bring the scrolls to the owlry tomorrow, but she wouldn't be whom she was if she didn't have everything prepared in advance. But now, it was time for bed. Clothes were shed, a wash was had and her teeth were brushed. Stomping from the wash basin in the formerly communal bathroom to her bed as if she were a zombie, she let herself drop down onto the mattress and pulled the cover over her and her nightly companion.
The life-sized tiger-plushie her dad had bought her at London Zoo had not been given a name: Hermione was no longer a child, after all. But it was large enough to be a big artificial cuddle-cat. She wrapped her arms around it and pressed her body against its soft fur.
Nice. That was nice.
To lie in bed and hold something soft and warm, to pull it close and embrace it tightly.
It only it could hold her too. Maybe if she flipped it around a little so its paws could simulate arms. But she was simply too tired.
She'd have the tiger hug her tomorrow. Sleep now.
Sleep. Sleep and dream that someone would hold her while she slept to keep her warm and safe.
Thankfully, she was out like a light almost immediately.