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Breaking the Window

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Hermione shivered and pulled her coat a little tighter. Tonight was a particularly cold night, well below freezing. She was already setting up at the pool while waiting for Bellatrix to arrive. The dagger, the fond and, of course, the script for the ritual. Still, it was rather curious that Bellatrix wasn't there yet: usually she was there waiting as soon as the pool activated.

Hermione had to admit she was nervous. The both of them had put in so much work the past couple of weeks and, honestly, it was starting to hurt Hermione to see Bellatrix so actively and enthusiastically driven to crack the secret of the Fae Mirror, all the while oblivious to the fate hanging over her head. There had been times that Hermione simply wanted to scream and reveal everything, but knew that doing so would change nothing until all the rules set could be broken. But no, the Fae Mirror was still the key to everything and figuring out how to actually change fate would be step 2.

They were only up against the tides of Cause and Effect and the general laws of the universe' progression of time. Both Insignificant things, really… Hermione snorted and rolled her eyes.

Still no Trix. Hermione took a moment to reflect on how they got to this point.

After expanding their proof of concept with some solid experimentation, Hermione had managed to MacGyver together a completely new blood ritual from about twenty existing ones. Cadence and wording was important, but even more important were intentions and desires behind the words. That was why their first real attempt at breaching the Fae Mirror had failed: the words of their first attempt were discordant with the intentions. Granted, Hermione had always been more of a theoretical writer than a creative one… which is where Trix came in handy. Together they managed to streamline it and Hermione was grateful for it. She was feeling a bit out of her depth, even though Bellatrix told her that she had done great work already and that every writer worth their salt improved on first versions of a work with a second, third or even fourth pass.

Their second attempt at a breach failed because Bellatrix had underestimated just how much magic the Fae Mirror would demand. Though redirecting the flow of magic through the lay-lines worked perfectly, the reserves just weren't enough to simulate a third person. A frustrated Bellatrix went back to the drawing board, talked with Antonin Dolohov on her side more and tried to figure out ways to make the magical flow purer and more plentiful, but simply couldn't figure out where she had gone wrong. She delved into deep theoretical material to a point where the talk about 'void zones', 'flow currents', 'activity spikes' and 'Zero-point magicals' was starting to make Hermione's head spin. Until Hermione asked to see the notes of her calculations and while Arithmancy was one of Hermione's favourite subjects, it quickly became clear to her that Bellatrix had a grasp on the magical nature of reality far beyond her own. That is, until Hermione noticed that Bellatrix had made an error in her primary calculations which were a supposition for all her future calculations, undoubtedly because of her enthusiasm, Bellatrix had placed a dot at the wrong decimal and had missed this completely as she kept working. This incorrect value had worked its way through the entire work and Bellatrix never found it because she was consistently looking for fault in the wrong place.

When Hermione had told her, Bellatrix had turned bright red and avoided looking her in the eye for the rest of their conversation. It showed a side of Bellatrix Hermione had rarely seen: gone was the confidence, the arrogance, the self-assurance. Bellatrix was demure, timid, apologetic and embarrassed, constantly cursing herself and apologizing to Hermione for wasting so much of their time.

It was really rather cute. Until Hermione realized that Bellatrix' confidence had been completely shattered and was as much in need of a pep-talk as she had been when she had botched up the first version of the ritual. Of course, it was right back to work soon enough.

Today would be the third attempt. If the law of threes held up, tonight might be the night. What wonders would they see? Would it even work? Would they finally be able to see each other face to face? She could only hope.

Still no Trix. She wasn't usually this late. Hermione wondered what could be keeping her.

Her answer came when a panting Bellatrix came running into the clearing and collapsed next to the log. "Sorry, sorry," Bellatrix caught in between laboured breaths. "I just wanted to do a last check-up on one of the lodestones. I wasn't sure I had buried it with the positive end pointing in the right direction. But it was. I'm completely convinced it will work now."

"No worries," said Hermione. "Take a moment to catch your breath. We still have plenty of time. And we need to rehearse the words and the cadence anyway."

"Good," smiled Bellatrix, her eyes drifting away slightly. She seemed distracted. Hermione couldn't help but pick up on that immediately. It was the way her eyes darted around, unfocused. There was obviously something on her mind. Their ritual would require utmost concentration and focus if it was to work. But, more importantly, if there was something on Bellatrix' mind, something must be worrying her.

"Trix?" she asked. "What's wrong?"

By now there was an understanding between the two of them. Trust. They felt they could share their thoughts and woes. Even so, Bellatrix rather hesitantly shook her head. "It's just..." she sighed. "I had a fight with Andie earlier this evening and... I said some things to her I shouldn't have. Things I regret saying."

Hermione could tell that it was really bothering Trix. "I'm sorry," said Hermione. "What was it about?"

"She caught me studying our rite," replied Bellatrix with pursed lips. "Gave me a lecture about the dark nature of blood magic."

"Well..." replied Hermione, biting her lip. "She's not wrong..."

"Not you too!" Bellatrix snorted. "I'll... I'll make it up to her later. I'll buy her some of those bonbons she likes. Take her out to Hogsmeade. I promise I won't let it distract me."

"Good," said Hermione. "I never had any siblings, but I understand well enough that you need to take good care of them."

Bellatrix chuckled. "Spoken like an only child! Honestly, siblings can be a piece of piss at the best of times, but… Look, let's just begin, alright?" she asked. Hermione agreed. Together they rehearsed the rhymes and the wand movements for about half an hour until they both felt they had gotten it just right. "Remember," said Hermione. "Where I say past, you must say 'future'. I noticed that bit threw you off a bit earlier."

"I'll keep that in mind, " said Bellatrix. "About the words. Who is which?"

A fair question. "I don't think it's either of us," said Hermione.

"Or it could be both of us," Bellatrix suggested.

"We're both sacred and damned?" Hermione asked.

"Think about it. Neither of us is in the best state at the moment," said Bellatrix. "I got a loveless marriage hanging over my head and you're recovering from a war. But we are both still alive regardless and we both still hope."

Hermione was actually pleased to hear that. "Ready?" she asked, apprehension creeping into her voice as she was both excited and frightened for what they were about to do.

"Ready!" Bellatrix confirmed with grim determination.

The ritual started with acute timing. Both girls took their daggers and slid it across the palm of their hands. By now, they had done it so often that they had gotten used to the pain. Putting the dagger aside, they held their hands above the pool and let droplets of blood fall into the magical waters, the colour changing from blue into deep red. While holding their wands in the other and making the required wand movements, the two girls chanted in unison.

 

"Blood of the present

Blood of the past

Blood of the sacred

Blood of the damned

 

Blood of the lover

Blood of the loved

Blood of the false

Blood of the true

 

Blood of the wicked

Blood of the wise

We give of ourselves

We give of our lives

Grant us a glimpse,

Carry us off to paradise."

 

When the chant was done, silence overcame the clearing. This was utter silence, as if all sounds from the forest and the denizens of the night were being blocked out. For a moment, Hermione was unsure if it had actually worked, but was confronted with the fact that it had soon enough.

Blood rites drained life, magic and essence and earlier attempts had certainly done so. There'd been times where she'd been so drained that she had slept half the day away. Of course, all these things replenished with time and rest so there were no worries there. But this attempt? This attempt drained a lot. A lot to a point that Hermione fell to her knees and fought to keep herself awake. A glance down the pool showed that Bellatrix was in a similar state. Okay, that certainly meant that on their next try, they'd both have to be very well rested.

Then. It happened.

A blinding flash of red light overcame Hermione, to a point where she could see no more. She felt no ground underneath her feet as her body was suddenly thrust forward. For a moment, Hermione felt like her body was being shoved through a narrow tube and her tissues being stretched beyond what should be their limits. Whatever had happened, though, it did not last long enough for her to actually feel any sort of pain until she she was rather roughly expunged from whatever magical process she had started and deposited on the ground.

The warm ground.

Even with her eyes closed, she could feel the light of the sun on her skin. Something had happened. She had been transported... somewhere else.

When she opened her eyes, she was blinded by daylight. She scrambled to her feet, used her hand to protect her eyes and, when they adjusted to the sudden influx of light, Hermione gasped at what she saw. She was standing at the edge of a large landmass, stretching as far as the eye could see. Above her was a bright blue sky, but she could see no sun or clouds. Large floating rocks, landmasses in themselves, floated freely in the air far above and around them. Hermione counted five... no seven... more…

She took note of her immediate surroundings. Hermione had been deposited on a rocky plateau overlooking what seemed to be a tranquil savanna with a large forest in the distance. She gasped when she realized she was standing uncomfortably close to the literal edge of the world, with a sharp drop-off into an endless bright void stretching to infinity in every direction. Apparently this landmass was another one of those floating rocks. She quickly backed away a little.

What also struck her were the colours. Vibrant green, powerful red, bright brown... in fact, every colour had an unnatural shade of bright vibrancy to it, as if this strange world was a Pixar film come to life. Hermione turned around and saw near her a rift through which she could still see the Forbidden Forest. Next to the rift lay her wand as well as her thermos flask of tea and all her books and notes. It seemed all her supplies had been brought along for the ride as well well.

"Oh wow," she whispered. "We actually did it..."

"Hermie!" sounded from the other side of the plateau. Hermione gasped, realizing that Trix was here. Thankfully, Bellatrix had been deposited quite near her. "Over here!"

Hermione froze when she saw Trix waving at her. She had never seen her friend by daylight: Trix was paler than she had expected, her curly hair dancing around her as her face was adorned with a happy and genuine smile. The girl rushed forward until she stood a few meters away from each other.

Trix was a few inches shorter than her, looking at her with heavy-lidded eyes. Her landing had not been a great one as there was a bloodied scratch on her chin. But that nothing a little healing potion couldn't help with: they'd still have to heal their hands too, after all.

"We did it," Bellatrix laughed. "We really did it!"

Without a further word, the two girls rushed to each other. They had been friends for months and this was the first time they met face to face. It was Trix who made the first move and took her in a firm embrace, one Hermione quickly returned. Clutching onto each other, Trix giggled in elation.

Hermione closed her eyes and simply enjoyed the sensation. "You're so beautiful," Hermione found herself whispering before she even realized what exactly she had just said.

A few moments later, both young witches were sat on a fallen log overlooking the magical and alien landscape below, taking in the majestic sight in silence. A flying creature passed by in the distance, which looked to be a cross between a pterodactyl and a dragonfly, as impossible as that sounded. But for all the unique splendour of this magical realm, Hermione found herself almost unable to tear her eyes off Bellatrix.

Bellatrix, for her part, was beyond excited, eyes roving across the valley. "Hermie," Bellatrix chuckled. "We're actually the first witches to ever set foot in this place. Do you realize that we get to name the things we see and discover?"

Bellatrix rose to her feet. "I name this plateau 'Black's Landing'! For a Black quite literally landed here. On her chin."

Hermione raised an eyebrow. "Shouldn't it be named 'Black's Faceplant', then?"

Her friend sat back down, but not before giving her somewhat of a glare. "Shut up!" she muttered, yet the twinkle in her eye was undeniable.

"There were times when I wondered if you were actually real," said Hermione. "There were times I thought you were a figment."

Bellatrix seemed contemplative for a moment. "Same," she replied. "I never realized how much I needed companionship until I met you. Tell you what, though..."

"Hm?"

"I'm glad you're real," smiled Bellatrix.

"Absolutely," Hermione replied. Above them, the sky was as bright as ever. Try as she might, she could not spot a single cloud. No sun. No cloud. Were there even weather patterns in this realm? Was there even a day-night cycle? So many questions.

"Oh, damn!" Bellatrix cursed and picked up a notebook. "We should be documenting all of this! This is all new discovery! We should take detailed notes of what we see and what we encounter."

"Well," said Hermione. "We did document the ritual and our journey to it. That's a good start."

"It's what Eleanore Snowbell would do," said Bellatrix as she started to scribble in the notebook. "Right, Black's Landing is here and... oh, bother, how do we know which direction is North? Fiddlesticks, I'll figure that out later. Oh, wait!"

From her perch, Hermione could see that Bellatrix was drawing a crude map. However, she was more interested in what Bellatrix had just said. "You know Eleanore Snowbell?" Hermione asked.

"Of course!" smiled Bellatrix, looking up from her notebook. As she talked, she fished one of the left-over lodestones from her bag and made it magically float in the air with a quick wordless spell. "I wanted to be just like her when I was just a little witchling. Going out to explore the world and getting in all matter of adventures, like the time she got herself embroiled in the yeti civil war when searching through the ruins of Shambhala in Tibet. Or documenting the runic tablets of the draugr at Greenland and being beset upon by the drowned dead."

That made Hermione chuckle: though she had read Snowbell's work a few times, she felt that the woman was exaggerating some of the more outlandish parts of her travels for the sake of exciting her readers, but Snowbell was undeniably a great explorer. By now, the floating lodestone had settled and pointed north. Curious, apparently there was a magnetic north in this Realm for the lodestone to work.

"What?" Bellatrix raised an eyebrow at Hermione's chuckle.

"Oh, nothing," Hermione replied. "I just love that you love Eleanore Snowbell."

"And why wouldn't I?!" Bellatrix raved. "She's everything a witch should be! Brave. Smart. Strong willed. Magically gifted. Adventurous!"

"In that case," said Hermione. "You'll be pleased to know that she's still active in 1998. Snowbell is trying to get an expedition to find old Hyperborea off the ground, but she's having some trouble finding financing. With the war just being over, expeditions to far lands aren't exactly considered a high priority right now."

"What a shame," pouted Bellatrix. "Adventure and exploration are important, especially after dark times. Still, I hope she gets the expedition going. She'd be what? 110 years old in 1998?"

"107," Hermione replied. "Not that you'd be able to tell. She looks and acts like a witch in her fifties."

Bellatrix shook her head. "I hope I'll be as sprite and active when I'm that age. Hermie? We need to explore this place. Set up an expedition of our own! Look at the world that's out there and imagine that we're going to be the first to see it! Adventure and glory is here, Hermione! And all we have to do is to reach out and grab it!"

Hermione had to admit that did sound alluring and more than a little exciting. Still, she had to remember she had an ulterior motive she was keeping from Bellatrix: she had to be saved from her future fate. Still, it seemed that these two things now coincided. They had already achieved the impossible: two witches 30 years apart in time were now in the same location... wherever or whatever it was. Was this what Achille Rosier had meant by 'breaking the cycle'? Did he know of this place or was he merely guessing himself?

"I agree, but we need to make preparations for that and we need to know more about how this world interacts with ours," said Hermione. "For example, it'll be 4:00 AM in about five minutes and I don't think we want to be trapped here. Not without supplies."

Bellatrix bit her lip. "You're right, of course," she said. "Eleanore Snowbell said it herself: 'An expedition that is poorly prepared is an expedition doomed to failure'. Wise words."

Hermione stood up and squeezed her friend's shoulder. "Trust me, I want to explore this world as much as you do."

"I want to do this right," Bellatrix smirked. "I want to explore this realm and discover its secrets... with you."

The way Bellatrix had spoken those words gave Hermione a tingling sensation in the pit of her stomach. Slowly, Bellatrix dared to reach over with her hand to slowly grasp Hermione's. Fingers intertwined and soft skin slid over soft skin. Hermione felt her heart jump, especially when Bellatrix gave her that deep and alluring look. Hermione almost went weak in the knees when Bellatrix slowly squeezed her hand.


If she was being brutally honest with herself, Andromeda had often wondered if she had ever actually been Slytherin material. Oh, she valued cunning and ambition well enough, but doubted she had what it took to actually do some of the things which needed to be done to be a true Slytherin at heart. For one, she always had her big sister who looked out for her. In the past, Bellatrix had made it known far and wide in Slytherin that anyone who would swindle, harm or negatively impact her in any way, would have to deal with her as well. And since Bellatrix was feared and respected throughout Slytherin House as well as the entire school, that claim held a lot of weight.

Thing is, Bella's respect had been earned through prowess, talent and the occasional act of violence. Andromeda herself was seemingly only respected because of who her big sister was. In that regard, perhaps Bella had been right: she had been standing in her big sister's shadow.

But right now, Andromeda was planning to return the favour. Though she might be a lesser witch than Bellatrix, Andromeda was far from stupid and realized quite well what Bellatrix's patterns were. Wearing an invisibility cloak borrowed from a friend in Ravenclaw, Andromeda was following Bellatrix after she had entered the Forbidden Forest.

Sometimes a little sister had to look out of her big sister. In fact, she already had: Andie had noticed Bellatrix talking to Antonin Dolohov from Ravenclaw a lot as of late so Andromeda did some sleuthing of her own. Dolohov was no Slytherin and thus surprisingly trusting and talkative when approached with the right questions. Apparently he and Bellatrix had been talking a lot about radio waves, magical signals and cadence, apparently to support some project Bellatrix was working on for Theory of Magic. Now Andromeda knew Bellatrix well enough to know that she didn't give a flying fuck about radio, so this must have had something to do with the blood ritual. Dolohov didn't seem to know any further details, so Andie surmised that he wasn't a participant.

That left only 'Hermione'.

Andromeda would discover who this 'Hermione' really was, where she lived and then would have some serious words with her: honestly, she knew blood rites were often still practised by pure-blood families, including her own, but that didn't make them any less dangerous. Many a cocky young wizard or witch still died of taking a blood ritual too far and draining themselves completely and she was damned before she'd let that happen to Bellatrix.

Andromeda kept a respectful distance: though she was wearing an invisibility cloak, she knew that Bellatrix was far from stupid and would likely notice she was being followed if she got too close. Cloaks only hid her from sight, after all, but it would not hide the cracking of fresh snow underneath her boots or the tracks she left.

She followed Bellatrix through the forest and watched as Bellatrix started to dig near the roots of a large oak. Whatever she found there, Bellatrix seemed pleased and reburied the object without taking it.

Curious.

After this, Bellatrix took a sprint which momentarily startled Andromeda. Had she been discovered? It didn't seem so as Bellatrix didn't run towards her or headed back to the school, but rather headed deeper into the forest.

She followed suit, sprinting herself until she saw her sister coming to a stop in the distance. Andromeda swiftly found a good perch behind a fallen tree to watch her from a distance and came across a most curious sight: her sister was sat on the root of a dead tree in the middle of a clearing, peering down into a pool of water which bathed the clearing in a bluish glow. Powerful magic was at play her, as she felt the power radiating through the air.

"Sorry, sorry," Bellatrix spoke to the pool in between laboured breaths. "I just wanted to do a last check-up on one of the lodestones. I wasn't sure I had buried it with the positive end pointing in the right direction. But it was. I'm completely convinced it will work now."

What the... who was Bellatrix talking too? Was there someone else here?

"No worries," sounded the voice of a young woman. "Take a moment to catch your breath. We still have plenty of time. And we need to rehearse the words and the cadence anyway."

How odd. The voice unmistakably came from the pool. Though she would like to, Andromeda wouldn't dare to get closer for fear of being discovered. If she would, not only would Bella give her one hell of a bollocking, but there was no doubt in her mind that she would lose any hope to actually help her sister.

"Good," replied Bellatrix and even from her, Andromeda could hear in her voice that she was feeling a little bit down.

"Trix?" asked the young woman. "What's wrong?"

Bella shook her head. "It's just..." she sighed. "I had a fight with Andie earlier this evening and... I said some things to her I shouldn't have. Things I regret saying."

"I'm sorry," replied the young woman. "What was it about?"

"She caught me studying our rite," replied Bellatrix with pursed lips. "Gave me a lecture about the dark nature of blood magic."

"Well..." said the young woman from the pool. "She's not wrong..."

"Not you too!" Bellatrix snorted. "I'll... I'll make it up to her later. I'll buy her some of those bonbons she likes. Take her out to Hogsmeade. I promise I won't let it distract me."

That made Andromeda smile. Oh, Bella might act tough and aloof at times, making it seem as if nothing in the world could bother her, but Andromeda knew better. She was the one who had stroked Bella's curly hair when she had her head in her lap while bawling her eyes out after her engagement to Rodolphus Lestrange had just been announced. Poor Bella had been inconsolable. Though she hid it well, Andromeda knew she could be just as fragile as anyone else, if not moreso.

But through it all, Andromeda knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Bella loved her. And Cissy too. The three of them had an unbreakable bond.

"Good," said the young woman. "I never had any siblings, but I understand well enough that you need to take good care of them."

This young woman in the pool had to be Hermione. For someone to put a smile like that on Bella's face... she hadn't seen that smile since, well, Bella had been involved with Evelyn. Though Bellatrix had put a brave face on at the time, telling everyone that she had always known their relationship would come to an end, Andromeda knew better. After Evelyn married her now-husband... as a proper pure-blood witch was wont to do... Bellatrix had been devastated and had refused to eat for two weeks.

No. That smile she had on her face right now told Andromeda enough. Bella was in love. Shit, that would make this so much harder.

When they performed their ritual, Andromeda was glad she had decided to follow Bellatrix today: the rite looked to be a complicated one and most deaths occurred when a complicated blood rite drained more life from a witch than she was prepared for. Being alone in those cases, could be a death sentence. So if something went wrong, Andromeda could step in and help catch some of the drain herself to keep Bella alive if need be.

Bella only. Family first. Family only. 'Hermione' would be on her own.

Suddenly, a flash of light blinded her, causing her to grimace slightly through the sheer intensity of it all. When she looked back at the pool, Bella... Bella was gone!

Andromeda blinked and frantically looked around the clearing only to see no sign of Bella. Panic gripped her by the throat: had Bella just blinked herself right out of existence?!

"Bella?" Andromeda called out. To hell with stealth right now. "BELLA?!"

She was about to rush into the clearing when another flash blinded her. And, right as if she had never left, Bella was sitting on the log again, a massive smile plastered on her face. "Hermie!" her sister exclaimed while Andromeda dove back behind the fallen log. "That was amazing! I'm so glad to have shared that with you."

"Right on time too," sounded Hermione from the pool. Andromeda didn't dare to take a closer look, though she would very much like to see this Hermione's face. She kept herself hidden while Hermione continued on. "We made it back at almost exactly 4:00 AM."

"Huh," Bellatrix bit her lip. "And yet the pool is still here."

"Right," replied Hermione. "Could we have altered the pool's magic?"

"No," said Bellatrix as she looked to the sky. "The moon's still in the same place. What about on your end?"

"Uhm..." sounded Hermione. "I'm sorry, but I didn't pay attention to it."

"I just bet..." said Bellatrix with a grin. "It will close in half an hour. The time we were in the Realm doesn't appear to have passed at all in our world. I think time works differently there. Let's measure it and make sure."

"Interesting," replied Hermione from the pool.

And so they did. Bellatrix and Hermione chatted together for about half an hour while Andromeda watched. They chatted like old friends would: about family, about hopes and dreams, about school... but mostly they talked about some strange place they had apparently just been to and how they were going to explore it.

Curious.

One thing which did stand out to Andromeda was that Hermione certainly didn't seem unkind. Of course, that didn't mean anything in itself. A popular saying in Slytherin was 'the bigger the smile, the sharper the knife', after all. Kindness could be a manipulative means to an end. Of course, Bellatrix would know this. And for someone from outside the family to earn Bella's trust in the way that she had... was not only extraordinary but also very telling.

Then again, they were performing blood rites.

Ah, she just didn't know what to think right now.

Finally, the two girls said their goodbyes and Andromeda could hear the sense of disappointment and longing in both their voices. Typical, really: both obviously in love with each other and both either to stubborn or to ignorant to admit it to the other.

Once Bellatrix had left the clearing and was once again on her way to Hogwarts to spend the rest of the night in bed, Andromeda shivered as she found out just how well and truly cold it was tonight. After rubbing herself a bit for warmth, she slowly crept towards the pool and found it to be... a completely mundane and utterly normal pool of water nestled amid the roots of a dead tree. After roving her wand over it, she found absolutely no sign of magic. Curious. Considering the magic she had felt, that should have left at least a bit of residue.

But now? Nothing.

This absolutely warranted further investigation. For now, she would not confront Bella. Not just yet. But she vowed to keep her big sister safe, even from herself.