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Breaking the Window

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Hermione was still in a state of abject bliss, lying on her back with a sleepy Bellatrix draped over her. Above her, she could still see the gloomy darkness through the canvas skylight. She could stay like this forever as far as was concerned. Unfortunately, it was not to last much longer.

"Hm," greeted Hermione as Bellatrix stirred. "Hi..."

Bellatrix' eyes fluttered open, smile widening while shifting in a position which was a little more comfortable for the both of them. "Hi yourself," Bellatrix whispered softly, fixing her gaze on hers while supporting her head with her elbow. Dark curls cascaded haphazardly downward as Bellatrix seemed to have a rather bad case of bed-head.

Or, more likely, a bad case of 'being grabbed by someone losing control of herself during moments of ultimate pleasure'-head. Delicious memories came flowing back and Hermione leaned in for a kiss. Chaste at first, but Bellatrix would have nothing of it. She lay her hand on the back of Hermione's head and kept it in place while she deepened their kiss. Tongues met again and again and Hermione swooned under her touch.

"Sleep in," Hermione muttered in between kisses. "Hold each other a little longer. Hm, what time is it?"

Bellatrix chuckled, pointing her eyes upward for a moment. "Does it even matter if we can't tell?"

"I guess not," said Hermione, but just as she leaned in for yet another kiss, an angry growl sounded from Bellatrix' stomach. "But I had dinner yesterday. You didn't."

Bellatrix smirked. "Don't really know why I'm hungry. I did plenty of eating yesterday."

The moment she heard the words come from Bellatrix's mouth, Hermione rolled her eyes and let out a groan at the horrible pun.

"Well, you weren't complaining last night," Bellatrix winked. "You weren't exactly coherent enough to complain. Or even for words. You've never been pleasured like that before, now have you?"

Hermione closed her eyes. She didn't blush. Not anymore. Not after having experienced that, not after having lain naked in her lover's arms, not after telling Bellatrix that she loved her. "How about we break camp and have a hearty breakfast. We still have plenty exploring to do. But, Trix, it might not have looked like it, but I have paid attention. And tonight it'll be my turn to make you writhe."

"Oooh," Bellatrix grinned. "Something to look forward to. Right then, my fair brown-haired maiden. Let us go forth."

The next ten minutes were used getting dressed and ready for the day, breaking up camp and then using the small plateau to set up the muggle cooking stove. Hermione went all out to make a good and hearty English breakfast, even though her options were limited due to only having tins at her disposal. Still, she was fully prepared to make fried sausages, baked beans, fruit juice and had managed to whip together a passable batch of chocolate pudding from milk and cocoa powder. Everything they would need to get energy for a trip deeper into the marshlands.

As they sat on an outcropping of rock, Bellatrix was sharing a bit of her dessert with their wasp friend whom was eagerly lapping whatever bit of chocolate pudding pushed his way. "I think we should give you a name," said Bellatrix while she patted the wasp between the wings. "We can't just keep calling you wasp. How about... Bartholomew?"

"Hm," said Hermione. "He doesn't strike me as a Bart."

"What would you name him, then?" asked Bellatrix.

Hermione thought for a moment. "Well, he's a wasp, so. 'Hate'. 'Resentment'. 'Fury'. 'Rage'."

Bellatrix made a face. "Stop with the anti-wasp bias, Hermione. I'm serious."

"Fine," Hermione sighed. "Are you seriously going to keep him?"

"I never had a pet," said Bellatrix. "Wanted one, of course. A dog or a cat. But never had one, not even as a familiar. Dad didn't want animals in the house. Oh, we had the menagerie and the aviary, of course, but that's just not the same. Nothing to pet or cuddle."

"And you want to pet or cuddle a wasp?" Hermione raised an eyebrow.

As if to prove a point, Bellatrix took hold of the wasp, dipping him a little while tickling the underside of his thorax. The wasp flexed his wings in merry buzzing along with some affectionate play-biting in appreciation of this act. It left no doubt in Hermione's mind that the wasp had effectively been adopted and would be going home with Bellatrix… and there was likely nothing which could change her mind in this regard.

"I know!" Bellatrix' face brightened up as if a proverbial light bulb had turned on above her head. "Zipper! Your name will be Zipper!"

"Zipper?" asked Hermione.

Bellatrix nodded. "Yeah, it's brilliant if I do say so myself!" she said. "Because he figured out how to use the zipper and, well, he's fast and agile, so he zips around. Do you like it?"

The wasp looked up, buzzing his wings once.

"I think he approves," Hermione snorted. "I guess you'll bring Zipper home with you, then?"

"Well, Lestrange will probably balk at sharing his home with a giant wasp, but he will have to learn to live with disappointment," Bellatrix smirked. "I might be slated to become his wife, but that doesn't mean I'm going to make life easy for him. Not one bit."

"I'm curious, though," replied Hermione. "How long have you known him?"

"Quite a long time," said Bellatrix. "All pure-bloods of prominent families know each other, and it doesn't get more prominent than the Blacks or the Lestranges. Prestigious pure-blood families often hold soirees and balls at each other's mansions. It's mostly an excuse for adults to dress up their children and get completely pissed at the buffet. Lestrange and I first met at one of those soirees when we were both very young."

"Ah, so you were childhood friends?"

Bellatrix snorted at that. "Hardly," said Bellatrix. "We're expected to form alliances, exact our influence and cultivate our ambitions from our earliest years onward. Even when we're toddlers."

"That sounds… awful," said Hermione.

"It really is not," Bellatrix said. "It prepares us for a career as a successful Slytherin. It starts simple, really. We're taught to compete over something as simple as the toys in the playpen. I remember maman putting me in with the rest of the kids and told me it was a game to gather as much toys as I could before the end of the evening. So, to gather the toys, you form alliances, prepare for the eventual betrayal and make plans to get your hands on every teddy bear, doll and crayon. Legitimate means, like bets and trades are of course options. But then you cheat, you lie, you backstab and, well, if push comes to shove, wooden cars are perfect to bash someone over the head with. There were plenty of times where I had gathered up all the toys in the pen."

"Whoa," Hermione blinked. "That sounds... horrendous."

"Gathering toys is one thing, keeping them is another. That was one of the first lessons I learned," Bellatrix chuckled. "You now have your hands all the toys. You sit in one corner and you realize you're fully surrounded by thieves, backstabbers, sycophants and liars who want to take your toys from you when the 'game' still has an hour on the clock. And you spend the rest of the hour nervously fending off hungry sharks."

"Trix," Hermione blinked. "We're still talking about toddlers here, right?"

"Of course," Bellatrix winked. "Trust me, Hermie, if you think a four year old can be anything less of a thief, backstabber, sycophant or a liar than a forty year old, you're sadly mistaken. Keeping your wealth is more stressful and difficult than gathering it. So the next lesson is that, in the future, you form alliances with other children and gather the toys together. It's easier to guard wealth between two people than just on your own, and there is a vested interest there."

"That sounds so awful!" Hermione said. "Why can't kids just be kids?"

"Oh, no, it's not awful at all," Bellatrix said. "I've learned a lot from those early days. Don't you see, it's not about the toys but the lessons learned can be applied to anything. Wealth, power, money and even less tangible things such as plots and ambitions."

"Yeah," Hermione snorted. "Small wonder pure-bloods are so messed up in the head."

That statement seemed to rather irk Bellatrix. "Oh?" she challenged, crossing her arms. "Well, what did they teach you, then?"

"To share. When I was a pre-schooler, I was taught that if you have something, and others don't, you share. And then someone might share with you when you don't have something. Sharing is caring."

"Pfft," Bellatrix rolled her eyes. "Yeah, if you're a loser."

"Come on," Hermione narrowed her eyes. "You must have shared with someone."

"Of course!" Bellatrix smirked. "With people I care about. With people that matter. I'd share with my sisters. I'd share with you. I'd share with perhaps a select few others more. But the list stops there and, trust me, it's very short! Point being, you don't give up what you have just gained for any old reason. People have to earn your trust."

"And you trust very few people," Hermione replied.

"Oh, trust and loyalty are values I hold in high regard," Bellatrix replied with a serious tone. "But it's never something I'd ever give someone casually or throw at someone randomly. They are precious gifts you don't share with just anyone," she said, raising her hand to Hermione's cheek. The curly-haired witch smile while gently caressing her cheek with her fingertips.

At that moment, Hermione realized that she, in fact, had been given Bellatrix's full trust and loyalty. A great and precious gift. Perhaps the most precious gift Bellatrix could ever give her.

With breakfast done, the two witches decided on a plan to further explore the marshlands: they would follow the compass and travel inland for as they could with the equipment and dress they had and then return to their previous entry point. This, of course, wouldn't allow them to explore the entirely of this floating island, but at least they would be able to see a good cross-section of it.

The first hour went more than fine and they passed more herds of marshwalkers along the way. Again they also came across a giant toad: though there was no way of knowing if it was the same one they had encountered yesterday, Bellatrix kept a respectful distance while at the same time approaching close enough to snap a few pictures.

After that, the terrain was becoming more difficult to traverse: patches of wetlands became larger and larger and while there were still plenty of hillocks of dry land to pass over, these became far and fewer in between. It became clear that if they were to go deeper inland, they would need to use some sort of boat. Of course, they had brought none.

Large mushrooms the size of cedar trees dotted the landscape, dwarfing them while giving the entire marsh an alien vibe. Their wasp friend, now named Zipper, followed them, buzzing along lazily and at some points seemed to be wondering why his non-flying friends were so slow to follow.

Especially Bellatrix slid off a hillock with her foot and into the cold grimy water quite often and it was decided that they would head back to the edge of the island, but would head into a slightly different direction. It was on the way back that they came across a crag of rocks which looked to be rather out of place in these otherwise flat marshlands. Naturally, the two explorers decided to make a slight detour to investigate.

Curiously enough, the rocks seemed to glow dimly blue in the endless gloom of this dark marsh. They only found out why when they were finally close enough.

"Oh, wow," Bellatrix smiled.

"Is that..." Hermione put a finger to her lips. "Some sort of mycelium growth?"

"Looks like it," said Bellatrix. "Considering all the fungi we saw earlier, this isn't surprising."

Indeed, a thin layer of glowing growth covered the majority of the rocks in endless patterns of hyphae. It pulsated with magic, sending a tingly feeling along Hermione's spine. Such were the wonders of this place.

"Hold on," said Bellatrix. "Let me take a few photographs before we take samples."

Hermione did just that, waiting a few moments until Bellatrix was done before taking a plastic container to carefully scoop a few bits of growth into. However, the moment she came into contact with the growth something odd happened.

Hermione was... somewhere else? Something else? Flying? She passed the first floating island with great speed, flying over herds of borses and the arid grasslands. She felt... alone... hungry. She had come to this island through the passage, but hadn't been able to go back after encountering the Great Eater in the forest. She was terrified of the Great Eater. All those who lived in these lands were. She didn't dare to go back, but the lands weren't kind on her. There was so little for her to eat and she was always hungry. Then, she saw strange creatures. They were like the marshstriders, but only with two walkers. Like the things in the Foglands, but not aggressive. They were strange, but they were nice. One had a brown top and one had a black top. Maybe they had some food for her? Maybe they would enjoy company?

Hermione felt a pang of pain in her head and, when she looked up, she saw that the wasp had been sitting on the rock with the growth and had taken flight. Hermione regarded it as it hovered. "That was you, wasn't it?" she whispered. The wasp didn't seem to understand.

She glanced over Bellatrix to see her taking a sample. The girl seemed lost in thought as she was scraping some of the growth in a sample container and Hermione quickly pressed her hand against the growth.

Hermione was in the garden. Running. Playing. Giggling. Her two sisters were chasing her, also giggling. A small woman with curly hair she had never seen before, but instantly recognized as Bellatrix' mother, looked up from her book while sat at a garden table. It had been a good summer and she would start Hogwarts soon. She would miss her sisters terribly, but she looked forward to all the things she would learn, all the magic she would do and all the greatness she would achieve. Slytherin. She would be in Slytherin. And if that floppy old hat would try to put her somewhere else, she would make it put her Slytherin. She had already packed her favourite dragon plushie along with her best clothes. She was going to make sure nobody would ever forget her name as the most powerful witch in Slytherin ever!

Hermione withdrew from the growth again, the memory which wasn't hers still fresh in her mind. Bellatrix was done taking her sample now, but it was obvious that the mycelium growth had some sort of capacity to transfer memories from one creature to another. It was so real too. Feelings, smells, even the warmth of the sun on her skin. It was like she had experienced it herself. The second person to touch the growth would experience memories and thoughts of the first. The stalks Hermione stood at seemed to be the receiver while the outlying grows were the probes.

A thought crossed her mind. What is she could somehow prime Bellatrix with some memories of her own? Nothing bad, just a few impressions of the encounters she had had with her future version? Hermione could then transfer some knowledge of the future, yet maintain plausible deniability. It would give her and Bellatrix something to discuss. It was an opportunity to plant a seed of doubt within Bellatrix.

Oh, it was duplicitous as all hell and Hermione would be the first to admit to that. But it was something she simply couldn't pass up. First, Hermione searched her mind for some memories she could use. She thought of the things she knew of the future Bellatrix, how much the woman had frightened her and how deranged Bellatrix had become. She held on to those memories, and then called over.

"Trix?" Hermione asked. "Could you maybe take another sample? The growth seems a bit thicker over here."

"Sure!" Bellatrix responded and took another sample container from her pack. Hermione waited until Bellatrix had reached the central point while she stood at the ready at one of the probes. Hermione waited anxiously for an unsuspecting Bellatrix to open the container and start scraping a little of the growth into it. It was then that Hermione pounced.

Hermione felt a sharp pain in her head, causing her to hiss slightly. Something… something was wrong. She tried to move her hand but it was as if her body wasn't cooperating with her. A wave of ugly red glow moved through the growth until it touched Bellatrix' hand. At first nothing seemed to happen. Then things went very wrong indeed.

The sample container fell to the ground. From here, Hermione could see that Bellatrix' hands were trembling. Hermione swallowed hard and rushed over. By now, Bellatrix was shaking, looking up at her with wide, teary eyes. "Trix?" Hermione asked carefully.

Two hands lashed out and grabbed her by the forearm. "I didn't do that!" Bellatrix sobbed. "I DIDN'T DO THAT! I DIDN'T DO THAT! I'D NEVER DO THAT!"

'Oh god.'

Bellatrix sank to her knees and a desperate Hermione, unsure of what to do, knelt beside her as the curly-haired witch rolled herself into a ball and started bawling. "I DIDN'T HURT YOU! I DIDN'T HURT YOU! THAT WASN'T ME!" she sobbed.

Hermione felt all the blood drain from her face as she realized what likely had happened: rather than receiving a few subtle memories and feelings, she had unwittingly inflicted the entirety of her crippling trauma onto an unsuspecting Bellatrix... and she wasn't taking it well.

"Trix!" Hermione yelled, trying to calm her. "Trix, I'm so sorry!"

Shaking and shivering now, Bellatrix clenched her teeth as she turned white as a sheet. To Hermione's horror, she started scratching her own face. "FOURTEEN YEARS! FOURTEENYEARSFOURTEENYEARSFOURTEENYEARS!"

Oh god, it was even worse than Hermione had imagined. Trix had seen everything Hermione had known about her future self. Her trial, her torturing the Longbottoms, her imprisonment, her slow descent into madness. All of it.

Quickly, Hermione grabbed hold of Bellatrix' wrists in a futile attempt to get her to stop scratching her face: if this kept up, Hermione worried she might even scratch her own eyes out. Immediately, Bellatrix started struggle and only stopped when Hermione held on to her and pressed her to her chest. Even so, Bellatrix had this unnerving thousand yard stare on her face. Being held had a bit of a calming effect on her, but it didn't last.

"THAT'S NOT ME! THAT'S NOT ME! THAT'S NOT ME!" Bellatrix cried out, wailing in despair and denial. Tears started running over Hermione's face now too as her heart constricted with guilt and pain. How could she have done this to someone who trusted her? Someone she professed to love? At that moment, Hermione was completely and utterly disgusted with herself. Bellatrix, confronted with the sheer truth, was having a complete mental breakdown and Hermione had to find a way to make it right.

Bellatrix, that proud and beautiful girl she had come love, had been reduced to a complete blubbering mess with bloody streaks on her face. There was only one way to fix this. Hermione drew her wand, put a strong focus on the last few minutes, and pressed it against the side of Bellatrix's head. "Obliviate..." she muttered and felt the magic flow through her body.

Instantly, Bellatrix relaxed and started breathing normally again. Another quick spell healed the self-inflicted wounds.

"Ooh," Bellatrix groaned, grasping her forehead. "What happened?"

"Trix?" Hermione asked. "Are you alright?"

"Wha... the last thing I remember was... wait, why am I crying?" Bellatrix muttered while Hermione helped her up.

"You were taking a sample," started Hermione. "The growth puffed some spores in your face. I cleaned you off, but some got in your eyes."

"Hm," Bellatrix said as Hermione helped her up. "I guess we should keep our distance, then."

Hermione smiled: Bellatrix wasn't any worse for wear and her obliviate had done the trick of erasing only the last two minutes of memories. It was, thankfully, as if nothing had ever happened. Still, she cursed herself for not being able to control herself: she should have known better than to use an unknown magical organism for something as subtle and important as convincing Trix to avoid her dire future. She'd have to find another way to convince her. Hermione took Bellatrix in a fierce hug and quickly brushed her lips.

"What was that for?" spoke Bellatrix with a raised eyebrow. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you."

"Come on," said Hermione, steering her away from the rock containing the large growth to avoid a repeat. "Let's get the hell out of here."

"Yeah," smiled Bellatrix as she turned to face towards new unknown lands. "Let's see what's out there. Come along, Zipper!"

The wasp, now getting used to the name Zipper, came buzzing along merrily as the two witches went on their merry way.

Unfortunately, on their merry way lay plenty of nasty, icky swamp. It became evident than they wouldn't be able to explore the totality of this particular floating island and even though that was a disappointment to the both of them, their cold wet feet in their soggy boots meant they were less ambivalent about cutting their losses. The would head back towards the outer ring of the island having explored covered some twenty percent of the island. It would have to do. Perhaps they would have more luck in the next biome.

Still, there were plenty of things to do and see before leaving. More benign mushrooms and plants were photographed, catalogued and sampled and they were lucky enough to be able to get real close to a couple of the three-legged marshwalkers.

Progress through the wetlands was slow, arduous and cold, so it was almost a blessed relief when they come across a large patch of dry land. An island amid the muck, covered with grass and nestled amid the tree-like giant mushroom growths. A perfect opportunity for a bit of a rest. The place seemed pleasant enough and relatively idyllic considering it was sheltered from the rest of the marsh and how fireflies were dancing around the grove.

"Oh, my," said Bellatrix while drying her leather boots with a spell of warming. "Look. A fairy ring."

Indeed. A ring of small mushrooms with about a five meter diameter was sat smack-dab in the middle of this patch of dry land. The more she approached, the more she noticed the grove was peaceful and bereft of any and all of the sounds from the marsh: not a croak, not a howl of the wind, not a cry from a faraway creature. Just peace.

It was then that one of the fireflies zipped past her. For a moment, she thought her eyes were deceiving her. But when looking again, she could see that the patterns of their flight were not random, but far more deliberate. The fireflies clustered together and started moving towards her as one, hovering near her while they observed.

"Trix," Hermione whispered. "Are you seeing this?"

"Yeah," Bellatrix whispered back as to not scare the creatures.

Tiny little women, about the size of Hermione's thumb, were fluttering about with butterfly wings and regarded the two girls with curiosity. Clad in clothing made from leaves and blades of grass, they were as diverse with skin and hair colour as the human race was. They seemed rather giggly and curious creatures.

"Fairies," Hermione whispered. "I went through a big fairy-phase when I was a little girl. I had figurines, posters... still have them, in fact. I begged my mum to buy me a porcelain Tinkerbell figure for Christmas. Hell, I dressed up as Tinkerbell for Halloween when I was eleven. I was so disappointed when I learned the fairies didn't exist after I discovered being a witch. Not as I imagined them, at least. I mean, dragons, unicorns, hippogryphs, vampires, werewolves and countless other things were... so why not fairies? And now... here they are."

Somehow, just knowing that these lovely, playful creatures from her childhood dreams existed, truly existed, made her heart swell with joy. Tears started welling up as the tiny creatures playfully circled around her.

"I really should take a picture," Bellatrix said sheepishly, feeling rather torn. Of course, she was torn... she wanted to catalogue the fairies, but it pretty much a certainty that the bright flash from the camera would scare them off. In the end, she decided to let Hermione have this one.

Bellatrix gave her the warmest smile and stepped forward, crossing into the ring of mushrooms. "Hermie," she said, extending her hand. "You know that you're supposed to dance when you step inside a fairy ring, right?"

Hermione smiled back and took her hand. Bellatrix and Hermione moved together, fingers interlocked and chest pressed against chest as they started to waltz to imaginary music. The peaceful silence was soon filled with the sounds of their clothes rustling and their giggles mounting. Wilder and wilder their dance became with the fairies now joining in with the fun as they buzzed around them, in some cases pairing off to mimic their moves.

Wilder and wilder they moved, until once foolhardy dance move caused the both of them to tumble onto the ground where they continued laughing. The two witches turned their heads to look at each other, their giggles slowly winding down. "Hermie?" whispered Bellatrix. "I'm so happy to be able to share this trip with you."

"Trix," Hermione smiled. "You mean everything to me."

Seeing Bellatrix blush was an absolutely rarity, but now was one of those times. As if to recover from the embarrassment, the curly-haired witch quickly took her in an embrace and kissed her. Gentle. Loving. Passionately.

Above them, the fairies looked on in curiosity, while the wasp landed a few feet away and wondered what all the fuss was about.

Once having said their goodbyes to the fairies, they found themselves out of the swamp relatively quickly. This unexpected boon allowed Bellatrix and Hermione to find a good place to set up the tent. At the point where they had emerged from, it was only a short hike along the edge of the floating island until they found a suitable spot where they could set up a proper camp including a campfire and the stove to make their dinner.

However, beyond the literal edge of the world was a quite magnificent sight. A sight which had both witches take out their omniculars and gawk their eyes out. Beyond the rim, some below and some at the same height, were several more floating islands. Hermione had been correct in her assumption that every island was a different biome, by the look of things.

"What about that one?" Bellatrix pointed out an island which was excessively large, perhaps one of the largest of the lot and easily six times bigger than the initial grasslands island they had entered. The island itself was nothing more than a ring or rock surrounding a huge pool of water. It looked to be an ocean or lake biome.

"See those dark shadows?" Hermione said. "I mean, if we can clearly see those from this distance..."

"... imagine how huge the creatures making them must be!" Bellatrix gasped and grinned.

"Promise me we'll turn back if the wildlife crossing takes us there," Hermione asked.

Bellatrix shrugged. "We're not exactly equipped for underwater exploration. Shame. Also, being eaten by a giant fish is probably not a good way to end our expedition."

"That island over there," Hermione pointed out. The reflection of the non-existent sun off the snow and ice almost blinded her. "That looks like an arctic biome."

"Brrrr," Bellatrix replied with a clicking of the tongue. "Yeah, we're turning back too if we end up there. We're dressed for warm climates. Look over there, though." Bellatrix pointed to an island which looked to be collection of giant insect hives. "I wonder if Zipper came from there."

The wasp was still lazily flying back and forth between the tent, the girls and the stew brewing at the muggle camping stove, not really giving them much of an answer but at least keeping an eye on the food to make sure it wouldn't burn.

"That's a strange one," Hermione pointed out an island which was almost completely covered in a dense grayish fog. "I wonder what sort of biome that is."

"I'm curious too," said Bellatrix. "Seems like it could be bothersome to navigate, though."

"I see more in the distance," said Hermione, trying to peer further but finding it harder to make out any details. "I think that's a desert biome. Or maybe a dry canyon. I think the one over there is a Taiga one, but... hard to tell."

"One... Five... Nine... Twelve... I count fifteen in total," said Bellatrix. "You were right. This place strikes me as some sort of menagerie."

"Or a preserve," said Hermione.

"Not sure," said Bellatrix. "It's the arrangement of things, really. Take these marshlands, for example. They just strike me as someone's fish tank."

"Well," replied Hermione. "Nobody's actually come after us with a net."

"Yet," Bellatrix chuckled.

Merlin, only Bellatrix could be excited about potentially being chased by powerful and giant zookeepers. "How about we eat something, hm?" asked Hermione. "I think our dinner is about ready."

"How can you tell from here?"

"Because our hungry wasp friend is already waiting patiently next to the pot waiting to be fed bits of stew and chocolate pudding," Hermione said. "He's got a better nose for food than we have."

The girls went back to the camp and found their food indeed to be ready to eat. After pouring the stew on three plates, one being put down on the ground for a hungry and eager wasp to lap up. Bellatrix popped a piece of meat in her mouth and chewed. "Today has been a good day. I still want to take a few more panoramic shots of those islands and then we can retire to our tent."

Hermione smiled. Now came the evening ritual of cataloguing the samples, transcribing their adventures of the day in their travel journal and logging the many photographs Bellatrix had made into the album. "I can't wait to see the shots," said Hermione.

"I've already taken a peek at one or two," said Bellatrix. "Despite the lack of proper light, the flash was more than adequate, thankfully. Also, Hermie... haven't you forgotten something?"


"You promised you'd make me writhe," Bellatrix smirked with a wink.

"Hah," Hermione chuckled. "Cataloguing first. Play-time after."

"Tease," Bellatrix raised her chin imperiously. "It'd better be worth the wait!"

As it turned out, Bellatrix never had to wait long. Though the journal work had all been done, the photographs still lay scattered on the table next to the unarchived sample containers. They had been left to wait for archiving until tomorrow, as the sleeping bag had become ever more alluring.

Certainly Bellatrix did not regret this decision, certainly not while lying on her back while in the midst of exquisite pleasure. The curly-haired witch drew in breath through her teeth while exhaling deep moans. With Hermione's silky soft hair tickling her thighs, Bellatrix was intimately away of every single tongue-lashing giving to her. Merlin, the girl was a quick study... it was only yesterday when Bellatrix had pleasured Hermione with her mouth... and to think it had been Hermione's first time to receive a tongue-lashing.

Bellatrix let out a grunt when she arched her back yet again, one hand cupping and kneading her own breast and another one reaching down to grab a handful of brown hair whenever Hermione was within reach.

And then there was the way Hermione's hands slid over her thighs.

Merlin... Merlin, above. So was so close to the edge now... she felt her stomach muscles starting to tighten while her exhales became sharp and short. Scant moments later, Bellatrix threw her head back and let out a brief wail. Moments later, she lay panting in recovery, waiting for her sight to return as her skin was drenched in sweat.

She felt a rustle next to her and, after turning her head, smiled at Hermione who was now lying next to her. The girl was now far more comfortable with her own nakedness and Bellatrix took a moment to steal an eyeful.

Hermione raised an eyebrow and gave her a playful smack against the shoulder.

Bellatrix chuckled. "You were just between my legs and you smack me for having my eyes lingering at your tits?"

"Hm, a witch has her pride," Hermione said, a twinkle appearing in her eyes. "I hope you feel better after... this afternoon."

"I don't even remember what happened," shrugged Bellatrix.

"Even so," smiled Hermione as the two girls lay on their sides and shared a brief kiss. They snuggled up and pressed their bodies together, enjoying their closeness.

"I love you," Bellatrix whispered. "I've never felt this way for anyone before. I know I'm only seventeen, but I know love when I feel it. Merlin, Bellatrix Black in love with a muggle-born. Don't tell my aunt Walburga or she'll blast my name right off that sodding tapestry of hers."

"Does that bother you?" Hermione asked, her hand now sliding over Bellatrix' side.

The curly-haired witch thought a moment. "A little. Family is important to me. But... my sisters and I have an unbreakable bond. Whatever happens, I'm certain that they won't turn their backs on me. I wouldn't on them. My mum wouldn't, I'm sure of that. My oncle Achille wouldn't either. That's all the family I care about."

"Not your father?"

Hermione had her there. It was honestly hard to tell how her father would react. Though he wasn't as hostile towards muggle-borns as most of her family, he did believe that muggle-borns belonged with their own kind. Her father loved her, of course, but this? Of all the family, she was most likely to lose him over this. And it stung her more than she wanted to admit. "Father will be... a hard nut to crack," she said. She remembered her father's confession to her regarding never having broken contact with her uncle Alphard. She'd like to think father wouldn't give up on her, but… she still wasn't certain.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

"Don't apologize," smiled Bellatrix. "It's not your fault my family is messed up. Tell you one thing, though..."


"I would love to see the look on Rodolphus' stupid fucking face," Bellatrix laughed. "This is Hermione Granger, a mudblood witch who's better than you at everything. Smart, witty, beautiful and can probably tie a knot with her tongue."

Hermione giggled despite the awful mental image. "Well, Cormac. I'd like to introduce you to Bellatrix Black. She's a witch of singular talent, curious, playful and stunningly beautiful. Also, she's more of a man than you'll ever be."

Bellatrix blinked. "Oh-ho-ho! A man, am I?" Bellatrix grinned. "I'll do more than just snog you under the mistletoe, Hermie."

"Oh," Hermione grinned. "And what would that be? I believe I require a demonstration."

Bellatrix grinned and, after a brief moment of laying her hand on Hermione's cheek, she slid it down, over her neck, her breasts, her stomach... finding Hermione's center, Bellatrix enjoyed to see Hermione's smile morphing into a lustful gaze as she closed her eyes with every gentle rub. And when her fingers entered her, hearing her sharp intakes of breath as pleasure was already starting to mount.

Her lips met hers and Bellatrix kissed Hermione hungrily while pleasuring her. In Slytherin, everything was a contest down to the smallest thing imaginable. Being Slytherin wasn't only about being ambitious, it was about being better than everyone else at everything. One day, perhaps, she and Hermione would be sharing a bed to make love on equal footing, sharing mutual pleasure in fully equal measure. Today was not that day, however, and she was determined to show Hermione what she could do to the point of making her head explode.

Some time later, Bellatrix lay on her side with a smug grin plastered all over her face, her mission well and truly accomplished. Hermione lay behind her, clutching her arms around her waist while her shallow breathing indicated just how utterly spent she was. Still, her girl managed a few kisses on her shoulder and neck before burying her head in her curly hair again.

Bellatrix closed her eyes: these were the good days. The good days worth remembering.

She was about to close her eyes to seek sleep when she heard some buzzing come closer. Zipper landed on top of the sleeping bag and looked at the both of them curiously for a moment. Then, the wasp crawled through the opening. Next thing Bellatrix knew was that Zipper was pushing his head between her arms, forcing a hug and then settling in. The shifting chitin and wings tickled her for a moment, causing her to giggle for a bit.

"What?" sounded a tired Hermione behind her, just before another kiss landed on her shoulder. "I felt something."

"Zipper wants cuddles."

"What?" sounded a now slightly annoyed voice as Hermione body shifted. "Hey, that's my spot!"

"Hermie, you're clearly laying behind me," replied Bellatrix.

"Anywhere around you is my spot!" Hermione huffed, moving her arm to lamely swat at the wasp to try to shoo him away. Instead, Zipper caught the arm around the wrist with his mandibles and rolled around in Bellatrix' arms, forcing Hermione into a threeway hug by keeping her arm in place.

"See?" Bellatrix chuckled tiredly. "He wants cuddles."

"Ugh, fine…" Hermione sighed, apparently too tired to protest further.

Mission accomplished indeed.