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Breaking the Window

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Bellatrix and Hermione never did get around to spending the night together in that nice guest room with the big single bed. Instead, they spent the night sleeping in each other's arms on a small hospital cot. Not exactly comfy, but the company had made up for it. On the whole, Hermione had slept like a baby.

In fact, her awakening was quite rude as she heard the crackling of a radio in the distance. Hermione groaned and wiped the sand out of her eyes. She quickly noticed she was alone in the cot and that the sun was rising. Bellatrix, as per usual, was up and about. Fiddling with said radio, apparently.

"Good morning, sleepy head," Bellatrix greeted, without looking up while fiddling with the knob on the radio. "I was looking for some morning music but then I came across a bloke ranting and it sounded hilarious."

"Oh?" Hermione asked.

"Just a moment, trying to find it again… Ah, got it!" proclaimed Bellatrix as she had found the station. Immediately, Hermione chuckled when she heard the strange mixture of slightly accented Russian and rather thick Liverpudlian.

"I see you have discovered InfoWizards," smirked Hermione. "That is your old friend Antonin Dolohov. He is a bit of a crackpot conspiracy nut and that's putting it mildly. Hates the government no matter who runs it, but when Voldemort took over, he was the only one brave... or mad... enough willing to continue speaking out against the Ministry and their policies. Became a bit of a voice of the resistance during the war. No Death Eater was ever able to find him. And believe me, they tried. My friends and I used to love listening to him when we were on the run."

"That's Antonin?" Bellatrix frowned. "He's come long way since his days of student radio, it seems. Good for him."

"Not student radio now," Hermione chuckled. "You know, I met him once, I think. At Tottenham Court Road I..."

A familiar sting started to take shape in Hermione head and she immediately pushed the thought away. "No, that's not right. I must be mistaken."

The two witches continued chatting over the rants, until the voice of Dolohov clearly spoke the name 'Bellatrix Black'. The two witches felt silent, shared a look and quickly turned up the volume.

"... several sightings from independent sources at the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Now, I know what you all must be thinking: Antonin, there's been Bellatrix Black sightings going on for thirty-three years and it never amounted to anything. Folks, those were all single sightings or photographs of a random curly-haired girl taken from a long distance. But the sheer amount of witnesses here is staggering. It's the real deal, folks."

"Looks like we've been spotted," Bellatrix crossed her arms.

"Tavern full of people getting ready for a pub quiz. I'm not surprised," Hermione replied.

"Our source within Hogwarts has independently verified that were are indeed dealing with both Bellatrix Black and Hermione Granger. Let that sink in for a moment. Bellatrix Black, who disappeared exactly thirty-three years ago and Hermione Granger, who disappeared exactly three years ago, turn up in the same place on the same day. That is no coincidence, folks."

"He's right, you know," Bellatrix laughed.

"Doesn't it strike you as odd that these girls happen to turn up together just as the pressure on the Ministry keeps heating up? Very curious timing indeed. Does the Ministry think we're blind? Do they think we won't realize it was them who made those girls disappear in the first place?! Merlin knows what those poor girls have been through! And, get this, according to the witnesses and our source within Hogwarts, Bellatrix Black has not aged a day. Not a single day! What has the Ministry been up to!"

"Should we tell him about the murder-unicorn?" Bellatrix laughed.

"He'd probably say it works for the Ministry," Hermione shrugged.

"Meanwhile, the Ministry wheels just keep turning and the same drones keep working the machine. A DARK LORD TAKES OVER AND IT'S BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL. A DARK LORD IS DEPOSED AND IT'S BACK TO BUSINESS AS USUAL! DOESN'T THAT STRIKE YOU AS ODD?! DOESN'T THAT STRIKE YOU AS INSIDIOUS?! IT DOESN'T MATTER WHO IT'S FOR, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MANY LIVES GET DESTROYED, AS LONG AS IT SERVES THE GLOBALIST CAUSE! We're dealing with a foul cabal who is using children to fight their wars for them! That should tell you enough! Rrragh! IT MAKES ME ANGRY!"

"Hah, he's certainly lively," snorted Bellatrix.

"And then some," Hermione replied. "He's not wrong either. After the war, Kingsley Shacklebolt tried to implement reform but he's being stonewalled at every turn. Hell, he might not even been Minister anymore for all I know. Nothing is happening and it was all back to business as usual for them. Just like Dolohov says."

"Don't let them walk all over you, people. Don't let them fool you. This doesn't change anything. How long has the Ministry been holding on to these girls? What have they done to them? I am as curious as you are, my friends, to the truth behind a thirty year old mystery, but don't let this distract you from what's going on and what they're doing. Even if you disagree with what the Grangers are doing, you have to feel the pain of parents losing their child. Even if you don't agree with the Grangers as wizards, feel their pain as parents! I've said it many times and I will say it again loudly and proudly: JUSTICE… FOR… HERMIONE!"

Bellatrix rubbed her chin. "Huh. Justice for Hermione?"

"I wonder what that's all about," said Hermione, her stomach now growling. "Maybe we should ask for breakfast? After that we can set about to contact our families."

"Sounds like a plan. Hm, need to find Zipper first," Bellatrix muttered. "He flew off into the corridor, but he never goes far."

Hermione shook her head. "He's just as much as a fish out of water as we are right now. Let him explore his new surroundings for a bit. We'll be joining him soon."

Bellatrix raised an eyebrow. "I'll have more exploring to do than you," she chuckled.

"Oh, trust me," Hermione snorted. "A lot can happen in a year. Let alone three."

The first order business was to take a shower in the adjacent bathroom before they would change into the fresh set of clothes left for them. Naturally, they decided to share. When the hot water bore down upon them both, Hermione closed her eyes and let her troubles wash away from her for a little bit, simply enjoying the hot water and the pleasant company.

Pleasant company which was rather lovingly soaping up her back right now. When she was done, Hermione turned around to face a grinning Bellatrix and repaid the favour by soaping up her chest. The two witches kissed merrily underneath the jet of warm water, pressing their bodies together. Bellatrix absolutely wanted to take it further, but Hermione decided against it as they were taking enough risks right now in a public bathroom... even though the school was practically empty.

As if the feeling of soft breasts underneath her hands wasn't enough temptation, Bellatrix whispering "Tease" in her ear sent such a shudder through her entire body that Hermione almost changed her mind.

Once they emerged from the shower, they shared a towel and Hermione took a look at the set clothes. School uniforms, of course, one Gryffindor, one Slytherin.

Hm, if McGonagall was trying subtly message the two of them that they would both be welcomed back among the student body, she had succeeded. Behind her, Bellatrix dried her hair by taking a wand to it and using a spell to suck all the moisture out of her curly mane by twirling the tip of her wand. It collected in a globule of gathered water which she flicked into the sink, leaving her hair ready for brushing.

Bellatrix looked quite striking in her Slytherin uniform, though she purposefully left the neck unbuttoned and her necktie loose. "They remembered my size," said Bellatrix. "Still, I'm not sure how I feel about wearing this uniform after all the things we've done together."

Hermione nodded. "I know what you mean. Seems... mundane, doesn't it?"

"Took the words right out of my mouth," Hermione replied.

"I love you, Hermione," spoke Bellatrix. "It's pretty much the only certainty I have right now. And I'm not giving you up for anything."

"Same. It's jarring enough to miss three years, let alone thirty-three," sighed Hermione. "But, this is at least one thing I know I have. I love you too, Bellatrix, whatever comes our way next."

The two witches shared an embrace and another kiss. The curly-haired witch still held on to each other, Bellatrix gave her a smirk.

"What?" Hermione asked warily.

"You might have denied me in the shower, but, trust me, you'd better hope that nice big bed in our room is sturdy, because we're absolutely going to do our best to completely break it tonight."

Hermione laughed, but admitted to herself she was looking forward to it. She was just adjusting her necktie when there was a knock on the door. "Excuse me?" sounded from the other side. "Is someone there?"

Bellatrix had just thrown the robe over her shoulders without pushing her arms through the sleeves, using it very much as a casual cloak. "Just us!" she called out. A few moments later, a girl in her early twenties, red haired and freckled, entered the room. Susan Bones, a former classmate, stood in front of them, clad in a mediwitch uniform. Curious. Hermione clearly remembered Susan Bones not returning to Hogwarts after the war and yet… here she was. The familiar sting shot through the back of her head, causing her to wince. What was she thinking? Of course Susan had returned to Hogwarts. Though they were never particularly close, they were on friendly terms and chatted every so often. Last time they spoke, Susan had mentioned seeking an apprenticeship with madame Pomfrey. Considering she was still around after graduation, that was indeed the path she had taken.

The now slightly older girl reached forth to grab both of Hermione's hands, squeezing slightly. "Hermione. I was sure we'd never see you again."

Almost automatically, Hermione raised her head and spoke. "How's Lavender?" she asked, not really aware why she was asking.

Susan seemed a bit deflated and led both girls into another room of the hospital wing, which was darkened and smelled of fresh flowers. There, on the bed, lay Lavender Brown, eyes closed and seemingly catatonic. A series of deep gashes, claw marks, ran over her face and down her body, covered up by her sleeping garment but undoubtedly there.

"Whoa," Bellatrix crossed her arms. "What happened to her?"

"Saving my life happened to her," spoke Susan with her usual touch of guilt.

"I remember," said Hermione. "I was there, on the ramparts. We were losing ground to Voldemort's forces, magic was raining down upon us, explosions everywhere. The three of us were separated from our group and were making our way to the gatehouse to try to find some shelter."

"Unfortunately," Susan spoke with some bitterness, a faraway look on her face. "It was already occupied."

Bellatrix looked on with grim curiosity as Hermione closed her eyes and sank into a chair next to the comatose Lavender. "Fenrir Greyback, one of Voldemort's footsoldiers, was already there. He advanced upon us, chuckling. Saying… saying that our mistake had given him three tasty treats. He went for Susan first."

"Because I froze…" Susan whispered softly, her voice laden with guilt.

"It all happened so fast," said Hermione, closing her eyes. "Lavender and I rushed forward to try to raise a barrier… but Greyback was faster. I didn't even see the strike happen. Only thing I knew was that Lavender was airborne and flew over the railing. I never heard her land in the courtyard. By the time I got the barrier up, there were mere inches between me and him. He started wailing on the shield like a crazed animal."

Bellatrix frowned in concern while Susan broke in. "We thought we were done for. Turns out that Death Eaters don't really worry that much about friendly fire."

"A fireball exploded right above the gatehouse," said Hermione, getting a faraway look in her eyes. "We were protected by the shield. He was not. With all that fur, he lit up like a torch in the night. A screaming, howling torch. God, that smell. I'll never forget that smell. He jumped over the parapet, trying to reach the lake I think."

"Never made it," spat Susan. "Broke all his limbs on impact and burned to a cinder. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I'd say."

Hermione's hands started to tremble. Slight at first. But the increasing tremor in her hands soon spread upward through her arms until her entire body started to tremble. She was in that moment again. To a point where she could hear the deafening explosions all around her, the screams. She felt the shockwave of the blasts crash upon her. She could feel the cold of the rain and wind on her skin, oddly enough mixing with the searing heat from the fireball. The smell of burning fur and charring flesh. God, that smell. She would never forget that smell until the end of her days. Susan crying and clutching onto her as they looked over the railing and saw Lavender's motionless body so far below. Lightning… no, magic… hitting the ground near them. Shelter. They had to find shelter.

More than that, there was fear. Deep-seated, crippling terror. Lestrange. Lestrange was on the battlefield here, somewhere. She couldn't bear the thought of facing him again. She would crumble, she knew she would. Hermione was not brave. She was not a hero. She was a little girl about to piss her pants.

Two arms surrounded her from behind. Soft lips on her cheek, near her ear. Bellatrix whispering that it would be alright. Hermione would like to believe that lie, even for a little moment.

Susan offered her a glass of cold water while her tremors started to subside, while Bellatrix still clutched onto her. "Well," spoke Hermione in between sips of soothing liquid. "Haven't had one of those in a while."

Making light of it didn't seem to help much.

"I'm sorry you had to go through that," said Bellatrix. "Both of you."

"Three of us," said Susan mournfully. "I should have died that day, with the rest of my family. I'm the only Bones left alive. Lav is all the family I have left. She's the reason why I'm here. The healers say there's nothing physically wrong with her and that she'll wake up when she wants too. Until then, I'll wait and take care of her."

Meanwhile, Hermione lay a hand on Bellatrix' and squeezed slightly. "I'm fine, Trix."

"You really are not," replied Bellatrix.

Trix could be perceptive at times, that much was true.

Susan chuckled. "We haven't even discussed the real elephant in the room," said Susan, eyeing Bellatrix, "I can't believe it's really you. It's not often when meet a legend."

Bellatrix shifted a little. "I've heard myself mentioned on the radio just now."

"Oh, you have no idea," chuckled Susan. "As for you, Hermione, I just want you to know I don't believe any of it. Just so you know. There are many others on your side too."

That was a rather confusion statement, but she soon connected it to the rather cryptic statements made about her on the radio. Granted, it was InfoWizards and their broadcasts were cooky at the best of times, but still it raised many questions. "What do you mean by that?" asked Hermione.

"Merlin, I wouldn't know where to start," Susan blew out some air through pursed lips. "And it's not my place, really. McGonagall will tell you."

Hermione was about to press the issue when the door flew open. Three startled girls soon saw a house-elf having burst into the room looking as if he had been running all the way. "HEY!" Bellatrix crossed her arms. "Don't you little idiots know how to knock?! We could have been naked in here!"

Hermione made a face, but waited for the elf to catch his breath. "B-begging your pardon, gentle-witches, but Head Mistress McGonagall requests your immediate presence in her office."

Immediately, Bellatrix threw up her arms. "Oh, what have we done now?! We've just woken up! How could we already be in trouble?!"

"Maybe Zipper stung someone?"

"They probably deserved it, then," Bellatrix sighed. "Best get this shit over with."

"Wait!" Susan blurted out. "There's something you should know before you go, Hermione. It's Cormac McLaggen. He's, well, still at the school…"

Hermione blinked. "Still? He was already held back a year in 1998 and if it's now 2001… How is that even possible?!"

Susan sighed. "Special course assignments," she said. "Anything to make him pass. His family is big in the Ministry and they're keen on saving face. Can't have the prodigal son flunk out of Hogwarts. Officially, he's a teacher's apprentice. Unofficially, he's been in his Seventh year for four terms."

Hermione's jaw was about to hit the ground. "McGonagall went along with this?"

Susan shrugged. "Path of least resistance. It's less of a hassle to keep him around as free labour than to fight a losing battle with Ministry officials."

Bellatrix smirked at her. "If he becomes a pain, I shall deal with him. Now, shall we get underway?"

The two girls said their goodbyes to Susan and made their way to McGonagall's office, the light of day now pouring in through the many windows of the castle. They went up several spiral staircases and ended up standing in the doorway of the office. Bellatrix, ahead of Hermione, suddenly froze like a statue and it didn't take long for Hermione to see why.

Visitors had come. Two women, one man. They stood opposite to an irate McGonagall.

One of the was Malfoy. Of course. Of course that dunderhead was here. Why shouldn't he be? Malfoy was someone she had been glad to leave behind in her past after the Battle of Hogwarts, but the blonde prat seemed to be determined to haunt her.

Then there was Narcissa Malfoy, dressed in her finery. Green dress and a bonnet which cost more money than her parents could earn in a whole year.

Most striking, however, was Andromeda. There was a stark resemblance to the older Bellatrix: same jawline, same dark eyes, though her hair was straighter and dark brown. Clad in a black velvet and satin dress with golden embroideries... literal golden embroideries... as well as several silver protective runes worked into the fabric. It looked to be even more expensive than the already considerably expensive dress Narcissa was wearing. Andromeda looked positively regal, and a far cry from the simple house-witch she had known in... the other time-line.

Hermione hissed, already feeling the onset of stings in head head. Best to not question it. Especially since, judging from her expression and her stance, Andromeda seemed to be on the warpath.

"Why do I have to find out my sister has returned through a radio show?!" Andromeda spoke. "Why was I not informed the moment she arrived?!"

Her voice was powerful. Her presence domineering. She faced off with McGonagall, who refused to be intimidated, but this was a battle of wills between two very powerful women used to getting their way. And, much to Hermione's surprise, in this war of attrition, McGonagall was on the losing side.

"Madame Black, as I've already explained to you, they arrived late in the day and both girls were injured. I..."

"INJURED?!" Andromeda shouted with such force and determination that it made Hermione jump. "All the more reason to inform me post-haste! I will remind you that this school receives considerable donations from House Black! While I ask for nothing in return, a simple courtesy is the least you could do! Do not give me reason to re-evaluate the expenditures of my House!"

"I will not stand here and be threatened in my own school!" McGonagall seethed. "Look, I appreciate that you are upset, but this is a most unusual situation..."

"And she is with the girl whose parents are suing the Ministry?" Andromeda crossed her arms. "What other details are you hiding from us?"

"Whose parents… are suing the Ministry?" Hermione whispered to Bellatrix as the two shared a look. Apparently, however, Bellatrix was too preoccupied with her sisters, smiling with slightly watery eyes. Hermione's words attracted the attention of Narcissa, who looked in their direction and then turned her head back to the conversation with McGonagall... only to snap her head back to them so fast that Hermione worried the Malfoy matriarch might have broken it. "Andie..." Narcissa whispered.

Andromeda ignored her and kept arguing.

"ANDIE!" Narcissa called. Andromeda turned around to see what was going on and simply... stared.

For a moment there, the entire room was silent as all eyes were on the eldest Black sister. Finally, it was Andromeda who broke the silence. "Bella?" she asked, her voice a disbelieving whisper. Not waiting for an answer, she rushed forward and scooped Bellatrix into a fierce hug. "BELLA!" she shouted, tears already flowing.

Narcissa wouldn't be left behind and quickly joined in. Soon Bellatrix was engulfed in a tight, weepy and joyous family hug in which not a single eye was left dry.

While McGonagall was smiling, Hermione and Malfoy simply stood there awkwardly watching the three sisters' moment.

"Granger," greeted Malfoy with a snarl.

"Malfoy," spat Hermione with narrowed eyes.

In a way, the rivalry between Draco and Hermione had never quite ended. Though Draco had shown his true colours eventually, that didn't negate years of bullying and mistreatment. Though she could very easily forgive Bellatrix for crimes against her she would now never commit, the things Draco did to her very must existed and very much happened. She turned her head slightly to again see the heart-warming and tearful reunion of three sisters who loved each other very much. That made her smile, at least.

"Well," Draco pursed his lips, of course having to ruin the moment which his mere presence. "You are only too eager to legitimize yourself, hm? Attaching yourself to a Great Wizarding house and through my long-lost aunt, even. Well, you do aim high."

He sounded even more smug than usual. Odd.

"You're talking out of your arse again, Malfoy," Hermione narrowed her eyes. "But then again, what's new?"

"What else would you call this?" Draco shook his head. "Back for scant a few hours and already making a power grab. You're far more Slytherin than I gave you credit for. And where were you, even?"

"It's a long story," said Hermione. "As for me and Trix, we are two people in love, swine. A rain not likely to rain on your ferret-faced parade."

Draco faked a yawn. "Oh, try something original for a change. Also, you'd be surprised," chuckled Draco, showing off what looked to be an engagement ring. He took note of her surprised look, and then studied her for a moment. "You…" he started, as if he had come to a sudden revelation. "You really have no idea what's been going on, haven't you?"

Hermione glared at him for a moment, but then looked away. "I'm sure you're going to tell me," she crossed her arms.

"Oh, hell no!" laughed Draco. "I'll just let you flop about like a fish for a little while longer. It's going to be hilarious to watch!"

Hermione made a face. Meanwhile, the three Black sisters were finally released each other from the three-way bear hug, though still holding on to each other at arm's length. "Look at you," spoke Narcissa Malfoy. "Bella, you haven't aged a day!"

"You... you two are older than I am..." Bellatrix bit her lip. "Does that make me the baby sister now?"

"I'm sure we'll work something out," smiled Andromeda Black.

"And who is this?" Bellatrix asked, glancing in Draco's direction. Hermione sighed: of course she wouldn't know him.

Narcissa, still having her arms clamped tight around Bellatrix' waist, rather proudly presented her son to her. Though she was shooting glares at Draco the whole time while he was introducing himself, Hermione was quick to see just how close the three Black sisters were. Trix had been quite right when she told Hermione that the three of them had an unbreakable bond and it had certainly persisted through the time-skip. Bellatrix looked so comfortable and content at her sisters' closeness. And to think that, at one time, Bellatrix would pressure her youngest sister into supporting Voldemort and banish her younger sister out of her life.

That never happened here, and Hermione was happy for it. And with her headaches once again on the rise, she was happy to simply be in the now.

"You two know each other?" Bellatrix asked, causing Hermione to snap out of her haze.

"Oh," Hermione narrowed her eyes. "You could say that."

"Granger and I have a history," Draco smirked. "But Granger, honestly, you keep doing this to yourself, you know? I'm not the one jumping into bed with my aunt."

"MALFOY!"

"Draco, please," Andromeda demanded with a stern glare.

"I concur," added McGonagall. "Please keep this civil, mister Malfoy."

Bellatrix, for her part, seemed to be enjoying the show. "Oh," she chuckled. "I like this one."

"You would..."

"I have a nephew that's older than I am," Bellatrix put a finger to her lips. "That'll take some getting used to."

Andromeda turned her attention back to her sisters. "An older niece as well. Nymphadora would have been here... if she could be bothered to get out of bed this early in the morning."

Nymphadora was alive? This caused Hermione to blink, before wincing again when sharp pain shot through her skull. Well, of course, Nymphadora was alive? Why wouldn't she be? The image of the plucky auror shot through her mind, only to be replaced with… she honestly didn't know what. Why was she so happy about a girl being alive whom she had never met? This was all becoming rather odd.

By now, it was starting to dawn onto her that it was mostly thinking of events which happened in the old now no longer existing time line which was giving her the headaches. The whole having lived two lives with contradictory memories was getting more and more confusing, but the pain did give her enough of incentive to try to stop thinking about it too much.

Another thing was that Andromeda would simply not stop glaring at her. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Andromeda didn't trust her, nor did she care much for her. And she truly wondered why.

Bellatrix, however, did not seem to notice this and merrily smiled at her two now older younger sisters, one of which still holding on to her. "Wait. She's not up yet? But it's almost ten in the morning," frowned Bellatrix.

That made Draco laugh. "Oh, that is definitely too early for Cousin Dora. Try again in at least two hours."

"Andie," started Narcissa. "I know we've talked about Nymphadora before, but this…"

"You raise Draco your way. I raise Nymphadora my way," Andie retorted.

"Fine," responded her sister. Hermione could practically hear Narcissa rolling her eyes.

Andromeda sighed through her nose. "She will join us when she's good and ready, but we will be at Catterborough Woodhouse by then. Bella, you have a lot of catching up to do and you should be with your family. McGonagall," she turned to the Head Master. "As school is over for the rest of the year, you will release Bella to us. We will take her home this instant."

That was a demand, pure and simple. Though Andromeda had spoken calmly, her intent was clear: she had taken a decision and would bear no contradiction nor brook any insolence. Though it looked as if McGonagall would protest for the sake of it, she simply squared her jaw and gave her a brief nod.

"Wait!" Bellatrix exclaimed. "Hermione is coming with us!"

"No, she is not!" Andromeda returned, a bit too quickly for Hermione's liking. "Besides, miss Granger has been missing for three years herself. I'm quite certain her parents wouldn't appreciate us stealing her away from them."

Her parents. Oh god, her parents. Andromeda was right: she'd been missing for years and this once again pressed home the thought that they must have been worried besides themselves. Though she was loathe to be separated from Bellatrix, Andromeda had a point there. Both their families had suffered a loss and both of them had to deal with that separately. Hermione was about to say something when a familiar sound was on the edge of her hearing.

By now, Hermione was quite used to having Zipper around and she didn't even flinch when he came buzzing into the office at his usual high flight speed. It quickly became clear that others still had the normal reaction to the fact of a wasp the size of a house cat casually flying into the room.

Narcissa let out a shriek and jumped back, instantly having her wand in hand. Andromeda visibly paled and while she didn't draw her wand, her hand hovered over the holster on her belt. Draco, in the meantime, was his cowardly pathetic self and jumped behind a chair. McGonagall, merely let out a sigh of exasperation.

"AH! WHAT THE DEVIL IS THAT?!" Narcissa screamed.

Zipper, uncaring for all the commotion, merely buzzed around the room, exploring. He hovered in front of a large glass jar, admiring his own reflection, before he dug his head into a flowerpot.

"KILL IT! KILL IT!" Narcissa yelled.

"Don't be such a baby, Cissy!" Bellatrix rolled her eyes and walked towards the flowerpot to fetch Zipper. The curly-haired witch swiftly plucked the wasp out of the air and clutched him to her chest. The wasp was quite happy for the attention and treated Bellatrix to a bit of play-biting.

It was Andromeda who laughed first. She simply stepped forward and pointed her wand at the giant insect. A whispered spell later and Zipper was quietly snoozing in Bellatrix' arms. "You may stop screaming your head off now, Cissy. And Draco, do stop cowering."

"Not funny, Andie," Narcissa huffed, while Draco popped his head out from behind the side of the chair.

"Enough nonsense," said Andromeda, once again taking charge. "Bella, it is time for you... for you to come home. You are thirty-three years late for dinner."

Bellatrix nodded. "Could I have a moment with Hermie?" she asked.

Andromeda sighed and then glared at Hermione for a moment. "Fine. If you must. But make it quick."

With a sleeping wasp in her arms, she motioned for Hermione to follow her. Hermione did so, suffering through Andromeda's glare on the way out. Once they were into the hallway, closed the door behind her.

"Well, I guess we won't be breaking the bed tonight," spoke Bellatrix, a pouty expression on her face.

"It's fine," Hermione smiled. "I can wait."

"You might. I can't," Bellatrix pouted still.

"Our poor families, Trix," Hermione said. "It's only been one year for me, but now that I have also disappeared for years, I'm only now starting to realize just what I've been asking you to do."

"Hey, it's fine," Bellatrix said, raising a hand to lay on Hermione's cheek. It felt good, especially when she softly rubbed her cheekbone with her thumb. "I'll got an idea. Take Zipper for a moment."

After accepting the sleeping wasp, Bellatrix rushed off into the corridor. A few minutes later, she came back carrying two handmirrors. They looked to be simple twin mirrors, with a wooden handle and a glass mirrored surface the size of a cantaloupe. "Hah, I was right. The storage closet was still in its usual place."

"Two-way mirrors?" asked Hermione.

"Yep," Bellatrix grinned. "Just touch the glass and we can talk to each other."

"Hm, just like old times," Hermione laughed when Bellatrix took Zipper and let the sleeping wasp gently slip into a rucksack.

"We'll see each other again soon," Bellatrix said, sliding towards her and laying her hands on Hermione's hips. "Very soon if I have something to say about it."

Hermione smiled and leaned in for a kiss. Their lips touched. It was gentle at first, a mere brushing of lips. Their kiss and their embrace intensified quickly enough, as Hermione parted Bellatrix' lips with her tongue and started an intense exploration of her girlfriend's mouth.

Her girlfriend.

Hermione took solace in the fact that she had achieved all the goals she had set out to do and had gotten even more than she would have hoped. Once, Bellatrix had been a young, troubled girl Hermione had wanted to save from herself. Someone whom had become an actual friend and now undeniably her girlfriend.

They loved each other and Hermione could see herself building a future with her. Such strange turns life could take.

She was still kissing her when Hermione noticed bright flashes, even behind closed eyelids. Odd. It usually took a greater measure of intimacy for her to see stars. And what were those odd sounds? Both girls opened their eyes, broke their kiss and smiled at each other. Only to notice they were not alone.

Both girls turned their heads and were again blinded by the flash... of several cameras. Two photographers and one familiar looking witch: blonde hair set in elaborate curls, jewelled spectacles studded with rhinestones, rather opulent green dress.

"Rita Skeeter!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Skeeter?" Bellatrix blinked. "The student newspaper editor?"

Before any of the girls could protest, Rita Skeeter started firing off her questions. "Where have the both of you been? Why did you turn up together? How long have the two of you been involved? How did you meet? Why haven't you aged a day? Have you been in contact with your families? Do you know how much has been published about you both? Have you returned because of your court-case, miss Granger? Were you ever even missing? Miss Granger, do you think latching yourself onto a famous pure-blood witch will win you public approval? Now that you are content to have toyed with the affections of famous wizards, have you decided to move on to witches? Miss Black, are you aware that Little Miss Perfect Granger is a known harlot who has used people for her own gain? Miss Black, will you give me an exclusive interview?"

Bellatrix blinked, looking much like a deer in the headlights. Hermione suspected she looked much the same.

A bolt of force passed in between the two girls and exploded outward, throwing the nosey reporter and her two photographers clear across the hallway. Its source was Andromeda, looking much like a force of nature with the runes on her dress growing a bright blue while her wand was raised. "SKEETER!" she shouted. "Step away from my sister, you gormless bottom-feeder!"

McGonagall was swiftly behind her. While Andromeda pulled on Bellatrix, McGonagall pulled on Hermione. "How did you even get in here?" McGonagall demanded. She was, of course, not given an answer.

The girls held on to each other's hands, until their fingers slipped from each other. "Talk to you tonight, Hermie!" Bellatrix managed to yell right before Andromeda spirited her away. McGonagall did the same with Hermione. Just as the young witch was being dragged to the safety of the Head Master's office, she heard the screeching voice of Skeeter calling after her.

"Miss Granger? MISS GRANGER?!" she shouted after her. "THE WIZARDING WORLD HAS QUESTIONS!"