Hello everyone,

This is my first entry in Harry Potter fiction and though I'm still a bit self-conscious about it, I've decided to start posting.

Bellamione has been a recent vice of mine. Though there are wonderful stories about these two on FF, I figured, hey, why not write one of my own? I wanted to do something different, though, so I decided to make it an AU in which Voldemort never existed. This would put characters in different places, characters who have died are still alive. The challenge was to put the characters in different lives, while trying to keep them all as close to the spirit of their original incarnation as possible.

Of course, the story turned out be quite a bit longer than I originally intended, and will be following different periods of Bellatrix's life with Hermione through a number of acts, as it were. Each act also represents a case Bellatrix is working on. Currently, three acts are planned, all from Bella's perspective.

Story is rated M for dark subject manner and, well, lovescenes. This is a Bellamione story, after all. I am a fan of fluff and humor, however, so there will be liberal amounts of both despite the dark subject matter. New chapters should be posted once week, provided my busy job doesn't throw a wench in the machinery.

In the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy the story as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Murder Most Horrid

Chapter 1: Witch Noir

Bellatrix Black had smelled blood and was going in for the kill. The atmosphere in the room had gone from chilly to blistering hot as the boy in front of her had gone from haughty and arrogant to sweating like a pig more and more as Bellatrix continued to tear into him. She paced around the table and the boy, making him even more nervous.

"Look, I told you before..." he started. Bellatrix suddenly turned around and slammed down both the flats of her hands on the table. This caused the third person in the room, a house-elf who was vigorously writing down the entire conversation, to start for a moment before he got back to his duty of documenting everything which happened in the room.

"And I told you before I'm not interested in your lies!" she hissed. "The autopsy report is clear enough. Let me tell me you what really happened. Mister playboy wizard couldn't keep his trousers on with a girl he thought he was merely playing around with. Young girl, pretty, naive, in love, worshipped the ground you walked on. Bet you liked that, didn't you? Ah, but then you just had to get her up the duff. And, oh dear... oh dear, oh dear, that was a problem for you, wasn't it? Oh, yes, because the girl was a half-blood. Not good enough for your pure-blooded family, that's for sure. So you had to get rid of her."

"You can't pin this on me!" the boy shouted as he was obviously nearing his breaking point. "You don't have any proof!"

"The mediwitch on duty already confirmed that the unborn child was yours," said Bellatrix as a grin appeared on her face. Oh, yes, she could see that she had him. It was etched on his face; the lad was a wounded animal backed into a corner. "And you were arrogant enough to think murdering her without using magic couldn't be tracked back to you!"

"Y... you don't..."

"YOU BASHED HER HEAD IN WITH THE SAME ANTIQUE CLOCK YOU PROMINENTLY DISPLAY IN YOUR BEDROOM! THE BLOODSTAINS ARE STILL ON IT! HOW MUCH OF AN IDIOT ARE YOU?!" Bellatrix shrieked at the top of her lungs. Really, the moron in front of her was just that. She willed herself to calm down and carried on with a lowered voice. "The impact broke the clock, permanently freezing it at three minutes to midnight, which the autopsy confirmed as roughly being the time of death. I have you, kid. You're not going to talk yourself out of this one."

Panic and abject terror was etched on the boy's face. It was over. "You're right," he whispered in defeat as he hung his head low. "I killed her. She was pregnant, and wanted to keep the baby. My parents would have disowned me. I had to... I had to do it. You're a pure-blood yourself! You should understand!"

"Why?" Bellatrix crossed her arms as she looked at the pitiful excuse of a pure-blood sitting in front of her. "Should I feel sorry for you now? Because I certainly don't. I have a job to do; blood politics have nothing to do with any of this. If you were really concerned about blood purity and your family honor, you would have kept it in your underpants in the first place! Let the Wizengamot decide if you'll be dementor food or not. I care not!"

The boy said nothing more. He was completely and utterly defeated. The dark witch shook her head: what a complete and utter waste of space this little boy was, and an embarrassment to pure-bloods everywhere.

Bellatrix let out a brief sigh and nodded to the house-elf. "Dinky will write your confession in the record. We are done here," she said and, without looking at the now crying boy, she exited the interrogation room. A constable would come to collect him shortly to escort him back to lock-up.

It led her into the main office of Magical Homicides, a sub-department of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and her workplace. Judging from all the empty desks, all her colleagues had already gone home for the day. This came as no big surprise; she was usually the first one in office and the last to leave in the evenings. However, today was an exception.

The only person who was still there, sitting at his own desk which was in a separate area apart from all the others, was her boss and superintendent of Magical Homicides, possibly even a bigger workaholic than she was. The man, named Jensen, was a few years younger than her and stood strikingly tall. A neatly trimmed beard and shaggy mane defined him as much as his gravely voice when he spoke. He suppressed a yawn before nodding. "Trix," he greeted.

"Jensen," Bellatrix nodded as the dark witch stepped through the door leading to his desk.

"You were in there for hours, Trix," Jensen started. "You don't even look tired."

"Heh, you know me," Bellatrix snorted. "I get off on shit like that."

"Too much information," Jensen snorted. Bellatrix merely shrugged. She and Jensen had been working together long enough to know where the both of them stood. Even in exile, Bellatrix considered herself a member of the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black and held beliefs in blood-purity which some people would find extreme. Jensen, in the meantime, was a half-blood whom had grown up in the Muggle world: not the two kind of people who would normally associate. Bellatrix did her best not to hold his breeding against him, however, as he was one of the most competent people she had met working at the DMLE. And, truth be told, she owed him a lot.

"Toby can take the Flint kid back to lockup," said Bellatrix as she plopped herself down on the nearest chair. "Dinky has recorded his confession. The courts'll slap a one-way ticket to Azkaban on his arse."

Jensen seemed quite impressed. "Excellent police work," he said. "Full confession and the murder weapon in hand. Open and shut case, he's not getting away with this. Hopefully the girl's family will find some peace with that. I doubt his family will be happy, but then again they never are."

Bellatrix nodded. Of course, Jensen always caught the brunt of all the complaints aimed at a member of his sub-department and was forced to carry it with good grace. She didn't envy him; no doubt the Flints would visit the DMLE higher-ups howling for blood. However, like Jensen said, this was an open and shut case, so all they'd be doing would be blowing out a lot of hot air.

"You certainly look tired now," Jensen spoke with concern on his voice.

Bellatrix rubbed her forehead. "That's because I am tired," she said. All the pent up energy she had during the interrogation was leaving her in droves, leaving her feeling completely spent. And knew what was coming next. Jensen was someone who looked out of his people; this made him a good boss, but oh so annoying at times.

"Look, Trix, why don't you go home?"

"Paperwork, mum," Bellatrix frowned. "I still have to write up a report about this case."

"It's almost ten o'clock. Leave it till tomorrow," Jensen said. "Or you can let Jimmy do it for you. Trix, you've been here for over fifteen hours. Time to go home."

"Jensen..." Bellatrix started.

"Ah!" he held up his finger. "Don't make me order you to go home."

"You've been here longer than I have, and you're still here," Bellatrix challenged.

"Super's prerogative," Jensen shrugged.

Bellatrix sighed; she had been working this case around the clock and it didn't feel right to leave matters half finished like this. Then again, she did feel rather tired and it might be better to work on the details with a clear head. Against her better judgment, she decided to call it a night. Bellatrix got up from her seat, grabbed her long leather coat and wrapped it around her body.

"And get some proper food down your gob," Jensen called after her.

"Yes, mum!" Bellatrix mocked just before the door closed.

It wasn't long afterward when Bellatrix found herself home. After a quick bite to eat at the Leaky Cauldron and hanging about there until it was chucking-out time, she came home around midnight at her dingy little apartment located on the top floor of a wizarding tenement. Or, at least, it was quite dingy compared to her old ancestral home.

The apartment itself was small, yet cozy enough for her. She had the corner apartment, so she had the luxury of windows on two sides. There was a living room with a sofa and several bookcases, a small kitchen which was barely ever used, a small bathroom with shower and a bedroom to the side of the house which contained her only luxury: a queen-sized double bed. As usual, clothes and other assorted knick-knacks were strewn around the house haphazardly. She had no house-elf to clean the place and, really, she wasn't home enough to warrant regular cleaning up anyway.

"Lights," Bellatrix commanded and the magical lamps in her house came to life to dispell the darkness.

She threw her coat onto the hanger right after closing the door and tossed her wand into an empty glass standing on the dressoir in the living room. With a sigh of relief, she yanked the corset off her midriff and tossed it on the sofa, wondering why she ever wore that wretched thing in the first place.

A quick grab into the mail delivery box outside her window revealed three letters graciously owled to her. However, when she opened the first one, she was confronted with bright blue magical lips singing loudly in her room.

"CRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZZZYYYYYYYYYYY PRICES FOR SECOND-HAND BROOMS..." started the commercial howler before the dark witch grabbed it by both its lips and tossed out into the streets where it merrily continued its cheerful message. To the sounds of neighbors complaining and dogs barking, the annoyed Bellatrix shut her window and moved on to the next letter. In particular, it was a letter from her sister Andromeda. Her little sister once again pleaded for her to come visit.

Bellatrix sighed. Andy was a kind-hearted woman who meant well, but Bellatrix just wasn't the social type. Still, she decided to keep the letter.

The third letter was more to the point. Her rent was due. In fact her rent was also due a week before she would get her salary from the DMLE. Right now, she was running rather low on money. Still, she always made do and never wanted to bother her family for it. She promised herself she'd make it on her own after being exiled from the Black household for refusing to marry Rodolphus Lestrange. In the end Andromeda married for love, Cissy for wealth and influence while Bellatrix just… never married at all. And that suited her just fine.

Well, one could make a case for her being married to her work, she supposed.

What she had wasn't much, but it was her own. She looked down at one of the things from her past she had always kept; her Black family signet ring. A ring made of the purest gold and on it was displayed the crest of House Black, the upper half of the shield showed a hand firmly holding a wand, the lower half of the shield displayed three black crows and a skull prominently featured just above it. She wore it always. Being in exile hadn't taken away the pride she had in her heritage, after all.

After getting home, she realized just how soul-crushingly tired she was. Bellatrix decided to refrain from sitting down on the sofa, because there was a sizable chance that if she'd sit down she'd immediately nod off and wouldn't wake up until the next morning. Bed seemed like a much better idea.

But first, a drink. She grabbed the decanter of fire-whiskey which was on display on her dressoir and poured herself a glass. But before putting the glass to her lips, she glanced at the one and only picture in her house.

"Here's to you," she raised the glass and gently tipped the frame, laying the picture face-down to the dressoir. "Sorry, Katie," Bellatrix whispered. "I'm weak, I know."

The soothing liquid slid down her throat and gently warmed her insides. A second cup was quickly poured, but she cut it off there. 'Careful, Bella. You don't want to go to sleep drunk again', she told herself. She undressed, had a quick wash at the sink and shuffled towards the bedroom.

Her bed, still unmade from this morning, beckoned to her as if it was a siren from legends. Bellatrix tossed herself onto her bed, its bouncy mattress and soft pillow feeling nothing less than blissful heaven. She let out a satisfied groan and had just enough time to pull the duvet over herself before sleep mercifully claimed her.

Gentle, peaceful, dreamless sleep.

And that peaceful slumber was roughly disturbed later during the night by a loud ticking against her bedroom window. Bellatrix let out a groan and buried her head underneath her pillow. However, the owl doing the ticking was less than impressed.

"Bugger it, you bloody bird!" sounded Bellatrix' muffled voice.

Tick. Tick.

"Just leave it in the box!"

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"Keep this up and you'll be put into the curry!"

Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

"You're not going to go away, are you?" she asked the owl in the window. The owl did, indeed, not budge.

With an annoyed grunt, Bellatrix threw the duvet off the bed and rushed to the window, fighting the urge to wring the bird's neck.

In fact, it turned out to be one of Magical Homicide's high-speed delivery owls. And, of course, it had a letter for her. A simple, one sentence letter.

"There's been a murder at Hogwarts. - Jensen."

Before leaving, Bellatrix tried to enjoy a brief shower. The morning started off with the annoyance of the cold tap once again falling off while running the water. After a struggle to reattach it while standing underneath the ice cold water while loudly swearing obscenities, Bellatrix was ready to go to work. Through the communal floo fireplace at her apartment building, the dark witch found herself standing in the large and spacious entryhall of Hogwarts. To her, Hogwarts was the exact same toilet she had left behind so many years ago. Even the smell was the same; an unpleasant mix of student's tears and liberal volumes of owl-shit.

The time was still early and the students would still be asleep. Some of the support staff were running around, however, no doubt alerted to the presence of one of their own lying dead on the floor somewhere.

Hogwarts. There were entirely too many mudbloods and half-bloods here. The trends were clear. Every year, pure-bloods were becoming more and more of a minority. Years ago, she had come to the conclusion that this was an inevitability. But there was no time to lament the decline of the wizaring world right now; she had a job to do.

"Don't tell me they decided to send you?" sounded from the parapet above. Indeed, there she was, Minerva McGonagall, the bane of her existence when she had attended Hogwarts in her youth. Obviously, the woman was less than happy to see her here. "We're all shocked enough as it is, we don't need you adding to our distress."

Bellatrix said nothing, but instead just calmly walked up to the stairs and stared the older witch in the eyes. "I'm here on official business," she said and flashed her badge for a brief moment. Of course, McGonagall already knew she was with Magical Homicides, but Bellatrix couldn't resist rubbing it in that she was the one with authority now.

"Yes," McGonagall grit her teeth. "I suppose you are..."

'Hag', Bellatrix muttered inwardly, an unspoken insult. "I'm not here to trade words with you, I have a job to do."

"Of course," nodded McGonagall and she motioned for Bellatrix to follow her. As the two walked through the dark halls of Hogwarts, Bellatrix noted they were headed towards the library.

"Who is the victim?" Bellatrix asked, while being delayed by those ridiculous moving staircases.

"Peter Pettigrew, our caretaker," said McGonagall as one of the staircases moved them both across the hall. "He took the job after mister Filch's retirement a few years ago."

"Filch retired?" Bellatrix raised an eyebrow.

"Quite suddenly, indeed."

"Hm, interesting," Bellatrix took note of it. "Who found the body?"

"One of the house-elves, Wonky, found him in the library in the middle of the night. The poor thing is still shaken up."

"Please tell me you haven't moved the body," Bellatrix remarked.

"No, of course we haven't," replied McGonagall, apparently insulted by the accusation. "We immediately contacted the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and we'll be keeping the library closed for the rest of the day. We don't want the students to see poor mister Pettigrew in this state. He was quite popular among the students."

"Was he now?" the dark witch replied. Though she had never shared tenure at school with him, she had met him through unfortunate encounters with Sirius and had always thought he was more than a bit of an arse. However, that might be presupposition because Pettigrew had always hung out with her idiot cousin; a sure sign of lack of any form of intelligence.

After entering the library, McGonagall led her to where Peter Pettigrew's body was lying. Several servants were standing guard and were quickly shooed away by McGonagall. Immediately, Bellatrix got to work and started her examination. The dark witch knelt down next to the body which lay sprawled on his back in an awkward position. There were several charred patches on his clothes, consistent with the burns of magical impact; the blackened flesh around the impact wounds was also tell-tale sign. There was abject surprise eternally etched on his dead features.

"You didn't expect to be murdered tonight, did you?" Bellatrix whispered. "No, not at all."

"Pardon me, miss Black?" McGonagall asked.

"Nothing. And that's Detective Chief Inspector Black, thank you very much," the dark witch said, took out her wand and muttered a few arcane words. Her wand lit up and she used it to scan the body. There were no magical items upon him, nor any magical residue other than what was coming from the impact wounds. "No wand on him," she muttered and traced the body's outline with her own wand, causing magical energy to glow on the floor.

Bellatrix then studied the position of the body and observed its location. It lay between two stacks of books, in the middle of the library and near one of the northern exits. There was no sign of a struggle, no overturned stacks and not a book was out of place.

"This is damn peculiar," Bellatrix rubbed her chin.

"What is?" McGonagall asked.

"I'm not ready to draw any conclusions just yet," said Bellatrix. "Leave the body undisturbed until the Department photographer gets here. I wish to speak with the house-elf that found him."

A few minutes later, Bellatrix and McGonagall were sitting in a sideroom of the Hogwarts kitchens. Even though it was still very early, the elves were already hard at work on preparing the morning meal. Lovely smells of freshly baked bread and sugary pastries, roasting bacon and sizzling eggs tickled her nostrils and caused her stomach to rumble slightly. Bellatrix had left home so early she hadn't had any breakfast yet. However, there was no time for that now; the dark witch was face to face with one of the most pathetic looking house-elves she had ever had the misfortune of meeting. The wretched thing was literally shaking and terrified.

"Wonky," spoke McGonagall in a soft tone. "This is Detective Chief Inspector Black from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She's here to ask you a couple of questions. You're not in trouble, Wonky, she just wants to talk to you."

Bellatrix wanted to give a lippy response to that drivel, but she figured that might frighten the house-elf into silence. Not very handy when you needed information. A quick flash from her badge seemed to calm the house-elf further.

"I am told you found mister Pettigrew's body?" she asked carefully.

"Y-yes," the house-elf trembled. "Oh, oh, it's so terrible."

"The most obvious question would be what you were doing in the library in the middle of the night?"

"Wonky is good servant," said the house-elf. "Professor Flitwick had trouble sleeping, so Wonky prepared a glass of warm milk for him. Through the library is the shortest route from the kitchen to his room. Wonky is a very efficient servant!"

"Why didn't you just apparate?" Bellatrix challenged. "That would be even more efficient."

The house-elf seemed somewhat embarrassed. "Wonky is... not so good at apparating while holding hot liquids. There have been... unfortunate incidents."

Bellatrix nodded. The answer made sense and house-elves were far too pathetic a type of creature to make for effective liars. "Very well. At what time did you pass through the library?"

"Time? Uhmmm..." Wonky seemed to think.

The dark witch rolled her eyes. Honestly, talking to a house-elf could be so damn frustrating. "What numbers were the big hand and the small hand of the clock the pointing at, you little imbecile?" Bellatrix hissed.

"Miss Black, please!" McGonagall huffed.

"Wonky thinks it was half past four in the morning."

"Describe to me how found the body?" said Bellatrix. "Be sure not to leave anything out. The smallest details might be relevant to my investigation."

"Wonky heard a sound coming from the darkness, so Wonky asked who was there. When no one answered Wonky, Wonky went to look and found poor mister Pettigrew lying on the ground."

Bellatrix bit her lip. "Truly? You heard someone? Are you sure?"

"Sure as sure can be, detective Black," said Wonky. "Wonky has very good hearing. Wonky heard people running away."

"People?" said Bellatrix as she crossed her arms. "As in... more than one person?"

"Many footsteps, detective Black. More footsteps than one person can make. Wonky could not tell how many, just more than one. Wonky is very sorry she is not more helpful."

"On the contrary," said Bellatrix. "You've been very helpful, Wonky. You may leave now."

The compliment caused insane joy in the house-elf, something which Bellatrix found to be even more pathetic. Once the house-elf had finally buggered off, Bellatrix leaned against the wall. "Well. Time for some serious interrogation, I suppose."

"Miss Black," started McGonagall. "While I understand the need for a thorough investigation in this unfortunate matter, I do not wish the students to be exposed to this any more than is necessary."

Bellatrix closed her eyes and let out a heavy sigh. "McGonagall, this is a murder investigation and I am the officer in charge. I don't care how many students I have to interrogate to get to the truth of the matter. I will question every student at Hogwarts if I have to and you will make the arrangements for me. Is that clear?"

With delight, Bellatrix noted the seething frustration on McGonagall's face. "If you unnecessarily bother my students, I..."

Bellatrix stepped forward, a dangerous light flashing in her dark eyes. "I will bother your students when I please and as I see fit! If you, on the other hand, do anything to impede my investigation, I swear to you that you'll regret it. Or maybe... you have something to hide, perhaps?"

It was a hollow accusation and Bellatrix knew it, but it had served its purpose. McGonagall was seething as the two women stared each other in the face, neither of them budging an inch. McGonagall was not used to being rebuked by a Slytherin, something Bellatrix took great pleasure in knowing.

"You were always a troublemaker, miss Black," McGonagall spoke with barely contained anger. "I see that has not changed one bit."

"See how much I care. Now go wake up your students! I have questions!" she said as she walked away, allowing a broad grin cross her features at the thought of having ticked off McGonagall. Just like she done had so many times when she had been a student at Hogwarts. Some things, apparently, never changed.