"So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,
Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost.
Evil, be thou my good." - John Milton, Paradise Lost
Day Old Hate
The first sin arose suddenly in the form of an inexcusable decision to do the wrong thing.
The air that brushed languidly through station was warm and clammy, and sand coloured stone tiles shimmered below as they slowly baked in the midday heat.
Hermione's flip-flops had been abandoned in a pile on the bench beside her and her bare feet swung lazily back and forth, crossed at the ankles as she tried to savour each little breeze against her skin. Her hair was piled messily on top of her head and held with a perishing elastic band she had found in her pocket, but even that small mercy did little to combat the sun's rays for an English girl. She had at least used a spell to protect her skin from burning.
Her white denim muggle shorts were frayed around the edges, the strands long since tangled into fluffy wads and the tank top she wore, whilst black, was ripped in enough places that the meagre breeze found its way through and caressed her back.
Her wand was tucked securely through the back three belt loops of her shorts, carelessly on display.
There were no muggles in sight.
She leaned back against the hot wooden slats of the bench, listening to the dark brown paint crackle quietly as it flaked away under the pressure.
She was convinced that the next train would solve her problems. Destined for London, under a heavy disillusionment charm, Hermione was going to end this one way or another.
It was a small train that eventually arrived took Hermione from rural south France to the cooler northern France where she changed to the muggle Eurostar her parents used to take when they went on holiday. It wound through thirty miles of tunnel below the frigid waters of the english channel until she finally arrived back in Kent, only to get right back onto a third train destined for Kings Cross.
Twenty seven hours after stepping foot on the first train, Kings Cross seemed like a surreal sight indeed.
No one looked at her through the charms she had placed on herself, and she apparated the last of the way to Borgin and Burkes.
Borgin and Burkes was dimly lit and decidedly empty save for the shadowy figure of the owner shuffling about amongst the clutter. Hermione was bitterly missing the french sunshine as she shivered in the alley way, watching him through the glass shop front. She wasn't sure why she had chosen to return to her childhood holiday location when she had fled, but the four days she had spent numbly basking among the flowerbeds and brightly painted plant pots in the B&B garden had given her ample time to think. She would wait outside Borgin and Burkes until she saw her opportunity and then it would all be over.
Six hours later, the weak sun had set and a clear, chilly night had taken its place. There was only one light left on in Borgin and Burkes now, and the shop was closed to the public. Just as Hermione was considering leaving her hiding spot and finding somewhere to sleep for the night and coming back the next evening, a single set of foot steps caught her attention. In the low light, a cloaked figure stalked down the street towards Borgin and Burkes with purpose. Hermione watched them intently, trying to decide if they were what she was looking for or not. The figure quickly drew closer and as predicted, pushed the door of the shop open and disappeared inside.
Hermione felt something akin to relief as she recognised the woman beneath the hood.
Yes- she would be perfect.
She had been hoping for death eaters- any of them, she wasn't bothered which ones- but Bellatrix? This might even have the small mercy of being easy. Death eaters would probably have been difficult to goad into killing her before they took her to Him, for fear of disobedience. Bellatrix, however- well. They had unfinished business as it was, and she was sure the knife that had killed Dobby had been aimed at her throat. She just had to push the right buttons, and push them fast enough to force a temporary loss of control. That was all she needed; one second of fury to slip through the woman's grasp. She wondered when she had begun to think of the end of her life like some sort of homework project.
Fifteen minutes later, and the dark witch re-emerged, walking back the way she had come and strafing off down another alley. It was now or never.
Hermione forced her stiff legs to move and followed after the woman quickly, removing the assortment of charms from herself as she went.
Once Bellatrix was back in sight, she stopped ad watched the woman's back intently, unsure of what to do. Fortunately for her, the Death Eater was enough percent predator to be able to feel eyes on her almost as soon as they settled. She stopped walking suddenly and after a second turned fully. Hermione could see the surprise drift across her eyes as she took in the young girl, looking slightly tanned and showing a lot of skin for the unseasonably low temperature.
"Well, now, here's a surprise." She said quietly, beginning to walk back towards Hermione.
The brunette swallowed hard and tried to think of something ballsily hostile to say.
"No dissilusionment charms, no wand drawn, no boys to back you up? And following me down an alley after dark. Now what's a witch to make of that?" Her voice was like a purr as she stopped uncomfortably close to Hermione, and then circled around her.
"Not looking to defect, are we?" Bellatrix's smile would have been crueller if she hadn't been so preoccupied with the kind of curiosity she wouldn't lightly admit to.
Hermione felt her resolve shake a little.
"Well you see, I saw you all out raiding a while ago and assumed you must be in need of a fashion advisor."
Hermione was stood stock-still with the woman so close behind her, not knowing what to make of this calm behaviour. Perhaps she should have chosen someone a little less unpredictable.
"Oh, I see." Bellatrix's arms came around her shoulders in a way that was supposed to gently restrain and possibly threaten, but which Hermione could only describe as morbidly comforting.
"A death wish, then."
Hermione flailed inwardly. Usually she had a thousand insults for this woman, but now she needed one none seemed to present themselves.
"You'll go back to prison after your Lord is loses the war to Harry. And he looks like a cross between an egg and a rat that only ate half the poison." She added lamely. Jesus, she hoped those weren't her last words.
To her exasperation, Bellatrix laughed loudly. And not the insane laugh she had hoped for.
"That's quite accurate, I'll be sure to tell my sister that one."
"The mother hen or the blood traitor?"
Where had this woman's buttons gone? She was usually like the cockpit of a helicopter for them, now she was some kind of sweater vest. Oh well, she was sure her last comment would break whatever cool the woman inexplicably had.
She felt Bellatrix shrug. "Whichever I see first."
"Are you trying to piss me off?" Hermione exploded, sure that this was some kind of joke.
Bellatrix laughed again. "Not really." She said said, as if she were fairly pleased with herself that she'd managed it anyway. "Are you?"
"Trying to piss myself off?"
"Trying to piss me off."
"Is it working?"
"Not really." The dark witch repeated. "You rather lost the element of surprise when you left your mental walls down."
"So then you know why I came."
"Meaning you are trying to piss me off."
Bellatrix sighed. "You came here with the intention of provoking me into killing you. So far you've just pissed yourself off and made apt observations."
Hermione muttered something and pulled away from Bellatrix's grasp, crossing the alley to lean with her back against the wall. She was trying hard not to cry and even harder not to let it show.
"Are you going to continue this crusade against your own life if I leave you here?"
"More will come." She said simply, her voice strained.
Bellatrix was staring at the ground in indecision. It hadn't been long ago she was torturing this girl for information, but now she was suddenly unable to think.
I could just kill her. Bellatrix thought grimly.
No you couldn't. The voice in the back of her head parried unhelpfully.
With a sinking feeling, the Death Eater realised she was stuck. She couldn't bring herself to kill this girl, she couldn't sleep knowing she was being tortured to death by her Lord, and she couldn't leave her out here alone, either.
"I'm not going to kill you, Granger. But I'm not taking you to Him, either. Come."
Exhausted, Hermione was torn between misery and total numbness. This had not gone to plan. God only knew where Bellatrix was taking her now.
By the time dawn was threatening to brake, the only thing Bellatrix was sure of was that Hermione seemed to be in the midst of a very nasty nervous breakdown.
Whilst she still couldn't quite believe what they had done, she was far more worried in hindsight as to how badly it was probably going to exacerbate the issue once Hermione finally processed it. She had taken her to a safe-house, one that was hers personally and was not being used to help the war effort, in the hopes of being able to stave her conscience off long enough to get some sleep. As soon as they had arrived, though, Hermione had crumbled and Bellatrix found herself scooping the girl up off the floor and carrying her to her bed, resolving to take the sofa herself as she often did here, anyway.
But Hermione had clung to her, seemingly unaware of where she was or who she was with, and sitting with her for five minutes had turned into fifty minutes, and then ninety, and before she knew it, the girl was asleep on her, and she was buggered for making it to the sofa.
Then, in the very early hours of the morning, Hermione had awoken suddenly, as if from an unpleasant dream. She had blinked a few times, orientated herself, and then looked up at Bellatrix in confusion. Hermione had been about to speak, but the words died in her mouth as she fell a further than intended into the Death Eater's almost-black eyes and Bellatrix admitted to having had a moment of vulnerability, letting her unsureness show.
Just for a moment.
And apparently, a moment was all it took because before she knew it there were hot, wet lips against her throat and agonisingly soft breasts under her palms and the night had blurred into a haze of skin and desperate touches and tender bites.
And Bellatrix could not believe how she had gone from antagonising a shop keeper to fucking the enemy in less than five hours. What was worse was she couldn't even bring herself to regret it- Hermione had kissed her with such need and held her so tightly it was all-consuming and the Death Eater still remembered those big brown eyes flickering up to look at her as a warm tongue stroked slowly between her legs.
Bellatrix let out a breath as a soft bolt of arousal travelled down her stomach and to her core.
She shook herself mentally.
This girl had been out to kill herself last night, and she wasn't sure if this was going to be exactly what she needed, or the complete opposite. It stood to go either way.
The brunette was yet to wake, and Bellatrix knew it would be a few hours yet. She had been exhausted before she had climaxed several times, she was probably nearly in a coma by now.
Carefully, Bellatrix lay back down from the sitting position she had propped herself up into, putting one arm securely around the girl's middle through the thin sheets. She had been small last time the eldest Black had seen her, and she'd lost weight yet again. If she lost too much more it would be verging on dangerous.
Merlin, listen to me.
Bellatrix had never been the caring type, but something about Hermione was really dragging it out of her. She wondered for what felt like the hundredth time what had changed.
When Hermione woke, she felt... settled. For so long she had felt like she was living inside a storm that had been so loud it had turned first to white noise, and then deafened her altogether, until it raged around her in fish-bowl-like silence.
Now, she felt as though it had finally stopped. Some respite.
She could feel Bellatrix's body pressed against her back and the arm firmly around her waist as she tried to process what had happened.
It had all gone so fast; one minute she had been crying, then she had fallen asleep, and then... Images of Bellatrix's back arching and the soft gasps and moans she had made rushed over Hermione's senses and she struggled to keep her guise of sleep.
She remembered seeing how flawlessly beautiful the other woman was, and wondering if this could possibly be the same woman from Azkaban. Those long curls had been so incredibly soft to lace her fingers through... Hermione stopped herself. Right now it would be more prudent to worry whether or not Bellatrix might kill her for this when she woke up.
And then a small smile spread across her face. A weak, cautious ray of sunshine spread through her chest and she let her eyes open to the pale purple and navy tones of pre-dawn.
She was worried Bellatrix would kill her. For the first time in so long she had been concerned about her own life enough to worry about it. She felt like a little of the weight had lifted from her chest and she could breathe easier.
She cared. The world was slightly colourful once again, and for some reason, it had taken sleeping with a wanted murderer to see it.
She was lucky, she supposed, that the resentment she still held for Harry and Ron was enough to stop any real guilt from blossoming.
The garden seat swung slowly back and forth in the crisp morning breeze, and a few strands of golden hair had blown across her throat, tickling the still-tender skin littered by delicate red marks.
Hermione had dozed on and off and then woken properly out of habit at around half past seven and been too restless to lay still, silently getting dressed and wrapping herself in Bellatrix's cloak before stepping out onto the decking and settling down on the seat. The morning was bright and clear, the few clouds that scudded across the sky were still tinged peach from the sunrise. A magpie was cawing loudly and sporadically from the trees to her left, and to the right, a small water fountain shaped like an ever-pouring jug trickled quietly into a bed of shiny pebbles.
Hermione sighed and let her head fall back against the seat.
What a monumental cock-up.
Of all the possible outcomes of what she would be the first to admit was a reckless and poorly judged decision, this had not been anywhere near her top ten likeliest. She could probably have written a short novella of outcomes she was more prepared for before getting to this one. What had happened between them hadn't been near her intentions, but in the cold light of day she had to resign herself to the fact that in the most backwards, twisted way possible, it had helped.
She had no idea what she was going to do now. She was sure she couldn't go back to Harry and Ron yet, but she was also fairly sure Bellatrix wasn't going to just let her stay here pretending she didn't exist for the rest of her life.
"You're not keeping that."
Hermione felt anxiety flush through her as she turned to see Bellatrix stood, dressed, leaving against the french door.
It took her a moment to work out what she meant. "Oh. Sorry. I left mine behind."
"Not your best idea. Though not your worst after yesterday evening."
"That would be my third worst idea." Hermione corrected.
"What was your second worst?"
"Going to the bathroom alone when I was eleven." Hermione sighed.
Bellatrix hitched a brow. "How badly wrong could that have gone?"
"I was attacked by an angry troll."
"Oh, were you supposed to be in her transfiguration class at the time?"
Bellatrix came to sit beside her, perching delicately. "And your over-all worst idea?"
Hermione let out a long-suffering sigh. "Not thoroughly checking the origin of my polyjuice potion hair."
"Was it from the troll?"
"What- no, this was a year later and it was from a cat, if you must know."
Bellatrix's face twisted as she tried not to laugh. Hermione saw through it.
"Go ahead, laugh, I still brewed perfectly good polyjuice aged twelve, that's enough for me."
"I admit that does keep the majority of my reaction above the 'impressed' line.
Hermione rubbed her eyes. She felt like she could sleep for a week and then some.
"Look," Bellatrix started from beside her cautiously. "I'm going to go and show my face to my fellows and make an excuse to my sister as to why I never bothered coming home last night. If you want to leave, you can go and we'll carry on as though nothing ever happened. If you wan't to stay, then stay and I'll be back later to... talk. Or, by the looks of it, watch you go into some sort of emergency hibernation. Either way."
Hermione couldn't look at her but nodded anyway.
"And some advice- try to eat. Your animagus must be a whippet." And with that, Hermione was alone again.