Hey, dudes. Happy New Year! Well, this one's a bit slower, a bit more 'romantic', though I think I'm pushing it with that because I doubt the events would really fall together this way with the real characters; it's all too fast. Anyhow, thanks for the reviews! More coming, I hope. xD Enjoy!

"What?" Bellatrix gulps. "Why do you say that?" Her tongue is still sharp, but the edge is disappearing. Her words are hollow; restrained.

"What the bloody hell do you mean, 'why do you say that'?" Hermione retorts, almost taken aback by Bella's empty question. Her entire body is tensed and ready for whatever may happen next, though for some inconceivable train of logic, she doubts the older witch is going to harm her at the moment. "You…you torture people. You kill them, for fun. Like it's all just some kind of…sick joke." She pauses, brushing a stray curl behind her ear, and says, her own voice softening noticeably, "You're not the Bella I knew."

Bellatrix's lip twitches and she tosses her head, bluntly refusing to meet eyes with her captive. She pulls her lip back into a distinct sneer at Hermione's words, trying to force the truth away like it's nothing more than an ill-expressed opinion. But something's different now. Hermione observes her movements, watches as she brings a hand to her mouth and bites at a nail, an old habit that Hermione hasn't seen in twenty years, so to speak; a teenage girl's nervous tick. Her eyes dark back and forth as she stares blankly at the ground, the gears in her mind creaking back into motion. Bellatrix's brows furrow, and after a moment of observing in silence Hermione begins to ease up, edging cautiously towards the witch.

"If you…loved me…so much, like you say you did," begins the girl, her voice wavering ever so slightly on the word 'love', "then why'd you let them break you?" She hesitates a moment before tentatively reaching out a hand and placing it on the older witch's arm, feeling the woven mesh fabric of her sleeve.

Bellatrix eases into the touch for a moment, and then in a change of heart, glances down at Hermione's hand in confusion and flinches, tugging away. "I never said I loved you, Mudblood," the woman snarls, trying weakly to put forth a tone of enraged disgust. "Only that I missed you."

Hermione's heart drops a notch despite the mental barrier she formed to prevent such an emotional response. She cringes, pausing, but gathers herself and tries again. "I remember," she swallows, attempting meekly to steady her voice, "a time when your mind couldn't be swayed by anyone. When you couldn't be swayed. Not by anyone." Stretching out an arm, Hermione gently turns Bellatrix around to face her, raises a shaking hand to stroke the woman's cheek. "There was a time when you couldn't be coaxed out of your opinions, not for anything."

Bellatrix shudders noticeably. Her eyebrows are raised together in a contorted, pained expression, but she doesn't attempt to brush the girl off. No verbal response.

"You were always so strong," continues Hermione, her fingers tracing the dark witch's distinct jaw line up to her ear and then back down to her chin again, one finger straining up to run over maroon lips. "Said you'd run away and become an Auror, you did."

Still no answer. Bellatrix brings a hand to her face, clasping Hermione's in a light, tentatively tender embrace. Hermione stares up at her solemnly, one cool tear gliding down her cheek as she blinks. "Why didn't you, Bella?"

Bellatrix bows her head, bringing Hermione's limp hand to her lips. "Because, love, we live in a world of war. You choose the wrong side, you die." Her tone is low and gravelly, aged and worn. Her hair falls over her face, veiling her blurry, tear-struck eyes from the world. "And all's fair in love and war." Her voice finally cracks.

Hermione leans in, resting her forehead against that of the older witch; wild, toxic curls falling in a curtain and separating their broken, averted gazes. "It's not too late."

A clawed hand skirts over Hermione's arm, caressing pale, rose blossom skin and continuing on to whisper over her thin waist and pull her closer, toying innocently with the belt loops of her jeans but not trying for anything more. "It's not that simple," breathes Bellatrix.

"It is if you make it," answers the girl, her own free hand coming to rest on Bella's hip, fingering her leather corset. "The truth is but a strongly worded opinion. Your opinion. And-"

"And the truth never changes." Hermione glances up in shock from the words. Bellatrix brushes the hair out of her eyes and smiles a tainted, scarred smile of words not spoken and twenty years gone by so slowly. "What, you think I'd forget words like those?" Bella searches through lost memories in hazel eyes for a second and then, lightly cupping Hermione's chin in the palm of her hand, presses a slow hint of a kiss onto her lips.

Hermione says nothing. She doesn't engage in the kiss as though too busy contemplating the morality of it, but doesn't protest either.

Bellatrix pulls back an inch, breaking the kiss, scanning the girl's face for a sign. "Ah, forget it," she mutters, standing up straighter and turning away.

Hermione bites her lip, then utters a quick, "Wait!" and grabs Bellatrix forcefully, spinning her on her heels and tossing arms desperately around her neck. Deep, raven-tinted hair tickles her face as she closes the distance between herself and a somewhat shocked Bellatrix with a long-necessary, real kiss.