AN: I sat down to (finally) update In the Dark of the Night, and this came out instead. I'm feeling in a kind of strange mood today, so this will probably be really weird. Don't worry, though, that one isn't on hiatus. I just need to get back in the proper mood to write it. I'll be using the movie version of events here, as Bellatrix didn't really get as up close and personal to Hermione in the books… as far as we know. *raises eyebrows* Don't forget to hit that pretty review button afterwards, I always want to know what you think. Lyrics are from The Kinslayer by Nightwish. I feel rather clever for choosing this song because, in killing her cousin and niece, Bellatrix is literally a kinslayer. But not a Kingslayer. That's Jaime Lannister. Ok, sorry. I'll stop. Don't mind me rambling up here…

-Ophelia

Disclaimer: The characters and setting belong to JK Rowling, and the song belongs to Nightwish. All I have is this plot (kind of, Jo still has a lot of that too) and the words to tell you guys all about it.

For whom the gun tolls

For whom the prey weeps

Bow before a war

Call it religion

I can still feel her weight on me, late at night when I lay myself down and try so hard to sleep. The floor is wooden and warm, the room filled with the sounds of soft snores, heavy breathing and the unending crash of waves upon the rocky shore. It is nothing like the cold, hard stone that she pressed me into, the sound of her screams and mine echoing in my ears. But she is still here with me. I refuse to say her name, even to think of it, as if forming those syllables would bring her here the same way that Voldemort's name would.

No, this is so very different. Even Luna and Mr. Ollivander agree, they who have spent so long in that dark and terrible place. They feel safe here, calm, despite whatever horrors they have been introduced to before. They, like me, were hurt there, the frail old man especially. He seems quite at ease here, he who had suffered so much more than I. He doesn't see Voldemort's eyes when he closes his, doesn't hear his voice in the back of his mind. So why do I still see and hear her? He's so much stronger than me, that much I knew, him and Luna both. Oh, they praised my bravery along with Harry and Ron, with Dean and Fleur, but behind their smiles I was certain there was an endless wealth of scorn. If I looked at them for too long, their eyes would turn to hers, burning into me with hatred and disgust. Then I would blink, and Luna would return to the vaguely cheerful girl she was and Mr. Ollivander would return to the desperately weak but kindly old man.

Some wounds never heal

Some tears never will

Dry for the unkind

Cry for mankind

I can feel her hot breath on my cheeks, even with the cool sea breeze on my face. I can still feel her lips on my ear, soft and moist, and hear those awful words she whispered into them. "I'm not done here. Run if you can, run far away. You'll never escape me. I will find you and I will come for you." She would have continued, I'm sure, had Dobby not dropped the chandelier so unceremoniously upon our heads. The cruel blade left my neck at last as I was flung away, but even weeks afterwards I can feel her strong arms wrapped around me in a twisted version of a lover's embrace. She had held her hand to my forehead, pushing my head back. She hardly needed to add any pressure, as I was already cringing as far away from the blade as I could get, crushing myself against her skeletal frame to escape it. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, choosing between getting even closer to her or moving away and slitting my throat.

In hindsight, I should have picked the knife. Death is the only place she would never follow me to. "You'll never escape me," she had said, her voice dripping with malice. And I didn't, not for long.

Even the dead cry

Their only comfort

Kill your friend, I don't care

Orchid kids, blinded stare

May 2, 1998. This night will go down in history, we all know. The great battle, the Armageddon, the last stand. Perhaps my last breath will be exhaled here, perhaps hers will be too. All night, through the chaos and smoke and death, the whispers come of her demise. Hopeful voices assure themselves and each other that she is gone, this towering figure of destruction and despair, the next best thing to spreading rumors of Voldemort's death. Nobody could ever believe those without proof, not even these desperate students-turned-soldiers, but they could believe that she is gone. The unofficial reports cling to me like so much dust all night, trying to promise me that she would never turn her wand upon another victim again. They want me to feel safe at last, but I had never been a fool and didn't start now.

They are lies, the lot of them, hopelessly wishful thinking. I know she isn't dead, she can't be. Until I see her corpse cold and still upon the ground with my own eyes, I will never believe it. Until I can have solid proof of her passing, the memories of her can never fade. It has been nearly two months, yet even in the midst of a desperate battle I can hear her and see her and feel her and smell her and know that somewhere nearby she still draws breath.

Need to understand

No need to forgive

No truth no sense left to be followed

Facing this unbearable fear like meeting an old friend

It was a matter of hours before she found me, as promised. I had gone into the Astronomy Tower, the highest point in the school that had been so foolishly abandoned by the Order once Death Eaters began streaming into the grounds so far below. In choosing to be the heroes and charging into the thick of the fight, they had surrendered the advantage of holding the highest ground. It was an advantage that I planned to regain, now that Harry had run off during our hour of peace, but I was not the only one who thought of it.

The castle is eerily quiet as I climbed staircase after staircase, winding up and up that endless tower, and in that silence her voice is louder in my head than it had been since I last saw her. Indeed, once I hear her laughing as clearly as if she is standing right before me, it takes a moment to realize that it is not in my head, but that she is in fact standing right before me.

"Why, look at this," she gleefully announces to no one. "The brave little Mudblood has come to see me again. I've been waiting for you, girl." She grins that crooked yellow grin at me before slowly, dramatically, withdrawing her knife from within her robes. I am paralyzed with fear, watching her with a wildly beating heart and breathing quick, frightened gasps. It was happening again, all over again just as I remembered it, right down to the stone floor. My brain insists that I am back at the Manor, and that events are unfolding the same exact way. It doesn't matter that we are at Hogwarts, that we are in a classroom where the ceiling was open to the endless heavens, or even that I can easily scramble back down the stairs and flee. I am trapped in my own head, the sight of that woman and that wand and that knife forcing me back to the night where this all started.

Time to die, poor mates, you made me what I am!

In this world of a million religions everyone prays the same way

Your praying is in vain. It'll all be over soon

My churning thoughts are cut abruptly short by a burning slice to my arm, where she had approached without my noticing and dragged her blade from shoulder to wrist. She even grabbed my arm and held it out to keep the cut in an impeccably straight line, and I had done nothing to stop her. She frowns, her eyes blazing with an inexplicable fury as she looks at me. What the hell could I possibly have done wrong? "You're not fighting, Mudblood. This is the part where you try to save your worthless life," she informs me, her voice slow and condescending as if speaking to an imbecile, a sneer twisting her pale face.

Ah, yes, I remember. I had been so focused on her part that I forgot mine. She wants to play her twisted game but I'm ruining it; a victim that refuses to fight is a worthless victory indeed. My head spins between past and present, both having more than their fill of this terrible woman glowering at me. In this moment, nothing is more important to me than killing her fun, than tearing away any joy or satisfaction she might have in destroying me. She had already done that, but now that she was here for the final blow I just want it over with. I meet her raging eyes with a strange calm that had not been present a minute ago, noting absentmindedly that there always seemed to be a chunk of hair falling in front of her right eye. How could she see around it? Did it irritate her to the point that it drove her to madness? Would she act normally if somebody just gave her a damn haircut? As if she had read my thoughts, she blew on those dangling strands and we watched as they flew up and away from her face, only to fall stubbornly back into place. I laugh and her eyes widen.

"What's so funny, girl?" she breathes. I am oblivious to the danger in her soft tone and smile broadly at her. Nothing can hurt me now.

Father help me, save me a place by your side!

There is no god! Our creed is but for ourselves

Not a hero unless you die, our species eat the wounded ones

"Your hair. It's all over the place." I giggle and her eyes widen even further before her expression contorts into a hideously familiar snarl. I don't care, she is nothing to me, and I sink to the ground, still laughing uncontrollably. She kneels down in front of me, her dress pooling on the ground around her. Look at this, everyone, Voldemort's finest warrior is on her knees before me. Isn't that funny? Maybe I should stand up, just to make her feel insignificant for a few seconds as I peer down at her like an ant crawling on the floor. She shatters my thoughts with a well placed slap, right across the face. Why does she keep doing this, ruining my fun with a dose of pain? My lip splits open and the blood dribbles down my chin, fighting gravity as it takes its dear sweet time trailing down. For a split second I feel a flash of desire for her to lick the blood away, but that passes as the first drop rolls off my chin and lands with a silent splat on the worn denim of my jeans. I frown and look back at her. "You got my pants dirty," I say, as if the single drop of blood was so much more noticeable than the dust on the floor and in the air, parted from the castle walls as explosions shake them.

She raises an eyebrow, maybe both of them. I can't tell for sure with that strand of hair in the way. It makes me giggle again. "Nobody will care about that, girl. Whoever finds your body will have far worse things to look at than your filthy blood on your Muggle clothing." I tilt my head and regard her carefully, searching her expressionless face for any hint of a lie. Nope, nothing there. This bitch is going to do more horrible things to me and then kill me and leave and not be punished for her bad behavior. But I know one thing she won't get to do, and that's play her game, her game where the victim screams and begs for mercy that will never come. I've already played that game and I didn't like it, not much. Sorry. She's staring at me and waiting for an answer now.

"Ok." They're just jeans, anyway. Mrs. Weasley probably knows a good way to get blood out of them, and from the cotton of my shirt. I can see a dark smear of red on my arm, from the stinging cut that I had already forgotten. She isn't impressed by my reply, though, and hits me again. My head whips back and then falls forward again, but for some reason the pain that I expect doesn't come. I feel numb, empty and calm. That can't be right. My brow furrows as I look back at her, watching her swell with anger at my lack of reaction. "That didn't hurt," I tell her, confused.

Drunk with the blood of your victims

I do feel your pity, wanting pain,

Lust for fame, a deadly game

She lets out a scream of rage and hits me again, then again, raining blows on my face and upper body, then stands up and kicks me viciously in the side. I think she may have broken a bone or two, judging from the loud cracks that split the air around us. She's trying so damn hard to hurt me, but like a little kid flapping his arms and trying to fly, it does nothing. Her hair falls around her like a curly black halo and her skirt twirls about her legs, the sight of which has me laughing again. God, if this woman could just see how funny she looks, maybe that would get the stick out of her ass and she could relax and have some fun like me. I'm having fun. Why aren't you having fun?

"Because you're not doing anything!" she shrieks, her eyes welling up with tears. Oh dear, I didn't realize I had spoken aloud. Now I've gone and broken her concentration, and she was working so hard. I feel ashamed, like I had gone up to that little kid and told him he can't really fly. I've broken his illusion and his dream and dragged him back down to earth. I even made her cry. She just wants to hear me scream, can't I just oblige her that? I open my mouth and close it again, unable to summon the right sound of fear and agony that she's waiting for. I would hate to get it wrong and disappoint her. She bears down upon me again, slowly and deliberately sliding her knife across my face. I turn my head, allowing her to continue the slice all the way across my cheek uninterrupted. When she pulls the blade away, I turn back to look at her. I can feel the blood streaming liberally from the wound, but nothing more. She doesn't seem angry anymore, oddly enough. She lowers her hand, letting the knife fall to the floor with a faint clatter.

"I'm invincible," I tell her, looking at her with a smile.

She doesn't want to believe it, not at first, and gives one last try. "Crucio," she cries, pointing her wand at my face. There is some feeling there, I'll admit, the pain center of my brain trying feebly to get my attention, a cat scratching on the door to be let in while you're playing loud music. After a moment she lowers her wand, returning it to her pocket as she stares at me in an odd amazed horror. She raises a shaking hand to my face and carefully wipes away the blood with her sleeve. My filthy, unworthy Muggle blood, on her clothing, touching her skin.

I've never seen her look so shocked, or act so gently. Perhaps this is a sign that it's safe to use her name again, to say it out loud or in the safety of my mind. There's no Taboo on it, there never was. She's found me and I'm still here, still safe. "Bellatrix," I say, testing the syllables carefully, weighing them on my tongue. Nothing bad happened.

She nods slowly. "Yes," she replies, as though in saying her name I had asked a question. I didn't, but there's no need to tell her that. I had already ruined one illusion for her tonight. I have never seen her so calm; she looks a good deal like her sisters when she's not acting like a fucking maniac. My mother would surely punish me for swearing so much tonight, but she's not here and I don't care. I can't even remember what my mother looked like, not right her and right now. This isn't a place for the past. But yes, what was I saying, her sisters. Them. I had only seen glimpses of Andromeda at a few Order meetings, where she had popped in for a quick word with her daughter. Similarly, I had only gotten a good long look at Narcissa that one time in her home, where I had popped in for a quick word with her sister.

Run away with your impeccable kin!

Good wombs hath borne bad sons...

Cursing, God, why?

Falling for every lie

That damn strand of hair fell in front of her eye again. Bellatrix's eye, I remind myself. I can say the name now, it's okay. I reach down for the knife she dropped and pick it up, then raise it to her head. She jerks back and snarls at me like a caged animal, and I giggle quietly. "I'm invincible," I remind her, and reach forward to grab that stupid stubborn hair. Bellatrix closes her eyes tightly, as though bracing herself against an attack she can't avoid, and with a swipe of the sharp blade I chop it off. Black curls fall to the floor as she opens her eyes again, then touches the spot on her head where I had cut. She tilts her head to the side to peer at me, and another clump of hair falls from the tangled mess on her head, falling over the shortened patch and covering her eye again.

Bellatrix laughs, but I scream with frustration and it dies out at once. I stand up and hurl the knife out of the window onto the darkened grounds below, hearing her scramble to her feet behind me. She reaches for her wand, desperate to retrieve her precious knife, but I turn and grab her hand. The motion rips open the cut on my arm again, and blood begins to drip from the sodden cloth. "No. Don't do that." She opens her mouth to argue, but I speak over her. "I'm invincible." Her shoulders fall and she pouts, the little boy who can't fly now losing his favorite toy. I lean in and kiss her cheek softly. "It's ok. I'll get you a new one."

Having disposed of that awful knife, I see no reason to keep standing around and return to the floor. I pat the ground beside me and Bellatrix obediently sits. Spending so much time around Voldemort had taught her such behavior, and now I was the one who wielded the power. How very interesting. I could kill her and she wouldn't raise a hand in defense. I could even order her to kill herself. But I can't do that, no. Not after I promised to give her a new knife. She can't die without the knife. Bellatrix turns to me after a moment, putting her hand on my arm to get my attention. "Hermione," she says, and I'm surprised to hear my name fall from her lips with not a trace of scorn. "What should we do now?"

Survivors' guilt

In us forevermore

15 candles

Redeemers of this world

Dwell in hypocrisy:

How were we supposed to know?

What indeed? The world below us lay in ruins, a broken castle filled with broken people fighting over a broken country. I turn to look at her and that stupid hair over her eye and smile, taking her hand. "Whatever we want. I'm invincible." She nods and smiles too, and we lay back against the walls, utterly relaxed. It no longer seems so odd to see her so calm, as if the angry mean woman who hurt me in the past had died just as all those rumors said. But she doesn't matter up here in the tower. The past doesn't exist here, nor does the future. Whatever happens next won't matter. Whoever wins the war won't matter. But we matter, me and the woman who I know will follow my every command without question. We can do whatever we want, she and I, and right now we just want to sit here in silence as the world falls apart below us. There is only now and us.

It feels nice, I have to admit. Even if I owe Bellatrix a new knife.