I just wanted to clarify that the potion only reverses Bellatrix, it does not affect the past. So unfortunately Sirius is still dead, and the Longbottoms were still tortured to insanity. On the bright side, the people she killed during the final book are still alive! On the not-so-plus side, she doesn't actually kill that many people.
I hope you like this chapter! Thank you to everyone who reviewed with questions (I hope I answered all of them!), and to everyone who reviewed in general. I would never have made it this far without your support. You guys are the best!
Let me know what you think!
Nineteen Years Later…
"- and that's how we defeated Voldemort and his followers. Together."
Harry cleared his throat a few times, and pushed his glasses farther up onto the bridge of his nose. He looked out at the wide-eyed students, "Are there any questions?"
A dozen hands shot up, and he grinned. Every year towards the end of September he visited the Defense Against the Dark Arts class to tell the story of how the Second Wizarding War was won to the new first-years.
He nodded at a small blonde Hufflepuff in the front row, and she leaned forward eagerly.
"Was it hard to break into the Ministry?"
There was a chorus of snickers from a group of Ravenclaw students towards the back of the classroom, prompting the professor to clear her throat threateningly.
"Well, it wasn't easy," Harry said kindly. "We had to brew Polyjuice Potion, and then find four Ministry officials to impersonate-"
"I heard that one of you was splinched," came a haughty voice that belonged to one of the Ravenclaw boys.
"Collins!" barked the professor, "If you have something to say you need to raise your hand."
"Sorry professor Black," grumbled the boy, though he continued to look expectantly up at Harry.
Harry shared a look with Bellatrix, and then nodded, "That's right. We were discovered when the potion wore off, and we had to escape quickly. Yes?"
Another Hufflepuff girl beamed up at him, "Did it get boring- you know, when you were on the run?"
A grin spread across his face, "Well, let's just say that your professor isn't a big fan of boredom."
Bellatrix sighed, and tossed a rock at the invisible wall that surrounded the tent. A triumphant grin flashed across her face when it bounced off and flew towards the tent. She walked around the perimeter a few times- testing the security wards to make sure they were still working. When she was satisfied that they were still safe, she ducked back through the door.
"Everything's clear," announced Bellatrix as she strode towards the table where her three companions were researching.
Hermione hummed a greeting, but other than that the group remained focused on their books.
Flopping down beside the brunette, Bellatrix rested her head against Hermione's shoulder. The sound of rustling pages filled the space. Hermione was the only one who did not look as if she was about to fall asleep, although Ron (who was still trying to make up for the fact that he had abandoned them) was making a valiant effort to stay on task. Bellatrix watched him for a full minute as he unblinkingly studied the pages.
"We need a break," Bellatrix decided suddenly.
Hermione looked at the other girl in shock- "We've only just started!"
"Hermione, we've been at this for hours!"
"Maybe she's right, Hermione," Harry closed his book, "We could use a break."
"You're going to ruin your eyes," teased Bellatrix. She could tell that Hermione was thinking about it. "And it's common knowledge that people are more productive when they take short breaks."
She knew she had won when Hermione sighed, and reached for her bookmark. Her eyes flashed excitedly as she turned to Harry, "Teacup races?"
He nodded, "Of course!"
He and Bellatrix had invented the game during the long winter nights after Ron had left. It had started as a way to distract Harry and Hermione from the redhead's absence, and had quickly become their favorite way of unwinding.
The raven-haired witch rummaged through the bag at the foot of her bed. She withdrew a wooden box that contained teacups of various patterns.
"Blue for Harry," she passed him a blue-patterned cup.
"Green for Hermione," murmured Bellatrix as she set the brunette's favorite cup down.
She pulled her own favorite-a white one etched with gold flowers- and then turned a critical eye on the remaining member of their group.
Ron had refused to take a break with them in the last few weeks, though it was partially because she had not invited him to join them. Although she had not been as angry as Hermione, she was still plenty irritated with the boy. Especially because he made some not-so-subtle hints that she might be purposefully leading them astray before he left. He had apologized, and she had forgiven him, but the accusations had stung.
Still, she decided that he had been punished enough, and held out a pink cup. "Hopefully you're better than Harry," she said, "Hermione and I could use some competition."
"I beat you both last time!" protested Harry.
"Only because we let you," shot Bellatrix. She smiled when Ron took the cup.
Hermione explained the rules as Harry and Bellatrix cleared off the table- "You transfigure legs for the teacup, like this-" she muttered the spell, and four green legs sprouted from the bottom of the teacup, "And then we put them at one end of the table and see which one makes it to the end first."
"That's it?" asked Ron. He had tried to copy the spell, and four stubby legs sprouted from the base of his cup.
Harry chuckled as he transfigured his own cup, "It's more exciting than it sounds. You'll see."
And he did. Within minutes he was shouting insults at the pink cup as it toppled over onto it's side- it's legs waving frantically as it tried to right itself while the others toddled past. Bellatrix's shouts were equally as severe as her cup crashed into Ron's and hopped up in down in a futile attempt to jump over it. "Go around!" She hissed, "Around!"
"No wands!" Hermione reminded when Bellatrix moved to withdraw it. Seconds later the green teacup reached the other end of the table, and the brunette beamed triumphantly.
"Rematch!" Ron and Bellatrix yelled in unison.
One of the Hufflepuff boys raised his hand shyly, "Were you ever caught?"
"Yes," nodded Harry, "We were, once. It took us two days to escape."
Bellatrix watched with a twinge of pity as Hermione cast a stinging hex on Harry's face. It worked, his face was swollen to the point that it was barely recognizable, and then the brunette turned frantically to Bellatrix.
"Do you trust me?"
Bellatrix blinked in surprise, "Of course."
A second later there was a flash of pain across her face. It felt as if she were being stung with a hundred bees. She could not see as the snatchers surrounded them- seizing their wands and shackling them together. All she could do was stumble after Hermione, clutching her face.
"We're being taken to Malfoy Manor," Hermione's voice whispered in her ear. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't take the chance of someone recognizing you."
"It's alright," Bellatrix assured her, doing her best to keep the pain from her voice. "Thank you for thinking of that."
Her vision began to clear as they passed through the front door of Malfoy Manor.
"What is the meaning of this? Why have you brought them here?"
All thoughts vanished from her head as Narcissa stormed into the entrance hall. She did not hear the conversation as Lucius was summoned, and then Draco. She did not hear them decide to keep the four in the dungeons until the hex on Harry's face wore off. Instead, she was too busy studying the fine lines that had formed on her little sister's face. The firm set of Narcissa's mouth was disconcerting- her sister had always been prone to laughter- and her eyes were so… cold.
One of the snatchers handed the wands he had seized to Narcissa, and Bellatrix watched carefully as Narcissa took them. To her disappointment, however, her sister did not examine them.
They were led unceremoniously to the dungeons. Bellatrix glanced quickly at her nephew as they passed him, and he looked so miserable that she might have felt pity for him if it were not for the fact that he was the spitting image of Lucius.
She did not notice that he was staring at her.
Several hours later she sat close to Hermione as Luna told them her story. Her face no longer hurt, but it was still swollen. She kept reaching up to prod gently at her puffy features.
Suddenly, the Ravenclaw girl fell silent. Her large eyes stared warily at something behind them, and Bellatrix spun to look.
It was the boy- Draco. He stood on the other side of the iron door, and motioned for the snatcher that was guarding them to open the door.
"Granger!" He commanded, "Come with me, and bring your friend."
She could feel Hermione tense beside her, and to her surprise it was Ron who jerked to his feet. He was stopped almost immediately.
"Not you, Weasley," sneered Draco. "The last thing my mother wants is to be in the presence of a filthy blood traitor, that one!" he pointed at Bellatrix.
The raven-haired witch stood, and unconsciously reached for Hermione's hand. She found it, and twined their fingers together as Hermione led her towards Draco. She could hear Harry and Ron threaten the boy as she and Hermione tripped up the stone steps.
Without a word Draco ushered the pair up several more flights of stairs, and then through a labyrinth of corridors. She pressed close to Hermione, flexing her free hand and yearning for her wand.
"The door to your left," said Draco from behind Bellatrix.
They entered a large sitting room. The wind lashed against the windows, making the velvet drapes shake. The room was done mostly in silver and black, making it appear somewhat sinister at first. Then Bellatrix's eye caught the portrait above the fireplace- the same portrait of her and her sisters that used to hang in her mother's sitting room- and she relaxed.
The door snapped shut behind them, and Draco stepped quickly to a shining ebony door across from the one they had just entered. He rapped on it, and then turned to study the two young women.
The door opened, and Narcissa strode into the room. Her face was unreadable as she came to a halt in front of the pair, and she stared intently at Bellatrix.
"Is this the one?" She asked.
Draco nodded, and stepped forward, "Yes. Do you see it?"
Nodding, Narcissa reached for a small jar on one of the tables. "Does your father know?"
He shook his head, "I did not say anything. He's at the ministry, but he wants us to inform him if the swelling goes down on that boy's face."
Narcissa nodded absentmindedly, and unscrewed the jar in her hand as she moved closer to Bellatrix. A lavender scent filled Bellatrix's nostrils, and she frowned as Narcissa moved to rub some on her face.
"What is that?" Hermione, who had been silent up until that moment, asked.
Narcissa's lip curled, but she answered anyway, "It is a healing salve."
"Is there a reason why Madam Malfoy is applying a healing salve to one of her prisoners?" asked Hermione. "I mean, surely there are more important things for you to worry about than the comfort of muggle-borns and blood traitors."
Her voice sounded confident, but Bellatrix could detect a faint note of worry. She squeezed the brunette's hand reassuringly.
Bellatrix winced as the cold salve was rubbed over her face, her eyes stared into Narcissa's blue ones, as if daring her sister to answer.
It was Draco who spoke, "Your friend reminds us of someone, Granger, and if we are correct-"
"Then what?" Bellatrix asked, and a faint smile tugged at her lips when both blondes looked surprised. She could feel the salve working, and Hermione's grip had tightened to the point where it was painful. "Something wrong with my face?"
"Bellatrix," breathed Narcissa, throwing her arms around the darker witch, "I was told you were dead! The Dark Lord- he said you were killed by the Order."
Tears fell onto Bellatrix's neck, and she patted her sister gently on the back. "I'm sorry, Cissy. I hope you realize why I couldn't say anything." She looked to Hermione for help, but the brunette simply shook her head.
Narcissa pulled back, and stared into her sister's face. Her thumbs smoothed Bellatrix's cheeks, "How was this accomplished?"
Bellatrix shifted uncomfortably beneath the scrutiny of her sister's gaze, "It's a long story."
"Well, Lucius won't be back until late," smiled Narcissa, "I'll have the elves bring up something to eat, and then you can tell us."
"Are you going to feed the others?" Hermione asked. Now that it was apparent that no one was going to be harmed she looked a lot less nervous. Her eyes blazed challengingly at the blonde witch.
"I recognize you," Narcissa turned her penetrating stare onto Hermione.
Draco cleared his throat, "This is Hermione Granger, Mother. You saw her at the World Cup-"
"I saw her before that," Narcissa's voice became even more hushed, "but I was much younger, and knew her by the name Grier." Her eyes flicked back to her sister, "Did you know about this, Bellatrix? Was this why I was never allowed to mention her at home?"
The two girls remained silent.
"Fine," Narcissa snapped twice, and an elf appeared at once, bowing low before it's mistress.
"I want you to take food to the dungeons," she ordered, "and make sure everyone is fed. Then I want you to bring our lunch."
The elf nodded, and disappeared at once.
A chilly silence descended over the room. Narcissa insisted that they sit, and her she was slow to mask her horror when, after Hermione sat on one of the black velvet sofas, Bellatrix draped herself across the brunette's lap.
"Bella-" Hermione hissed, "your sister-"
"Needs to stop looking at you like you have a filthy limerick written across your forehead," Bellatrix purred, then she raised her voice, "Don't flare your nostrils Cissy, it makes you look silly. Mother would be ashamed."
Narcissa's jaw tensed as she and Draco sat primly on the sofa across from them.
"So, this is Draco," Bellatrix glanced at the boy, "How is your training coming? Is it everything you've ever dreamed of, following in your father's footsteps?"
"Bella!" Hermione hissed.
"What's wrong, love?" Bellatrix sneered at the uncomfortable-looking boy, "I'm just trying to figure out how much my nephew takes after his father. After all, Lucius has been training the boy-"
"No he hasn't," said Draco quietly.
"Draco, don't let her rile you up."
A feral grin stretched across Bellatrix's face, "No, Cissy, let him speak. We've been chased all over the country while the little lamb sits comfortably in his home- no doubt waiting for the opportune moment to show off how well his Daddy trained him to be a Death Eater."
"Father didn't train me," Draco interjected, his expression was a mixture of misery and indignation, "you did."
Well, that shut her up. She was dimly aware of the soothing pattern Hermione traced on her back as the room descended into uncomfortable silence once more.
The elf returned with a tray piled high with food, and Bellatrix stubbornly refused to move off Hermione as the four were served.
After a few minutes Narcissa spoke up, "If you're done insulting my son, I would like to hear that story."
So they told her. Or rather, Hermione told her. She explained how she had encountered Bellatrix in the Forbidden Forest, and how she had woken up during Bellatrix's sixth year. She told her about how she had not expected to return to her own time- and how McGonagall and Dumbledore had helped her create a new identity for herself, and had suggested that she try to get close to Bellatrix. Their relationship was glossed over- Narcissa could surely fill in the blanks herself.
Hermione's voice wavered a bit as she explained how she had woken up once again in her own time.
"And how did this-" Narcissa waved her hand at Bellatrix, "come to be?"
The girls exchanged a look.
"No offense, Cissy, but we'd rather our secrets not get passed on to the Dark Lord."
"I would never!" fumed Narcissa, her cheeks tinged a dark pink, "Really, Bellatrix! As if I would betray your secrets… There's a reason we waited for Lucius to leave!"
"Maybe you wouldn't," Bellatrix nodded towards Draco, "but I'm not comfortable telling mini-Lucius either."
Draco, to his credit, looked hurt by this remark.
"He idolized you, Bellatrix! Don't you remember that?"
"Bellatrix can't remember anything past her sixth year," Hermione pointed out, "She is exactly the same as she was then."
Narcissa's eyes narrowed, "You can't remember anything?"
"There were a few memories that I left for Hermione," Bellatrix shrugged, "But other than those- no. I've been given a second chance."
"And you're choosing to spend it on…"
"Hermione, yes." Bellatrix lifted her chin challengingly, "So if you had any plans of getting me to fight with you and dear Lucius, you might as well throw us back in that dungeon right now."
"Oh, I'm not going to do that. You, and all of your friends, are going to be gone by the time Lucius comes home."
Bellatrix's eyes widened in shock.
"If you take Draco with you."
"Mother!" Draco shouted at the same time that Bellatrix yelled, "So he can spy on us? Absolutely not!"
"He won't be a spy!" growled Narcissa, "Miss Granger," Hermione's eyes widened at being addressed, "my son is in danger if he stays here. The Dark Lord is looking for any excuse to punish Lucius, and Draco has already been targeted more than once. He'll be safer with the Order- even as a hostage- than he will be here. Please," her blue eyes turned pleading.
"What's to say that Vol-" Hermione stopped herself just in time, "that you-know-who hasn't ordered him to go with us in order to keep track of us?"
"He hasn't," Narcissa swallowed heavily, "And I can help you! I have information!"
"We still can't be certain that any information you give us isn't second-hand from your master," spat Bellatrix. She stood, and Hermione followed suit immediately.
"You had the Sword of Gryffindor!" Narcissa scathed back, jumping to her feet. "I don't know how you've acquired it, but I know that it's supposed to be in the Malfoy vault!"
"Well, that was helpful," Bellatrix rolled her eyes.
Narcissa turned back to Hermione, "There was something else he gave us to guard, in addition to the sword."
Hermione stiffened, "How do we know that this isn't a trap?"
"Because I would never allow anyone- not even the Dark Lord- to use my son as bait," vowed Narcissa. "The sooner he has been defeated, the sooner Draco will be safe. Please!"
Hermione swallowed, and then nodded, "We'll take him."
A real smile crossed the blonde's face, "Draco, fetch the wands."
"Mother, I don't think-"
He did as he was told, and as soon as he was through the door, Narcissa turned back to Hermione, "It's Helga Hufflepuff's cup," she said.
Bellatrix, who had been glowering during this exchange, remembered that Harry had mentioned the cup before, and straightened.
Hermione shared a look with Bellatrix, as if she were thinking the same thing, "We can't promise that he'll be safe," she started.
"But I can guarantee that if he stays here he won't be."
Draco returned through the door carrying a sack. "There's been a disturbance in the dungeons," he said as he passed the sack to his mother, "should I go stop it?"
"Actually, that makes things much easier," Narcissa leaned forward and kissed Draco on the cheek, "I love you darling."
Hermione yelped as Draco fell to the ground.
"It's just a mild sleeping curse, Miss Granger," Narcissa shook her wand, "It should wear off by morning." She passed the sack to Hermione. "I disabled the anti-apparating wards, find your friends and go."
"Thank you," Hermione found her wand and levitated the sleeping boy. "Bella?"
Bellatrix paused in front of her sister. Her voice was suddenly gentle, "Stay safe, Cissy."
"You too, Bella," Narcissa smiled tightly. "And- and you as well Miss Granger."
Hermione smiled in thanks, and began to guide Draco down the hall.
They met Harry and Ron halfway down the stairs.
"Dobby got everyone else out-" Harry informed them as they followed him back downstairs, "What's with him?" He asked, nodding at Draco.
A grin spread across Bellatrix's face, "He's going to help us win the war."
And he did. Narcissa had not been trying to trick them. They retrieved the cup with Draco's help and-to their horror- began to like the boy as he worked alongside them during the weeks before the final battle. At least, Bellatrix, Hermione and Harry began to form a friendship with him. At best there was only a grudging respect between him and Ron.
Bellatrix was pulled from her thoughts as Harry called on another student.
"Was it scary to fight the Dark Lord?"
Bellatrix could not repress a shudder.
Bellatrix's body shook as she stared at Harry's lifeless body. Her arms were wrapped around a sobbing Hermione, and her own cheeks were wet. She was dimly aware that Voldemort was trying to convince Neville to join him, and that the boy was refusing.
"I will ask one more time if anyone else would like to join our ranks before it is too late."
The high, cold voice made her skin prickle uncomfortably. Her hand tightened around her wand.
"No one?" There was a mirthless chuckle, and then, "How about you? How would you like to have power beyond your wildest dreams?"
She did not know who he was talking to, but she clutched Hermione tighter.
"Look at me!"
It felt as if an invisible hand pushed against her chin, and her head was jerked up to look at Voldemort.
"No!" The gasp rang in her ears, "It can't be!"
Her heart pounded as every head turned towards her. A wave of nausea rushed across her, and she forced it down. Her eyes met his with more confidence than she felt.
"I'm fine over here, thanks," she called.
"How dare you!" His voice, oddly quiet, sent chills down her spine. A searing pain cut across her shoulder, and she fell to her knees with a gasp.
"No!" Hermione fell down beside her, and gasped out a shield charm as she tried to staunch the bleeding.
Bellatrix looked up at him, and saw the recognition in his eyes as the red orbs flicked from her to Hermione, and back.
"Oh, Bellatrix," he practically purred, "you little fool."
She swallowed, "H-Hermione," she tried to warn.
"Well, isn't it fitting that you will die in the arms of your… beloved," he mocked. Around him, the Death Eaters sniggered- though most surely had no idea of what was going in.
She pushed on Hermione's arm, "N-no," she gasped. Her eyes widened as the Dark Lord raised his wand-
Harry's voice had never sounded so sweet. She collapsed in relief against Hermione, and was dimly aware that Ron had appeared behind her to hoist her to her feet. Then the relief was replaced with worry for Harry.
It was as if the duel happened in slow motion. The three of them watched, their eyes wide with anxiety, and the Boy-Who-Lived faced off against Lord Voldemort for the final time.
And when it was over… it was finally over.
A Ravenclaw girl beamed when she was called on, "What happened to the 'Golden Quartet' after the war?"
Bellatrix rolled her eyes, You're supposed to be in Ravenclaw, she thought, haven't you paid any attention to the Daily Prophet? There was a feature on the so-called 'Golden Quartet' at least once a year.
"Well, Ron and I became Aurors immediately after the war," Harry smiled. "We were joined by Bellatrix after she and Hermione finished their seventh year- and she worked with us until she became the Defense Against the Dark Arts professor."
Bellatrix grinned. She had been mentored by none other than Tonks, and while her niece had been less than friendly at first- the two had become very close. She had helped her reunite with her other sister- and dinners with Andromeda were way more comfortable than the stiff, formal dinners at Malfoy Manor.
Aside from her sisters, Draco, and the Weasley's, no one ever found out that she was the same Bellatrix Black who had once become Bellatrix Lestrange. Although nothing had ever been confirmed, most of the wizarding world (thanks to a speculative article by Rita Skeeter) was convinced that she was the secret daughter of Sirius Black and his Muggle wife.
Sirius had become something of a romantic figure after the war, and so this only improved the public's opinion of the mysterious new heir to the Black fortune.
"Hermione worked for years at the Ministry of Magical Law Enforcement," Harry continued, "And now she writes textbooks, I believe most of you will recognize her name from your own textbooks."
Bellatrix spied the time on the clock that hung at the front of the room. "Alright, the lesson is over, you may go!"
There were a few groans of protest, but most of the students dashed wildly towards the door.
While Harry answered a few more questions, Bellatrix packed up her things. From the corner of her eye she noticed two students enter the room and immediately head towards her desk. They skirted around the cluster of students, and then joined her behind the desk.
"Mother!" the eldest of her two daughters, Druella, greeted Bellatrix with a hug. "You wouldn't believe the lies Filch is spreading about us!"
Bellatrix smirked, "Oh, really?"
Druella nodded, she had attempted to knot her bushy black hair at the base of her head, but most of it had sprung free, and flew wildly around her head.
Bellatrix turned to study her daughter's companion, "James, what happened?"
The boy, who had been her daughter's best friend since their infancy, smiled sheepishly, "We were just having a little fun, Aunt Bella," he said.
She sighed, "Well, your 'little fun' has earned the pair of you detention for a month! I wouldn't be surprised if you both got howlers tomorrow morning!"
"What's this about howlers?" Harry asked. The final first-year had just left.
James sighed, "We might have played a small prank on Filch," he said.
"But it wasn't as big a deal as he made it seem!" Druella protested.
Harry sighed, but his eyes sparkled with mirth as he looked over at Bellatrix. "Well, I won't tell your mother until she gets home," he said slowly, "you know that she's in Bulgaria right now, covering a game for the Prophet?"
The boy nodded eagerly, "Thanks, Dad! You're the best!" He hugged his father tightly. "I'll see you tomorrow?"
Harry nodded, smiling, "Yeah, I'll be here."
"Brilliant!" The boy leapt to his feet, "Dru and I should go then, if we want to eat before our detention."
Druella groaned, and got to her feet. "All he ever cares about is food," she laughed.
"It's the Weasley in him," Bellatrix smirked, "Don't get into any more trouble tonight, alright?"
The girl beamed, "We have detention with Hagrid, Mother, how much trouble could we get into?"
Somehow, that did not ease the nerves of either parent.
"Don't forget that you're only second-years," Bellatrix blurted, "tell him no if he asks you to do anything too advanced!"
"And stick together if he makes you go into the forest. Do not lose sight of Hagrid." Cautioned Harry.
Bellatrix frowned, "And-"
"Mother!" Druella laughed, "We're perfectly capable of surviving detention, it's not our first one!"
"And it's not like it would be our first trip into the forest," James added, "You and Aunt Hermione live in the Forest!"
"Yeah, I did grow up there," Druella pointed out.
Harry sighed, "They have a point."
Her arms crossed over her chest, "Still, our part of the Forest is much safer," but the argument died there. "Alright, I'll see you tomorrow," she sighed. Kissing her daughter's head, she said goodnight.
"Tell Mum I said hi?" Druella asked in a low voice.
"Of course, darling," Bellatrix whispered. "Be safe." Then "Goodnight, James."
He gave her a quick, one-armed hug, and then pulled Druella out the door. They could hear their laughter echoing in the halls as they ran to dinner.
"Well, I think Hermione's planning on having you stay for dinner," she said in the quiet that followed.
"I'd love to," he said, smiling at her.
Bellatrix grinned as the school gates clanged shut behind her. "I love that school, you know I do, but there's nothing better than going home."
"I know what you mean," Harry laughed.
They walked in companionable silence. The trees lining the road to Hogsmeade rustled their yellow and orange leaves above them.
A single lamp marked the beginning of the hidden road that led to her home. Bellatrix had given up her insistence that they hire an army of trolls to guard the road only after Hermione had placed every security charm she knew around the perimeter of their property.
Placing her hand on the lamppost, Bellatrix uttered the password, "Kettle" and smiled as the road appeared. If anyone without the password tried to walk off the main road they would be struck with an unstoppable sneezing fit until they returned to the road.
"Keep your wand out," she advised, "I saw an acromantula the other day. They never go near the cottage, but sometimes you'll find them around here."
Harry grimaced, "Hermione hasn't found a charm to keep them out yet?"
She grinned as she followed the road into the forest. The trees were thicker here, and if it were not for the lanterns that hung from the trees, the two might not have been able to see where they were going. "Of course she has, but sometimes the baby ones get in. They're easy to fight off, but they still bite."
"I guess that's one of the downsides of living in the Forbidden Forest." He peered suspiciously into the trees.
"There are more upsides," Bellatrix shrugged, "The unicorn foals come around to play with the girls, and the centaurs give great gardening advice."
He laughed, turning to look incredulously at her, "Gardening advice?"
"I was surprised too, but they really know their soils." She had been worried that they would have trouble with the centaurs when they first built their cottage in the forest, but to her surprise they had been mostly welcoming. It did not hurt that Hermione had spent nearly a year working on her first book, "A History of the Hogwarts centaurs," and had spent hours every day talking to the herd. They had become very fond of the brunette witch.
The cottage came into view, and Bellatrix felt a grin stretch across her face.
The stone building stood in a small clearing. A gate surrounded the kitchen garden, and had been enchanted to keep the forest creatures out. A single tower had been attached to the side of the cottage- to house Hermione's study- and it rose above the rest of the structure like a protective giant.
"Lily says it makes your house look like the Burrow," Harry commented, following her gaze.
In Bellatrix's opinion, it did not look nearly as precarious as the Burrow, but she would never say that aloud. "There are worse things, I suppose."
Nineteen Years Earlier…
Hermione grasped Bellatrix's wrist as she pulled the girl up the path towards the Burrow. Bellatrix had remained hidden in McGonagall's chambers throughout the rest of the school year (McGonagall had locked the girl in during the skirmish that led to Dumbledore's death) but everyone agreed that she needed to move somewhere where she was not at a constant risk of exposure.
After an emergency meeting of the Order, it was decided that she would stay with the Weasleys. Bellatrix herself was not exactly in favor of this plan.
"I don't see why I can't stay with Andromeda," she tried for the hundredth time since she had found out.
Hermione let out a frustrated sigh, "It puts her at risk," she tried to soften her words by squeezing Bellatrix's hand. "If anyone suspects-anyone at all- that's the first place they'll look for you."
Nodding glumly, Bellatrix gave the Burrow a doubtful once-over. "It's going to crumble to the ground," she deadpanned.
"It won't," Hermione rolled her eyes. She led the other witch straight to the door. "Now, be polite," she begged, "The Weasleys are doing us a favor."
"I'll be the picture of gratitude," Bellatrix said, smiling unconvincingly.
It was the best they were going to get, however, and Hermione quickly rapped on the door.
The door sprang open almost at once. "Hermione!"
Bellatrix watched with wide eyes as the brunette was engulfed in a bone crushing hug. "Hello, Mrs. Weasley," Hermione squeaked, "It's nice to see you again. You remember Bellatrix?"
Bellatrix was relieved when the redheaded witch merely reached to shake her hand. "Of course," Mrs. Weasley said kindly, "How are you dear? Arthur wanted to be here to greet you, but he had to go meet Ginny and Ron at King's Cross."
The next thing she knew, Hermione was leaving to go spend some time with her parents. "I'll stop by tonight to see how things are going," the brunette had promised.
Then she was gone, and Bellatrix was standing inside of a room filled with boxes as Mrs. Weasley helped her unpack her things into a battered (but clean) wardrobe.
"Fred and George have just moved to the flat above their shop," Mrs. Weasley explained proudly, "I'm afraid that they haven't finished moving in yet. We can shrink the boxes if they bother you."
"They don't," Bellatrix assured her with a smile, "What kind of shop do they have?"
Mrs. Weasley began to explain all about the Twins' joke shop as Bellatrix peered with new interest at the contents that were left on the shelves. She picked up a bronze telescope and bent to look through it.
"Oh, not that, dear!"
Her words came too late.
There was a loud bang! And then a pounding ache in Bellatrix's eye. She dropped the telescope with a yelp. "I guess that teaches me not to go around touching other people's things," she grumbled.
Mr. Weasley and the others returned while Mrs. Weasley was applying a poultice to Bellatrix's eye. The dark witch liked the Weasley patriarch immediately. They had laughed good naturedly together after Mrs. Weasley explained what had happened.
"Would you like a photograph to commemorate your first afternoon in our home?"
Mrs. Weasley clucked disapprovingly, "Arthur, she doesn't want a photo-"
"Yes," Bellatrix said, surprising them all. "I, er, I've suddenly found that memories are precious," she explained. To her horror, she could feel a blush creeping into her cheeks.
Suddenly, Mrs. Weasley's arms were around her, "I'm sure you have dear. We're so glad that you're here now. Instead of-"
Bellatrix smiled, melting into the display of affection. "Me too."
The Weasley's had been very kind to Bellatrix, taking her in and absorbing her as part of the family without a second thought. To say she had been surprised would be an understatement, but nothing could have compared to the surprise that came on her wedding day.
Seventeen Years Earlier…
Bellatrix scowled at her reflection in the mirror as she tried to force a stray curl into the silver net that contained the rest of her hair. She banged her fist on the vanity table when it sprang free seconds later.
"Perhaps you should leave it, dear." Mrs. Weasley suggested as she entered the room, "Is it alright if Arthur comes in?"
Bellatrix nodded, and sighed as she sat back in her chair.
"Well, for what it's worth, I think you look beautiful!" Mrs. Weasley beamed at her as she came to inspect her hair.
"Very beautiful," Arthur added, smiling warmly at her.
"Thank you," Bellatrix smiled gratefully at the two.
There was a crash as a fourth person entered the room, "Sorry I'm late, Bella," Tonks gasped, struggling to talk as she limped towards the mirror, "Snagged my dress-Mother had to fix it-Never been good at it-"
Bellatrix struggled to hide her amusement, "It's fine, Tonks," she soothed, "I'm perfectly capable of dressing on my own. Is Teddy-"
"He's waiting with Harry," Tonks said, plopping down in the chair beside Bellatrix.
Mrs. Weasley made a small noise that could only be described as a squeal, "He's going to be such an adorable ringbearer!"
Tonks gave an exasperated sigh, "Well, he will be if Harry can convince him to make his ears normal- he's been learning about wolves," she explained to Bellatrix.
"Let him keep them!" Bellatrix grinned devilishly, "I don't have a problem with it!"
"You don't want the Grangers to be looking at him when they should be looking at you and Hermione," Mrs. Weasley pointed out.
"They've never seen a magic wedding," Bellatrix replied, "They probably won't be looking at us anyway."
"She has a point," Arthur chuckled, and Bellatrix shot him an affectionate look.
Mrs. Weasley shook her head, and pulled a handkerchief from the pocket of her robes. "Now, usually it's the mother of the bride that takes care of these things- it is in my family at least- but given the circumstances…" She smiled, and cupped Bellatrix's cheek, "If you'd like you can wear these…"
She unfolded the handkerchief, revealing a pair of sapphire earrings. "They were my mother's," Mrs. Weasley explained.
A lump formed in Bellatrix's throat as she reached out to touch one of the stones, "They're beautiful," she breathed. She could feel Tonks' arms wrap around her.
"They can be your 'something borrowed', as well as your 'something blue'," Mrs. Weasley explained, leaning down to fasten them into Bellatrix's ears.
"And your 'something old'," Arthur piped.
Tears threatened to spill, and Bellatrix leaned forward to wrap her arms around the Weasley matriarch, "Thank you so much," she whispered.
"Of course dear, of course," Mrs. Weasley's eyes were a little misty as well when she finally released the young woman. "Arthur-" she gestured wordlessly to Bellatrix.
He stared blankly at her for a moment, and then his eyes widened, "Oh right!" He stepped closer to the vanity, clearing his throat a few times. "Well, I was thinking-" He cleared his throat again, and smiled, "I would be extremely grateful if you would allow me the honor of walking you down the aisle today."
Tonks' hand squeezed her shoulder, and the tears that had threatened earlier spilled over.
"I'd like that very much."
The delicious smell of roast chicken hit them as soon as they pushed through the front door. Bellatrix breathed in deeply as they shrugged off their cloaks and hung them on hooks beside the door.
"We're back!" She called as she and Harry headed through the narrow corridor towards the back of the cottage. They were almost to the kitchen when the door was flung open, and two small bodies barreled out.
"Oof!" Bellatrix smiled as her youngest child crashed into her. "Hello, to you too," she smirked.
"Aunt Hermione took us to Hogsmeade today!" the child attached to Harry chirped, "We got to go to Honeyduke's!"
"Mummy says that if you and Uncle Harry agree, Lily can stay here tonight." Brown eyes gazed pleadingly up at her, and Bellatrix stroked her hand down the sleek curls. Cassandra had inherited Hermione's hair color, but not the bushiness.
"Harry?" She looked over to her friend.
"Please, Daddy?" Lily asked sweetly.
Harry nodded, prompting a round of squeals from the girls. "But Ginny's coming home tomorrow," he said to Bellatrix as she headed into the kitchen, "so please don't send her home with green hair again."
A fake pout formed on the witch's face, "I can't help it if the child wants to be a Slytherin," she said.
"If she ends up in Slytherin we both know it's Cassandra's doing." Harry pointed out.
"Well, if that's the way you see it, it's your son's fault that my firstborn is a Gryffindor."
"I like to think I had something to do with that," Hermione protested as she carried a bowl of steaming potatoes to the set table.
Bellatrix grinned, and moved to kiss her wife hello. "I missed you," she purred into the brunette's ear.
"I missed you too," Hermione said, leaning into Bellatrix for a moment. "Hello Harry, how did it go?"
"It always goes better than I think it will," he sighed.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes, "It was fantastic, Harry, it always is. Just wait until tomorrow when you get to lecture the new Gryffindor-Slytherin class. Albus'll be there."
His face brightened a little, "I was sort of hoping to see him today," he confessed. "At least James stopped by."
"Was Dru with him?" Hermione asked, flicking her wand so that a bowl of rolls joined the potatoes on the table.
Bellatrix nodded, "She says hello," she said, eyeing the roast chicken that was on the table. Her stomach grumbled audibly.
A sigh came from the brunette, "I can't believe our baby is already a second-year," she said mournfully.
Bellatrix, who had just filled two of the glasses on the table with pumpkin juice, made a face. "Don't remind me. Soon Cassandra will be going off, and then we'll just be two old ladies in an empty house."
Harry snorted, "You're hardly old," he pointed out.
"For that, you can have the choice between butterbeer or elf wine," Bellatrix beamed.
She retrieved four bottles, and placed them on the table. Then she opened one of the cupboards and retrieved the bottle of shimmering potion that occupied the highest shelf.
After she had seen the memories that her "other-self" had left Hermione, she had done some research on the potion that Snape had created for her. With Draco's help (he had followed in his Grandfather's footsteps to become an apothecary and a sort of private healer) she had found a potion that helped her control her emotions, and that made her mood-swings more bearable. She accepted a measuring glass from Hermione, poured out her portion, and downed it with a grimace. Draco still had yet to find something to mask the taste. She swept her wand over the glass to clean it, and stored the potion back on the top shelf.
"DINNER!" she bellowed, grinning as the two other adults winced, "It's the most effective way to get everyone to the table," she shrugged.
They all took their seats, laughing when the girls crashed into the kitchen to join them.
"Not yet," Bellatrix clucked as Cassandra reached for a roll, "We don't eat until everyone is at the table."
As if on cue, there was clunk! clunk! Of a wooden cane hitting the floorboards as the last member of their household shuffled into the kitchen.
Thimble grinned happily as Bellatrix leapt to her feet and pulled out the empty chair for the elf. "Thank you, Miss Bellatrix," she said, hopping onto the chair and leaning her cane against the table.
Bellatrix rolled her eyes, "You don't need to call me that, Thimble."
They had tried to free her after the war, but the stubborn elf had refused to accept the clothes, and would not take payment. In the end, they negotiated for the elf to take one night off a week- a night she usually spent at the Potter's house playing card games with Kreacher.
Of course, now that the elf was older she spent less time doing actual housework and more time observing her family from the various elf-sized rocking chairs that had been placed throughout the house. She was often found giving unsolicited advice, but no one could question her unwavering devotion to the members of the Granger-Black household.
Dinner was a jovial affair, as usual. Harry and Bellatrix teased Hermione about her newest book- a reexamination of Goblin-Wizard interactions during the 12th century. The girls were delighted as Thimble told a few embarrassing stories about the three adults. Thimble had baked a cake- which was enjoyed by all.
As Harry made the leftover rolls dance above their heads, Bellatrix leant back and watched her family laugh.
There was nothing more beautiful in the world.
Hours later- when Harry had left for his home, Thimble had gone to meet Kreacher, and the girls had fallen asleep- Bellatrix and Hermione stretched out in front of the hearth in their room.
It was their evening ritual. Hermione made notes about their day in her journal- something she had taken up in the years following the war, while Bellatrix graded papers or planned future lessons.
But tonight she could not focus on the essays. She found herself gazing at Hermione as the brunette chewed on the tip of her quill. Her hair was piled on top of her head, and the firelight made the shadows flicker on her face.
"What?" She asked when she noticed Bellatrix staring.
The ebony-haired with smiled slowly, "I was just thinking," she said.
Bellatrix sighed, "How close we almost came to losing one another- to losing this."
Hermione closed her journal, and set it and the quill aside. "Come here," she opened her arms.
Crawling closer, Bellatrix snuggled into Hermione's embrace, and sighed contentedly as she rested her head so that she could hear the brunette's heartbeat.
"It was Harry's lecture, wasn't it?"
Bellatrix nodded, "It always makes me realize how close I came to fighting with the other side," she shuddered, "I guess I did fight alongside Voldemort during the first war…"
"Bella, you didn't-"
"I know Hermione, it's alright." Sighed Bellatrix, "I only meant- I don't know what I meant." She looked up, and pressed a kiss to Hermione's jaw, "I'm so glad I have you, I don't want to think about what it must have been like without you-"
"Don't dwell on it," Hermione said gently, smoothing back her wife's hair. "I'm here, and so are you. Nothing's ever going to separate us again."
Bellatrix looked up into those warm brown eyes, and felt a rush of safety wash over her. It was as if nothing could harm her- not even herself- as long as she had Hermione.
Her chest swelled with love and affection, and she swallowed past the painful lump in her throat. "I love you."
Hermione's voice was like rain, "I love you too Bella," she said, peppering kisses on her wife's nose and cheeks, "Forever and ever."
Bellatrix's fingers crept up to tangle in Hermione's hair. She straightened so that she could look her wife in the eye, and just before she captured the brunette in a deeply passionate kiss she whispered-"
"Forever and ever."