A missed connection on the way home from Hermione’s family ski trip in the middle of fifth year changes everything, and causes Hermione to question some implicit assumptions of the wizarding world.
Graphic Depictions Of ViolenceHermione Granger/Bellatrix Black Lestrange Andromeda Black Tonks/Ted TonksHermione Granger Bellatrix Black Lestrange Narcissa Black Malfoy Harry Potter Tom Riddle | Voldemort Ron Weasley Severus Snape Sirius Black Andromeda Black Tonks Other Character Tags to Be Added Nymphadora Tonks Mr Granger (Harry Potter) Mrs Granger (Harry Potter) Ted Tonks Draco MalfoyDiscord: Bellamione Coven Action/Adventure Snow and Ice Isolation Prison Enemies to Friends to Lovers survivalism Slow Burn Hurt/Comfort Action & Romance Angst Past Abuse Science Redemption Azkaban is State Sanctioned Torture Philosophy Foucault Queer Themes Lesbian Sex Lesbian Character POV Lesbian Character Lesbian Bellatrix Black Lestrange Lesbian Hermione Granger electric magic Worldbuilding Wizarding Culture (Harry Potter) Wizarding Politics (Harry Potter) Wizarding Traditions (Harry Potter) Wizarding History (Harry Potter) Biracial Character Bechdel Test Pass Alternate Universe – Canon Divergence Femslash Implied het only Motherhood Dark Magic Blood and Violence Violence
A missed connection on the way home from Hermione’s family ski trip in the middle of fifth year changes everything, and causes Hermione to question some implicit assumptions of the wizarding world. It also lays the groundwork for her inexorable collision in the Department of Mysteries with the /last/ woman to hold the title of “Brightest Witch of Her Age” — Bellatrix Black Lestrange.And their battle will lead to the very situation they both want least–together, a struggle to survive, far away from any support.
(See the end of the work for notes.),Notes:
(See the end of the chapter for notes.),Notes:
Acknowledgements:I want to thank sstasia for writing “I follow the pieces”, which inspired me to write a scene recounting Narcissa’s healing of Bellatrix–both originally in another of my stories, and in this one. It was a truly grand little short story and absolutely beautiful writing.
Chapter 1: Prologue
Hermione knew how to ski, from bunny slopes as a child, in Scotland, not far from Hogwarts. But her parents had gone to Norway this year, for an extended skiing trip with her. She’d always liked the idea of travelling to other countries, but she felt distracted, thinking about her friends, thinking about the situation in the magical world, thinking about Voldemort.Really, thinking about anything except for skiing. But, she still skied. She loved it, actually, that and Norway, eating the food, seeing the history, getting to go to a folk concert in a ski-lodge, and five actual days out on the powder. But then things had come up at Grimmauld Place, and she’d insisted on returning—only for some mixup with the tickets to delay them with her family already clearly showing some hurt feelings about it. She was travelling with her parents, after all, and couldn’t just take an international portkey at her age, let alone with her parents (another one of the breaks of being muggle-born).But, it did lead to an interesting diversion: They went to see Amundsen’s ship that had first made the Northwest Passage, the Gjøa, at the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo, and Hermione found a few English language books about Arctic exploration at the museum and bought copies of all of them, thinking they’d at least pass the time for her if she was at Grimmauld Place and nothing happened, which was definitely possible.The delay led to one of those interesting consequences in life, those random connections which could have never happened otherwise. Hermione would spend a great deal of time thinking about it, later on. They had finally gotten into Heathrow, late, and gone through customs. They were waiting for the next train from Heathrow Central to London Paddington when Hermione saw a familiar face.“Asma Khatri!?” Her parents seemed relieved when she leapt up and went after the young woman, who tugged at her own older sister, and turned around.“Hermione Granger, is that really you? I can’t believe it!” The British Asian girl exclaimed, and rushed forward and gave Hermione a hug, her headscarf falling mostly off her head in the process. “I have seen you at most one time since you turned twelve years old. I can’t believe this. And randomly here we are waiting for the train at Heathrow at this hour.”“We were coming back from a ski-trip to Norway, but got delayed, so it’s really random luck,” Hermione agreed, and cleared out a spot on the bench. “I think we’ve got…”“Twenty minutes until the train, dear,” Mister Granger supplied.“…yeah, a bit of time, anyway.” Then they’d go home, she’d re-pack for the magical world, and then head to Grimmauld Place… well, in the morning, at this point. A day late shouldn’t hurt at all, she hoped.“A bit of time. Not enough.” Asma grinned wryly, and perhaps it was tinged with a little bit of jealousy. “So how is your super-exclusive Public School education going for you in the Highlands of Scotland?”“An absolutely amazing adventure,” Hermione acknowledged, a bit too flustered to avoid just saying that outright.“Sounds like it… Have you been raising hell up there?” A grin. “The good kind of hell, I mean, questioning society and structures of power?”“…I like to think so, actually. I’ve attacked a few old prejudices head on.”“Good, then my Hermione hasn’t lost her way with the posh set,” Asma said in that oh so perfect and clipped voice. Of course, neither of them could ever really be part of that set. Asma for both the colour of her skin and her religion, and Hermione… Well, beyond being muggleborn, she just wasn’t quite white enough, either, even if she and her family back five generations had never been anything but British, even if Britain was sometimes problematic, and her society didn’t always see her that way.“So,” Asma continued. “What’s your critique of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish?”“Uh, wha…”“What? I knew it was a very posh school, but surely they’re not trying to pretend to their students that Michel Foucault does not exist?! My friend Hermione, you are sixteen, and as smart as a whip, and you don’t know about Foucault?” She looked absolutely indignant. “You should be preparing to write dissertations on philosophers like him in University, you really are that smart!”Hermione felt a stabbing, throbbing feeling of jealousy. Her friend was right. She wasn’t leaning the philosophy and political science and theory that she would have wanted to. She was being left out of that preparation for a liberal university education. In fact, Hogwarts was anything but good preparation for going to University. She wasn’t even sure, as a graduate, if she could use her matriculation through some clever device of the Ministry to attend a muggle University; they probably didn’t bother with such things, unless it was to give muggleborns like herself the boot from wizarding society.She was a Gryffindor, and not too subtle. The flash of upsetness was clearly visible to her old friend. Asma knew it wasn’t directed at her, and grinned triumphantly. “Hah, so your posh school is trying to keep you from learning anything important. They must have you marked: Hermione Granger, future activist! Here, let me screw up their plans.” Asma reached into her own bag, and thrust a pile of books over.Madness and Civilisation, Discipline and Punish. Two books from Foucault. And, with them, Assata: An Autobiography. Now, all of this was a bit much. Asma’s parents were professionals, Doctors, just like Hermione’s. But, such were the pleasures of being a young intellectual and exploring the limits of human thought and civilisation. Hermione had read Plato, of course she’d read Plato, and some others, but… Well, the library at Hogwarts essentially stopped with medieval philosophy, and contained nothing like this.The train was arriving. Hermione added the three books to her bag. “Thank you, Asma,” she whispered, sincerely, eyes wide and a little glassy for a moment, that the law, that the difference between muggle and muggleborn was already enough to leave them on these wildly diverging courses, which had come together only briefing, at a train station, far too close to midnight. “You can’t imagine how much this gift means to me, and I’ll definitely have some time in the next two weeks to read them.”“Sure, I do believe you on that, you’ve never failed to read a book,” Asma grinned, and rose. “But try to stay in touch. Maybe a cellphone? They have those now…”Hermione groaned. “Not at school.”“I am going to call that place the School of Toffs from here on out!” Asma called, and waved. It was time for Hermione and her parents to go to the platform, and she eagerly and a bit mournfully waved back, and then stepped out to her train.Parting with her parents the next day, she fortunately hadn’t missed anything at Grimmauld Place, filled with the haughty screaming pictures and friends and allies. And, she did have some time to start reading. To get entranced.To keep reading.To sit thoughtfully at the news of the mass breakout from Azkaban, and wonder, exactly, about the function of Azkaban in wizarding society, and how Azkaban made a witch. About the Carceral State. And about other things, which carried her just a little bit further away from her friends, and such an easy acceptance of even what the Order said about wizarding society.It was funny, what a meeting with an old friend could do, thanks to a few hours delay of a flight.She read the books about arctic exploration too, because, after all, who didn’t like a good adventure, by ship and dogsled? (and, in one interesting case, airship!)And Grimmauld Place was rather boring.
They had not had much time to prepare for this, only a few days. The Dark Lord had warned the residents of Malfoy Manor to be ready for something grand. He had been indulgent toward Narcissa, and promised her that her sister would return to her. Narcissa had knelt, and praised him for it, and meant it. When Lucius had spoken of the glory days that would come when the Dark Lord returned, all Narcissa could think about was her sister, rotting in Azkaban, now being free.She had made every preparation possible in the Manor. They would be receiving and preparing for more than just her sister, but all of the Dark Lord’s finest imprisoned Death Eaters, the ones who had suffered for him. And her sister… Her precious older sister, the one who had defended and guarded her, was the foremost of those servants, his Lieutenant. But nothing in the end could have prepared her for what she saw. Indeed, as the Dark Lord arrived, in a snap of power, she saw the tiny, waif-like figure, frozen, her muscles in a rictus, huddled like a child against Voldemort, with the masses of her tangled and ratted black hair cascading down, with streaks of white from the brutal stress of the years, long before her time as a witch who should live two hundred years. Narcissa saw her, like a living corpse nestled in the Dark Lord’s arms, and wanted to faint, wanted to be sick. My sister, Bella, the eldest daughter of the House of Black and, and… Her brain froze, she had no frame of reference for it.She had everything ready in the Manor to receive and heal the guests, the escapees from Azkaban, she thought she was ready, and it had all turned into abject horror as she stared at her sister’s condition, at a woman whose bones seemed to be coming out of her pallid, sallow skin.“Bella,” Narcissa whispered, her heart aching in horror. Then an inner steel took over. The Dark Lord was giving orders, commanding that Bellatrix be given food and medicine and rest, and announcing that he was going to depart, and return with the others. She had done so much to prepare herself for this, to prepare herself for ‘bad’, but she had no idea of what this horror would be. Her sister, familiar, and yet forever different, shattered and taken to within an inch of death in Azkaban.That inner steel guided her, and Narcissa stepped up, and took Bella from the Dark Lord’s arms herself. She was as cold as ice to the touch. Only the evil magic of the Dementors and of Azkaban, feeding on her for so long, had kept her alive in such a condition, turning her slowly into a husk of misery that existed like a shadow, half-alive and half-dead, a wraith that existed to be fed upon by the Dementors. The smell upon her was unimaginable. Her eyes bulged from her skull, all the more like she were some monstrous raised corpse rather than her living sister.Narcissa’s eyes were filled with tears as she smoothed down Bella’s hair in a fitful and futile effort, embracing her tightly, against a limp Bella who did nothing, who seemed like a slip, smaller than Draco at eight, in her arms, a two-dimensional doll that would break if she made the wrong move.“Prepare the bath, mildly hot only,” she instructed to the house elves, who bustled around in horror and tried to prepare things for Mistress Bella as best as they could. She had to assume that Bellatrix had not experienced heat in fourteen years, and that anything other than the mildest touch of hot water would be excruciating to her.Taking her to the bath, Narcissa vanished her prison garb, wishing nothing more than its utter destruction; indeed, simply obliterating it with a spell seemed insufficient, she wanted to destroy it a thousand times. But practicality pushed her on. She knelt down to the prepared bath, and having stripped her sister naked and destroyed her clothes, gently worked her into the tub, propped her up at the right angle to keep her from downing, and got to work.Narcissa washed her elder sister, herself, with tears continuously falling from her eyes. She would leave this task to nobody else, not even the oldest of her House Elves who remembered them both as girls, who came with her to the Malfoy Manor as part of her dowry. The scourgifying and the untangling spells for the hair combined with the bath, the oil, the soap, the water. Again and again. Narcissa soiled her own clothes, she cared nothing for the dirt and the grimy water that had adhered to them. She drained the tub once and refilled it, with water slightly hotter, and then drained it again, and refilled it again, each time leaving a ring of scum and grime as she worked.But she spared nothing, she cleaned Bellatrix everywhere, she made sure of everything, shifting her with the utmost delicacy. She overcame her embarrassment, overcame her sickness at Bella’s condition, and made sure of all of it. Healing potions were dropped in the water systematically as she worked, and finally it brought Bella forth from the dark emotions that she had been feeling, the way she had been frozen in place. It began to break her free from the mad spell of the Dementors.“Cissy…” It was a hoarse whisper so awful it scarcely seemed like it could belong to the proud, brilliant, brave, impetuous eldest sister of the House of Black.“You’re in the Malfoy Manor now, Bella. Tonight is your night, I will be strong for you,” Narcissa instructed firmly, and meant it with every fibre of her being. She was aghast and horrified at what she was seeing. She could not fathom the civilisation that she lived in, which had put her sister through this. It embarrassed her and shamed her, her, a proud pureblood, that her society tolerated this nightmare of a prison. It was the first moment where she regretted the course that her husband had launched her son down, and she would never stop regretting it subsequently. Narcissa answered her sister’s questions, finished bathing her, then drained the tub, filled it again, and this time filled it with soothing oils and calming potions. A very small cup of tea was brought for Bellatrix, and she helped her sister to sip it in the tub. Bellatrix expressed no happiness and no pleasure at it. Only thoughts of revenge brought forth a mad cackle.Table water, next, letting the fizziness bounce on her sister’s tongue. Again, Bella expressed no happiness or pleasure. Those emotions had been stripped from her by the Dementors, and Narcissa despaired that she would ever see them from Bella again.Warm and simple food would follow, and with it, potion after potion, healing spell after spell. An entire massive battery of potions had been left for her by Snape, a similar one for each of the freed Death Eaters, and to them Narcissa added her own, thankful for that reedy man for once in her life, but making sure that nothing was left out. Restoring Bellatrix to a desperate simulcra of her previous life was her idée fixe, and with horror and fear and love for her sister, she tried everything she could for the ghost-like figure who had lurched from Azkaban, with a blank madness in her soul.She did everything she could, but was everything she could good enough? She saw the hollow, blank way that her sister spoke. Her mind flashed through memories of happy scenes of three girls playing in the old woods before Ancient House. Went back to staring at this rag-and-bones woman before her, who only partially healed no matter how much magic was applied. Who could not seem to muster happiness in response to anything, except the mention of the Dark Lord, who had at last rewarded her loyalty.Fourteen years, with every positive emotion destroyed by the Dementors, slowly starving and dying by inches, but never quite being allowed to go, between the magic and the indifferent slop shoved into the bars, never enough to sate, just enough to keep you alive, when the Dementors left you too listless and depressed to even kill yourself…Who could call that justice? Narcissa didn’t know. She put Bella to bed, tucked her in like her elder sister was her daughter, and prayed for the day when she might be happy again, offered anything and everything she could think to the old Gods of her family that it might be so. Andromeda was beyond returning to her, and she couldn’t imagine losing Bellatrix, too, even as she couldn’t be sure that Bella’s current mad life was a one worth living. She had to have faith it was, and she had be thankful to the Dark Lord, for all of her fears, that he had been so kind to her as to give her sister back.But later on, when the Dark Lord took her away to one of their vacation cottages in Wales, and Bellatrix came back, going on about how wonderful and kind he was to her, and eagerly speaking of his affection for her—when Narcissa well knew that he was a man, a power above affection—that she grew ill, and worried about her sister’s fallen state, and her ill health, and prayed all the harder, and offered burnt sacrifices to Old Gods, and hoped above hope that she would never see the like of that terrible night again.