"Do you think he'd mind if I kept it?"
"I can't imagine he'll be too pleased," Selene said. "I mean, he's the Canon Librarian. Making sure he gets his stock back is right there in the job title."
Kaitlyn clutched her newly 'borrowed' replacement copy of The Parent Trap a little tighter. "Yeah, but - it's only one DVD. He's probably got lots."
"Sure," Selene agreed. "You tell him that."
"Um." Kaitlyn drummed her fingers on the DVD case. "Maybe I should reconsider."
"I'd recommend it." Selene pushed the door of their Response Centre open. "Still, even if you don't get to keep the disc, it was a productive trip."
"Or maybe destructive." Kaitlyn shook her head. "When you said you wanted raw steak, I kind of assumed you were going to eat it."
"Eat uncooked meat?" Selene shuddered. "What kind of savage do you think I am? All I needed was the blood. If I wanted taste, I'd get a stir-fry or a sandwich or something."
"I guess that makes sense." Kaitlyn tucked her DVD away on the shelf. "So shall-"
Scowling, Selene hit the button. "And we have… ooh. Harry Potter. Nice."
"Oh?" Kaitlyn started towards her. "Who's in it?"
"Mm, let's see." Selene scrolled through the report. "Looks like it's your sort of story."
Kaitlyn blinked. "Hobbits?"
Selene rolled her eyes. "No, femslash. Bellatrix Lestrange and Hermione Granger."
"... let me see." Kaitlyn's voice had gone suddenly flat, and Selene turned in the stool to see her glaring at the screen.
"Uh, sure." Selene scrolled back to the beginning. "They say Bellatrix is wildly OOC, and Hermione's not much better. She sees a Death Eater in Hogwarts and doesn't report it - yeah, that's out of character, all right."
"It's brutal character assassination, is what it is," Kaitlyn growled. "Hermione would never be that incompetent. I don't care what Bellatrix said; Hermione would see through it. She always does."
"Er. Right." Selene frowned at her partner, and then it clicked. "Lust Object?"
Kaitlyn bit her lip, then nodded quickly. "I know I never registered her," she said, sounding defensive. "I only worked in LotR, remember?"
"Hey, no problem by me," Selene said, holding up her hands. "I was just a bit surprised. She doesn't seem very hobbitlike."
Kaitlyn snorted. "Hobbits aren't sexy," she explained, "they're cute. Smart is sexy."
"If you say so," Selene said, looking dubious. "I'm more into noble-and-tragic, myself. Oh, and hot."
"Well, obviously," Kaitlyn chuckled. "Hot is always, um, hot."
"O-kay." Selene tapped at the console. "With that settled… what would ambush both a Death Eater and a Hogwarts student? Don't say hobbits."
"Wasn't going to," Kaitlyn retorted. "Uh… Dementors? They're pretty indiscriminate."
"And immune to spells, as I recall," Selene said, punching in the settings. "I'd hate to bring Bellatrix back to herself only to get AK'd… let's just hope Hermione doesn't have the presence of mind to throw a Patronus at us."
"I'm not sure we could get away with taking packs as Dementors," Kaitlyn pointed out, "and I don't fancy lugging a book through the entire mission, so are we brushing off one of the alternate exorcism methods?"
Selene left the console for a moment and pulled a couple of Muggle-use wands out of the weapon rack. "I thought we'd try the local version," she said, throwing a wand to Kaitlyn. "You know it?"
"I've read the report from Bad Slash, yes," Kaitlyn confirmed, swishing the wand back and forth a couple of times. "So what are we waiting for?"
"Absolutely nothing." Selene tapped a button, opening the blue portal. "Ladies first."
The night was dark, lit only by stars and a thin moon. Kaitlyn looked around curiously. "The Hogwarts grounds?" she said. "What's Bellatrix doing here?"
"The report didn't say," Selene told her. The two of them hung over the grass, their forms wispy and indistinct. Suddenly, Kaitlyn giggled.
"Woooo!" she exclaimed. "I'm a ghoooost!" And she flew across the lawn towards a nearby tree. "I can appear out of noooo-ouch." The agent drew back from the tree trunk, giving it what was probably a disgruntled glare. "How come I can't fly through it?"
"Because you're not a ghost," Selene said. "You're a Dementor. Would you expect a Nazgul to pass through walls?"
"I guess not." Kaitlyn drifted back to Selene's side, swishing her wand vaguely through the air. "So: mission?"
Selene squinted up at the Words. "Bellatrix - pardon me, 'Bella' - is in a 'somber room'... somewhere. Presumably nearby, since she comes out here after angsting a bit."
"Ooh, I love a good angst." Kaitlyn looked up, shifting her hood to read the Words better. "So, she's been abused since she was four, 'the Cruciatus has stopped hurting me by the time I was 6', she's shy, she's not actually crazy, and inside she's 'still very much Bella Black'. For ten points, ladies and spectres, name that character!"
Selene snorted. "I'll take 'definitely not Bellatrix Lestrange', please, Steve."
"And you'd be right!" Kaitlyn tilted her hooded head. "'Steve'?"
"Carol? Mike? It's one of those English names." Selene dismissed the question with a wave of her hand. "Look. It gets better."
Kaitlyn's speculative study of the Words had turned to a glare. "'Would never hurt a fly'? 'The only girl in her year who didn't like to gossip'? You know, there's not much point to writing a redemption fic if you completely alter the person you're planning to redeem."
"Don't forget that her favourite scents are rose, mint, parchment, and burning wood," Selene said. "That's important information that will alter your entire image of the character."
"My image has already been sufficiently altered by that 'huge bust' she's self-conscious about," Kaitlyn muttered. "And not for the better, thank you, Agent Windflower."
"I said nothing."
"I could hear you thinking it." Kaitlyn glanced at the Words again, and then her face froze.
"What is it?" Selene asked, frowning. "The thing about her being forced to become a Death Eater?"
"No," Kaitlyn ground out. "The next line."
I had to marry the man that rapes me every night, while I try to hold back the tears
"... and that's a charge of trivialising rape to add to the massive character assassination," Selene said. She reached for her notebook, then grimaced. "Right; no pack. Good thing I've got a memory on me."
"Mm." Kaitlyn was still glaring at the Words. Selene sighed and drifted over to her.
"It's only a badfic," she said in a low voice. "I'm angry about it too, but it hasn't done anything to the real Bellatrix. When we get done here, she'll never know it happened."
"That doesn't make it any better," Kaitlyn snapped, then grimaced. "Sorry. I just…"
"I know." Selene glanced at the Words again, deliberately not scrolling back to the offending line. "Okay, the narration's brought us up to the 'somber room'. Voldemort's talking, Bellatrix isn't paying attention - another nail in the character assassination coffin - and totty-headed bats what is that?!"
Out of nowhere, a tremendous buzzing sound tore through the air, and a gigantic swarm of black bees seemed to crystallise out of the darkness. The insects dove on the agents; Selene dissolved instantly into a white mist while Kaitlyn simply fled at top speed, heading for the lake. Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, the bees vanished.
Cautiously, Selene reformed, only to find Kaitlyn glowering at her. "Nice one," the younger woman said. "Next time, could you pick a vampiric power that can help me, too?"
"I don't think they could actually sting you," Selene said, a little dubiously. "I mean, you're a Dementor."
"You may be right," Kaitlyn allowed. "But my point stands. Next time-"
"Is probably about to happen," Selene jumped in. "I think the attack was a manifestation of the scene breaks - they're written as 'BBBBBBBB', and there's another one coming any second."
"Great." Kaitlyn looked around. "Can we hide underwater? I don't think we need to breathe, and the Great Lake's right there."
"First, it's the Dark Lake now," Selene pointed out, "and secondly, no. Vampires and running water don't mix."
"It's not exactly 'running'," Kaitlyn countered, "and-" But by then it was too late, and a second swarm of Bs, just as large and aggressive as the first, burst upon them.
The agents held their ground, and the Bs saw the opportunity, struck - and made no impact on the black-robed Dementors. "Nice," Kaitlyn called over the buzzing. "Except for the part where it's utterly-" The Bs vanished again. "-horrifying. Uh, that was a bit loud, sorry."
"Not your fault," Selene said, waving a hand dismissively. "Come on, she's on her way."
Sure enough, Bellatrix had emerged from the gloom and was heading straight for them. The agents drifted away towards the lake, which was looking distinctly more evil than normal, and watched as the canon settled down under a large tree and waved her wand. Soft music began to play, and the ground was suddenly littered with candles, inexplicably contained in bottles. "This is ludicrous," Kaitlyn murmured. "And she calls herself a Death Eater?"
"This version doesn't," Selene pointed out. "This version thinks of Hogwarts as her 'happy place'. And claims she can always find calmness within herself."
"Are we looking at a character replacement here?" Kaitlyn asked, studying Bellatrix. "I mean, without a CAD, how do we tell?"
Selene shrugged. "If the exorcism doesn't work, she's been replaced," she said. "It's not like she's going to hurt us if we mess up, is she? She'd be more likely to serenade us!"
At that moment, something that sounded like nothing more than the world's loudest and longest sigh echoed through the Hogwarts grounds. The agents stared at each other, and then turned as one to the Words.
"Oh, lovely," Selene grumbled. "That was another scene break - a 'HHHHHHHH' one."
"At least it wasn't bees again," Kaitlyn said. "And- ooh."
Hermione Granger had appeared on the scene, appearing out of the darkness into the warm light of the candles. Selene looked sideways at her partner to find her resting her chin on her hand, watching Hermione with rapt attention.
"Oh, you're impossible," the vampire said. "You're going to be useless all mission, aren't you?"
"Doesn't she look smart?" Kaitlyn sighed, drifting slowly forwards. "I mean, you can practically taste the intelligence rolling off her." She bumped against a fallen branch, shook herself, and looked back at Selene. "Er. I mean, we should probably get closer. We need to hear what they're saying."
"You're not fooling anyone, you know." Selene glided forwards, watching as Hermione cast a warming charm on Bellatrix and then approached her. Then, out of nowhere, heavy objects the size of her fist started dropping on her head. "Ow! What the-?"
Kaitlyn had ducked, throwing her arms up, and managed to grab one of the falling objects. She held it up into the candlelight: a lump of wrought iron, shaped into the letters BBHG. "I guess the Word World ran out of ideas for these scene shifts," she said, then yelped as the letters vanished from her hand. Reaching up to rub her head, she said, "I really hope there's no more."
"No argument here." Selene looked skeptically at her partner. "You know you can't just go and sit next to them, right?"
"Can too," Kaitlyn said. "They're canons, so they won't notice me."
"Assuming Bellatrix isn't a replacement," Selene pointed out. "And assuming you don't accidentally draw attention to yourself. And assuming-"
"All right, all right." Sullen, Kaitlyn changed her angle of approach, aiming for a point slightly off to the side of the canons, between them and the lake. "Better?"
"A bit." Selene shook her head. "You're just choosing a spot where you can best ogle Hermione, aren't you?"
Kaitlyn put on her best offended look. "Not just," she protested. "I'm a PPC agent too, you know. I want to get them back in canon as much as you do."
"Arent you scared?" Bella asks the girl. "No, I don't think you will hurt me. This is my happy place, and it seems to be yours as well, therefore I don't think that you are Bellatrix Lestrange right this second. I would be scared and running already if you were but no one who enjoys the breeze, the sound of waves crashing and the moon shining is a threat. You appear very calm and nothing like your usual maniac self."
"... case in point." Kaitlyn lifted a hand to massage her forehead. "That's… really bad logic, Miss Granger."
"At least she noticed Bellatrix is OOC," Selene said. "There's some hope for her, at least."
Kaitlyn watched as Hermione sat down next to the Death Eater, so close that their legs and shoulders brushed and both enjoyed the warmth that the other body provided. "I'm… really not convinced."
"Eh. Maybe you're right." Selene cocked her head, reading the Words. "Hermione thinks she's beautiful… thoughts?"
"Hermione is beautiful," Kaitlyn said firmly, then squinted upwards. "Oh, you meant Bellatrix?"
"That would follow from the story we're suffering through, yes."
"Ehm." Kaitlyn considered the question. "Not my type. But that doesn't mean she couldn't be Hermione's type. People have varying preferences, you know."
"Fair enough." Selene winced and touched a hand to her forehead. "Why have I suddenly got a headache?"
"Grammatical compression." Kaitlyn pointed at the two women, now talking quietly to each other. "Their speech is coming across as massive block paragraphs, with no breaks for speakers."
"Should've guessed it'd be something like that." Selene glanced up at the Words, then sighed and returned her gaze to her partner. "I can tell you're edging closer. Don't think your lack of legs is fooling me."
Kaitlyn froze in place, doing her best to look innocent. "Their voices are so quiet," she said. "I need to be close enough to hear. Otherwise, how can I know what the charges are?"
"I thought I was handling the charge list," Selene said. "Are you offering to take over?"
"No. Nonono." Kaitlyn drifted another foot or so forwards, then stopped, looking guilty. "Come on, Selene. What's the point of coming on a mission if we just hide out by the lake?"
"We get the job done, we exorcise the canons, we protect the plot continuum?" Selene suggested. Then she sighed. "But you're not going to stop going on about this, are you?"
"Then come on. We'll hide in the branches of the tree."
Kaitlyn probably grinned; it was hard to tell under her hood. She leapt into the air, a black shadow against the stars, and headed for the tree.
When Selene caught up with her, Kaitlyn was staring down through the branches, humming softly to herself. Hermione was just wiping a tear away from Bellatrix's eye, and assuring her that her sisters were protected. "Well, that's wrong for a start," Selene muttered. "If Narcissa's anywhere close to the Order of the Phoenix, then this should be the middle of the Battle of Hogwarts, which would make these two deserters at best."
Selene glanced sideways at her partner, then followed her gaze downwards. "... Kaitlyn?"
"Are you looking down Hermione's cleavage?"
Kaitlyn glanced up sharply. "I wouldn't dream of it," she protested. "And besides, those robes would make it impossible."
"At least she's wearing them," Selene said. "Any idea why Bellatrix Lestrange, Death Eater Extraordinare, is wearing 'black yoga pants and a pale blue sweater'?"
"Mm… nope," Kaitlyn admitted. "To try and lull Hermione into a false sense of security?"
"If so, it's worked wonders. She's calling her beautiful again."
"Each to her own," Kaitlyn said, her voice placid. "Though I'm… not convinced by the list of reasons. Her aristocratic face? Her hair that goes with her looks? Her skin?" She glanced at the Words and chuckled. "Her - you'll like this - expressive eyes?"
Selene shuddered. "I'm sure they are," she said, "but I don't think what they express is beauty."
"And more than that…" Kaitlyn shook her head. "Hermione's canonical love interest is Ron. She's clearly not into clear skin and harsh features."
Selene muttered something that seemed to contain Ron's name, then shook her head. "At least the rest of the world agrees with you," she pointed out. "It seems no-one else has called Bellatrix beautiful."
"They just see her as-" Selene cut off in mid-sentence, and deep in the shadow beneath her hood a gleam of red burned in her eyes. "Not. This. Again."
„No, they see me as an object to play with and the rest of the time I am one of the guys. I don't think I have talked with a female in the last 20 years, apart from Cissy that is." „What do you mean play with?" „Rape." „Are you serious?"
Kaitlyn's mouth dropped open. "That… it… what?"
"I take back what I said earlier," Selene growled. "This is what trivialised rape looks like."
The vampire glanced at her partner. "You okay?"
"No," Kaitlyn managed. "No, I'm not okay, and no, she's apparently not serious, because her response to Hermione trying to make her feel better is to start taking her clothes off!"
"Er?" Selene looked down; sure enough, Bellatrix had thrown aside her sweater and was now standing there in just her bra and trousers. "Oh. Huh. So she wasn't wearing a top under that sweater?"
"Probably she forgot; she's Bellatrix, after all."
Selene shook her head slowly. Down below, Hermione had drawn her wand and was running it over Bellatrix's undescribed injuries one by one, healing each in turn. "I have a horrible feeling this is meant to be erotic," Selene muttered.
"It would fit the general flow of the fic," Kaitlyn agreed. Then her eyes narrowed. "Wait - revelation of past trauma followed by stripping followed by healing - this is a hurt/comfort fic!"
"A pretty unconventional one, if it is." Selene pointed downwards. "The Intelligence report didn't suggest any more physical contact than that, and we didn't actually see the 'hurt' aspect."
"There was that flashback," Kaitlyn recalled, "and- ooh."
Kaitlyn shot Selene a look. "Ooh, I want to listen to Hermione's next speech. Shh."
"Do you want to know what the first thing was that I thought when I saw you? I thought ‚Who is that beautiful woman?' and that didn't change. I don't know you but I would like too, you are not the crazy person people believe you too be. You, Bella Black are perfect. Your curves are mesmerizing and your bust is magnificent."
Kaitlyn hummed softly to herself as Hermione embraced the Death Eater. "Not bad, not bad."
"Wildly out-of-character," Selene pointed out.
Kaitlyn tossed her hair. "Yeah, I know, but - ooh, there's more."
"You are soft and luscious, your bust is voluptuous and you smell of fire, roses and parchment. You have an air of calm around you and I find you fascinating."
Kaitlyn let out a soft sigh, drawing an odd look from Selene. "Kaitlyn? You okay?"
"What?" Kaitlyn's head jerked round, and Selene got the distinct impression she was blushing under the hood. "Um, yes. I was saying because, uh." She coughed. "Because it was so OOC. And therefore a charge. Yes."
"Uh… huh." Selene looked up at the Words again. "Yes, it really was. And it… made Bellatrix feel like a little girl."
"... that's just twisted."
"Exactly. Let's finish this up. You have your wand?"
"I'm ready when you are," Kaitlyn assured her partner, brandishing the Muggle-use wand.
"On three, then. One, two…"
Hermione had just finished offering to take Bellatrix Away From All This when the PPC agents dropped down onto the grass beside them. "Protectors of the Plot Continuum!" Selene yelled, loud enough to break through the canon-cloaking and get their attention. "Nobody move!"
Hermione thrust Bellatrix behind her, and the older woman fell to the floor. "I think you deserve someone protecting and caring for you for once," Hermione said over her shoulder, echoing her line from the fic.
"Yes, she does," Selene said firmly, levelling her wand at the young witch - who, in keeping with her inattentive nature during the story, didn't even react. "Kaitlyn? Ready?"
"I'd rather have exorcised Hermione," Kaitlyn said with a sigh from her position off to the side, "but I'm ready."
"Then do it!" Selene closed her eyes tightly, picturing Hermione Granger - not the badfic version, but the original. She remembered the first time Harry met her on the train, the trio's adventures with the Time Turner, the girl's endless name-dropping of books she'd read, and the brave fighter she ultimately turned out to be. Good thing Kaitlyn didn't get this job, she thought as she circled her wand in the air; I dread to think what she would have been thinking about…
With the memories and thoughts of canon firmly in place, Selene opened her eyes and fixed them on Hermione. "Expecto Patronum," she muttered. "Expecto… Patronum!"
A great silver wolf leapt from the tip of Selene's wand. It hit the ground, hesitated but a moment, and then lunged for Hermione. The young witch screamed and fell back - leaving in her place the wispy form of the wraith that had possessed her.
Letting out a scratchy-sounding shriek, the wraith turned and tried to flee the lightning-streaked form of Selene's Patronus, but found itself blocked: a second wraith hovered above Bellatrix, held at bay by the flickering silver of Kaitlyn's spell.
"Your Patronus is a hedgehog?" Selene called over the howling of the wraiths.
"And yours is predictable!" Kaitlyn yelled back. "Get on with it! I can't hold this for long!"
Selene returned her gaze to the wraiths. "For your crimes against grammar," she shouted into the winds that blew back from her Patronus, "for your disregard for both common sense and decency, for your utter mangling of the characters of these two witches, and most of all for your trivialisation of emotional abuse and rape, the Protectors of the Plot Continuum sentence you to death!" She flicked her wand like a whip, driving the wolf forward. "Get them!"
The wraiths' death was noisy, but mercifully quick. As the last shreds of them dissipated into the night air, Selene lowered her wand. "You could have helped," she called to her partner.
"What, with my vicious hedgehog?" Kaitlyn retorted. "Besides, you had it well in hand."
Selene shook her head, dropping the conversation. The canon characters were starting to recover from the battle that had been waged over their heads. Hermione got shakily to her feet, and as she did so, Bellatrix finally managed to pull herself into a sitting position. Selene's eyes suddenly widened.
"This could be a prob-"
Bellatrix's eyes fixed on Hermione. In a single smooth movement she whipped out her wand and levelled it at the girl: "Cruci-"
There was a flash of red light. Selene lowered the neuralyzer and nodded. "Problem noticed, problem solved. Right. Bellatrix, you're a crazy violent Death Eater; Hermione, you don't like Death Eaters. Neither of you hang around near the lake, whether it be Great, Black, or Dark." She rooted out her Remote Activator and opened a portal in front of Bellatrix. "The blue doorway will take you to Lord Voldemort. Off you go. And put some clothes on!"
As Bellatrix lurched to her feet and stumbled through the portal, Kaitlyn shivered and looked around. "Selene?" she called. "Where are you?"
Selene frowned. "I'm right here," she pointed out.
Kaitlyn jumped back. "You're a Dementor! Why are you-?" She caught sight of her own hand and stared. "Why am I a Dementor. Are we on a mission? Last I remember we were in our RC…"
Selene groaned. "You looked at the neuralyzer, didn't you?" she realised. "I'm really sorry. I-"
"Merlin's beard! Dementors!"
The two agents whirled to see Hermione backing away, eyes wide, fumbling for her wand. Kaitlyn made a noise halfway between a sigh and a groan.
"You made me forget a mission with Hermione?" she said. "Oh, that's just not fair!"
The young witch finally found her wand and levelled it at the agents. "Expecto Patr-"
"Hermione, it's after dark, you should be in bed. Head back. Kaitlyn, we should… oh, trine it all."
"Ack! Dementor! Wait… Selene, is that you? What's going on?"
Disclaimer: The PPC belongs to Jay and Acacia. Harry Potter belongs to J.K. Rowling. Bella Black belongs to MistressMetis, and is quoted, paraphrased and dissected here for the purposes of parody and humour; no claim of ownership is made by Huinesoron or any other members of the PPC.
Huinesoron's Author's Note: Because really: how do you think Bellatrix suddenly finding Hermione nearby would go?
Do you think there might be consequences to Selene accidentally neuralyzing her partner - twice, no less? Other than, of course, Kaitlyn sulking at her forever over those lost memories...
Agent Kaitlyn's Constructive Criticism
The concept of this story is really interesting. The idea that even the worst character can be redeemed fits very well into Rowling's works - Bellatrix's own sister Narcissa is a potent example. But the key to a believable redemption is sacrifice, and 'Bella Black' sacrifices nothing. Instead of a tale of Hermione slowly drawing out the good that's buried deep beneath Bellatrix's madness, you've given us a story of Bellatrix just… deciding to be nice now.
There were some lovely moments in your story. The imagery of the 'happy place' under the tree was gorgeous, vivid and captivating. In fact, your whole description of Bellatrix's childhood would have been deeply moving - were it not coming out of the blue.
Bellatrix needs time to become Bella again. She needs to spend weeks - months - working through to the realisation that her childhood sucks - not just be given it on a plate. If this story served as the last chapter to a retelling of the Battle of Hogwarts from Bellatrix's perspective - one in which the horrors of war finally broke through her shell of madness and threw her into a whirlpool of self-doubt, one in which she has several encounters with Hermione which introduce the younger woman to her newly-found uncertainties - then it would work quite well. But alone, it simply isn't believable.