Chapter 37

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After helping with the bodies of fallen ones, everyone had to decide what to do next

''Hermione, Bella'' started Molly, ''We'd be honoured to have you as our guests.''

''Thank you Mrs. Weasley'' said Hermione ''But we've already told Andromeda we'd be staying with her.''

''Well, alright.'' Molly said not pleased, ''But you're coming on barbecue this weekend. We have to celebrate our survival and victory.''

''We'll be there Mrs. Weasley.'' Hermione smiled kindly even though she felt like crying.

''Hermione, we'll come to see you day after tomorrow.'' smiled Harry ''If we can of course.''

''Harry, you know you're always welcome wherever I am.'' Hermione replied.

''Yeah, I know.'' he smiled back.

''Is Ron angry?'' she asked.

''He's Ron.'' simply said Harry ''Who knows what he's thinking about? I'm sure he just needs time to process things.''

''I hope so.'' Hermione said

''I'm so glad you're both safe.'' Andromeda exclaimed hugging them ''And you my little one!'' she took Iris in her arms kissing her forehead.

''Good to see you are alright as well.'' smiled Bella.

''I'm not good!'' said Andromeda ''My daughter just told me she's pregnant and getting married! How does that qualify as being good!?''

''Well, she's grown woman...'' started Bella but stopped after seeing daggers in Andromeda's eyes.

''Do I look like granny to you?!'' she growled.

''No'' said Bella ''You look way too young for that.''

''Thank you!'' she exclaimed ''Would you two move from that hall already?'' she said and marched into living room.

''If you hadn't noticed yet, Andromeda has problem with ageing.'' said Bella.

''I can see that.'' said Hermione weakly and followed Bella in the living room.

''Mom, it's alright.'' said Tonks ''Bella watched after me. She actually saved us on one occasion.''

''It doesn't matter'' said Andromeda ''You shouldn't have be in the fight pregnant in the first place!''

''Andromeda, I'm really tired'' started Hermione ''We haven't slept in a while.''

''Of course, I'm sorry.'' said Andromeda ''Your room is waiting for you.'' she smiled.

''What am I supposed to do with it?'' asked Minerva holding an hourglass in her hands.

''Just put it in that vault and put it under protective spells.'' said Dumbledore again.

''Albus I understand that'' said Minerva ''What I don't understand is importance of this hourglass.''

''It's the one we used to bring Bella to the future with.'' said Dumbledore.

''Does it still hold importance in their lives?'' asked Minerva.

''Very much so,'' Dumbledore mused ''It's a question of life or death.''

''This could harm Bella?'' asked Minerva.

''Not only her.'' said Dumbledore ''If that hourglass would ever be destroyed, she would die and everything that she ever created along with her.''

''Iris?'' Minerva asked in shock.

''She would cease to exist.'' said Dumbledore ''Along with the people Bella saved in the battle.''

''Dear Merlin!'' exclaimed Minerva.

Iris was asleep almost the moment she laid her little head on the pillow in her crib.

''Are you alright?'' asked Bella.

''I'm just so tired Bella.'' said Hermione ''Physically, emotionally, on every level I'm exhausted.''

''I know.'' said Bella ''Sleep Hermione, at least that will help with tiredness. The rest we'll figure out later.''

''Yeah'' she murmured half asleep.

Hermione slept through whole afternoon and evening, waking up around 4 am. Bella was asleep on couch next to Iris' crib. Hermione quietly exited the room and headed to kitchen.

After making herself hot tea, she sat down and quietly looked at rain that drizzled outside.

''Good morning'' Andromeda greeted ''You had a nice rest?''

''Morning,'' said Hermione. ''Yeah, I came round little bit. What about you?''

''I couldn't sleep.'' said Andromeda

''Still upset over Tonks?'' asked Hermione confused

''No, over Bellatrix.'' sighed Andromeda. ''And Narcissa. What we used to be and where we are now.''

''I understand.'' said Hermione slowly.

Andromeda sat down and drank her coffee.

''Was she always like that?'' asked Hermione ''Bellatrix I mean.''

''No'' smiled Andromeda ''She was the best older sister anyone could wish for. It's just what life had in store for her.''

''Was she like Bella?'' asked Hermione.

''They are the same Hermione'' said Andromeda. ''No matter how much Minerva and Dumbledore had been convincing you they are different. In future they will be, but now...''she paused ''That's why you felt the connection to Bellatrix. Because, if you were alive all those years ago, she would've chose you over Voldemort.''

Minerva was awoken by knocking on her door. She quickly walked to the door, worried that there was some emergency.

''Hermione?'' she said in confusion when she saw who was at her door. ''Is everything alright?''

''No, it's not alright.'' said Hermione ''I need to speak with Dumbledore. So I need you to allow me access in Headmasters office.''

''Hermione...'' Minerva started.

''No!'' the young witch shouted. ''I need to know and I need to know now.''

Five minutes later Minerva and Hermione marched into Headmasters office

''Albus, Hermione wishes to speak with you.'' said Minerva.

''Ahhh'' said Albus ''I have expected that.''

''I bet'' said Hermione bitterly. ''Now, tell me the truth. No more beating around the bush about Bellatrix Lestrange or Bellatrix Black. Plain and simple- did you plan it? Me loving both of them?''

Minerva started, ''Hermione, we wouldn't do that...''

''Minerva'' Albus cut in ''I'm afraid Mrs. Black is right.''

''What?!'' asked Minerva surprised; she knew Hermione would feel somehow connected but being in love...''You knew it would happen?''

''Yes, I did.'' sighed the portrait.

''Tell me, did I even have a chance of not falling in love with Bellatrix Lestrange?'' asked Hermione.

''You're trying to feel less guilty about falling in love with Bellatrix.'' mused Dumbledore.

''Of course I am!'' Hermione exclaimed. ''I'm married! I have a daughter! I'm supposed to love her through good and bad, everything! Not falling for...''

''Her?'' asked Dumbledore.

''Why would you do that?'' asked Hermione eyes full of tears.

''I needed to win a war.'' said Dumbledore simply. ''I needed both Bellatrix's on our side. Harry wouldn't have made it alone.''

''You don't know that.'' said Hermione ''You played with my life, my daughter's life, and my wife's life.'' she paused and then added, ''You never answered my question.''

''No.'' he said ''You never had a chance of not falling in love with her.''

''Why do I love Bella more then?'' asked Hermione.

''Because you're bonded with her soul. That commitment was made when you married.'' answered Dumbledore ''Therefore, you are connected to the development of Bella's soul. A soul that Bellatrix's wasn't capable of becoming.''

Hermione sat down and put her head in her hands. ''Hermione, you'll get through this. Both of you.'' started Dumbledore. ''I haven't lied when I said you were soul-mates. You two are meant for each other; you're having rough time but if you'll work together on it you'll make it.''

''Hermione,'' started Minerva with heavy heart ''Bella wasn't on mission.''

''What?'' she asked confused.

''She ran to Oslo to get away.'' confessed Minerva ''She needed space.''

''From what?'' asked Hermione.

''She found out Bellatrix was in Hogwarts at the same time as you.'' said Minerva. ''Andromeda owled me to tell me that Bella had run away saying she needed space.''

''God no'' said Hermione certain Bella knew about her infidelity.

''Hermione?'' asked Minerva but Hermione just turned away and walked towards the door.

But before she opened the door and left she just said ''Don't ever tell her we were marionettes. It would break her.''

Hermione was furious at herself and Bella as well. She ran away, leaving her and worst of all Iris! She walked in the house little after 7:30 in the morning. She decided to check kitchen just in case Bella was up and she got lucky.

''You ran to Oslo?!'' she yelled surprising Bella, Andromeda, Tonks and Iris who was seated in her highchair.

Bella looked at Hermione both scared and angry as hell. ''I don't think we should discuss this here.''

''Well then pick the room.'' Hermione growled.

''Fine, let's go.'' said Bella ''Andy...''

''Got it.'' said Andromeda knowing it was about Iris.

Hermione slammed the door after Bella walked in and put a silencing spell on it.

''Oslo?!'' she yelled again.

''Is that surprising you?!'' Bella shot back. ''Yes I left after watching you get fucked against bloody wall in the middle of Hogwarts!''

''At least I didn't run away from my daughter in the middle of war!'' yelled Hermione again.

''She was well protected!'' growled Bella. ''Between you and her, what could have possibly happen to Iris?''

''Tell me, did you had fun in Oslo?'' attacked Hermione.

''Yes I did.'' Bella yelled with bitter satisfaction. Hermione turned away from her looking through the window trying to suppress her tears.

''Don't give me that!'' said Bella. ''Nothing I've done was half as bad as you cheating on me with...''

''You!'' yelled Hermione turning around, her cheeks full of tears ''With you! Older you! But still you!'' she took breath and then continued ''You! Not some whore you stumbled on, in the middle of night in only god knows where!''

''She's not me.'' said Bella.

''Keep telling that to yourself.'' said Hermione ''But we both know that there is part of her in you. And I love it- I love you and that part of her that is in there as well.'' she paused ''You bailed. Even before everything happened; you promised to take care of us. To be here for us, to work with me so we could be a family. But you ran from your job, from the war, you separated our family when you should've helped me to keep it together. It's not only your fault, it's mine as well. I should've made different choices, maybe we wouldn't be here now.''

Bella looked at Hermione knowing she hasn't finished.

''You know'' said Hermione in sad tone. ''She was there. My wife ran away through one door, but another, more mature version, walked in through the other door. She took a burden that was on my shoulders and helped me, protected Iris from begging to end. In my mind, it was you. Same face, same black curls tied loosely, same deep brown eyes. That what breaks me really is that she did it even though she knew I would never love her like I love you.''

Hermione sat down on the bed wiping her eyes.

''Hermione,'' Bella knelt down in front of her, ''I love you. I thought that if you were far enough from me you'd be protected. That if you were away from the fight, you'd survive. But it backfired; I put you in the middle and almost lost you. Hermione, I had never cheated on you, I couldn't. They weren't you and no matter how angry I was, it just wasn't right.''

Hermione let out a small sigh of relief and Bella said ''I'm not giving up on us.'' She paused, locking eyes with Hermione. ''We're not done; I love you and you love me. We're soul-mates. We've made mistakes, yes, but we cannot quit. We are fighting for this.''

''Please tell me we are fighting for this.'' Bella now pleaded.

''We are.'' Hermione said. ''We are. We've been through hell and at the end we're still standing.'' she leaned in and rested her forehead against Bella's. ''We have something worth fighting for.''

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