A/N: First chappie/prologue done! I thought since I've been having a bit of a writer's block on my other stories that it would be good to throw this out and see how people like it. This takes place post-series and pre-Rebellion, which is different from my other story Shattering Lenses (meaning Homura might be a tad OOC). Don't get me wrong, I love Homura, but I'm a bit of an optimist when it comes to stories, which doesn't really click with Homura's character (who is 1. rather pessimistic, at least at the end of the series and 2. is stubborn as all heck).

But enough about me ranting, let's get on with the story!

P.S., the beginning assumes that you have read the summary. If you haven't read the summary of this story (1. why did you not read it? and 2.) go read it.

"Death is but the next great adventure." -Albus Dumbledore; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Homura Akemi opened her eyes to red.

This isn't what it's supposed to look like, she thought. Where's Madoka? Shouldn't the Law of Cycles have taken me away?

And yet, this wasn't the Law of Cycles. This she knew.

She took a glance around her surroundings, ruined buildings and cracked pavement meeting her eyes. She felt sick.

It's too much like Walpurgisnacht… she muttered in her mind. She began moving forward, black heels thunking against the ground. There were a couple of signposts scattered around, and the light of her soul gem reflected off of them.

Wait, what?!

Her eyes snapped to her left hand. There it was, shining in all its facetious glory.

But if I died… then wouldn't it not be here anymore? But if I'm alive… this shouldn't even be shining! It was almost pitch black the last time I saw it!

Red. There was so much red, almost shimmering in waves around her.

"Who are you?" An unknown voice broke into her thoughts.

"Who are you?" Homura decided to retort.

The voice tsked and huffed in annoyance. "You humans. Always so rude. Very well, my name is Azami Kozakura."

Homura pondered the name for a while. Azami Kozakura. Definitely someone I haven't heard of. With that in mind, she decided to answer. "Homura Akemi."

The voice was silent for a while. "Come," it eventually ordered. "Perhaps we should meet face to face. There is something about you that is different. Perhaps you know of what it may be?"

While the voice had said it so nonchalantly, Homura could detect the hidden malice beneath it. She inwardly tensed. So this voice can sense my magic. However, having nothing better to do, she decided to walk forward. Her feet seemed to instinctively know where to go, walking down pathways and veering around corners. She wandered like this for a while, not knowing where she would end up or what she was going to do if she was stuck in here forever. It was a group of spiraling stairs that finally caught her attention.

This is it, she thought to herself. She didn't know how or why she knew that this was where she was supposed to go. She decided not to question it. Yet.

As she climbed the steps, her mind began to wander. I wonder how Kyoko-san and Mami-san are doing. Despite everything that had happened between them, she still had a bit of respect for the veteran magical girls. It had only been a few months since Sayaka had joined the Law of Cycles, and while they weren't very close, she was sure that they would feel her death keenly. When they noticed. It had been a while since they had separated.

Reaching the top, she was greeted with a young woman clad in black. Her hair, twisting and curling, was tied into a ponytail with a red ribbon and reached the floor. Homura was unable to discern anything else through the thick strands, but the red ribbon captivated her, and her hand reached up to her own red ribbon instinctively.

The woman turned around, and she nearly gasped. Twin blood-red eyes stared at her, glaringly bright even amongst the red haze around them. She could barely tear her gaze away from them, and yet she did, analyzing the rest of the strange person. The woman's outfit seemed a bit behind the times, almost like a magical girl's outfit of old. She was wearing a long black dress with a high collar and slit in the side, along with a white underskirt, and long black sandals. The dress had a red underside and a few red accents. Snake scales on her cheeks were the only sign that showed Homura that she was not completely human.

"We have a lot to talk about, Homura Akemi."

"So it is," Homura agreed, but she couldn't keep a slight twinge of apprehension from worming into her gut.

"First, do you know where we are?"

"No," Homura admitted, voice cold and face stoic. "Where are we?"

"Some call this place the Heat-haze," Azami began. "Others, the Neverending world. Still others, the Daze. In truth, it is all three, the Heat-haze Daze."

Neverending…? "Why am I here?"

"You died, did you not? At the moment of your death, you were swallowed by the Heat-haze. Such is the fate of those who die on August 15."

Panic filled her. "Is there no way out?" she asked, but a trace of worry leaked through her voice. There has to be one…! I can't be stuck in here forever!

"There is none." With that, Homura's hopes crashed to the ground. "Now then, what are you hiding, Homura Akemi?"

It took all of Homura's self-control built up over the constant time-loops to stop herself from collapsing on the ground right then and there. "...What do you wish to know?"

"Everything." Azami's eyes glinted. "We have all the time in the world, human, and there aren't many options left for you. You better start explaining just what is so special about you."

And with a sinking feeling, Homura knew that she was right.

It had taken a long time, but she finally got the information out of her.

To be quite honest, Azami was surprised. This Homura girl had mostly managed to keep her composure during the entire explanation, save a few cracks here and there. Then again, she had many timelines of experience, much like herself.

Kindred spirits, a voice whispered traitorously in her mind. She shook it away, focusing instead on the existence of magic.

She had seen many discrepancies within the lives of some of the more famous girls of the world, in particular those within the story books. And while she herself had never met with this 'Kyubey', she was sure that she would have instantly been lured into his trap.

She made a quick note to never let him and the snake of Clearing Eyes meet.

Homura's abilities are quite powerful, she remarked in her head. However, they came at a steep price… She wondered what had driven the human girl to reveal the existence of her precious friend and deity, Madoka Kaname. Azami was not blind to human emotion. It was clear from the tone of her voice as she said her name that this Madoka was very important to her, perhaps more so than her own life. And she was desperate to reunite with her. That much was clear. She mulled over the new information. Perhaps…

"Perhaps it will be wise to inform you of various other circumstances…" she began.

This is insane, was her first thought as she listened to the story, the story of snakes. And yet, she knew in her heart that every single word she spoke was true. She knew that Azami wasn't human. The fact that she was a medusa, on the other hand, was a little hard to swallow. She always believed that the Medusa of the stories was a former magical girl turned witch, not a species of its own. Even now she was questioning whether the medusa in front of her was a product of a wish.

She quickly discarded that thought when the snake of Clearing Eyes was brought up. The implications of such a thing were too disturbing.

Still, she mused. Wishes- in this case wills- have a lot to do with the powers and snakes that these children possess. You can't deny the similarities. She didn't know any of the children by name, but she had a description of a few wishes.

Wishing to disappear. Wishing to hide their scars. Wishing to hear the voice of their friend. Wishing to draw attention to them. Those were the few wishes that Azami had mentioned. Not only that, but the fact that Azami's granddaughter continually wished to turn back time.

All for the sake of living those summer days with her friends again.

At this point, it was no wonder that she was drawing parallels between the world of snakes and her own world of magical girls. There was even a price for the powers of the snakes. Someone else had to sacrifice their life so that the other could live on. Not to mention the psychological burden that would likely come from having those "eyes" as Azami had put it. But now…

"You propose a deal?" she questioned skeptically.

"Correct," Azami's voice echoed back. "I have been keeping these snakes in reserve for those who would eventually come to possess them, but…"

Homura instantly understood the implications. "You said there was no way out." Her tone was accusatory and dry.

"If you accept my deal, then I may be able to… bend the rules, if you will."

"I thought you weren't the Queen of Snakes anymore?"

"The snakes will not bend to my will anymore… but one may cave in to your wish."

The Heat-haze shuddered. "Explain."

"You know of the time-loops and who causes them. At this very moment, she is about to reset the world." Another shiver ran through the area. "While it may be her who is utilizing the power, I can guide her power to leave you at the catalyst. My deal, Homura Akemi, is for you to save the ones with blood-red eyes."

"And if I fail?" she asked, even as the world shuddered around her.

"You will die," she stated bluntly. The tremors increased in volume. "This is your last and only chance. Will you accept this mission?"

"Yes," Homura answered without a hint of hesitation. Because if there is even a slight chance of being able to go back to Madoka, I will take it!

"Then I wish you good luck," Azami remarked as everything spun into black once again.

A/N: End of prologue/first chappie! What do you think so far? Were any of the characters (well, there's only Azami and Homura) out of character? I think the worst contender of OOCness is that Homura's too accepting/trusting of Azami's story... but I really wanted to move the plot along heheh (and my impatience gets the better of me sometimes...)