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A Better Life

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Instead of a brooding and tense affair that Hermione had been dreading since the moment of her arrival, dinner was instead… Relaxing.

She’d known distantly that there was nothing for her to worry over but doubts had still crept their way into the back of her mind. She had been dining with at least one member of the Black trio at every meal for months at this point and with Cygnus not in attendance there was no one around for her to impress. If the schedule that Bella had provided her held up, Cygnus wouldn’t be arriving for at least another sixteen hours.

Despite the assurances Hermione had still started the dinner off by watching her manners as if she had been invited to eat a five star restaurant that had a waiting list almost as long as her last midterm scroll, and not a simple affair at her girlfriend’s home.

From end to end the table was stocked with enough food to feed a small army, or a complement of Weasley’s. Plate after plate of vegetables and sides were spread across the outside rim of the table, only giving way for the utensils and place settings for the individual diners. The main courses had been piled into the middle of the table in a crowded lump of delicacies ranging from fowl and unidentified sea creatures to more terrestrial meats that Hermione wouldn’t have chosen to eat on her own but could at least identify. Boats of sauces and gravies were interspersed amidst the chaos along with pitchers of juice and other drinks that tasted just as heavenly as the scents slowly wafting off from them.

No pumpkin juice here, though Hermione couldn’t tell what exactly it was she was drinking instead of that more common item. She’d allowed an elf to pour her a flute of something crisp and fruity that snapped at her tongue like a lemon but lingered with a hearty aftertaste of something altogether magical.

Between the drink and forkfuls of white and dark meat she made a surprising dent into the edible cacophony before realizing that maybe eating herself into a coma wasn’t the best impression that she could give. But the sight of little Narcissa, scarfing down something that suspiciously looked like green ham in mouthfuls that some adults couldn’t reach was enough to calm her senses.

In a word, it was all delicious. All the more so for the company provided.

Bella had seated herself from her at the table, her long dark hair pulled back into a rather messy looking bun that was as neat as Hermione knew she could get it. Only a few errant strands and curls peaked out from the sides to frame her face and serve as a contrast that highlighted the vast difference between her raven hair and porcelain skin. Despite arguing with the witch that she should go outside more (being that pale couldn’t certainly be healthy) she was perfect looking as she was.

Admitting her attraction to Bella’s beauty was a fact that Hermione was more than comfortable with making now that they were more than a week into their newly minted relationship. The witch across from her was wearing a rather loose assortment of clothes; long sleeved blouse (black, of course) rolled up to her elbows and a pair of dress slacks (black, again) that served to highlight the length of her legs and toned muscle of her body. She was beautiful and Hermione wouldn’t have wanted the witch any other way.

Hermione herself was dressed down into something closer to an outfit from her own time, a short sleeved blouse and comfortable, if overly long and cuffed at the ends, pair of denim jeans. It wasn’t high fashion, or even the outdated ‘normal’ fashion that Wizarding Britain always seemed to lag behind in, but it was acceptable and reserved enough to pass in polite company.

The younger portion of the trio was similarly dressed down; not a single long dress, frills, or robe in sight. It seemed that casual meals and time away from parental figures lended themselves nicely to the trio indulging in comfort over presentation and Hermione couldn’t enjoy it any more.

Andy was, however, the one to take her freedom right off the edge of casual and straight on into the extreme. Dressed down in a pair gray sweatpants and a wide necked mens t-shirt that looked suspiciously like she had stolen the ensemble off of Ted, if the size was anything to go by at least. Her hair was thrown up in a haphazard mess of brown curls that seemed content enough to stick behind her ears until the earliest possible inconvenience.

Usually meaning right before the younger witch leaned forward to take a bite of food or grab something else off the bottomless dishes before them.

Narcissa seemed the most determined to maintain some form of societal standards out of all them. Or as much as a twelve year old could, at least. She sported a high buttoned blouse in a light blue coloration that complemented the color of her eyes and lent her a look that seemed far older than her diminutive size would betray. The facade was only broken by the near constant shifting of her eyes from Hermione to Bella while she giggled to herself at some unspoken joke in random intervals. Bella’s side eye once she’d noticed her youngest sister had done absolutely nothing as of yet to deter whatever was fueling her mirth and seemed in fact to instead be increasing it.

Hermione, for her part, was just happy that the three of them seemed happy.

The Cissa that she knew now was so different from the Narcissa that she had known that it was becoming harder and harder to reconcile that at one point both had been one and the same person. One, Cissa, deeply motivated to protect and enjoy her family. Two, Narcissa, the Ice Queen and Death Eater sympathizer that had ended up becoming the savior of Harry Potter, if only by chance.

‘I won’t let her become that person, not if I can help it.’

“Well,” Andy spoke up from her set beside Hermione, “That was a lovely meal.” The empty dish sitting in front of her disappeared when she laid her fork down upon it, popping into nonexistence as the elves hidden throughout the house worked their magic.

“I’m going to go and spend the night with Ted, so don’t wait up for me.” She pushed herself back from the table while she spoke, leaving her seat and pushing it back underneath the table with a flourish and sarcastic salute.

“Make sure you get back here on time or Cygnus will be pissed if you’re not around,” Bella reminded her in her bored, mother-hen tone.

“Cygnus can hang. I’ll be back before he is tomorrow, and he’ll never know I left. I already swore the elves to secrecy before we left for start of term.”

With that the witch left the dining room leaving the soft sounds of her feet on hardwood floor the only thing to follow her out as she exited.

“You going to leave too, Cissa?” Bella asked and glanced over to the youngest Black.

“No,” she snorted, “Lucius would have a panic attack if I showed up out of the blue like that. It’s ‘improper behavior’ to have a rendezvous without familial approval. I love him, but sometimes he can be such a stickler for propriety that it’s bloody maddening.”

Hermione grinned in commiseration with Cissa when she finished her sarcastic explanation with a sigh that was as full of exasperation as it was endearingly cute coming from the pint sized Black. Cissa had no equal in being able to seem so utterly boring or by the book and then opening up with some distaste or bemusement at the chivalry that pureblood etiquette imposed that Hermione couldn’t help but find herself amused.

“Also, if I left too, I’m sure you two would ‘do it’ in every corner of the manor.”

Bella erupted into a coughing fit, choking on her drink before she finally managed to croak out a painful sounding, “Cissa!”

Hermione simply snorted and laughed silently to herself while her face reddened as she stared down into her plate.

---oo---

The conclusion of dinner brought with it an insistence from Bella that she be allowed to give her the grand tour of the Manor. The witch looked both so excited and nervous that Hermione had quickly agreed and latched onto her tour guides arm as they began wandering the halls.

One room after another were filled with treasures and more antiques than Hermione could ever hope to catalog or closely inspect. From the decor alone it was a world away from Grimmauld Place, the entire atmosphere that surrounded her painted such a starkly different picture that she couldn’t understand how the two branches of the Black family could be in any manner related. It was just so… different.

Grimmauld had been dark, bleak, gothic, and so steeped in obvious Dark Magic that it was a wonder it had let her inside at all. Pureblood snobbishness had practically oozed off the walls of that broken home. Black Manor however was, while still snobby and reeking at the edges magic darker than Hermione was used to, far more inviting to the point where she almost couldn’t tell that it wasn’t inhabited by a Light family.

“Why is Black Manor so different? From your Aunt’s place, I mean.”

Hermione’s question hung in the air while Bella led her through another set of double doors and into yet another, out of five, perfectly arranged sitting room. In the corner was a quaint little fireplace and against the far walls were softly inviting couches and end tables that dripped with so much evidence of wealth that Hermione was almost certain she would break it all apart if she did anything at all other than breathe.

“Well it’s mostly because Auntie Wal is crazy as they come.” Bella grasped her gently by the hand before leading them both forward and over to the larger of the two couches that sat quietly in the room. The bay window looking out onto the Manor grounds was letting in just enough light with the sun still hanging above the trees that the entire room was glowing in oranges and reds.

“This is the Ancestral Home. First of our acquired lands in Britain. It has to look nice for a number of reasons, though that’s the most particular one. We entertain guests and dignitaries here during any Ball or Gala that we host. Can’t have someone walking around and accidentally find their way into a hallway decorated with severed heads. I admit it would be fun to see their reaction but it would also ruin the festive mood. And I’m certain it would ruin some guest’s stomachs as well. Unless it’s Samhain. It might be appealing round about that time but we haven’t hosted a Samhain ball in ages.”

She turned to pull Hermione into her side before twisting and directing her fall until Hermione was practically laying down on top of her, trapped from escaping with an arm wrapped tightly around her body. Hermione notched her head into the crook of Bella’s neck while her body rose and fell with the rhythm of her breathing.

“Technically Orion is the Head of House Black and should be installed here. Cygnus is from the offshoot branch but he’s in better standing with the pureblood community at large and not married to his own relative, no matter how crazy Druella is. Purebloods might put up a strong talk about purity and marrying only the worthy but most of them still frown at incest.”

“Mhmm,” Hermione murmured her understanding in a contented sigh while Bella’s free hand began to pet at her short hair.

“So rather than flaunt the indecency of their incestuous relationship or allow anyone else to see the absolute madness that is my Aunt, he’s taken up Grimmauld and pretty much lives his life as a loner. Cygnus is free to do as he wishes so long as he refrains from letting anyone get away with the notion that he’s the Head. Orion will issue a familial decree every now and again but it’s usually over mundane issues and nothing that would ever interfere with any of Cygnus’s long term plans to enrich himself to the point of engorgement.”

“So Cygnus gets to parade around like he’s the top Black but had none of the benefits of actually being the Head and having an heir?”

“Effectively. Besides the fact that all he’s got are my sisters and I, even if he had a boy at some point they wouldn’t be in line or anywhere near close to the line of inheritance. That’s counting on Sirius and Regulus not dying, anyways. We’ve no other cousins that could sit as Head, and if they both die it’s going to come to me until I marry an esteemed Husband or deliver a male child. Whichever comes first. Theoretically Walburga might have another child but seeing as she’s supposedly barren after Regulus, it likely will never happen.”

“That doesn’t exactly sound like something that would come up in polite conversation.”

“Oh, it’s not. Great-Aunt Cass told me last year. She’s the family gossip and blackmail extraordinaire.”

Hermione’s eyes peered down to Bella in a wordless request to continue explaining the ridiculousness that seemed to exemplify House Black. Bella shifted her hand to run soothing patterns into Hermione’s scalp with her sharp nails before continuing.

“Aunt Cass is my Grandfather’s sister, the only Black left besides my family, Orion’s, and Alphard. Though there isn’t really anybody that considers Alphard as a Black anymore. He’s almost never in England and couldn’t give a single knut about what the rest of us do so long as we leave him alone and away from all of it. Great-Aunt’s Dorea and Lucretia effectively swore off the family as a whole once they married out, so we’re unlikely to ever see them again unless it’s a major function and they deign to grace us with their presence.”

“I see. Will any of the rest of your family be joining us for the gala or just your branch?”

Bella shuffled underneath Hermione and began to mirthlessly chuckle before turning her head to stare out the window.

“Yes, unfortunately. Both Orion and Walburga will be joining us, and likely dragging Sirius and Regulus along with them. If Uncle Alphard’s track record holds then he won’t be joining us but if he does put in an appearance it’ll just be a token one. Probably show right before midnight and dash right off again so he can say he showed his face to ‘polite society’. If no one actually remembers him being there then that’ll be all the better in his mind. Aunt Cass will likely make an appearance if only to observe the families and dig up more dirt on whoever caught her ire this year. She’s absolutely bloody terrifying but isn’t crazy enough to mount elf heads on pikes, so I think you’ll get along with her just fine. Practice your background before she arrives though, she’ll definitely interrogate you if she can catch you alone.”

Hermione huffed into the side of Bella’s neck while she absorbed the information. While it was nice to know that she wouldn’t be dealing with many of Bella’s relatives it was the rest of the guests that would likely be the real problem. Beyond being shy of large gatherings since the War had ended, Gala’s, dances, and fancy parties had never been her cup of tea. Barring her fourth year Yule Ball that she’d spent with Viktor, that was. And the coming event was looking to be as opposite of that night as it could be. Her occlumency brands would help with keeping her emotionally grounded and prepared for the rush of people and ensure no one could take an uninvited look into her mindscape but it would still be an exhausting event but it would be a harrowing experience nonetheless.

Biting back a sigh she settled instead for biting the warm skin of Bella’s neck.

---oo---

Both witches ended up leaving the sitting room and retiring for the night before the light outside had fully drained off and hidden beyond the horizon. Once they’d arrived in the room Bella had carried her off her feet and dropped her into the overly comfortable, plush bed that took up the majority of the space in Hermione’s guest room.

The room itself was beautiful in all the same ways that Bella’s had been; comfortable furniture, exquisite decoration, even the ensuite bathroom was gorgeous. Just all a little bit smaller and more cramped together. A fire burned cheerily in the corner of the room while a massive comforter and silken sheets were as inviting as a bed could ever be. The inclusion of Bella’s lithe form, nude and warm beyond measure, only served to enhance the feeling of comfort that Hermione found herself soaking in.

“A little tight,” Bella squeaked out as Hermione contracted her muscles further, pulling Bella deeper into a tight embrace.

“Oh hush. You’re warm, and you’ll live. I’m not that strong.”

“You’re not that weak either,” she shifted her body to better accommodate Hermione’s clingy form. “How are you still cold anyways? It’s burning up in here.”

It was a valid question. The past few weeks of winter had been unusually unkind to Hermione, brining with it a cold chill and shiver that blend through her even when under the effect of warming charms. She would have attributed it to a sickness picked up from their late night excursions outside of the castle but scanning charms hadn’t picked up anything out of the ordinary. The idea of working warming runes into her clothing was a brief thought that had met her fancy before she’d worked out exactly how many individual items she would need to work a rune into to even make it effective.

The amount wouldn’t be extravagant by any means but her recent wealth (and accompanying shopping trips) meant she could take all the time in the world and still not finish all the items she owned. Winter would likely conclude far before she could get close to finishing her new wardrobe. No, it would likely be far quicker and easier to simply brand a rune into her body that could be called upon whenever she found it necessary. The inner conversation slowly led her to considering what other brands she would like to acquire, especially those that would be a boon right before a war was set to begin.

“What else should we brand? I’d say we go with tattoo’s for the ones that don’t draw a lot of power but that would leave us susceptible to having them removed. I’m thinking we should at least add heating and cooling for one, and at least some mild potion resistances.”

“Odd turn of topics, but okay,” Bella turned into her side to rest her forehead against Hermione’s, chips of cold onyx locking onto golden hazel. The lack of clothing expedited the transfer of heat between the two witches as Hermione pressed herself closer to Bella. “We need something to block poisons for sure, though something that could block mild potions like Amortentia would also be useful. Or a blanket rune to negate anything we imbibe.”

“General would also mean blocking helpful potions too unless we figure out the runework to turn it off and on. And even then we’d be unable to control it when unconscious. It’d be inefficient. If we block potions we’ll need specific runes for specific maladies.”

The discussion continued between the witches while the fire at their back crackled and consumed the enchanted logs that the elves popped into existence. Their conversation wormed and winded itself through various benefits that more runes would allow them and the possible negative effects that could also arise. Among their eventual planning was a heated debate between the merits of branding a rune that could grant control of Fiendfyre into their palms and covering the existence of it with a secondary glamour rune.

While Bella’s points to the benefits of the brand were legitimate, in that it would grant them easy access to destroy any horcrux they came upon or help them escape a losing situation, it was lessened by her expressed desire for, as she put it, ‘Exquisite mayhem and destruction at a moment's notice. And it looks fucking amazing.’

The conversation was exactly what Hermione was expecting, dreading, and looking forward to. Equal parts smart, and crazy.

Eventually she had begrudgingly acquiesced upon getting Bella to agree to only having a single brand for Fiendfyre and a complimentary brand that supplied the suppression charm. That her limited experiences with the cursed fire were dangerous and nearly deadly was left unsaid. All of that was something that Bella knew and had seen through Hermione’s memories. Her experience did however leave her able to agree that it could be breathtakingly beautiful, and in the hands of someone with precise control it could be a literal game changer that might save their lives.

The moral scruple about the spell being dark was a wasted argument as far as Hermione was concerned as she knew that the fight to come would require every trick that they could think of to help them survive it. She’d take every advantage that she could get.

The remainder of their conversation was an agreement to find runes to strengthen their bones, prevent damage from fire (itself another concession to Hermione’s agreement of Fiendfyre), and a handful of other useful if not incredibly taxing runes.

When the conversation wound down it was nearing the dead of night and Hermione could barely keep herself awake. Bella had buried herself deep into Hermione’s side while soft fingers drew lazy patterns across her neck and chest with a sharp tipped fingernail, humming quietly to herself as the crackle of the fire filled the background.

Hermione’s eyes were closed shut as she relaxed into the witch when, without warning or preamble, Bella’s warm lips and tongue surrounded the warm skin of her breast. She inhaled deeply without conscious effort, pushing her body backwards into the bed beneath her while turning slightly to ease the angle that Bella was meeting her at.

Her eyes remained shut as she brought the arm draped across Bella up until she could tangle her fingers in the curls of the witch’s hair, holding and incessantly pressing the witch further against her. Bella’s left hand found its place on the plane of Hermione’s stomach before gliding every so slowly upwards until her fingers were pinching at the hard nub of Hermione’s nipple, not sharply, but not without pressure.

“Bella…” Hermione’s words passed her lips with all the candor of a moan, as warm and expressive as an open invitation to the witch at her side to search for more. Her skin practically glowed at the heavenly feeling that Bella’s touch alighted in her while her lips left their post and marched, open-mouthed, up the trail of her collarbone and then onto the curve of her throat.

Her position shifted as she rose to slide her body across Hermione’s, settling in to straddle the witch beneath her. The hand that was left teasing a nipple slipped down lower to rub smooth circles above the strong muscles guarding her pelvis, fingernails digging in lightly at intervals that pulsed along with her heartbeat.

Warmth slid down Hermione’s chest and into her core as she weathered Bella’s ministrations, gasps and moans and a heady whine strangling forth whenever the witch pulled back to shift her position and kiss her elsewhere.

The body above her was warm and keeping her pressed down into the comfort of the mattress while a steady piercing heat pulsed against her where Bella was positioned. Bella’s hand had abandoned her stomach to reach up and grasp a free wrist, her other hand pulling away to mirror and press her down further, keeping Hermione still as Bella began to rock her body, her core, back and forth on the strong muscle beneath her. Bella’s legs were splayed out widely to allow herself a position to touch Hermione with all of herself, the heat in the stifling room furthering a sheen to build upon her skin as she worked herself back and forth, again and again.

Hermione was lost to herself amidst the thrall of Bella’s desire and touch. The familiar weight upon her midsection as the witch dropped herself lower and squeezed her thighs together was striking in its clarity. A building ache was budding between her legs and thumping in tune with her quickly beating heart, leaving her shifting her thighs together in desperate search for any form of friction.

As seconds dragged to minutes she could smell pine and ash and the remnants of smoke lifting out over a fire, the body above her pressing down -familiar- to unlock something she’d felt and wanted and known for months now.

Nails scratched gently -incessantly- into the flesh of her wrists.

The weight pressing down into her settled -grew- as her own body sought out more contact -freedom- .

Her chest grew tight as fought to breathe through her own arousal -fear- , in, out, in, out.

Faster.

Faster.

Faster.

Her eyes opened up onto chips of onyx looking -leering- down on her, filled with love -hate- , Bella -trix- ’s nails scratching down her arm, forearm, a hollow pit filled with heat -ice- opening up inside her as she looked upwards through a thick trestle of black hair.

The scar etched into her arm burned bright with passion -pain- as the old -new- wound blend it’s particular brand of poison deep under her skin to seep like dust, dirt, -mud- into her veins and light her body on fire. Her chest burned as she breathed -begged- .

Rapidly pushing air from her ribcage she stole a glance at her arm, seeing nothing different as she stared at the closed -opened- wound.

Her eyes looked back up.

Bellatrix looked back down.

She screamed.

---oo---

She awoke. Or more accurately, was awoken. Soft words amidst even softer caresses. The warmth of a body pressing down into her side while her own legs and knees were pulled up for her to curl into the covers below her and body beside her. A thin and pale arm wrapped its way around her back to grip tightly onto her shoulder, pulling her closer still. It served to prevent her from falling or otherwise escaping into nothingness as the other hand rubbed soothing patterns against her scalp. Fingers ran through her short hair, tugging gently against curls and proving she was physically there. She felt soiled and tired and ached with sadness and incompleteness at the turn from horror to waking up protected.

It was comfort. It was soothing. And eventually it counteracted the last memory of a pained and broken face peering down at her with a maniacal grin and blood painted on her lips and teeth. The body holding her tight was mumbling into the side of her head, soft and quiet enough that she wasn’t even sure she had heard it before it began again.

“What?” Her throat was torn and strained while her voice sounded hollow and hoarse, chafing against the feeling of being parched beyond belief. She pulled her head up and away, trying to catch a better glimpse of Bella.

The witch had been crying, that much was obvious. And likely a long time as well if the salty streaks that bled downwards across her cheeks were anything to go by. Pin pricked lines of veins clouded the usual whites of her eyes as she directed her gaze to avoid Hermione’s entirely.

“I’m sorry.” Bella’s voice was no better than her own and came across as a whisper that she almost missed even in the preternatural silence of the room. “I’m so sorry…”

Hermione closed her eyes and clamped down on the emotions beginning to run rampant through her chest while she buried herself forward in Bella’s embrace. “You’ve nothing to be sorry for.”

“Yes I do. What she - I - did to you, would have done to you… I’m sorry.”

Hermione knew this wasn’t an argument that she could win, at least not at the moment. She chose instead to bury herself even further forward and snaked an arm around Bella’s body before pulling her closer into a warm embrace.

---oo---

The chatter of morning songbirds lulled Hermione out of a languid sleep and back into the world of the living. Two, if she guessed right, going back and forth outside the window of the room. Each call was a further tug back into wakefulness and eventually she couldn’t find it within herself to fight it anymore.

Sunlight streamed in through cracks between curtains to light the interior of the room into warm streaks of fiery white and gold, glittering off the mirror of the vanity and sparkling into patterns across the walls. Her head was clear and her throat no longer burned as if she had swallowed embers while the scar on her arm was busily pulsing a soothing tingle throughout her body. The sensation was no longer painful and for that she set to thanking as many gods as she could think of. It was a small blessing, but one she would take with no complaint.

A warm arm was wound and wrapped around her midsection, pressing comfortingly against her stomach and pulling her backwards into the close heat of Bella’s skin. The witch behind her was still snoring softly into a pillow, in and out, as she laid asleep behind Hermione. Long black curls spilled out and across both the pillow and her shoulder to tickle softly against her cheek. A patch of skin on her neck alternatively cooled and warmed from each inhale and exhale from Bella.

‘This,’ Hermione decided, ‘Is the best way to wake up.’

After a few short seconds of shifting limbs and positions she turned to lay on her side while facing Bella, her chin in her palm and free hand weaving patterns into Bella’s cream colored skin. The contrast in colors combined with the incoming sunlight made the soft body beneath her practically glow against the backdrop of black sheets. Within a short order she had the witch stirring and yawning as sleep fled from her, joints popping loudly as she stretched herself outwards in every direction.

“Morning…” Hermione laid a soft kiss on Bella’s temple before turning and pushing herself up and against the headboard. The dark witch was, as she predicted, just as against waking up during a holiday as she was during a normal school-day. Protestations and lazily moving limbs characterized her morning routine, something that Hermione had felt readily comforting as the months had passed.

With the absence of being able to wrap her arms around Hermione, Bella opted instead to burrow into the pillows and comforter until she made the pile into her own little nest. Poofs of curly hair and distorted words mumbled up beneath a mountain of pillows as she sought to evade waking entirely.

Hermione, however, wasn’t having any of it.

With a quick flicking of her wrist she pulled the comforter and sheets that had so far kept Bella from fresh morning air and tossed them off into jumbled mess of silver and black on the floor.

Bella’s response was to curl around herself and wrap a pillow into a tight embrace that hid her face before Hermione had the chance to rip it out of her clutches. Her quick reactions worked, and when Hermione went to send the pillows off the bed she only received a low growl in warning for her efforts. Both witches ended up holding onto the pillow and while Bella gave as much of a fight as she could, naked and cold and awake far, far too early, she lost her grip eventually when Hermione leveraged her nearly standing angle.

The pillow ended up flying across the room and Bella was now bared to the world.

“Fuck you.”

“Maybe later, I’m hungry right now.”

The eyes peering back up at Hermione through a thick curtain of black were positively murderous. At least, until Hermione leaned forward to leave a kiss against the tip of Bella’s nose.

“Come on, get up. Cygnus is supposed to be back later and I have literally no desire to meet him wearing anything less than my Sunday best.”

“The hell does that even mean?”

“Muggle saying.” Hermione dropped herself off the bed to grab a hold of one of Bella’s ankles and tugged at the still curled up witch.

“You can be a complete arse, you know that, right?” Bella’s voice was laced with faux anger that was belied by her slowly, petulantly really, allowing herself to be dragged to the edge of the bed. Right before she was set to fall off entirely she turned to the side and slid off to crumple into a heap atop the mountain of bedding.

“Yes, I know. It’s all part of my charm. Incessant nagging until I get the results I want. Seems to be working just fine. Now, get up. I need a shower and if you’re late there won’t be any room left for you to join me.”

The threat finally did the trick, prompting the dark haired witch into practically tripping over herself to trail off after Hermione while she padded into the ensuite.

When Bella finally disentangled herself from the coil of traitorous bedsheets, Hermione was already running the shower at full blast. Warm waves of steam and heat poured out and over the lip of the shower stall to fulfill Hermione’s silent wish for warmth and comfort.

The bathroom had been renovated recently, which to Bella’s knowledge could mean anywhere from last year to thirty years ago. She tried to not keep up on the constant need for improvement that her father was almost always trying to push for. Regardless of when it had been accomplished the room now sported a rather ostentatious touch up.

Instead of what could loosely be described as a regular shower the space had been fitted with piping that wound up and around to the ceiling before breaking into multiple shower heads. As a consequence, instead of water dropping down at an angle and needing to be repositioned to get anything washed up, the ceiling practically rained at a soothing but steady pressure.

A long ledge had been built into the side of the stall to allow someone to sit and soak in comfort while the shower door had been enchanted to turn into a wall whenever someone felt the need for a bath instead. The space was tiled all in black with the grouting done in a glittering gold color to bring some much-needed brightness back into the room. Enchanted glass containers of Bluebell Flames sat at in the high corners of the stall to provide a constant light source and illuminated the space in dancing whites and blues.

It wasn’t what Hermione would call normal. Even after all the years she had lived at Hogwarts and used their rather large version of bathtubs their showers had been at least slightly reminiscent of the standard Muggle version. Here though, in Bella’s home, luxury and presentation mattered far more than simple ease of use and functionality.

Not that she would be complaining.

It was luxurious, after all.

---oo---