Convincing Sirius to return to Black Manor had been as arduous as Bellatrix suggested it might be. He did not bend under the attempts of the sisters, but Hermione had been able to get him to commit to a test run. In a stolen moment, Andy had told her that it was essential to the Dark Lord that Sirius return fully into the family fold. Narcissa later told her that the house was in part a source of the family’s power. The more time the wizard spent there, the more his power would be restored and the bond with his family repaired. Bellatrix did not have to remind her of her duty to the family. Hermione got the sense that her performance of this first task would likely set the tone for the kind of opportunities she was given. And for the first time in her life, she had the chance to have the things she wanted.
In the long weekend that Sirius agreed to stay, the five of them spent all four days under the same roof. Narcissa generally split her time between Malfoy Manor and Black Manor. But in this case, it seemed to Hermione like Narcissa didn’t trust her sisters to make sure the visit went smoothly. Bellatrix managed to not get called away for the duration, though she took several tense floo calls. And Andy was ever present attempting to light the mood and soothe Sirius.
It was the most magical handful of days in Hermione’s experience. There was a connectedness of their magic that grew and strengthened, which made even doing mundane magical tasks exciting once more. While initially she hadn’t been sure how she felt about Sirius, after a long afternoon walk alone with him she understood why the Black sisters were so eager to bring him home. He was clever and kind. He seemed to be missing many of the sharp edges that Hermione enjoyed in the sisters. But with each passing day, she could see his attachment to them and the possibility of a life reunited growing in his eyes.
When first Bellatrix explained that she would be Sirius’ heir, she wasn’t sure how to react. She did her best to push away the hurt in the pit of her stomach. She came to realize that the hurt wasn’t at all about Sirius. She could easily see how they would become good friends and powerful allies. But the space she believed it created between herself and the mysterious yet alluring sisters was frustrating. And yet for all of her fear, it seemed after the official announcement ran in The Prophet of her joining the Black Family as Sirius’ heir the sisters had grown even closer to her. She was still unsure of the dance Bellatrix, Narcissa, and Andromeda were clearly leading her through.
“You look entirely respectable,” Sirius said quietly entering Hermione’s rooms.
“Thank you, Mister Black. You look dapper today as well. You would think that we were going somewhere of importance,” Hermione teased.
“Oh just a little trip to Bella’s office,” he continued the light conversation.
“Are you ready,” she said looking in the mirror to meet his eyes.
He coughed uncomfortably.
“I am more nervous about this than I was about moving back into this old house,” he answered finally.
“And was not moving home the best decision you have made in ages?”
He rolled his eyes playfully.
“It has been so much better than the first time I lived here. I had no idea that the Black family could be so functional, ” he answered.
“Someday you will have to tell me about the old days and what the older generations were like,” she prodded gently.
“Someday when we are drinking too much and want to be depressed. Are you ready? It's as much your coming out as mine.”
“Andromeda and Narcissa think I am ready, that I know enough. I know so little that I have no choice but to trust their judgement. And being seen in public with the family is nothing in comparison to joining the Wizengamot,” Hermione pointed out.
“Our Lord has been generous with our family,” Sirius said with more sincerity than he usually referred to Voldemort.
“He has,” Hermione agreed. Even now, as a member of the Black family, she was unsure of how she felt about the way society had been constructed by him (and Bellatrix if she was being honest with herself). The doors that opened to her by being magically adopted was nothing like what she had ever imagined for herself. And she wondered if the subjugation of the muggle horns was really needed to form society, though she dare not voice such a thought.
“We should get going,” Sirius said abruptly. “It won’t do to be late. I am sure that Bellatrix will be waiting for us to escort us.”
Hermione’s heart jumped just at the mention of the dark witch as it always did. The more she got to know Bellatrix, the more she wanted to know of the intriguing woman. She followed him to the floo allowing him to enter first. When it was her turn, she entered the green flames, threw the handful of floo powder and said Ministry of Magic .
Stepping out of the fireplace into the black gleaming hall was other worldly. There was no doubt in Hermione’s mind that the appearance itself was meant to intimidate anyone who didn’t feel worthy of being in its corridors. She felt pleased magic pulsing over her skin before she saw Bellatrix Black in all her splendor. From the bouncing curls to the smirk, and tapping boot, Hermione could think of no one she would have rather seen. As much as she wanted to glue herself to the witch, she knew that Sirius was to escort her. He stepped towards her with a knowing look and offered his arm. She took it, grateful for his covering of her distraction. The pleasure that Bellatrix gave off,having caught Hermione off guard, made her want to rebel against what she knew she should do.
Instead she stayed with Sirius, walking head held high through crowds, with more than a few gaping mouths. They walked together until he reached the entrance to the private chambers of the Wizengamot. He kissed each of her cheeks as he always did before stepping into the darkened room. When she turned, she found a proud looking Narcissa and Andromeda.
“You did well,” Andromeda said pulling her close.
Hermione breathed in the calming familiar scent.
“Thank you, Andy. Sirius makes it easy.”
“I did notice you got distracted,” Narcissa said turning her around and fussing with her robes.
“Don’t shrug,” Narcissa hissed.
Hermione felt every bit of her displeasure in her magic. It was cold with fury. It made her want to melt into the blonde until she regained her approval. As that wasn’t an option, she said,
“It was an impressive sight. I’ve never been here before.”
Hermione knew that her lie was seen for what it was. But she wasn’t going to admit to being distracted by the appearance of Bellatrix. And certainly not to Narcissa.
“Come, let’s get our seats,” Andy said, breaking the tension.
The ceremony was shockingly dull in comparison to what Hermione had experienced in Balck Manor. She was beginning to think she needed to reevaluate her standards. And that it was entirely possible that the haughty way the Black carried themselves might have been deserved.
The celebration after the ceremony promised to be more interesting. Lord Voldemort would be present at least for a time, as would the families of his inner circle. Hermione would be in the receiving line at Sirius’ side to quite literally be introduced to society. She was already looking forward to it being over. Narcissa and Andromeda had made her practice for boring hours upon hours. She was now grateful as the setting alone was intimidating.
Most of the families that shook their hands seemed genuine enough. Even the McNairs had graciously paid their respects (with a muggle born heir Hermione recognized in tow).
Hermione had hoped that the Carrows might somehow be absent. She kept her face as neutral as possible and her magic tempered. Even so she could already feel Bellatrix approaching behind her.
She watched as Sirius shook their hands.
“Looks like the mut found a family dumb enough to take her,” Alecto taunted.
“I know I did not just hear you disrespect a member of my house,” Bellatrix growled with all the venom of an ex-lover.
Before what Hermione imagined would have been a remarkable fight break out, a magic unlike any she had ever felt enveloped them all. She curtsied trying to relieve the pressure. It helped if only a little. She peeked up enough to catch the billowing robes of their Lord. He had a hand on the back of each of the Carrows necks forcing them to bow.
“I am certain I did not hear disrespect towards the House of Black. The most elevated of the Ancient houses for their service to me.”
Whatever excuse or apology might have been coming was cut short by what Hermione believed was a crucio paired with a silencing spell. It was every bit as horrific to watch as Hermione had imagined it might be.
“Welcome, Miss Black,” he hissed ignoring the writhing witch and wizard on the floor between them.
“Thank you, my Lord. I am honored to be here.”
“I am pleased with you, Sirius. I have been told your heir has great promise. I am looking forward to her joining the Ministry next week.”
“Like all members of the Black family, she is happy to contribute to the cause.”
“I would expect nothing less,” he answered, finally releasing the magic on the Carrows. “Congratulations to you both.”
Sirius watched the retreating form of the wizard for a moment before turning to Hermione.
“I believe that you and I deserve a drink. We were both impeccable today.”
Hermione nodded in agreement. It had been a taxing afternoon. They walked across the ball room where she gratefully took the shot of fire whisky from him, swallowed it. The warm burn made her feel significantly better than she had been a moment before.
Breathing slightly easier, she accepted a glass of wine from Andromeda and followed her to mingle. She did her best to be social and charming until at last Bellatrix came to guide them home.
Hermione could feel the dark witch’s need to protect her coming off in waves. So she went willingly. They were nearly to the row of fireplaces when a spell hit right by Hermione’s head. Before Hermione could even think to react, she had been shoved into Sirius’ arms and commanded to go home. As they stepped into the flames. She caught sight of the three sisters standing shoulder to shoulder. It was a terrifying and attractive sight.
Once she and Sirius were safely within the wards of the manor, they both visibly deflated.
“Well that was a hell of an ending,” he said needing to fill the silence.
Hermione rubbed the back of her neck feeling tired, yet tense at the absence of Bellatrix, Naricissa, and Andromeda.
“Far more exciting than I had hoped for,” she finally said.
“Me too.” He chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair. “Do you fancy a fry up? I know it’s the wrong time of day, but …”
“That sounds amazing,” Hermione said suddenly aware of how hungry she was.
“I make a mean fry up. Just don’t rat me out to the sisters. I promise to cook with magic.”
Hermione nodded and considered if she was brave enough to ask.
“Would you teach me some? I’ve always wanted to learn how to cook magically.”
“Of course,” he said looking more excited than Hermione had ever remembered seeing him.
“First,” he said with a flourish of his wand, “we must put on aprons. Otherwise we face Cissy’s wrath, which after a skirmish I would prefer to avoid.”
While Hermione wasn’t entirely sure what he meant, she was happy enough to agree.
They were sitting at a small table in the kitchen eating the spoils of their victory when Andromeda and Narcissa entered.
“Did you cook this yourselves,” Narcissa said looking at the stack of dirty dishes in the sink.
“Yes, want some?”
“I would,” Andromeda immediately said.
“I can make it,” Hermione said, already getting to her feet and wand in hand.
She felt a sweet brush of magic from Andromeda that made her blush.
She closed her eyes and willed her magic. She felt it bending around the task more powerfully than it had before she was a Black. She focused on wanting to impress Andy. The magic worked just as it had before and Hermione proudly set the plate before Andromeda.
“Thank you,” the older witch said with a gentle brush of fingers over Hermione’s arm.
“Can I get you anything, Narcissa,” Hermione asked shyly.
“No. Come sit and have a glass of wine with me. I do not desire to watch you do something and elf could.”
Hermione nodded and removed the apron under the disapproving gaze. The blue eyes softened the moment Hermione had done as she was asked. She watched Narcissa snap her fingers and dispatch the house elves to both clean the kitchen and fetch wine.
“If you all don’t mind, I will retire,” Sirius said.
He looked exhausted.
“Goodnight, Sirius. You did well today. Everything went to plan.”
Narcissa’s tone was more gentle than Hermione had heard directed towards Sirius. She felt his magic relax in response. Narcissa’s corresponding comfort had Hermione wondering if she would be able to stay awake.
“Sleep tight, Siri,” Andy said cheerfully. “You are a budding chef,” she said, turning towards Hermione.
“It was my first time,” Hermione confessed.
“Was it indeed,” Andromeda said flirtatiously.
Hermione flushed at the attention. Fortunately the wine’s arrival saved her from further embarrassment. She watched attentively as Narcissa poured it for her.
“You did well today too, Hermione.”
Narcissa’s attention was like the warmth of the sun at times and Hermione hadn’t realized how much she needed it after the eventful afternoon.
“Thank you,” she answered shyly.
“You held it together better than ¾ of the room. But the crowd does enjoy a good fight. In the end they got what they wanted,” Andromeda chimed in.
“A fight? What do you mean?”
Narcissa laughed and looked at her like she was adorable.
“Do you think we hustled you and Sirius into the fireplace for fun? The Carrows dared to offend the House of Black twice in one night. We could not let it stand, particularly with them firing at your back.”
Hermione took a deep breath. It was overwhelming to be cared about and physically protected. Only the soft hand on her cheek broke through her racing thoughts. Andy looked at her indulgently.
“We will always protect you. There will be a time when we will expect you to stand at our sides, but you have a considerable amount of dark arts to learn.”
“I would be proud to fight at your side,” Hermione said sincerely.
Andy leaned towards her. It was so intimate that Hermione was certain that she would be kissed. She closed her eyes waiting for the feel of soft lips against her own. When they landed at the corner of her mouth, Hermione couldn’t decide if she was disappointed or relieved. She couldn’t deny her attraction to Andy, Narcissa, nor Bellatrix. But what to do about it was the lingering question. Their magic felt more intimate with every passing day and it was hard to ignore the touches and stares.
When she did open her eyes, Andromeda had a very knowing look on her face.
“I think I too will go to bed,” she said standing up to go. “Enjoy your wine.”
Andy winked before leaving the kitchen, though Hermione was struggling to keep up with why or at whom it was aimed.
“Try your wine, Hermione,” Narcissa prompted.
Hermione slowly lifted the delicate flute to her lips. It was sweet, but not without depth. She closed her eyes and hummed at the flavor. The look on Narcissa’s face when she opened her eyes was ravenous and it called to Hermione.
“It is very good,” Hermione choked out trying to sound less effected by the look than she had been.
“Sip it, darling. It’s stronger than it tastes.”
Hermione nodded and made note to drink it slowly.
“Where is Bella?”
“After the small incidents tonight the Dark Lord needed a short meeting with her. I am sure she will be along as soon as she is able. She was quite concerned with your well being.”
“Oh,” Hermione sighed, “that’s very kind.”
“Hmm,” Narcissa hummed sipping her wine. “You are officially out now. How does it feel?”
“It was a relief. I feel like I have passed the first test and now I can get to work. I feel like I haven’t been contributing to the family yet.”
“You are a fascinating witch, Hermione Black. You are so innocent, yet so well educated. You do not fear dark magic nor those more powerful than you, even when perhaps you should.”
Hermione held her breath thinking that this was going to be the moment that she was called on her obvious attraction for the three witches.
“Bella will be home soon. She will want to talk to you. I would advise waiting in her office,” Narcissa said, finishing her wine and rising.
Hermione stood and stepped happily into her arms when opened. She clung tightly and tried not to overreact at the gentle kiss on her neck.
“Goodnight, Hermione,” Narcissa said over her shoulder.
“Night,” Hermione whispered.
She finished her wine and walked slowly to Bellatrix’s office. It felt odd to go into the room without her present, but she had no intention of risking not being there if requested. Once she got past the nervousness of entering the witch’s personal space, Hermione took the moment to take in the bookcases that lined the walls and the scattered personal items. The controlled chaos was much like the witch herself.
Hermione jumped when the green fire roared to life. She relaxed slightly when Bellatrix charged out of the flames. Instinctively, Hermione backed up until she ran into the large desk. The dark witch’s hands were all over her clearly looking for injury.
“Did a spell hit you? Even a shard of one,” Bellatrix asked anxiously.
Hermione bit back a moan. Between the physical contact and wildness in Bellatrix’s magic, she wanted far more than she should have.
“No,” she gasped. “I am not injured.”
“Good,” Bellatrix said.
Hermione held her breath as the dark witch’s fingers curled around her lapel and pulled her closer. When the soft, yet aggressive lips found her’s, Hermione felt like she was flying. The magic passing between them was charged and more pleased than she could have imagined. The teeth that pulled at her bottom lip had her pressing their bodies more closely together.
When the kiss broke for a deep breath, Hermione caught a look of panic just before Bellatrix turned away.
“Off to bed with you. We have so much to do tomorrow,” the dark witch said while leaving the room.
Hermione leaned against the large desk and attempted to catch her breath.
The Black sisters would be the death of her one way or another.