Hermione read the sentences several times over before she dared call the older witch over. The sentence came out as a whisper, in spite of her efforts to control herself.
One shall be born to end the suffering of the House of Black. She will come secreted into the world, fated to share in the hardships of the eldest. She will be the brightest of her age, destined to form the most powerful partnership ever known. Her loyalty and love will determine the course of the world… Neither the light nor dark will know her name … her blood, though pure, confused for mud.
Bellatrix seemed to be fidgeting. Could she possibly know more that she was letting on? Pushing away suspicions of the other witch, she would deal with them later. This matter was far more pressing and if the words were true ... if they were destined, Bellatrix's prior knowledge would be irrelevant. For now she would let her slide, but eventually she would address it appropriately.
At the sound of her whisper, Bellatrix stilled her movement and looked up. Had it been any other moment, Hermione would have laughed at the dark witch's attempt to cover her excitement with a look of confusion. Bellatrix strode over to where Hermione sat to bend over her shoulder and see the passage to which the girl referred. Dark curls smelling of cinnamon and cloves fell against Hermione’s neck, eliciting an involuntary shudder. In a hushed deep voice Bellatrix read the passage out loud.
“And this is on my page?”
“I presume so, with your name written across the top of the page in large letters.”
Bellatrix playfully smacked Hermione’s shoulder, “Cheeky.”
“Bellatrix, what kind of proficiency do you have in interpretative divination?”
“Have the standards at Hogwarts decreased so dramatically that they no longer discuss my achievements on my N.E.W.T.s?” It was clear she expected no answer as she simply proceeded on without taking a breath. “I am quite proficient in divination and most of the other subject areas.”
“Good. Then tell me what you see.”
“Wouldn’t you rather ask if I think you are the one to which the prophecy refers?”
Hermione turned her head to look in the dark eyes. She hadn’t asked that question because she wasn’t sure if she wanted to know. Bellatrix caught the look of fear immediately, after all she worked for years to extract just such a reaction from many muggles and wizards alike. But this time she loathed it. She took Hermione’s hand and led her to the couch in front of the fireplace so that they could sit together instead of hovering over her shoulder. She would have the witch under her soon enough, having this particular conversation on more equal ground would be advantageous. Settling them close to one another until their knees nearly touched, she drew the book between them until they each held half.
“As you know, I am the eldest of the Black family. It's sensible that this would be on my page. It seems to imply that after all of the darkness that perhaps the Black name will be restored to it’s former glory and that my time of suffering may be over. And it's all to happen at the hands of a young girl. Who was mistaken for a mudblood."
Bellatrix took a deep breath. She hadn't expected the girl to be so straightforward. She anticipated them talking around the subject for far too long.
"Do you want it to be me?"
"I've made no secret about wanting you," the dark witch answers, dropping her voice to sound like the epitome of sex.
"Valuable information, however not what I asked," Hermione answered, repressing a shiver at the escalating sex appeal of the other witch. How would someone go about resisting Bellatrix Black? Every cell in Hermione's body seemed to crave the closeness the other offered. She found herself internally melting at every passing moment. She wanted to be putty in Bellatrix's hands. Pushing down the inclination to submit to her desires, she cocked her head waiting for a response.
Bellatrix didn't miss the expanding pupils of the young witch and found herself impressed as the girl withstood her charm, however temporary the endurance might be. Few over the years had been capable of doing so when Bellatrix set her sights on seduction. Backing off slightly she responded, "I don't think I would mind it being you. I've never met anyone like you. I enjoy being near you. And there is a very short list of people I would say that about."
"I can think of worse things, too. I think I understand most of it, but the second sentence." Hermione pointed down to the page and read aloud "She will come secreted into the world, fated to share in the hardships of the eldest. What do you think that means?"
Bellatrix recognized that the question about the content this time was genuine. It was the same sentence she struggled with over the last few months. It wasn't until her magic crackled outside of the dress store at the sight of Hermione that she became convinced ancient magic was involved. She hummed as she formulated a response. "I don't know exactly, but it seems reasonable that it might be connected to our ability to read each other's thoughts and the way our magic behaves." The slytherin paused a beat, letting the information sink in before delving deeper. "Can you think of anything in your childhood that was out of place or that you could never explain even after learning you were a witch?"
Hermione noted the delicacy with which the beautiful woman asked her to expose her secrets. She still wasn't used to being treated so sweetly, not to mention by the most feared death eater. Coming from Bellatrix it meant twice as much. She looked down to the book still held between them and slowly drew it away to place it on the low table between them and the fireplace. She took the hand closest to her, cradling it in both of hers. She ran her hands over the soft skin, learning the feel of each muscle beneath it as she struggled to find the words to respond.
Bellatrix waited patiently, enjoying the touch initiated by the girl. She had been the forward one and the validation of being reached out to for comfort was very new but incredible feeling.
"You have to know I've only told one person about this before," she began, trying to control the shaking in her voice but failing. "It went terribly. I promised myself that I would never be vulnerable to that kind of rejection."
"Draco tells me you mostly keep to yourself. Is that why?"
Hermione sighed, still staring at their hands. "Yes. That is why. It took Draco weeks to really get me to talk. Your family seems to be relentless about getting me to communicate."
"Maybe we just know what's best for you. But right now you are stalling, little one." Bellatrix traced her free hand down the brunette's cheek and gently lifted her chin to look in the beautiful amber eyes, hoping that the girl would see how much she wanted to be trustworthy and that she had no intention of rejecting her. The deep steadying breath the ravenclaw took into her lungs indicated the message had been received.
"Until just a few months ago I had nightmares every night," she began slowly, waiting for the witch to say or do something to cause her to run away. When it was clear no such reaction would occur she continued, "It was always the same. Damp and cold with the constant sound of waves crashing over rocks. And the screams of pain and sorrow." She pressed on not wanting to let the other witch respond until she was done. "When I was little it was terrifying and I didn't sleep much. But I learned that if I hummed or sung in the dream, things would calm a bit. The cold never went away and the sound of the waves remained deafening, but the pain was held at bay."
Bellatrix couldn't control her reaction as her jaw fell open. For all of those years had she really not been alone in the long nights at Azkaban? Pulling a memory of a typical night in her head, one where the distant music had soothed her, to the front of her head she whispered, "Look in my mind." She didn't try to control the tears spilling down her face as she felt the girl gently probing into her mind.
Hermione was transported into a familiar dark corner, the sounds of the waves as loud as ever. She looked down at the shivering body of Bellatrix rocking back and forth to comfort herself. She had no idea how small and rundown the witch had looked while in prison. She hardly resembled the drop dead gorgeous woman clinging to her hands as though her life depended on it. And then she heard it. A soft gentle tune her mother sung to her as a small child. This memory was from before Hermione went to Hogwarts. She used that song as comfort for nearly two years, as it was the only one she could always remember in her dreamlike state.
The evidence was astounding. There was no conceivable way Bellatrix could have found this information any other way than to have lived it. Hermione never shared her coping mechanism with another person. She moved her hands to slip around the dark witch’s waist and buried her face in the dark fragrant curls as her own tears streamed down her face.
For long moments they clung to one another reveling in not being alone now and the knowledge they'd never really been alone at all. The exhaustion of the emotional revelation hit them both full force. Bellatrix shifted her body to put her feet up on the couch, forcing Hermione to lay lengthwise against the back. Instead of resisting, the girl settled into the crook of her neck and slide an arm around her waist pressing their bodies together. Together they slipped comfortably to sleep surrounded by a foreign sense of safety.
Narcissa spent most of the afternoon attempting to not interrupt the two witches. She knew that Bella needed to do this part herself. She’d done her part and then some to ensure that Hermione would be willing and open to get to this point. If the young witch was the one referenced by the prophecy, her sister would have to be the one to draw her in. It was nearly dinnertime and no one had emerged from the library. If their love for learning and knowledge was any indicator, the two witches could truly be fated for one another.
She paused outside the door the library listening for voices, hoping not to interrupt an intimate conversation. Confused at the absolute silence, she slowly opened the door. Inside she found the table of books unoccupied, though from the messy state it was clear that they’d been through many of them. Walking deeper into the room she approached the couch from behind. In front of the fireplace she looked down at the two curled around each other in sleep. They looked so attractive together and so at peace.
“Go away, Cissy. I’m sleeping,” Bellatrix said without opening her eyes. At the childlike statement, Bellatrix felt a chuckle against her side remembering what the weight half way on top of her was.
Hermione whispered sleepily in her ear, “If we pretend to go back to sleep do you think she will go away?”
“I most certainly will not, Miss MacCarthy,” Narcissa stated bluntly. She managed to keep the edge in her voice, which served to hide the curiosity bubbling just under the surface.
“My sister’s hearing is incredible. Just something to keep in mind. I’ve never been able to keep many secrets from her. You will find in time that she is rather ubiquitous,” Bellatrix drawled beginning to stir from sleep.
“It seems you two have slept the afternoon away. Its nearly dinner time. You will stay won’t you, Miss MacCarthy?”
“She will,” the dark witch answered. At this Hermione lifted her head to raise an eyebrow at the woman she still snuggled against. She contemplated saying something about being able to speak for herself, but the truth was she couldn’t bear to be away from the other witch yet. Bellatrix grinned victoriously at the girl choosing to let the statement stand.
“Very well. Come then, I think we should begin with some wine,” the blonde witch said before turning and strutting out of the room.
“Your sister certainly knows how to make an entrance and exit.”
“She was aptly named. We’d better get up before she comes back. It only gets worse,” she said waiting for the girl to lift the warmth of her body away. Hermione hesitated. “Don’t worry. I won’t be far just more... upright.” Hermione smiled faintly knowing she’d gotten caught again.
“In my head again, Black?”
“No need. It was written all over your face.”
Hermione giggled. She was growing to love the banter and how comfortable talking to Bellatrix was. She enjoyed pushing and getting pushed right back. She tried not to be intimidated by her growing awareness of how innately connected the two were. It was getting harder to deny and even harder to imagine ever removing herself from the situation.
They took a few minutes to sit up and rearrange clothing and hair that had gotten mussed in the afternoon nap before meeting Narcissa in the dining room.
As they approached Narcissa said, “I was beginning to think that I would have to come extract you two from the library personally.”
“And how exactly do you think you were going to accomplish that, Cissy?” Bellatrix asked challengingly.
“Dear sister, you know I have my ways. You are hardly the only gifted witch in dark magic in this family. Though I suspect a bucket of cold water would have worked quite efficiently,” she said handing the other two witches glasses of wine and motioning them to sit. The elves already brought a tray of cheese, crackers and fruit for them to enjoy with their wine.
“Well, are you going to tell me what you found in the library or would you prefer I use legilimency on one or both of you?”
“You could never get past my barriers, sister. But in spite of your attitude, I suppose it would not be generous to keep secrets from you at this point.” Bellatrix looked to Hermione to gauge her reaction. The girl looked vulnerable, but nodded slightly giving her permission. Bellatrix grasped her hand offering comfort as she debriefed Narcissa.
Bellatrix had just finished telling her about their connection while Hermione was asleep throughout the years. Narcissa hadn’t expected them to discover anything she didn’t already know on their first day of research, certainly not something of this magnitude.
“So then we are sure its true?” Narcissa said in response.
It was Hermione, however, who answered. “It seems unlikely for there to be any other answer. Perhaps there could be another female child born to a pureblooded family, but raised by muggles. But statistically it seems unlikely that there could be another that shares the magical connections with your sister that I do. I think the sooner we all accept this the better.” She paused and took in the identical looks of shock on the Black sisters faces. “Do you disagree?”
Bellatrix recovered first. “No. You are quite right. There is still much we don’t know about our shared condition. It would be purposeless to spend more time attempting to determine if the connection is real. We have more than enough evidence to conclude that it is.”
"We ought to make better use of these few weeks you have away from school. It will be much harder once the term resumes," Narcissa reminded them.
Hermione's expression darkened. The idea of being away from Bellatrix pulled at her heart uncomfortably. Noticing the change in the young witch, the blonde pressed on, "It might be more convenient for you to be my guest until school resumes. We have plenty of empty guest rooms and you could use the library at any hour you like."
Instead of looking at Narcissa, the girl turned to look at Bellatrix searching her face for guidance. The witch shrugged in response as if to say the choice was Hermione's.
"I know this must seem extremely sudden, Miss MacCarthy, but the proof suggests you've been a missing part of this family. And it goes against our culture to allow you to be anywhere else. Here we can keep you safe. As you can imagine, if others learn of your connection to my sister you will become a target. We can teach you to protect yourself, but not if you aren't here."
Madame Malfoy was right, of course. She would become a target and was essentially defenseless. Umbridge's hold over the school in an attempt to keep Potter under control unfortunately meant that all of the students were severely lacking in defensive and offensive combat skills. She was being offered education, unlimited access to the library, the company of her only friend from school, and the affection of the Black sisters. If she had written a list of desires that would have been it in its entirety.
"I don't know what to say, Madame Malfoy. I wouldn't want to put you out."
"Please call me Narcissa. And it isn't any trouble. This home was built and staffed to care for more than four occupants. And I would be grieved to think of you spending this time alone."
"I want you here, too," Bellatrix offered after a long moment. She didn't want to pressure the girl, but the thought of parting was unpalatable.
"Do you think I will ever be able to turn the two of you down?"
"I certainly hope not, darling," the eldest witch answered earnestly.
"I would very much enjoy staying Madame, I mean Narcissa."
"Very good. It is settled. We can send an elf to collect your things from the inn. Are there any special accommodations that need to be made?"
How could Hermione have forgotten about her familiar? "There is one. I nearly forgot. My familiar is a cat named Crookshanks."
"Say no more, I will ensure he is collected and arrives here unharmed."
Soon the elves delivered their dinner, which far exceeded Hermione's expectations in terms of quality yet again. Staying at Malfoy Manor was going to have its perks. After dinner the three witches spent a few hours I the library devising how they would commence with their research in the following days. The sun had long since sunk below the horizon and the weight of the day caused Hermione to yawn drawing the blonde's attention.
"It's been a long day. Let me take you to your room so that you can get some rest."
Hermione allowed herself to be led from the room by Bellatrix, who was trailing after Narcissa, realizing how tired she was. Up the staircase and to the right they past a large door. Bellatrix leaned in to tell her quietly that was her room and if Hermione needed anything not to hesitate to come find her.
Two more doors down, Narcissa entered the room beckoning the others to follow.
"Your things are all here. Please make yourself comfortable. If you need anything, just call one of the elves. Goodnight, Hermione," she said kissing the girl gently on the cheek. After Narcissa left the room, Bellatrix turned.
"I am glad you decided to stay. I'd almost made up my mind to come stay at the inn if you didn't. But I hope that you will find it more comfortable here," she said gesturing to the opulent room. "My sister has rather expensive taste. Fortunately Lucius is loaded. I'm rambling. You should rest we had quite a day...."
Hermione stepped confidently into her personal space and placed a firm kiss ending the one sided conversation.
"I didn't think I could sleep if I didn't do that. I've been wanting to all day."
"Never restrain yourself on my account. Though I am not sure my sister would have enjoyed watching," Bellatrix teased. Narcissa likely wouldn't mind the view, but that would no doubt push beyond what the girl could tolerate learning in a day.
"I should let you sleep, my dear." Bellatrix took a small step back to look the girl in the eye while affectionately stroking her cheek and disappeared from the room closing the door behind her.
Hermione stood stunned. She thought the other witch would push for more, but she was gentle and polite. Part of Hermione very much looked forward to when she would be less polite. Taking careful steps she looked around the room. It was absolutely breath taking. She had never seen anything like it. And it vaguely made her feel like a princess.
The adjoining bathroom was the most luxurious bath she could imagine. The gold fixtures glittered in the candle lit room bouncing off the gleaming surface of the dark marble. The large tub looked to die for. A bath was in order to complete what had been and over wheelmen but delightful day. She undressed and stepped over to turn a knob to fill the tub with water, but there were no knobs. She tried the only spell she knew to fill it, but again nothing. Grabbing the closest towel she wrapped it around herself and padded out her door and to Bellatrix's without considering what she was doing. Rapping lightly on the door she waited it to open.
Bellatrix swung the door open lazily, clearly not expecting to see the young with again. Her jaw dropped open at the lack of clothes as she raked her eyes over the partially unclothed beautiful form of the girl.
Hermione blushed realizing what she did and said quickly, "I wanted to take a bath, but I don't know how to fill the tub."
Bellatrix said nothing but caught the girl’s hand as she passed by leading her back to the room. Once they arrived at the tub, she removed her wand from her sleeve and muttered a quick spell filling the tub with warm scented water.
Spinning to look again at the young witch her breath caught. Lust and desire overrode her more gallant intentions as she pulled the girl tightly against her. Capturing Hermione's lips aggressively she moaned at the sensation of the girl melting into her arms.
"When you show up at my door wearing only a towel, you must expect some sort of reaction," she declared quietly not moving away from the girl. "Take a bath, sweet girl. I will see you in the morning." Capturing the pinks lips before her gently one last time, she left Hermione to her bath.
After hearing the click of the outer door closing, Hermione dropped the towel to sink into the bath her body buzzing with the feeling of the heated kiss.