Black Lodge was beautiful. If you were into 17th century gothic architecture. It was too bad that Bellatrix really wasn’t, finding the style old, boring and overused amongst the British magical community.
It was more of a small palace too, if she were honest, with three stories, spires everywhere, window tracery standing out in a way that made her cringe and large echoing halls everywhere, since walls were, of course, stupid when you could have tall, ornate arches instead.
She scoffed, scuffing the toe of her boot against the gleaming marble floor that spanned the whole place. Another thing she hated, since it was always freezing and she didn’t wear socks to bed, meaning the mornings were always that little bit more excruciating.
A satisfied smirk spread across her lips at the dark smudge mark her shoe had left on the floor. It was a petty revenge, and the elves would undoubtedly have it removed long before either of her parents could notice, but the knowledge of it would fuel her silent rage for the rest of the week they were being kept here.
Silent, because it was the height of impropriety for young pureblood women, especially those that are the first daughter of the House Black, to be loud in their displeasure. Instead they are told to bottle it up and smile and pretend that all is well, while the men sort everything out.
Naturally however, the rules that governed Bellatrix’s life, and those of her sisters, were not rules her own mother actually saw fit to follow, a great example of which was the voices currently echoing through the Lodge.
Cygnus and Druella Black held no love for each other, and Bellatrix had never been disillusioned to this fact, their marriage was a purely political one, arranged by their parents before them, much as hers would likely be.
Though they showed a united face to the public, behind closed doors all bets were off, and Bellatrix had more than once stumbled upon one of them passed out in some hallway or another after an argument got out of hand and spells were fired.
Recently it had been getting worse. The damage caused by their impromptu duels more severe, and Bellatrix was having a difficult time concealing the whole truth from her sisters. Which is why she’d decided that, for today at least, they were going to run away.
She’d convinced Nipsy, the head elf, to make up a basket of their favourites and have the girls dressed to go outside this morning. The wrinkled old elf had been only too happy to help ‘young Miss Bella’ in her plans to abscond for the day.
No one was on the receiving end of Bellatrix’s parents’ wrath quite so much as the elves, and so whenever they had the opportunity to enact some small revenge, such as aiding the sisters in activities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, they jumped at the chance.
Bellatrix of course did her best to shield them when she could, but sometimes it wasn’t possible and the poor creatures would be punished for the most ridiculous things, like ‘Cygnus’ shoes not being polished in a clockwise direction’ or ‘Narcissa’s hair being parted half a centimetre further right than the middle’.
Which is why Bellatrix had made her sisters promise that once they were the Ladies of their own Houses they would treat their elves with care and respect. She might not have been able to save the Black elves, but she’d be damned if she didn’t try and make life a little easier for their future kin.
The sound of thunderous voices got somehow louder and the eldest Black sister thanked whatever gods there were that the Lodge didn’t have neighbours, just trees surrounding it on all sides.
A soft ‘pop’ behind her alerted her to the presence of an elf and she turned toward the tiny being, eyebrow raised questioningly, “Yes?”
She thought it was Daisy, one of the newer elves, her tiny body and violet eyes only vaguely familiar to Bellatrix. An easy smile seemed to calm the elf’s nerves, and she stopped the annoying rocking motion she’d been doing to bow deeply.
“I is having your basket Miss Bellatrix. And your sisters is being dressed now.”
Definitely a new elf then, none of the older Black elves had the ridiculous way of speaking that seemed predominant in other elves, Cygnus finding it frustrating and tedious and having ordered them to ‘learn how to speak properly, or not speak at all’ long ago.
This one would likely learn quickly, or be swiftly given clothes. Cygnus had no patience for tedium. Or anything really, that wasn’t his ridiculous (and seemingly failing) political career.
“Excellent, thank you Daisy. Have them brought to the west exit please, and fetch my summer cloak, the one with the purple stitching.”
“Daisy will do that right away Miss Bellatrix!”
It would probably be considered curious by others that Bellatrix choose to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to the elves, but she’d found common courtesy went a long way in getting them to do things quickly and it wasn’t like it was some great hardship for her to be polite.
The young elf popped away quietly and Bellatrix made her way toward the western sun room that housed the doors she was planning on leaving through. Her parents rooms were on the other side of the building, making this exit the obvious choice if they were to avoid being seen.
By the time she got there Andromeda and Narcissa had arrived. Her younger sisters were like night and day, and Bellatrix sometimes marvelled as to how they could be so similar yet so different.
Where Andromeda was almost an exact replica of Bellatrix, hair only a shade lighter and tongue only a touch duller, Narcissa was their opposite in every way; white blonde hair that fell in a smooth, straight sheaf down her back, crystalline blue eyes that carried none of the shadows present in her older sisters dark gazes and a permanent bright smile, to go with her bubbly personality.
Their greetings were only further evidence of this as Andromeda nodded at her, eyes half open and slumped against a wall, and Bellatrix knew it would likely be some time before she actually spoke.
Narcissa on the other hand bounced around the room with all the energy of an excited puppy, chirping a happy, “Good morning Bella!” as soon as the older witch came into view.
Bellatrix smiled placatingly at her youngest sister, wishing her a ‘good morning’ back as she moved toward the picnic basket that had been left for her by the coat rack. She picked it up, pleased to find a featherlight charm had already been applied, and reached for her cloak, tossing it over one arm for now as she planned to enjoy the brisk morning air.
She tapped the wand hidden in a secret pocket on her left thigh and nodded, turning back to her sisters and holding a finger to her lips in a mock order to stay quiet.
Andromeda rolled her eyes, standing up from the wall she’d been slowly sinking down and coming to stand by the older witches side. Narcissa giggled softly, pressing her finger to her lips and winking, before rushing to the ornate french doors that would release them to the world and throwing them open.
They slammed into the walls of the room and Bellatrix winced heavily as she mentally praised whichever Black had had the forethought to place both silencing charms and imperturbable charms on the glass room.
Blue eyes widened dramatically as Narcissa whisper-shouted, “Sorry!”, across the room, but Bellatrix just shook her head fondly, looping her arm through her silent sisters and walking them both out and into the morning sun.
She flicked her hand casually over her shoulder and was pleased to hear the gentle click that signaled the doors had been shut.
They walked in comfortable silence for many minutes, Narcissa bounding off through the trees ahead, only to come barreling back toward them moments later. After the third bout of this, Bellatrix gathered her beneath her arm.
“You’re going to ruin your boots. And your cloak. And if you fall and hurt yourself mother will have me hung.” She kept her voice light, but her grip tight, the truth of the words enough to convince the young witch to walk calmly beside her sisters.
“Where are we going, Bella?”
A whole five minutes had passed since they’d left the Lodge and Bellatrix was impressed with her sisters restraint, typically she’d already asked a million and one questions by now.
“The flower field. You remember the one Andy and I told you about?”
Blonde hair whipped through the air as she shook her head no, and Bellatrix chuckled at the way her baby sister was always so dramatic.
“It’s not much further. We used to play there when you were a baby.” Andromeda hummed beside her, squeezing the arm she held briefly but staying otherwise silent.
Narcissa’s gaze widened further, a feat that left Bellatrix impressed since she’d been sure her eyes would fall from her head if they’d gotten any bigger, “Really? What’s it like? What’re we going to do there?”
“Well, it’s a field full of flowers, as I’m sure you can imagine it’s quite beautiful. And as for what we’re going to do, I thought we might all strip naked and perform the old rites, see what happens.”
Andromeda chuckled darkly, gasping when Bellatrix’s elbow met the soft flesh of her stomach.
“No, of course not, Cissa. I had Nipsy pack some of our favourites and I figured we could catch up before school starts again. Though I do have something to show you both later.”
The tiny blonde hopped up and down excitedly for a moment, but returned to walking normally after nearly falling over an exposed tree root, sending her sisters a pout at the twin snorts of amusement they released.
Bellatrix sobered her expression, looking toward the youngest witch with an affected air of concern and asking seriously, “Are you quite alright, Narcissa?” only to cackle loudly at the stuck out tongue she received in answer.
They broke through the tree line not too much later and Bellatrix released the once again hyperactive young witch from beneath her arm, watching fondly as she skipped around the field, taking everything in.
It had been a while since she’d been here last, opportunities to actually escape her parents had been rare for the last few years, especially since she’d been trying to shield her sisters from some of their worse moods and tendencies.
The scar on her hip twinged sharply at the thought, and Andromeda rubbed a hand down her arm, though how she knew Bellatrix needed the comfort was beyond her.
They wandered off to the middle of the field, settling against a bed of plush grass and vibrant wildflowers and watching their littlest sister dash around them.
“This is nice.” Apparently enough time had passed that Andromeda was awake enough to talk now, her dark eyes fully open and alert, and most of her attention being drawn by the closed picnic basket that sat by Bellatrix’s hip.
The older witch huffed, dropping the basket in front of her and grinning at the way she practically tore through it looking for the cinnamon pastries she knew would be there.
As if summoned, Narcissa appeared beside them, leaning over Bellatrix’s shoulder to rummage through the basket alongside Andromeda and the eldest Black smiled, content to enjoy this moment with her two favourite people.
It was a while later, the sun high in the sky, when Andromeda turned to her suddenly, completely cutting off whatever Narcissa had been saying about Lucius Malfoy’s… hair? Bellatrix had tuned out a while ago in honesty.
“What was it you wanted to show us, Bella?”
She started slightly, having completely forgotten about her plan for this little trip somewhere between her sisters pigging out and the tenth minute of Narcissa’s monologue about the ‘perfection’ of the Malfoy spawn.
“Oh. Well, you both know I’ve been working on my Animagus transformation for extra credit in Transfiguration?”
The twin nod thing they did would have been creepy, if Bellatrix hadn’t been witnessing it since Narcissa had learned to nod in response to questions, instead it caused a smirk to grow on her face.
From the raise of Andromeda’s eyebrow she knew the middle Black sister had figured out where she was going with this already, but she let the suspense build, amused at how Narcissa subconsciously started to lean forward, until she was almost sat in Andromeda’s lap.
“And you know there was a thunderstorm last week? When we were still at Hogwarts.”
Narcissa nodded vigorously again, and almost fell over from the force of it as she had managed to lean too far forward, Andromeda catching her before she face planted and sending Bellatrix a deadpan look, “Do get on with it, Bellatrix. We shall be old before you’ve shown us anything at this rate.”
Bellatrix pouted, her fun spoiled, “Well fine. I was trying to build suspense, create an atmosphere of excitement, you know. But I suppose there’s little point now.”
Andromeda opened her mouth to respond, likely with something witty or scathing, but Bellatrix didn’t allow her the chance, instead closing her eyes and reaching for that part of herself she’d only recently discovered.
The feeling of the transformation was unusual. It wasn’t painful, though it wasn’t particularly comfortable either, it was almost comparable to the time she’d fallen from her horse. The weightless, impending sense she’d gotten on the way to the ground, as though something was happening, but she didn’t quite know what yet - and then the sudden realisation as her body jolted and impacted the ground.
She opened her eyes slowly, blinking quickly at the harsh light of the sun. Her sister’s appeared suddenly very large to her much smaller self, and their features were more defined under her sharper eyes.
The small scar across the bridge of Andromeda’s nose from her fourth year Potions explosion was suddenly much more obvious, and for the first time Bellatrix could see the incredibly faint freckles that were sprinkled across Narcissa’s face and arms.
Her sisters stared down at her in awe, eyes wide in wonder and mouths hanging open from shock. Bellatrix knew it was an impressive feat of magic, after all, not all witches or wizards were capable of becoming Animagi. And her form was quite impressive too, if she did say so herself.
She had spent some time studying herself in front of the large mirror in her room at Hogwarts, both in an effort to get used to the way her new form moved, and out of curiosity as to what exactly she looked like.
Really, the pitch black colour of her fur shouldn’t have come as a surprise to Bellatrix, but as it was she had actually been shocked. During her meditative sessions in which she tried to unlock the ‘animal’ side of herself, the brief glimpses she’d got had implied her form would take on the typical colourings.
Her tail was plush and large and certainly one of the hardest parts to master, at first it had constantly gotten in the way, tripping her or getting caught on things, but she’d managed it eventually.
Four legs instead of two was an adjustment too, as was the fact that she was suddenly much smaller and lower to the ground, yet faster, with enhanced senses and strange instincts.
Overall she found the fox to be quite fitting. A symbol of cunning, intelligence, opportunity and curiosity - it perfectly encapsulated Bellatrix in all that she was. Small, but still dangerous. Beautiful, but wild.
And apparently her sisters felt that the animal was rather cute too, if the way they immediately set to cooing and petting her fur was any indication. She playfully jumped at them, internally cackling at how Narcissa fell back in surprise, eyes wide and hair in disarray about her face.
Andromeda tapped her lightly on the end of her snout, wagging a finger at her and mock scowling, “Now, Bella, that wasn’t very nice.” The laughter in her voice and the way the corner of mouth twitched gave away her amusement though and Bellatrix huffed, shaking out her body before pouncing on the younger witch.
Her sister squealed, falling back into the grass much the same as Narcissa before her, laughter loud and clear as Bellatrix nipped and licked at her face and hands.
They would only get this one day away from their parents. Any more time than this would definitely be asking for trouble, and though Bellatrix longed to take her sisters and run far away from the Black family and their ridiculous expectations and pressures, she knew she couldn’t.
So Bellatrix was determined to make the most of this time, ensuring that her sisters would have at least one happy memory of their ‘family time’ to take back to school with them.
She chased them around the field, and rolled through the tall grasses with them, allowing them to handle her how one would a small dog as they cuddled her and carried her about and talked in highly amusing baby voices.
And when they’d all grown tired and the sun was starting it’s descent in the sky she lay back into a patch of grass that grew thick with flowers and enjoyed the feel of the sun on her dark fur, panting happily as her sisters lay beside her.
They lay in quiet for many moments, only the occasional sound of a bird chirping breaking the silence, before Andromeda turned to lay on her side and stare at her.
“Thank you, Bella. I think we all needed this today.”
Bellatrix let out a face splitting yawn, rolling over to stretch languidly, reminiscent of a cat, and shifted back to a human flawlessly, grinning at her sisters where they now sat at her sides.
“I agree, Andy. Hence I had the brilliant idea.”
Narcissa giggled brightly at her words, sticking her tongue at Andromeda when she sent her a glare, before turning back to Bellatrix and bouncing where she sat, “Can I braid your hair?”
Bellatrix nodded and turned so her back was to the youngest Black, running long fingers quickly through her wild curls in an attempt to detangle it, but Narcissa batted her hands away with a laugh, “Let me do it, Bella, you’re too rough.”
She sighed and removed her hands from her hair, rolling her eyes secretly at the bossy tone Narcissa was slowly perfecting and turning toward her other sister. Patting the spot in front of her with a smile and a raised eyebrow, “Come on, Andy. I’ll do yours. And you can do Cissa’s, since she’s sure to be finished before I am.”
Andromeda hummed and nodded, shuffling into the space Bellatrix had just indicated and releasing her hair from the bun it had been in with a flick of her wrist and some simple freeform magic.
Bellatrix smirked at her sisters easy use of the magic, she’d struggled with it at first, and the eldest Black had almost let her give up at one point, but she used it like it was second nature now, hardly seeming to remember a time when it hadn’t been at her fingertips.
The House Black had long been cursed with messy, untameable curls, and Andromeda had not been spared this fate, her long hair falling dramatically free of its confines to rest down her back. Behind her, Narcissa drew gentle fingers through the tangles and snares of her own hair, so peaceful and tender Bellatrix had almost forgotten what she was doing.
She set to work parting off sections of Andromeda’s hair, occasionally grumbling at how there was so much of it, and none of it cooperative, and cursing Narcissa silently for having avoided this torture by being born with easily managed, straight hair.
“Can I put flowers in it, Bella?” The small blonde’s voice startled her badly enough that she pulled a little too hard on some of Andromeda’s hair, but she ignored the indignant ‘Hey!’ to turn her head toward Narcissa.
“I’m sorry, what did you say, Cissa?”
Narcissa giggled at her, shaking her head fondly in a way that reminded Bellatrix much of herself, “Can I put flowers in your hair?”
“Oh. Sure, okay.” She shrugged, not really caring either way but happy if her sister was, “Do you want me to put flowers in yours Andy?”
The brunette shrugged, hardly paying attention as she watched a ladybird climb over the side of her hand, so Bellatrix decided she might as well and set to work, reaching for the flowers that grew near her and using sporadic summoning charms when she and Narcissa needed more.
She was halfway done with Andromeda’s twin braids, one along either side of her head, when Narcissa tugged lightly on the end of hers, “All done.”
“Thanks, Cissa,” she fiddled with the flower she was trying to get set into Andromeda’s hair, and then nudged her. She’d started doing Occlumency practices a little while ago to pass the time, but Narcissa was an impatient person and she wouldn’t appreciate being kept waiting, “Andy, Cissa’s done.”
The younger witch hummed, blinking quickly as she readjusted to the real world and sent a smile to the tiny blonde hovering by her shoulder, patting the ground in front of her, “Sit down then, I can hardly braid your hair from up there.”
Narcissa smiled, bouncing lightly where she stood before coming to settle in front of the older witch.
“So, Bella, you’ll teach me right?”
Bellatrix frowned at the back of Andromeda’s head, “Teach you what?”
“How to be an Animagus, of course!”
Narcissa perked up at the words, trying to turn her body to join the conversation, but Andromeda had a tight grip on her hair and she didn’t make it very far, “Me too! I want to learn too, Bella!”
Bellatrix heaved a sigh, finishing the second braid and flicking the ends of Andromeda’s hair over her shoulders, “Yes, I will teach you,” Narcissa gave an excited screech that almost sounded like the mermen when they were above water, “Andy.” And immediately quieted.
She couldn’t see it, but Bellatrix knew her youngest sister was pouting, and though she hated to disappoint the girl, Narcissa was much too young to be attempting Animagus magics.
“When your Occlumency shields are up to scratch, I’ll teach you, Cissa.”
The youngest Black sighed, and nodded, Bellatrix had been teaching her Occlumency for a year now, and as Andromeda with freeform magic, Narcissa had been slow to grasp it, but her eldest sister held out hope that the trend would continue and she’d become proficient quickly once she had the basics down.
“Right, I’m done.” Narcissa trailed her fingers over the freshly finished braid, being careful not to disturb any of the flowers woven through it.
She yelled a quick, “Thanks, Andy!” and turned to tackle her sister into a hug, dragging Bellatrix into the fray with them.
Bellatrix sighed happily, wishing that she could freeze this moment and live in it with her sisters forever. At least she’d have a new memory to attempt that blasted patronus with now.