Rain poured down around their little home in a thick film that Hermione could barely see through. It was, in fact, so much rain that Hermione was sure that the world outside their home would drown and fall to nothingness and loss. She knew it wouldn’t - she wasn’t so caught up in childish fantasies where schools were closed and a nice day inside with a favourite book and a warm drink was prescribed over the mindless drudgery of grammar and geography - but it still felt like it. The end of the world outside their home would certainly fit in well with the madness of this weather. April was supposed to be a rainy month that filled the world up so that May could bring flowers and sunshine but it appeared the two months had decided to switch jobs entirely. Instead of lovely rain showers that were then followed with blossoms and the smell of a warming earth, Hermione had instead found herself stuck with too warm gusts of wind the month before and allergies that had left her a sneezing mess that no potion had been able to cure.
And now it was raining.
Which wasn’t even to say that was a bad thing; Magic could easily alleviate all their local issues if Bellatrix decided to do something about it. But she hadn’t. Her wife was, in all honesty, quite lax towards the working of the Manor and it’s grounds now that Cygnus was gone to ground. The Elves would all tend to whatever they easily could - while also being paid a fair wage now that Hermione had finally gotten it into her wife’s pretty little head that they were all deserving of more than just a swift reprisal for not having accomplished tasks at an inhumanly fast pace - and that left all the rest of the inner workings of their home to the rather human inhabitants. Surprisingly that meant very, very little where Bellatrix was concerned.
Not that she needed to care, not now that she had entered an early retirement - at the very strong request of Minister Kingsley, a man who had no intention of riding Bellatrix’s insane railroad of an Auror Corps until he left office the next year (although in Hermione’s opinion Bellatrix’s prompting to retire was likely more borne out of her penchant of apprehending young suspects despite her age and the massive amount of collateral damage that seemed to follow her all around) - and had determined that massive grounds deserved nothing more than the barest portion of her attentions. Taking care of the surrounding ecosystem was a secondary concern to her enjoying having nothing to do all day.
Which meant Hermione had a lot to do all day, and most of that involved putting things back in their place or fixing whatever Bellatrix left in her wake but that was a gripe she would save for another time.
Where was she?
Ah, yes. Bellatrix, and her penchant for leaving nature how it was with only the barest few spells and enchantments lacing their way through the Manor and grounds to ensure that no har would come to them or their little girl. Then again that didn’t matter so much at the moment - not since Delphi went off to Hogwarts and began hearing of all the little things that Hermione had so desperately kept herself from teaching the little tyke, hoping to give her a moment to be wowed by the spectacle and beauty of Hogwarts and its education all on her own - and so what remained was, in a word, relaxed.
All of this to say that instead of having an afternoon all to herself where she could do as she pleased - and what she pleased at this very moment was to go walking around the trails around the backside of the Manor and enjoy the pleasant afternoon sun - Hermione was instead stuck inside to dourly walk all around the many halls of Black Manor while her wife whittled away at a target dummy some two floors or so below her.
When the crashing sound of a spell landing home made its way up the halls and stairwells for the umpteenth time that day, Hermione could take no more. This just certainly wouldn’t do. If her day had been ruined - or more like mildly inconvenienced, but she was in a rather pouty mood and it certainly wouldn’t do to feel any remorse until her diabolical revenge had been put into action - then Bellatrix’s could be as well.
The dark-haired woman sloughed against the side of the stairwell with one hand trapped by her wife and the other kneading painfully at the pain flaring up in her left temple. Despite not intending it, her voice came out as a pained whine when she asked, “Pet, why?”
Hermione ignored the question just as she had been ignoring it for ten minutes already. Another minute wouldn’t make a difference and they were only one flight away from her ultimate destination.
The minute passed and with it went Bellatrix’s patience. Her heels dug in - barely - against the hardwood floor and her free hand switched to wedging itself against the doorway.
“Here?” she questioned, her look so filled with confusion that Hermione was almost reduced to giggles.
By all the Gods it was fun to screw around with her wife. It was especially delightful since the majority of their friends - but not family, the Sisters Black all knew Bellatrix to a fault and all her myriad dispositions that could lead to a hearty chuckle or a hex lobbed at their head - believed Hermione to be so sweet that she could do wrong. Fun as in she knew she would pay for this - one way or another - before the night was up but it would be fun while it lasted.
“Bellatrix, the attic hasn’t been cleaned out since we moved in. Come on now, Spring Cleaning and all that. Off you go.” Hermione punctuated her words by attempting to shove her wife off through the door and into the darkened space.
Attempted because instead of heading off into the deep unknown of an attic that Hermione had never been in - she wasn’t scared of it at all, it was just… Dirty - Bellatrix instead reached back to grasp her wrist and pulled her on inside. The doorknob she had been holding with her free hand was dragged along with her until all too soon it was snapping shut against the jam and leaving them both with the resounding sound of a magic addled crack. All around them a hum filled the air, hidden magic that laced the space becoming active and intrigued by their intrusive presence. The door flashed blue, the windows followed suit, and then nothing.
“Haha, Bellatrix. Now, you take this space and I’ll do the dining rooms. Meet back up in an hour.” Hermione patted her wife’s hand and placed an airy kiss onto her cheek before reaching for the door - blue faded completely, nothing but dust and a meagre light from a single bulb high up above them leaving them with anything to see by at all - and tugging it open.
Attempting to tug it open.
Hermione squinted and tugged harder, “Um, Bellatrix?”
“Hermione! Look what I found!”
The voice rang out to Hermione - sitting sullenly against the door and trying for the hundredth time to unlock the ward that had fallen all around them. She had nearly forgotten about the specific enchantment, it had been placed when Delphi first arrived and not used since its installation. Despite her rather bookish nature she could not recall what deactivated it, hence sitting around with a frown on her face and chin plopped down atop a palm that was getting far too sweaty from the humid air that filled the stifled space - and knocked her from the self-imposed silence that she had fallen into. She sighed and stood before wandering off to join her - arguably - better half, stopping to tap against the large circular window that stood by - ready and willing - to remind her of the joys that filled the outside world.
A rainy world at that but one she would take if she could. It was just too cramped in here!
The Black’s hadn’t lacked for space-enhancing charms and while Hermione was certain it wasn’t so expansive as the Room of Requirement had been when she was in school, she was also sure that it would be easy to find herself lost within the labyrinth of old junk and furniture that screamed out for someone to bring it to a museum before a wholly novel torture method was lost to moths and doxies. The rest of the space was mostly just… Junk. Things that had accrued over hundreds of years of inhabitants and a diehard need to ensure nothing went to waste, no matter how truly disposable it was.
Bellatrix - when Hermione finally found her after three wrong turns and a slight detour atop what looked to be solid ground but was instead a carpet that had been strung out across abridging couches and magicked to look whole and sturdy - was seated on the floor with her head and one arm buried deep within a massive trunk that looked like the kind that most first year students purchased but far, far out of their economic class.
Black wood, golden metal, seams that glittered with silver inlay and gems of every colour studding each surface in intricate patterns that - when Hermione stood back and gained some side views as well - appeared to have been arranged into a manageable simulacrum of the Black Crest. Bellatrix was rustling inside of it now after having ignored Hermione’s approach and the hand that settled easily upon her shoulder. She breathlessly laughed and then withdrew… Something.
“Um,” Hermione’s voice quavered on that note, the whole of her suddenly backing up without any conscious input on the subject. “Bellatrix, what is that?”
Her wife was holding some blackened strips of fur and leather that seemed to have been fashioned into some sort of teddy; where its eyes should have sat were instead two lumps of what might have been coal or another mineral rich with darkness and sparkling despite the rather dull appearance. Its ears were nonexistent but appeared to have in fact existed at some point in time. The rest of it was off, and in a way that unsettled Hermione’s rather tenacious disposition.
“It’s a Lolagorge!” Bellatrix tossed the item back at Hermione without a care in the world, said woman hopping it from hand to hand before settling on tossing it as far back into the piles of junk that surrounded them as she could.
She watched with happiness when it sailed over the head of a large armoire and off into a no man’s land she had no plan on ever breaching.
“Ah, and my sixteenth birthday gift from Aunt Cass!” Bellatrix squealed, her voice accompanied by the sound of shifting junk and detritus.
Hermione turned back toward her wife in full expectation of another unholy artefact. Instead she was struck dumb at the sight of Bellatrix holding a simple necklace. It was black along its threading and much like the jackdaw skull that Bellatrix habitually wore but thinner in its cordage. At the centre of the looping cord lay a single tear-shaped jewel, bright red and so glittery despite the rather dark interior of the attic that Hermione assumed it must be shining under its own power.
“What is it,” Hermione asked, kneeling by Bellatrix’s side and wrapping an arm around the woman’s waist.
Bellatrix leaned over and whispered conspiratorially, “This is Cass’s blood from when she went off to fight with a British contingent of witches against Grindelwald, back in his campaign to take France. She took a bone-breaker to the wrist and instead of simply cracking her bones it shattered every bone in her hand. She had a friend crystalize the blood as a memento to her first injury and then mixed it with her first kill, forming this pendant from it. Gave it to me as a present when I got older. Oh doesn’t it just look lovely?”
Hermione - previously enjoying the rather close look to the startlingly beautiful gem - recoiled in shock and gaped with all the stunned stupor of a fish brought to lava instead of water.
Bellatrix ignored her stare - because really, Bellatrix had truly gotten wonderful at being able to turn out most of Hermione’s more audacious and affronted looks - and set the item into a pocket before digging through the trunk again. When she next came up for air Hermione nearly doubled back in fright, barely missing as Bellatrix leaned backwards while brandishing a rather sharp looking dagger with all the air of a careless toddler.
“I don’t even want to ask,” Hermione deadpanned, scooting away until she felt her back press up against a rather unwieldy chair.
“Oh hush, Pet. It’s just a dagger. Though,” Bellatrix brought the blade close to her face and poked her tongue out until it touched the edge of the cutting implement. Hermione watched - confused beyond belief and ready to just go along with things until she found a way out of this infernal place - and stared as her wife tested the metal once more before putting it down and looking lovingly at the weapon. “My Uncle Alphard made this when he came of age, it was supposed to be given to his wife but if I recall correctly he never had the chance. She ran off with a noble from Germany or some such. In his grief he directed all of his pain and anger into the blade and forged atop it a curse that leaves the wounds un-healing, just as his heart was doomed to forever feel that loss. A bit melodramatic if you ask me but I suppose you can ask him yourself when he’s over for the Summer Solstice.”
Hermione stared. Stared and stared, and stared a while longer.
So much for Spring Cleaning. Whatever should she have expected? The Blacks were not a normal clan and so she supposed - with an annoying amount of grit and bitten words - that she shouldn’t have expected this to have gone any other way.
Still, it did beat being bored downstairs.
“Oh! And look here, it’s Arcturus’s skull!”