"Will you stop laughing and just help me??" Bella whined, staring down at a list of what seemed to be increasingly terrible ideas.
Her sister snorted into her tea and rolled her eyes. "You've fucked her how many times now? And you still don't know what she likes?" Andy replied, deeply amused at her sister’s apparent predicament.
Bella's eyes narrowed into a glare. "We don't exactly do a lot of talking…" she replied quietly, beginning to wish she hadn't thought to come to Andromeda after all. The only plus side, she supposed, was that it wasn't Cissy mocking her. Cissy had twice the bite to her words that Andy did, and almost as much as Bella herself. If Cissy saw her like this she would never hear the end of it.
"Has it ever occurred to you that you should maybe try that sometime?" Andy replied dryly, a smirk spreading across her face.
Bella scrunched up the list into a ball and threw it at her smirking sister. "Shut up! Its difficult, okay?"
Andy laughed, ducking out of the way just in time so that the parchment merely skimmed the tip of her ear. Tempting as it was to continue mocking her elder sister she felt her resolve soften at the look of consternation on Bella's face. "You really like her, huh?" She said softly, a much gentler smile forming at the way her sister had started furiously scribbling again. "Proper got under your skin."
When Bella didn't reply she continued. "It's nice you know. Sweet. To see you like this. Cissy and I were worried you'd never settle down."
"I'm not saying I want to go picking out curtains, okay!" Bella snapped. "I just… I want to give her something… something nice!"
"Other than the hickeys you've been leaving on her neck?" Andy couldn't help snarking back with an amused twinkle in her eye. "Because heaven knows she's had plenty of those after your little adventures!"
Bella had the good grace to turn a little pink at that, remembering the letters that had arrived the morning after. Hermione had not exactly been pleased about those… Though Bella didn't exactly remember her complaining about it at the time. Moaning, sure. But not complaining . Still, she'd stayed away for a couple of weeks afterwards. Avoiding the witch at all costs until, in a surprising turn of events, it was Hermione who had dragged her into a cupboard one evening and had her panting heavily between a wall and a mop bucket.
Months they'd been at it now. Months and still Bella couldn't fathom the first thing about Hermione. Her likes and dislikes. Her hopes. Her dreams. There was plenty to be read in the papers, of course. Hermione was a high flying member of the Ministry. One of the Golden Trio. There was barely a day went by without there being something written about her. But it was all superficial or related to her work. Nothing that would actually tell Bella anything useful about the witch. It was why she came to Andy in the end. If anyone was going to know something about the girl it would be her, but so far her sister was being plain infuriating.
"Argh!" Bella groaned, scrunching up another piece of parchment. "Will you please just tell me something useful, Andy? I don't want to fuck this up!"
"Have you considered books?" Andy supplied, rather unhelpfully to Bella's mind.
"I've read every mention of her in books, magazines and articles from Rita pissing Skeeter! None of it helps!" Bella snapped, dipping her quill a bit too forcefully into the inkpot, spilling the liquid across the desk. "Fuck sake!" She yelled and rushed to banish the liquid before it could touch her last clean sheet of parchment.
Andy snickered from her perch on the windowsill and took another sip of her tea, enjoying seeing her sister so utterly flustered for once. "Books." She repeated. "Hermione is the world's biggest bookworm."
Quill hovering over parchment, Bella paused, her eyebrows knitting together in a frown. "So what? I take her to the local library?" She snorted in derision. "Very romantic, Andy. I'm sure you and Ted had a naughty old time at the back of non-fiction but that won't work here."
Andromeda rolled her eyes, almost wishing Cissy was here to join in her berating of their eldest sister. She'd need to schedule a catch up over some wine soon so they could really savour it. "You really are a dumbass sometimes, you know that?"
"When has insulting me ever proved to be a fruitful endeavour for you, Andromeda?" Bella said tensely through gritted teeth, her fingers tightening on the quill until it looked like it might snap in two.
Andromeda ignored her and continued. "Where is the biggest magical library in all of Britain and who might have access to it I wonder?" She asked with mocking thoughtfulness. "Could it be Black library and the eldest heir to the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black? Hmm… I wonder..."
Hermione had not been expecting anything this year (or any other year, thank you very much) so it came as a bit of a surprise when a large screech owl with yellow eyes and a haughty way of hopping tapped on her window. She let the owl in and offered it a treat, which it turned its beak up at, before removing the letter attached to its leg. The owl hopped once, twice, and then unfurled its wings to take off into the night once more, apparently in no need of a reply.
With a deft swipe of her wand Hermione opened the blank envelope and removed a small slip of parchment. The brief message was written in jagged, angular, yet somehow still neat writing but was unfamiliar to Hermione.
"I want to show you something. Meet me outside the Cauldron at 10pm. B''
Despite not recognising the writing it became eminently clear who the message was from. Only Bellatrix would have the cocksuredness to request a booty call without actually asking. It wasn't how they usually got together, of course. That was more of a spur of the moment thing for them. Whoever saw the other first, dragging the other into a dark corner or unoccupied room and demanding with their body.
Maybe this was Bella's idea of being romantic, Hermione mused with a small smile. Almost asking before claiming her prize.
She glanced at the clock above the fireplace and saw that it was 9.45 already. Damn, Bella really didn't think that a bit more notice might have been helpful? It would be a bit of a rush job to get there in time but it was just about doable. The question was though, did she really want to just jump at Bella's every beck and call like some well trained dog? The woman didn't even ask nicely, for heaven's sake!
Still, the thought of what Bella might want to show her lingered. Bella never wrote. Ever. Hell, they barely spoke to each other outside of their dalliances. So writing a note? Maybe that was Bella asking nicely.
She paused briefly, swithering about whether to go or not, before deciding. Yes. She'd go. But only to see what was so important that Bella had felt the need to physically write to her.
Pacing back and forth on a busy London street was a difficult feat of a Saturday evening; but one Bellatrix managed to pull off rather successfully given that she didn't ever look where she was going. She checked her watch for the fifth time in the space of a minute and frowned to herself. Either her watch was running fast or Hermione Granger was late. (She dared not consider that the witch might not come at all because… because… Well she just wouldn't think about it!)
With a huff of resignation she slumped against the railings outside the pub and glowered. She'd wait, she supposed. If only because she was sure Andy was watching gleefully nearby and would happily hex her if she gave up so soon. But waiting made her anxious. She didn't do waiting. Admittedly, she hadn't done any of the things she had planned for this evening before. The entire experience was new. She'd already resolved that if things went belly up tonight then she'd blame Andy and never talk to the sarky bint again. That was always a nice thought to fall back on. Things not being her fault. It made the waiting a bit easier to deal with.
Another minute slipped by with no sign of the invited witch, leaving Bella with a heavy feeling in her stomach. It was a stupid exercise really. Foolish. She began convincing herself. Another one of Andy's nonsense ideas that had just proved to be a colossal waste of her time. Except… it hadn't been Andy's idea, had it?
A groan escaped her lips, causing a startled tourist to jump back in fright. Beautiful as she was, Bellatrix Black still looked murderous when she wasn't thinking about it. Resting bitch face, Cissy had informed her. The blonde herself having learned it from Draco. She took to pacing again, deciding she'd allow precisely one more minute before giving up on this whole endeavour and sinking into a bottle of firewhisky for the night. On her third pass of the pub this time she found herself marching straight into a familiar figure with a mass of half tamed curls and a scent like honey.
Her eyes met a pair of glinting amber eyes and she felt herself let go of the breath she didn't know she'd been holding.
"You came." She breathed, the sound of her suddenly hammering heart filling her ears.
Hermione smiled, taking in the look of relief that had appeared on her usually smirking face. Bellatrix Black looking relieved? This night was certainly full of surprises…
"You sent an owl." She replied, taking Bella's arm and shepherding her down a side street, knowing how Bella didn't like to be seen with anyone (let alone Hermione) in public. "You never send owls. I thought it might be important."
Bella fiddled with the buttons on her coat for a moment, seeming to be summing up courage, before thrusting out her hand, her gaze snapping back to Hermione’s. "It is important, take my hand."
Hermione did as she was asked, marvelling at how soft and small Bella's hand felt in her own. It wasn't the first time they'd held hands, but it felt different, gentler somehow. Like all their previous encounters were sharp, angular affairs. The kind that needed haste and rough movements to get anywhere. Bella was never gentle when she wanted something. Hermione was sure of that. She still had the bruises from their last panicked fumble in an unused sitting room at Grimmauld Place during one of the many winter parties Harry and Ginny held. Bella had wrapped an arm round her waist, quickly and silently disapperated them into the room, before throwing Hermione down on an old sofa and having her way.
She felt the familiar tug of disapperation as Bella spun on the spot, pulling Hermione into the night with her. When they popped back into existence it took her a moment to realise where Bella had taken them, so dark were the surroundings compared to the bright, harsh lights of London. Looming over them like some ancient monolith was a tall, slender piece of granite. Its surface entirely smooth. She looked up, searching for any sign of an entrance or even a window but there wasn't a single indentation to be found in the stone. Or at least there wasn't until Bella stepped forward, hand outstretched.
The faintest outline of a door made itself seen as the dark haired witch approached the stone structure. She pressed her hand in the middle of the space and muttered a few words under her breath. The edges glowed brightly and the stone surface was replaced by a burnished oak door with a bronze doorknob in the centre. Bella stepped back and looked to Hermione, who stood open-mouthed.
"This is… this is Black library, isn't it?" She said, her words barely more than a whisper.
For the first time that evening Bella's confident smirk appeared on her face. "The one and only." She offered Hermione her hand again. "Come inside."
"I-Inside? Really?" Hermione stammered, taking Bella's hand, amazed once more by how gentle the woman was being with her.
Bella's lips curled up into a true smile instead of a smirk. "Yes pet. Inside." She chuckled. "I'm not that cruel to bring you to a library and not let you inside." She tugged gently on Hermione’s hand and pulled her inside the glowing opening.
Lights began to glow softly above them, illuminating an ornate staircase leading down from the entrance and into a grand library with shelves that seemed to run on for miles. The sight alone was enough to make Hermione weak at the knees. She’d been in many libraries in her life, all across the world, many of them the finest collection in the land. But nothing. Nothing. Compared to the sheer expanse that was Black Library. Each row of shelves was easily one hundred feet tall, towering up to what appeared to be a star strewn sky.
“It’s beautiful…” Hermione murmured, letting go of Bellatrix’s hand so that she could enter the library proper. Her hand trailed along the banister, the wood warm beneath her fingers sending a tingling feeling straight across her magic. It was like a welcome caress.
Bella followed slowly behind, observing how the brunette’s eyes widened as she took in the vastness of the library. In the soft glow of the library lights she looked truly gorgeous. Her wonder was infectious, making Bella grin from ear to ear. This had been an excellent decision. The look on Hermione’s face confirmed that for sure.
She continued down the stairs and joined Hermione, laying a hand at the small of her back. “This way, pet. There’s more.”
“More? You have literally every book in the world. How on earth could there be more??”
Bella chuckled softly and guided her through the shelves, going slowly so that Hermione could admire the texts on the way. Their walk was peppered with soft smiles and gasps of astonishment. “You have a first edition Grammatica?! ”
“How do you even get your hands on Merlin’s original manuscripts?!”
“Bella! These were lost in the fire of Alexandria!”
All Bella could do was laugh and move the excitable witch along until they reached their intended destination - an open space in the middle of the library that reminded Hermione of a clearing in a wood. On the ground lay a square chequered blanket, a bottle of wine, and a picnic basket.
Hermione's hands flew up to her mouth and she spun around on the spot to stare at Bellatrix.
"First you send me an actual letter and now you've brought me to the biggest collection of magical texts in existence and laid out a picnic under the stars." She gestured wildly behind her before continuing "Who are you and what have you done with Bellatrix Black?"
Bellatrix laughed faintly and pushed Hermione so that she fell back on the cushioned blanket. Hermione bounced a couple of times on the blanket before Bella placed a foot either side of her and slowly sank down until she was straddling Hermione's lap. With a seductive slowness she lowered herself lower until her face hovered over the brunette’s and that wicked smile that Hermione had become so accustomed to made an appearance.
"I thought I'd be nice to you but if you'd rather I was naughty…" she trailed her fingers lightly over Hermione’s cheek, smirking as a pink blush followed the path of her fingers.
"Bella… I…" Hermione had no idea what she had intended on saying before those scarlet lips strayed across her lips in a gentle caress and silenced the thought.
When Bellatrix withdrew a minute or two later, the pair of them with kiss swollen lips, she merely smirked down at Hermione and said "You were saying?"
Hermione flushed red and rolled her eyes. "Stop it, you. You know fine well I can't think when you do that." She swatted at Bella's arm but still accepted the offered hand to pull her upright.
The spread that Bella had laid out was an impressive one, including all of Hermione's favourite food and drink (even some sugar free cola if she didn't fancy the wine). "How did you…" Hermione began, taking a bite of one of the sandwiches and groaning with pleasure.
"How did I know these were your favourite things?" Bella filled in for her, wiping a crumb away from her lips with a soft thumb. She looked down to the blanket before admitting. "I had a little help. I wanted this to be special for you." She gestured around the picnic and the library. "All of this is for you Hermione. Now…" she paused, as though unsure of her next words. "Now and always. I want you to always have this and… if you'll have me… me too?"
"Bella…" The name came out in a breath, like a whisper. She shuffled up onto her knees and took Bella's trembling hands before she could backtrack and escape like she always did after their encounters. "Bella… you didn't have to give me a library just to get me to say yes to loving you!"
"You l-love me?" Bella stammered back, all of her cocksuredness from earlier gone. Instead she was anxious looking, desperate to know the truth.
"From the moment I first set eyes on you." She smiled up at her and pressed a soft kiss to Bella's full lips. When she pulled back her eyes were full of mischief, a smirk pulling at her lips. "I'll still accept this gorgeous library though!"