Title: The Black Swans

Characters: Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa Black.

Notes: This is a one-shot, looking into the story of a portrait that hangs in Number 12, Grimmauld Place. I hope you enjoy.

There is a portrait that hangs in the kitchen of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. The beloved Order members ignored it. The glorious Golden Trio forgot it. Dumbledore's precious Army never saw it.

It appears, at first glance, to be a Muggle photograph. But then the smallest fidgets slightly, and the oldest blinks, heavy lidded eyes seeming to just graze the porcelain skin beneath, and the middle child slumps before her perfect posture is resumed.

The two oldest could be identical, if the younger's hair darkened slightly and her slight dusting of freckles faded back into that pale complexion.

The youngest has long, blonde hair that curls ever so slightly at the ends, and blue eyes that lack the passion of the grey eyes of her sisters. Her mouth is set in a small frown, as though the painting is taking too long, as though her scenery is too boring. She glances, sometimes, at her elder siblings, those out-of-place blue irises seeking approval.

It doesn't come.

If you listen, you can just hear the soft, manic laughter of the eldest child, just on the brink of madness, and the sighs of the middle child who holds no love for pureblood traditions. Only the youngest is silent.

If you look, you can see the pained expression flit across Andromeda's face and the terror in Bellatrix's penetrating gaze and the confusion in Narcissa's frowning eyebrows.

If you look close enough, for long enough, you can see that even then, the Black sisters, the Black swans, are falling apart.

But at a glance, you see a petite girl, only fourteen or so, standing straight next to a familiar looking girl perched loftily on a chair, her hair braided back, and behind her, a would-be identical twin, with her own curls wild and her grey eyes narrowed.

You see the brush lines carefully drawn, as if some fear has driven the artist to paint perfection.

You look at the eyes that seem so alive - two greys, one blue - and wonder how anybody but the best could capture the electricity that bounces from the paint.

If you look at the painting, you can't imagine any of these girls in traditional Hogwarts robes, walking past those who, in social standing, are beneath seem too important, too regal, to be children, however young they may look.

You can't imagine them ever being in love.

They are, though, back when they are free. As all girls who grow up, like Wendy did, they too experience the fleeting glances and pounding hearts.

Their letters to their parents are as formal as this painting, but nights at the Astronomy Tower are not forgotten.

Narcissa, the black sheep of the Black family, falls in love with the Slytherin. It doesn't last long. Oh, no; they don't separate. They get married; they have a son. But their love dies. Their hearts are given to others. Still, her parents are proud; he's Slytherin.

Andromeda, the white sheep, lets a Ravenclaw Mudblood steal her heart. It lasts forever. She fights for him. They get married; they have a daughter. But they die.

And Bellatrix, the lion, steals glances at a good-for-nothing Gryffindor. It doesn't last long. They fall out of love. They don't get married; they don't have children. They die. Nobody ever knows. Nobody can ever know that Bella Black can feel.

You see only three perfect purebloods in formal robes, and you don't think for a second that they will all rebel, one day, in the name of love.

The first shall be Dromeda. Her's is the most obvious betrayal, full of screaming and curses, of slamming doors and suitcases launched from the windows. She runs away, at just sixteen, and marries the Mudblood only a year later.

Cissy cries that night, her head buried into her pillow so that Bella will not come and slap her for being weak. She would. She has done so before.

Bellatrix simply watches with indifferent curiosity as her mother burns the name Andromeda from their own tapestry. She is eighteen, straight out of school, and engaged to Rodolphus Lestrange. She'll wonder if Mother would've paid attention to her if she had married a worthless Muggle too.

Or maybe a Gryffindor.

The next shall be Bella. Her's is the lesser known rebellion against her forefathers, her ancestors and her parents.

It depends on whether the Black family care more for themselves, or for the Dark Lord. Either way, she kills her father in cold blood, under the watchful gaze of her mother, who she tortures into madness minutes after, to prove her loyalty.

Her Lord had only asked that she Imperius her father. But Bellatrix Lestrange doesn't do things half way. After all, they killed his parents. She held him when he cried.

The Blacks deserve everything they get, every last one.

The third, most subtle act of treachery performed by the Black sisters is made by quiet Narcissa, the Black with blonde hair.

It's when she chooses her family over her Lord.

Because Draco is her life, her love, as Lucius once was, and to lose him is to die a tragic death. She no longer bears the Black name; she is a Malfoy; but her own sense of self preservation keeps her from sacrificing her family as Bellatrix had done.

The black sheep, the white sheep, and the lion of the family all turn their backs on Blacks in the name of love.

There is a portrait that hangs in the kitchen of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. It is a portrait of three Black swans; three little girls caught up in a war they are too young to fight in.

Watch, like the beloved Order, the glorious Trio, and the precious Army did not, and see the protective stance Bellatrix takes over her siblings. See the way Andromeda's pale hand finds Narcissa's, and how the youngest sister's eyes seek the approval of her elders.

See it be given.

Because before they became swans, the Blacks were three ducklings, though not ugly, who sought the compassion their parents denied them in each other.

There is a portrait that hangs in the kitchen of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. At first glance, it appears to be a Muggle photograph. But if only things were that easy.