Title: Portrait

Characters: Bellatrix, Andromeda and Narcissa Black.

Summary: Children are not born evil, and once upon a time, the Black sisters were exactly that; children.

Notes: This is how the three Black sisters view each other - before the war that breaks each of them in their own way. I sincerely hope you enjoy!

Andromeda wondered what horrors had caused this portrait to appear; a weak, spiteful woman in black, tattered robes leaning against a doorway twice her size. She peered at it in wonder, and bemusement, at the sunken eyes and wild hair and pasty skin and -

But no. That was a different memory, one of Wanted posters and newspaper articles. The portrait in her mind was very, very different.

Because Bellatrix Lestrange may have been bloodthirsty, and she may have been cruel and mad and ghastly, but Bellatrix Lestrange was not her sister; that haunted, wasted waxwork figure was not the tall girl of Andromeda's memories.

Bellatrix Black was a proud girl - always was - but she hadn't always been this pureblood fanatic people always seemed to think of.

Children were not born evil.

The girl Andromeda remembered was the girl who taught her to braid her hair and read to Narcissa about The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, and The Warlock's Hairy Heart, all the classics.

Bellatrix, the charismatic one who stood up to their mother and was Father's pride and joy and stood up for her sisters.

Bellatrix Black sent messages to them when she went off to Hogwarts; each day a new one appearing on their beds, with Cissy or Dromeda scrawled neatly across the surface.

She taught Andromeda how to speak to boys and taught Narcissa how to paint her nails a vivid red. Bellatrix Black liked to dance out in the rain because it made her hair frizz and their mother shouted at her.

Bellatrix liked to colour; normal drawings of Circe and Merlin, not pureblood horrors and fantasies.

She collected Chocolate Frog cards - the old ones, the better ones - and had no patience for her many tutors. Bella liked to read, but nothing historical or anything, really, in the Black library.

Bellatrix sometimes collected Muggle daisies that did no harm, and father would place them on the mantelpiece and Mother would tear them down with a wave of her hand and a slap on Bellatrix's wrist. She sometimes experimented with Mother's perfumes and she tried on Father's shoes and stole Andromeda's dolls and made faces at Narcissa.

Bellatrix Lestrange was a monster with sunken eyes and wild hair and pasty skin, and she was not Andromeda's sister. Bellatrix Black was a girl with intelligent eyes and a wild streak a mile wide and creamy skin that glowed when she smiled.

Children were not born evil, and people seemed to forget that Bellatrix once was exactly that; a child.

Narcissa sometimes took to closing her eyes and clearing her mind. Sometimes she saw darkness, and welcomed it; other times, her sister's portrait sat, unyielding, in her memories.

Well, not her sister anymore - Mother had made sure of that, despite the fact Druella Black could do no more harm six feet underground - but she was still Andromeda.

Dromeda was soft in a way Bella never was, and warm in a way Cissy would never be. She soothed her younger sister after thunderstorms and bad dreams, and laughed and talked with her, and healed scraped knees before Mother caught them. Andromeda sung lullabies at night and woke her gently in the morning.

Andromeda Black was her sister. Andromeda Tonks was not.

She was the one who never had a favourite doll, and rotated them on different days so she could hold them all equally. She was the one who made Narcissa a blanket the Muggle way, and whose touch did everything to soothe her.

Dromeda sent her less frequent letters than Bella, but they were longer, more detailed; tales of classes and Hogwarts and memories and friends and everything Narcissa soon would have.

Andromeda never read Narcissa's diary or attempted to break the locks, and she always knocked on her door before entering. Andromeda was the only one who told Mother she loved her, and the only one Father never trusted.

She never helped Narcissa with petty things such as clothes or boys or friendships, just sat quietly in that gentle way she always could.

She didn't teach Cissy how to braid her hair and never told her fairy stories, but the two of them didn't fight as much as Dromeda and Bella did.

Andromeda didn't collect Chocolate Frog cards and spent time - too much time - in the Black library around the books that screamed curses at her and tables that attempted to eat her whole.

She avoided the rain like a curse and listened intently to her one tutor.

She preferred the lupines to daisies but Father never put them in any water, and they always withered too soon. She helped Mother put on her jewellery but refused to shine Father's shoes and she sung to her dolls and reprimanded Bellatrix when she needed it and whilst Bellatrix never failed to make her laugh, Andromeda always made sure Narcissa didn't cry.

Andromeda was her sister, the dishonoured blood traitor, but she wasn't always that.

Bellatrix wondered what monster had turned her fragile little sister into this portrait of a cold-faced, heartless woman in black robes, with her hair pinned back from her pretty face and her hands clasped tightly in her lap.

Narcissa wasn't always this weak.

Her blue eyes used to be brighter, and her voice was lovely when it sang. It never had the rough elegance of Andromeda's or the passionate twist of Bellatrix's, but it was soft and quiet and beautiful. Her skin never used to be this pale; Cissy spent all her time outside, dancing and singing and running away from Mother's watchful gaze.

Cissy's smile used to be wider, and it used to reach her eyes. Her hair was blonder and curlier, and her cheeks were more rounded, her dimples more pronounced.

Her sister used to be the perfect picture of innocence, and, in reality, was anything but.

She liked to write poetry in the corners of her bedroom - little epics that made you laugh or cry or both - and she spent more time in detention that not. Narcissa knew exactly what amount of lip gloss to put on and how much eye kohl she could get away with in front of Mother.

Narcissa could tell a lie to get all three of them out of trouble, and Bellatrix would almost believe it herself. Cissy had Father wrapped around her little, manicured finger.

Lucius Malfoy didn't stand a chance as soon as she set her bright, blue eyes upon him in fourth year, and by fifth they were officially going out. By sixth year they were "the" couple, or so Bellatrix was told, and by seventh they were engaged.

Cissy was fast, she was precise, and she was dangerous, but she rarely showed it.

Narcissa Black was not, could never be, weak, but Narcissa Malfoy seemed to have had killed some of her fire, some of her fight.

Cissy could have told you the secrets of everyone in Slytherin, and had enough dirt on both Mother and Father for her to blackmail them without any personal harm.

Lucius Malfoy, like so many before him, never stood a chance.

Maybe Narcissa would show some of her strengths again - her lies, her defiance, her fire - but for now, this Death Eater's wife and Death Eater's mother and Death Eater's sister was not quite a Death Eater.

And Narcissa wasn't always this weak, no matter what the Death Eaters say.

Bellatrix Lestrange was evil; Andromeda Tonks was as good as dead; Narcissa Malfoy was weak. But Bellatrix Black was young; Andromeda Black was warm; and Narcissa Black shone.