A/N: Love to signofthetimes, CB and reviewers.
Ask and ye shall receive...since a guest reviewer asked for Narcissa/Hermione here it is :)
Narcissa closed the door behind herself and sighed silently. Hermione was sitting on the bed, eyes big, hands twisting in her lap. She bit her lip, nervously looking about, and said finally 'Aunt Cissy?'
'It's all right, sweetheart. Let's have a cuddle, shall we?'
Hermione climbed eagerly into her lap and nestled close, breathing deeply. Narcissa held her, rocking a bit, for some time, the sole sound their breathing. Finally, knowing she couldn't put this off forever, she said quietly 'Tell me what you understand, love.'
'Mother is upset with me.'
'Yes. That's right.'
'Is she very angry?'
'She's angry. I've told her I don't think you quite understood what you did wrong. Is that correct?'
'Darling, what does the Dark Lord teach us?'
'A place for everyone from high to low.'
Narcissa hadn't expected that, and nodded a bit. 'Yes, sweet, that's true. But what does he say about unequal partnerships, do you know?'
'He tells us that it's all right for us to help people below ourselves, but we shouldn't socialise with them. Just like how elves can't visit witches, remember?'
'Yes, but Alise isn't below me. She's a year ahead of me.'
'That's a different sort of below, sweetheart. Alise isn't…like us.'
'She's not a Pureblood, you mean.'
'Alecto is a Pureblood and she hit me. Alise is kind, and she needs a friend.'
'I know, love, but we have a responsibility.'
'Aunt Cissy? Sometimes I think that I…I don't like what the Dark Lord teaches very much.'
Narcissa cradled the back of her niece's head. 'I know, darling. It's hard. But you've Yseult, isn't that right?'
'I don't like Yseult much, though.'
'She's very suitable. Perhaps you could help her as well.'
'Help her with what?'
Narcissa hadn't the faintest but she'd try. 'She could use some help with…well, she isn't very discreet, is she?'
'It would be better for the other little girl as well. It will be harder, the older you get for a friendship like this to function.
Cutting things off now-'
'Aunt Narcissa, you want me to stop being Alise's friend?'
'I know it's hard, precious, I do.'
'I won't do it.'
'Hermione, this isn't up for debate.'
Narcissa held her more closely, rocking a bit more. 'This isn't like you, Hermione.'
'Alise is my friend, Aunt Narcissa. I can't abandon her.'
Even as Hermione said it, she was nuzzling closer. Narcissa knew what the girl was doing; she was rebelling, but she wanted to be reassured that she was loved and cherished even as she did it.
Well, that was certainly true as well, but so was the first thing.
'Hermione Bellatrix, I am not happy with your attitude right now. You know better than be defiant with an adult.'
'Yes, Aunt Cissy.'
'What would your mother say?'
'She'd be even angrier.'
'Well, yes, but I think she'd tell you some things. What do you think she'd say?'
Hermione was getting stiff. 'Don't know.' The edge of fear was in her voice, getting deeper than rather less. Narcissa cupped her niece's cheek and murmured soothingly. Poor love, this was going to be so, so hard.
'She would tell that she loves you. All of us love you. But our family has beliefs, and you are not being respectful of them. And you certainly know better than to contradict your elders, don't you?'
'What do we need to do about this right now?'
Hermione squirmed. 'Oh.'
'Yes. Unless you're willing to promise me right now that you won't be friends with this little girl anymore, than I have to punish you. I don't want to do that, Hermione. The idea of hurting you even a little bit is horrible to me. But if you keep this up, that has to happen, do you see?'
'Yes, Aunt Cissy.'
'Do you promise?'
'No, Aunt Cissy.'
Narcissa patted her niece lightly. 'Get your hairbrush, Hermione, I'm going to take you over my knee and smack you.'
Hermione obeyed at once, carefully shedding her shoes and jacket, and, after careful consideration, her skirt and blouse as well. She shimmied into her nightdress and came back with her brush, looking determined and nervous.
'Good girl, Hermione. Lie across my lap, please.'
Her niece handed the brush over and complied. She was shivering ever so slightly, and making very soft whimpers in her throat. Narcissa tucked the skirt of the nightdress well up and took down her knickerswithout a word, hating every second.
'Why are you being smacked, Hermione Bellatrix Lestrange?'
'I won't stop being Alise's friend, Aunt Cissy.'
'And you were what?'
'Contradictory? Is that the word?'
'Defiant would also be all right. Put your wrists back, darling, I don't want to swat your hands by mistake.' Narcissa Stuck both wrists to the small of her niece's back to make sure she couldn't try tocover her bottom with them. She gently draped her own leg over Hermione's to keep her kicking to a minimum and looked at the scene in front of her, wishing she could fix this.
'Is there anything you might like to say, sweetheart?'
'I'm sorry you're angry with me, but I won't stop being Alise's friend if I get a million smackings.'
Narcissa moved the brush closer, loathing that she had to do this, loathing the stubbornness her niece had inherited from Bellatrix but a touch proud as well. Hermione had chosen the more difficult course and stuck it out, even when faced with consequences she hated and feared.
If she and Lucius had raised Hermione, of course, this wouldn't seem so traumatic and awkward. They'd have played out this exact scene at least a hundred times, and things would have found a rhythm that would have stripped the alienness from things.
They hadn't, and waiting was cruel to her niece. Narcissa pressed her free hand over Hermione's wrists and raised the first swat made her niece gasp and stiffen, legs kicking. Hermione sniffled. 'Ouch! That hurts!'
Narcissa squeezed a little harder and kept going. It was going to hurt a great deal worse before things were finished, she thought sadly. Hermione took it stoically, at least thus far, inhaling and wriggling a bit with each smack but not begging off or wailing. Yet.
'Cry, darling. It's all right. Just let it all out and have a nice big cry. It's easier that way.'
Hermione didn't answer, just squirmed a bit more as Narcissa gave her firm, even strokes of the brush, determined to make the point but equally determined to make sure that Hermione understood that she was loved and wanted even now.
'It's all right, love. Shhh, shhh, just let those feelings out. It hurts, darling, I know it does. Just close your eyes and let the feelings take over for a little while.'
Hermione whimpered but didn't otherwise move. Narcissa stopped for a moment, resting the brush on the girl's reddening backside so she wouldn't think they were done.
'Is there some reason you don't feel safe crying right now, angel?'
Hermione whimpered a bit louder. 'Sorry.'
'No, shhh. I just think you'd feel all better if you let some of these feelings out. It's safe for you to do that. I promise it is.'
Narcissa patted her back lightly as she talked, trying to provoke an emotional reaction. Anything was better than this. There was no defiance in it, was the worst thing; defiance could be dealt with, butHermione seemed more hurt and afraid, and that was intolerable to her aunt.
'That's my girl. Just try to relax and don't think, and you'll feel all better very soon.'
Narcissa picked up the brush again and went to work, wishing Hermione would break down so she could stop and get the girl's promise that she'd stop being friends with the muggleborn.
She pressed down to keep her niece in place and started on her thighs and the sensitive place where Hermione sat. Hermione gasped, kicking, and finally, blessedly, started to cry.
'Good girl, Hermione. I am so proud.'
Hermione sobbed harder, squirming, trying instinctively to move away from the source of the pain. Narcissa tightened her grip and kept smacking, knowing that Hermione would stop fighting her when she'd truly had enough.
It took a long time. By then Hermione was protesting and crying out with every swat, feet going so quickly the motion was almost a blur. She went still, gasping with pain and Narcissa quickly put the brush behind herself so her niece wouldn't see it.
'Sweetheart, we're done. Shhh, shhhh, just cry it out, there's the good girl. Yes, shhh, I am so proud of how well you've done.'
Hermione hurt too much to answer. Narcissa stroked her damp hair and waited whilst the worse of the tears passed. When her niece was sniffling rather than sobbing, Narcissa put down her nightie and helped her up, immediately embracing her so they could cuddle.
'Shhh, shhh, shhh.'
Hermione didn't answer. She was in her own world, curling in on herself. Narcissa couldn't let that happen. She moved her niece so the girl couldn't curl up and then pressed her very firmly to her chest.
'Hermione, shhhhh. Aunt Cissy is right here, love, just close your eyes and relax.'
Hermione nodded once and did as she was told. She still didn't feel very relaxed to Narcissa, and she finally bent closer, crooning softly.
'Let's talk about this, sweetheart. All right?'
'Hermione, something is wrong, darling. We need to find out what it is so we can fix it.'
'Let's not. Please?'
Narcissa called for warm milk spiked with soothing syrup. 'Shhh, I'll hold it. Just take sips for me. That's good, isn't it? Sweet and warm and nice. There we go, just a bit more. Good, good.'
The little girl's muscles were relaxing, finally. Tears were leaking from her eyes and she had started to tremble slightly. Narcissa was more and more concerned.
'Why are you shaking, Hermione?'
'It's not better.'
She had to prompt Hermione twice more before she got an answer. 'I see.'
Her niece was such a good, brave girl who wanted to please. That was what was killing Narcissa. Poor little thing.
'Do you really think that would be enough to make us not love you, Hermione?'
Hermione shook her head. 'Don't know.'
'Well it isn't. Not for anything in the whole world. We love you no matter what. Even on the naughtiest day of your life, we love you exactly the same as on the best day, do you know that?'
'I… do you promise?'
'Of course I do.'
Hermione still looked half-afraid. 'You won't leave me?'
'I promise that too.'
Narcissa rocked her a while, just letting her feel safe. Why was everything so hard with the child? It seemed like everything she touched was another trial. Surely they could find a way to soothe things a bit, somehow?
'Why don't we call your mother in?'
Hermione went rigid. 'I'm sorry, I'm sorry!'
'No, shhhh. This isn't a punishment. She'd want to cuddle too, is all. Bellatrix loves you and wants to help you feel all better. That's all, shhhh. Shhhh.'
'No more hairbrush right now?'
'No hairbrush right now. We'll all pile into bed and have a nice cuddle, and then bedtime, how would that be?'
Hermione nodded carefully, clearly wary this was a trick of some kind. Narcissa sent an elf, still holding her niece tightly. Bellatrix came at once, looking nearly as on-edge as her daughter.
'Hermione is very tired, Trixie. We're going to get into bed and cuddle, all right?'
Bellatrix kicked off her shoes and lay against the wall. 'Come on then, girl.'
Hermione obeyed slowly, clearly sore and stiff. She rubbed gingerly as she crossed the room, climbed under the covers and lay uncomfortably next to her mother. Bellatrix awkwardly patted her arm.
'Go to sleep, girl.'
Narcissa joined them, snuggling close so the three were in proximity whether they would or not. 'Bellatrix, why don't you tell us a story?'
'You used to tell me stories, do you remember?'
'Of course I do but-'
'Hermione has never heard Rabbity-Babbity, I don't think.'
Bellatrix gave her a funny look but started the story. Hermione was still and silent between them, until Narcissa whispered for her to close her eyes and take deep breaths. Ever eager to oblige, she did, and finally, after a quarter of an hour, began to drift.
Narcissa told the next story, wanting Bellatrix to reach out to the girl somehow. Stroke her hair, rub her neck, give her kisses on the cheek, anything but lie there. Finally she caught her sister's eye andmimed that same idea, and Bellatrix, nodding slowly, began to gently curl Hermione's ringlets about her finger, humming off-key.
The change was immediate. Hermione's eyes opened. 'Mother?'
'I'm sorry I'm naughty.'
Before Bellatrix could answer, Narcissa stepped in. 'No one in our family thinks you're naughty, Hermione. We think sometimes you do naughty things, but you yourself are a very good girl and we know that.'
She relaxed, still looking at Bellatrix. 'Do you think that, Mother?'
'I've said it, haven't I?'
Hermione went still. 'Sorry.'
'Honestly, girl, you'd think I meant to eat you half the time. I'm not cross with you a bit.'
'Oh. All right.'
'What were you sorry about, anyhow?'
Hermione was inching closer to Narcissa, seeking protection even if she didn't know it herself. 'I was an accident. Wasn't I?'
'Who's told you that?'
'It's true. I take you from the Dark Lord and now I've made your job harder.'
'Where did you hear such rubbish, girl?'
Hermione was curling up again, a bit. 'Isn't it true?'
Bellatrix glowered until she saw that her daughter was getting smaller and more anxious with each second. 'Of course it isn't. We want you. We miss you.'
Hermione very slowly let herself stretch out her limbs, like a flower unfurling. 'I wasn't an accident.'
'You were a surprise.'
'Would you have been happy?'
Bellatrix leant over and pecked the girl's forehead gently.
Hermione actually moved a little closer to her. 'You don't mind that I'm taking up your time?'
'Course I don't.'
Narcissa nodded approval. Hermione was letting herself move ever-so-slightly closer to Bellatrix. 'Would you tell another story?'
She did. Hermione was asleep before it was half-way done.
In the downstairs parlour, the sisters drank wine before they discussed what had happened. 'She's got your stubbornness.'
'She's quite determined to pursue her course in this.'
'Didn't you smack her?'
'Firmly. She is still determined.'
'What do we…how do I…?'
'As I see it, Bellatrix, you've two choices. You could do what Mother would have done and punish her until she agrees out of desperation for the pain to end. That's the first option.'
'You know I wouldn't!'
'I do know you wouldn't. The second option is, don't ask her about it ever again.'
'She won't stop, but if she feels safe with us she'll share, and we can guide her. In time, either the friendship will fade or they'll both be adults and things will be out of our hands. But I think-really and honestly-that forcing this issue is the worst thing we can do.'
'A mudblood, Cissy!'
'Was eighteen and infatuated. Hermione is twelve and wants a friend she actually likes.'
Bellatrix sighed. 'Fine, you explain it to Rodolphus.'
'You really think this is the best way?'
'I think this is the only way. Because once she starts associating you with pain and fear, you will never overcome that association, ever. She might well obey but she would never really trust or feel safe with you.'
'You're dramatising, Cissy.'
'How did you feel with Mother?'
Bellatrix put her wine glass down. 'Point taken, Narcissa.'
'I think you should spend some time tomorrow, just the two of you.'
'Sounds a good idea.'
'Bellatrix, what's the matter?'
Bellatrix's face worked for a second. 'Had I known I was pregnant, I would have…I wouldn't have been happy.'
'Are you happy now?'
'About the girl? Suppose I am. She's…she tries, Cissy.'
'Yes, she does. She needs us to show her we're all right to love and trust.'
'Is it always this hard?'
For that, Narcissa had no answer.