- By Aine Déande
I. Candle by midnight
Flicker-shadow of flame. A wandering hand, inching across. Whispers on the carpet.
"Do you think they saw us? Could they've —"
"But couldn't they —"
The candlelight flutters indecisive in wake, then dies out completely. In this den of darkness, two girl-women smile.
Their hands flicker over each other's borderline skin, as did the candlelight.
I.2. Letters of the fancy
I'll be the wine of your sin and the depth of your drink... I'll be devil in disguise, haunting... haunting...
Let me taste your skin and fall into morrow.
They told me you were seeing someone. I told them they were wrong. They didn't speak again after I cut out their tongues. You would never betray me.
You talk too much.
No, not there not — It makes me think of Rodolphus.
I told you, you talk too much. Next I'll be taking your tongue...
Take my tongue. Take my breath. Take everything.
Oh, sister mine. You want too much.
Let's crawl up inside the other and sleep. In the morning things will look much brighter.
You hide from me. It is fine. You have your secrets, I'll have mine.
As you say, sister mine.
She doesn't stay still on paper. I can never get her features right. They shift as though imitating a flame. Stubborn girl.
Lying there, still as ice, yet flowing as blood on my parchment. Can never be still, even in repose. I press the tip of the pen down hard, make it bleed on its impression. The ink spot grows larger and she smirks.
She is naked now; black satin of her nightgown glides off of her like rain. There is rosemary in her hair and blood under her tongue. I tasted it myself, just before: a painter needs his inspiration.
Charcoal then. If she must be wicked and dark, I'll draw her as shadow. Shadows flicker, as do flames. She is both, equally.
I could blend her in sepia and take the ribbon out of her hair, the one with the rosemary and the beads of tiger's eyes, but then she'd cry out and claw at me, and I wouldn't want that. Then she wouldn't sit still.
The design on the dress, two dragons devouring each other, is hers. She likes the feel of the needle in her hands, likes the patterns she weaves... more than anything, she likes it when the needle pricks her finger and she gets to soak her own creations in her blood, however briefly. I always make the bleeding stop. I don't like blood on my clothes, let alone hers.
It makes me hungry.
Though nude, her wild hair is so long it covers nigh the length of her, lying on the couch and still, like a pinned butterfly. I could clasp her to my memory, but she doesn't like to be chained, not even in the mind. She'll move, sooner or later, and let the fabric slip from her; let the hair slide from her back and drop it onto me as she bends to my mouth. Sooner or later, she makes me forget. She has to.
I am not yet done when she comes up from her reposition. I say reposition' because it fits her; she seems to always return to a proper position, even when there isn't one.
She is like a moving statue sometimes, reposed even in fight, but one with flaming hair and eyes of twilight nevertheless. She smiles when I set my carbon pencil down.
I take her lips to my own with little protest.
The charcoal drawing slips to the floor, a corner getting stuck in a crack in the floor.
I.4. Two makes three
The sisters Black are now twenty-five years of age. Both have married into fine, respectable pureblooded lineage. Narcissa has grown into her shell of a blonde death; Bellatrix, as the fallen angel, has remained a dark danger. Once every month, the Dark Lord calls upon her at the start of eve, and Narcissa will lie awake on those nights, although she knows her sister won't be returning until the light of dawn.
When Rodolphus was taken to Azkaban, it seemed only natural for Bellatrix to come and live in Malfoy Manor. Though the Dark Lord's calls upon her grieving sister — for her grief was quite real and sincere, in spite of all evidence to the contrary — were not diminished, he allowed her to return home before dusk faded to daybreak.
Then, Bella would crawl into Narcissa's bed, cuddle up intimately to her, and they would sleep well into morning. Narcissa's husband Lucius would sometimes leave the bed then, though other times he wouldn't.
They still draw one another, on occasion.
Since Bellatrix has long stopped designing, they leave the clothes for what they are now and often skip the drawing part altogether. They come into one as gasps and shudders, struggling through their pleasure, wreck and raze their evergreen bodies.
Sometimes, a tear from either of their cheeks will slip to the floor, as did the charcoal drawing that day. Sometimes, the tears don't fall at all.
It was on an otherwise uneventful afternoon of no drawing and no calls that the letter arrived.
My darling sisters,
I beseech you to read this letter, addressed to you both by your sister Andromeda, with benevolent deliberation. Though I hope the recollection of your elder sister's love has remained etched into your respective memories since I departed from the Black House eight years previous, I understand that sisterly bonds have not been obtained by us throughout the years, and for that I am truly sorry. However, my reference is not of a selfish nature, rather than a motherly one.
I gave birth to Nymphadora Cassiopeia Tonks nearly seven years ago in a little-known Muggle hospital outside of Gloucestershire, my dear husband at my side holding my hand and pulling me through the painful throes of labour. A darling child, golden, bright and possessing of a wit as sharp as a Mandrake's teeth. As it were, she has asked me whether or not she could visit her aunts over the Easter holidays, two days after turning seven at her parental home. I have no objections to this, however it is not my home and private time that she would be intruding upon; it is yours.
I ask you, with a sister's love and affection and recalling the many years of sibling camaraderie between the three of us before I left my home to marry the man I loved, to consider taking my daughter into your custody for the holidays. I assure you she is well-mannered and will not interfere with whatever other plans you have, so long as she is granted with enough methods of entertainment to keep herself occupied.
I won't impose my own presence upon you, if it is your wish: Nymphadora is quite capable of travelling by Floo. I implore you, my dear sisters, give my daughter a chance to win your hearts. She does have a way of charming the birds out of the trees.
Your sister Andromeda Tonks
Bellatrix looked up from the letter and, for the first time since her husband had been taken to the wizard prison, genuinely grinned.
"So polite, our elder sister... so well-composed..." She licked her lips.
"'t Would be a shame to miss an opportunity to look upon our young niece for the first time, would it not? Cissa?" She cocked her head to the side, looking at me languidly.
I looked from the letter to her still grinning face, looking my decision in the eyes. I nodded.
I.5. Sketching the scene (again)
In the master bedroom of Malfoy Manor, Bellatrix Black watched her sister sleep and casually slipped a hand under her gown, to rub her belly.
In the luxurious guestroom in the West Wing, Lucius Malfoy had his unshaven head in his hands and let out a shuddering sigh. Then he got up and smashed a bottle on his bedside to the floor, only to hear the sound of glass shattering.
In a bedroom of the Tonks household, a pleasantly dreaming William Tonks slept spooned against his wife, who lay wide awake and, in an almost detached fashion, kept turning the ring on her middle finger, over and over.
In the only other bedroom, a girl of about seven sat cocooned in a self-made tent of sheets. On her lap a book is open to the hundred and seventy-ninth page. A candle, sheathed by a glass jar, rests next to the book, precariously balancing on the bend of her knee.
The girl's form is lank, her hair an eerie white matching her nightgown, and on her lips is formed a little smile. Her cerulean eyes are caught in the half-light.
The candlelight flickers and dies, but before darkness can permeate the scene, Nymphadora Tonks' eyes lit up; blinding white, as is the sun.
I.6. Girl with the red shoes
She is seven. She is Nymphadora Tonks. She has never seen her mother's sisters.
Her daddy had told her to wear the carmine-coloured shoes "because they look good on you". She thought that sounded so strange... after all, she changed her appearance at will. How could daddy know what her true self looked like?
She supposed he referred to the girl she looked like upon waking. But surely she wouldn't meet her aunts in that mien. She had seen them in pictures: they had been radiant, the both of them.
They hardly looked related to one another at all. Mommy had pointed out who's who: the dark goddess, Bellatrix; the fair ice queen, Narcissa. Her own mother seemed just average by comparison. Nymphadora Tonks did not feel ashamed about feeling this way: she admired beauty, and would never recoil from placing one form of loveliness above another.
She stood before the fireplace dressed in long raven hair, grey eyes, blue robes and red shoes. She was ever fond of contrast, and looking the way she did, she thought to herself she would be a contradiction even to her aunts, sharing qualities of both their beauty on the evidence of her face. She had seen her mother's letter: she had not informed her sisters of Nymphadora Tonks being a Metamorphmagus.
What a pleasant surprise that would be for them, she mused. She knew enough of the wizarding world to understand about the politics between pureblooded wizards, halfbloods and Muggleborns. There was ever a chance a child that's half-and-half would have no magical powers.
Well, her parents had never have to worry about anything in that department. The moment the mother had given birth to her, her miniature self had opened her mouth to scream... And as she did, her hair colour changed keys along with her shrill voice's volume. It had been an excellent special effect, according to her father, which had then prompted the question from his daughter what exactly was a special effect'.
The fire in the hearth burned a bright green and Nymphadora Tonks shivered in her dress, in spite of the heat. She was nervous, a feeling she despised. The hard eyes of the women in the picture would never approve.
She straightened her shoulders and announced her destination. "Malfoy Manor," said her voice in a tone that seemed too tiny to come out of her throat. She winced as the fire took her away from her home, and didn't look back once.
I.7. Welcome to our lair
So there she is.
She looks a bit scrawny.
Only because she wants us to see her so. Look at her eyes.
They are blue, yes.
They were grey before.
Yes. Quite an advantage, is it not? It will make the training easier.
Much easier. It is good to see the magic in her. I was afraid withthat father —
Shhh. He is of no importance. Not here and now. He gave birth to this child, it is his one defence.
What a magnificent child. Look how she straightens her back, how she lifts her chin.
She will be beautiful when she is our age.
She will make grown men weep.
Yes. And we will teach her how.
But of course, my sister. Of course.
"Good morning, Nymphadora Tonks. What a lofty first name. Would you mind if we call you Tonks, instead?"
"No, Aunt Bellatrix. Not at all."
"Please. Call me Bella."
Let the training begin.
_TO BE CONTINUED_