It was a warm and sunny late summer afternoon in Diagon Alley. Two witches walked leisurely along the crooked cobblestone, one dressed in striking black robes, her midsection cinched beneath a silver studded corset dress, heeled black boots completing the ensemble that went well with her wild near waist length black curls and pale, patrician features – sharp cheekbones, hooded dark eyes, and full red lips fixed at rest in a haughty pout. Her companion was a contrast in more ways than one – her chestnut hair more frizz than curl, styled shorter, just passed her shoulders, warm honey eyes, dressed in fitting Muggle jeans, a loose graphic t-shirt, and a pair of open toed sandals.
For all their differences, however, the two walked in sync. Side by side, as if their steps were choreographed, with little more than a few inches of space separating them from outright touching. And the child that skipped just a little ahead of them, delightedly catching and popping colored bubbles that erupted from the wand tip of the black haired witch, seemed to understand without having to look back and away from her play to not stray from within the parameters of the imaginary lines the two witches drew with their steps.
And the child's appearance was the perfect blend of the two. The stark differences meshed together in such a way – shiny, unruly chestnut curls, facial features that would only be more regal as she grew older, plump pink lips spread in a gleeful, carefree smile, and deep set eyes, one black, one honeyed brown, that sparkled like jewels – that anyone would know without having to ask that she was theirs. But even if they couldn't see the resemblance, everyone knew who Bellatrix, Hermione, and Lyra Delphini Jean Black were. And even after years of being in the public eye, the sight of the former notorious Death Eater turned double agent for the Order of the Phoenix, her wife who was one third of the Golden Trio who had ultimately brought about the demise of Lord Voldemort, and their magically conceived love child, could still draw stares, excited whispers, and requests for autographs.
"I still don't think this is a good idea," Hermione muttered, trying to keep her face and tone as neutral as possible as she glanced sidelong at her wife.
"Yeah, we should have used Polyjuice. I swear if I see one more photo of Lyra in the Prophet I'll - "
"You know that's not what I'm talking about Bella!"
"So you don't have a problem with all of Britain treating her like a bloody show pony?"
"Bellatrix! Stop trying to change the subject."
Despite the exasperation in her tone, Hermione made an effort to keep her voice low. It was all the two would need for some overzealous fanatic or a sneaky water beetle who was long overdue for a good squishing to overhear the minor disagreement and the next morning's Prophet headlines would no doubt read "TROUBLE IN PARADISE FOR OUR FAVORITE COUPLE?" Or something along those lines.
"Fine," Bellatrix snorted, barely concealing her amusement at her wife's ire, "But we've talked about this. She's old enough."
"Barely! She's not yet six, she doesn't need a broom. What if she falls? What if she gets hurt?"
"Don't Muggles let their offspring ride around on those two wheeled death traps when they're her age? She's a witch, pet. She's got to learn sometime."
Hermione huffed in reply, unable to get around Bellatrix's logic. She had in fact learned to ride a bicycle when she was her daughter's age and figured a broomstick was a similar rite of passage for wizarding children. Sill, the idea of little Lyra rocketing off into orbit with nothing but a thin stick of wood and straw bristles for support made her stomach clench with anxiety.
But they had promised. After a visit with Uncle Harry and Auntie Ginny, and her cousins James, Albus, and Lily Luna, and watching James and Albus fly around the garden on their own brooms, Lyra had begged her mummies for one of her own. Bellatrix, of course had been proud and agreed immediately, while Hermione had needed some convincing. And while Lyra's handmade card had been sweet, and Bella's own form of convincing had rendered her hoarse and deliciously sore in some rather inappropriate places, Hermione still had her doubts.
Yet here they were in Diagon, stepping into Quality Quidditch Supplies and in hardly more than a second afterward, their child had her little hands and nose pressed against a glass display case, hungrily eyeing the latest model of Firebolt.
"I want this one!" she declared rather loudly, her mind made up.
"Absolutely not!" Hermione countered, horrified at the thought of her child astride a broom advertised as the fastest in the world. As if she wanted to imagine Lyra hurtling through the skies at over 200 mph.
For once, Bellatrix actually agreed and took Lyra by the hand, leading her away to where the more age appropriate models were displayed. "Maybe in a few years when you're older and playing for the Slytherin team. Ah, look at this one. It's got a pink handle."
Breathing a sigh of relief, Hermione turned to peruse some titles on a bookshelf. Quidditch wasn't really her thing. She did enjoy watching the games back at Hogwarts, cheering for Harry and the other Gryffindor players. But she had never tried her hand at playing. Still she couldn't pass up good reading material. And the book entitled 'So Your Child Wants to Play Quidditch' seemed like a promising page turner.
"Miss Granger, or Mrs Black rather. Fancy seeing you here. If memory serves me correctly, flying was never one of your many fortes."
The familiar, low Scottish burr caused the brunette to turn, still holding a copy of the book that had caught her eye as she took in the sight of the former Head of Gryffindor, current Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
"Professor, how good to see you," Hermione smiled brightly, the furrow of frustration between her brows ironing out, "What are you doing here?"
"I've asked you to call me Minerva. We are well passed formalities I'd like to think."
The younger witch chuckled softly and nodded, "Of course. As soon as you start calling me Hermione. Miss Granger makes me feel as if I've earned myself a detention and Mrs Black, well, it kind of feels the same considering how many detentions Bella must have earned once upon a time."
Minerva laughed good-naturedly at this and inclined her head in indulgent acquiescence, "I suppose you're right, Hermione. Rolanda needed a case of broom polish for the start of term and I decided to accompany her. Besides that, the shop brings back memories from my own time on the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I played Beater you know."
"Oh, of course. How is Madam Hooch? I haven't seen her in ages."
"Stubborn as always I'm afraid," the Headmistress said with a sigh, "She won't hear of resigning as flying instructor even after her little accident during the final match last term. Something about suffering far worse than a broken hip in her day."
"Merlin," Hermione gasped, her face fixing into an expression of sympathetic horror, suddenly remembering what brought her, her wife, and their child into Quality Quidditch Supplies, "I hope she's all healed."
"Unfortunately," Minerva muttered though Hermione did not miss the fondness in the tone of the elder witch.
"Bella and I are here with Lyra. They seem to be deluded into thinking she'll be purchasing her first broomstick." Because as far as the brunette was concerned, both had to get passed her in order to leave the shop.
"For those two maybe but - oh! Good afternoon, Madam Hooch."
"Black. Good to see you," Rolanda Hooch's voice was as gruff as it always had been, her piercing yellow eyes sharp and shrewd even with the sincere smile on her face. Both she and Minerva were well into their 80's by now, Hermione guessed, but given how magical genes worked, the two looked hardly older than mid 50's. It was the same with Bella, who would be celebrating her 56th birthday in a few months but looked like a woman barely pushing 35 even with the small bits of grey beginning to streak through her sable hair.
Speak of the devil.
"Well, well, well. Look what we have we here." Even after years of being together, marriage, and a child, Bella's voice when she pitched it low like that still managed to make Hermione's skin break out in gooseflesh and her heart pound against her rib cage. "Old Kitty Whiskers and her pet pigeon."
"Bellatrix." Minerva's tone terse and clipped as there was no love lost between the two. She had known Bellatrix since she was eleven and even now all these years and two wars - one in which they had actually fought on the same side - later she could not help but continue to see her as the impish, rule breaking, arrogant and haughty witch descended from the Noble House of Black.
"Auntie Minnie!" Lyra's voice cut through the slight tension with the mildness of a butter knife but the efficiency of a proper sword, as she broke out into a run, leaping into her godmother's arms, "Look, look what Mama got me!"
The small model broom was quite cute Hermione had to admit. A pink handle, silver stirrups, and black bristles, complete with a pair of training wings. Much to her relief.
"How nice," the Headmistress said with with a smile that made her grey eyes crinkle around the edges.
"Yup! It's a Cleansweep Junior. Mama says I won't need the training wings. She says they're for babies and I'm not a baby. I'm five years old and that's a whole hand. She says Mummy probably won't like it, but she promised she knows how to change her mind."
Hermione rounded on Bellatrix, her honeyed eyes flashing dangerously as Minerva and her cohort chortled knowingly. "Did she now?"
"Come along, pet," the dark witch murmured hastily, taking Hermione by the elbow, her pale cheeks flushing a peculiar shade of pink as she lead her towards the Alley, "We promised our daughter a trip to Fortescue's didn't we?"
"Ice cream!" Lyra exclaimed excitedly, hopping down and making a mad dash for the shop's door with all four witches - two amused, one slightly chagrined, and the last enraged - following suit.
"We'll come with," Minerva drawled with a smirk, "Our portkey is nearby."
This trip down the crooked cobblestone road was different than the last, an easy conversation beginning to flow between the four. Well between two of the four, the other two seemed to be engaged in a battle of wits that was toeing the line of offensive to which Minerva and Hermione both rolled their eyes and attempted to get their significant others under control. Several paces ahead, Lyra skipped, knowing the way to the renowned ice cream parlor like the back of her own hand and not needing to look back to see if she were going in the right direction. The five year old was pleased not to hear the rather familiar admonishment of "Where I can see you, Lyra", from either of her mothers and took that to mean that they both, as well as her beloved godmother and her godmother's wife considered her grown up enough to lead the way. She was, after all, old enough to fly on her own broom.
Florean Fortescue's was just around the corner and little Lyra would soon have her favorite three scoops of Drooble's flavored ice cream. But then something caught her eye. Something out of place and yet intriguing. It was summer time and yet there was a string of broken fairy lights laying haphazardly against a brick wall, half concealed by a wrinkled copy of the Quibbler among a pile of debris. Lyra's thick brows crinkled. Fairy lights didn't belong with the rubbish. No. Fairy lights were magical. They were put up during Christmas and Christmas was her favorite holiday. Who would throw them away? Maybe one of her mother's could fix the broken bulbs. And then, months from now, she would have her own special piece to add to their tree. Her mind made up, the little witch deviated from her original path and with a chubby hand reached out to grab the strand of broken lights. Somewhere in the distance the girl was sure she could hear shouts and naughty swear words, the sounds of feet running toward her against the cobblestone but before she had a chance to suss it out, a strange feeling behind her navel made her scream and the shops, the sights, the sounds of Diagon Alley disappeared in a wild blur.
"Where the fuck is my child?" Bellatrix screeched, her voice echoing off of the buildings and columns in the alley in a way that could only be described as chilling. An arm was draped over her wife's shoulders, her feet planted in such a way as to support Hermione's weight whose legs had given out the moment the four witches witnessed Lyra vanish into thin air.
"Not to worry," Minerva attempted to explain once more. The first time she had barely gotten three words out before she found herself on the receiving end of Bellatrix's curved walnut wand, "She simply touched our portkey -"
"Anyone with half a billywig's brain would know she touched a damned portkey!"
The Headmistrss exhaled sharply through her nose, frustration evident on her wizened face, before responding, "Lyra is at Hogwarts."
"Right," Madam Hooch huffed, "The quicker we get to the nearest Floo station, the quicker we get to Lyra."
"You would think that two formidable witches such as yourselves, the Headmistress of a renowned school for magic and a sodding former Ravenclaw would have the combined smarts not to leave a bloody portkey lying around where any innocent child, mine as it were, might come along and touch it," Bellatrix scoffed spitefully, eyeing Minerva and Madam Hooch with a look of utter loathing.
"Bella," Hermione interjected softly, her heart rate beginning to slow now that Lyra's whereabouts had been figured out, "You're not helping."
"Oh sure. And I wonder how bloody forgiving you'll be still if we get there and find our daughter playing tag with the Whomping Willow."
More biting remarks were made, mostly from Bellatrix, as the four made their way to the Leaky Cauldron. There was a queue for the Floo station that was promptly cleared by a thunderous look and a noise that sounded suspiciously like a growl from the dark witch. Hermione was sure she heard Minerva mutter something that sounded an awful lot like, "Madwoman", before she followed her wife into a flash of emerald flames, choking a bit on the ash as she called out "Hogwarts!"
Several moments later, they were spewed out of the fireplace in the Headmistress' study. Two more flares of flame illuminated the cozy space announcing the arrivals of Minerva and Madam Hooch.
"Well this is just swell," Bellatrix groused, brushing cinders from her robes and hair harshly, "This school is as huge as it's always been. It'll take us ages to find her by which time she'll probably have - "
"She would be on the Quidditch Pitch, Black," Madam Hooch's gruff voice cut in before yet another dramatic tirade could begin, "I had the portkey designed that way."
Sure enough, a peal of happy, ringing giggles met the witches as they arrived onto the sprawling emerald green pitch and Lyra was running around chasing a golden snitch which was flying low and slowly so that the girl could probably catch it if she jumped high enough. Upon seeing her mothers though, she quickly abandoned her game and ran to them with a cheerful greeting.
"Oh darling," Hermione nearly sobbed in relief, scooping her daughter up and peppering her cheeks with kisses, "You had us both so worried! What have we told you about touching things without our permission? You know better, you could have gotten hurt!"
In the Wizarding World, something that looked completely harmless could harness an ancient curse, hex, or yes, be a portkey in disguise. This was especially true with some of the artifacts belonging to her dark haired mother that were kept locked in a cabinet in their home. Lyra knew this as it was one of the first lessons she had been taught and she did look properly chastised as she recited the mantra back to her mother, her bottom lip poked out in a pout and her eyes gone doe wide and watery.
"Oh come now," Bellatrix drawled extracting the child from her wife's arms and giving her a squeeze, "Put the lip away. You won't do it again, will you?"
Hermione couldn't help but smile a misty sort of smile as she took in the sight of the two loves of her life. For as big of a scene that Bella had caused in the Alley, for as wicked and mean and downright mental the witch could be sometimes, Lyra positively melted her. She had never once raised her voice or her hand to their daughter and was as much of a disciplinarian as a dragon was a house pet. It was a flipped switch that Hermione found rather adorable and only an additional thing that she loved about her significant other.
"Well thank Merlin she's been successfully retrieved," Minerva murmured with a hint of a smirk and a twinkle in her eye that was reminiscent of the school's former Headmaster, "I would have hated to have to go through the work of repairing the school if it had been burned to the ground. These old hands just aren't what they used to be, you know."
"Mama, mama," Lyra crowed, excitement returning now that she had been forgiven, "Can I go flying now? Please?"
"Erm," Bellatrix hesitated catching the warning look Hermione was giving her out the corner of her eye, "Maybe another - "
"I've an idea," said Madam Hooch, using her wand to summon her own broom from the storage shed. It was a magnificent thing, heavily polished mahogany handle, silver dusted bristles, shining stirrups. A Nimbus 2020 in excellent condition. "I'll give the little one a once around the pitch. She'll be perfectly safe."
Lyra gave a high pitched shriek of evident delight as Hermione looked torn between stricken and trying to decline in the politest way possible. An indolent smirk tugged at the corner of her wife's lips and Minerva's expression fell easily into the one she wore when chiding rowdy first years.
"How about I do you one better, you old bird," Bellatrix drawled and all parties involved with the exception of the youngest knew that nothing good could come from that particular tone, "You may take my daughter for a little joyride on one condition. You and I, we have a race."
"You're on, Black. Been waiting years to take your arrogant arse down a peg or two, I have."
Ignoring both exclamations of shock and ire, Bellatrix marched toward the Quidditch shed, spurred by the cheerfully supportive clapping coming from Lyra's direction. Her look of haughty determination though soon became one of disgust as she got a gander at the stock of brooms.
"You're taking the piss! Haven't you got anything better than these old twigs? A Shooting Star? A flobberworm can wiggle faster than that for Salazar's sake!"
Madam Hooch couldn't help but let out a hearty guffaw and shake her head. "Tell you what, Black, I'll swap out my broom so we'll be even. Since you're so afraid you'll lose."
"The only thing I'll be losing is count of how many circles I'll fly around you, you barmy old crow."
Hermione, Minerva, and little Lyra had taken seats up in the stands to watch the impromptu race, the two elder wearing similar expressions of exasperation and poorly concealed amusement as the two sparring witches voices rose above the pitch.
"They're both so similar," Minerva muttered, "I've never realized it until now, really."
Once the brooms were chosen - a Swiftstick swapped for her Nimbus for Rolanda and the Shooting Star for Bellatrix - both witches mounted and kicked off the ground, coming to a hover at the designated starting point.
"You know," Bellatrix said with a smirk, cutting her dark eyes at the flying instructor, "I always suspected something was going on with you and McGonagall. She always looked at you like you were dinner." She licked her lips in a decidedly perverse manner, "But then again, cats do eat birds."
Rather than rise to the bait, Madam Hooch took off as quickly as the old Swiftstick could go, getting a pretty decent head start on the cackling dark witch. But Bellatrix soon brought her own broom to its max speed and was gaining in on her opponent's bristles. The wind rushed through her hair, fanning her curls wildly around her face and shoulders. She had always had a knack for flying, making the Slytherin Quidditch team back in her second year.
"Nothing to add then I gather?" Bellatrix yelled loud enough to be heard as she cut a corner, bringing the Shooting Star into a roll, leaning forward to pick up more speed, "Tell me this though, is the old lady still tight under the tartan?"
Rolanda Hooch had always been a smart flyer and not just because she had been a Ravenclaw. Quidditch had been her life, her her heart pumped faster, her yellow eyes focusing sharper when she was astride a broom, pushing the wood and bristles and polished stirrups to their limit. She was not about to let a whelp like Bellatrix who was too busy giggling madly at her own vulgar jokes best her. Without even a second glance behind her, she leaned forward on the Swiftstick angling the broom downward into a stomach churning dive. Just by the way the air around her shifted, Madam Hooch could tell Bellatrix was following suit and at the very last moment before certain collision with the pitch was nigh, she pulled out of the spectacular Wronski Feint, crossing the last bit of distance to the decided upon goal at the same moment the loud crash and splinter behind her signaled the dark witch crashing into the grass.
Dismounting, Madam Hooch went to check on her opponent, a smug expression on her face as she noticed smeared blood and angrily red cuts marring those perfect pale patrician features.
"You filthy cheat," Bellatrix scoffed, dusting off her hands as she rose to her feet, kicking the remains of the Shooting Star across the green, "I suppose it's true that Slytherins aren't the only ones who like to play dirty, yeah?"
"It's like I told you years ago, Black," Rolanda replied in her usually gruff fashion, "You can't focus on the game when you're busy running that mouth of yours."
"Right," Bellatrix said her lips fixing into her signature seductive pout, and despite the rivulets of blood dripping from her nose, she still managed to come off as arrogant, "But it's so much fun."
The day had started off regularly enough, a trip to Diagon Alley and dodging Prophet paparazzi had somehow involved Lyra disappearing and was now ending with the two witches who had both been labeled the brightest of their respective years returning to Hogwarts. Settling into the stands, the former Death Eater, turned double agent sat still as her wife, famed Golden Girl, mended her broken nose with a flick of her wand and a muttered 'Episkey' before laying her head atop a frizzy chestnut one. Her own form of an apology that was silently forgiven. They had been together long enough where words were almost no longer necessary to express certain things and looking out at their former educators, they caught a rare glimpse into what their future might hold.
"Told you she takes after me," Bellatrix murmured, twirling a finger around a lock of Hermione's hair as they watched their little girl have the time of her life safely astride Rolanda's Nimbus, "She's a natural."
"Yes well, she still needs the training wings. And we'll discuss that dirty mouth of yours when we get home."
"Oh will we?"
Hermione hummed and pressed a chaste though heated kiss to her wife's collarbone, relishing in the way Bellatrix involuntarily shuddered beneath her touch, "Yes. Quite vigorously. See, I've got a little wager of my own..."