It was a normal day. Normal for the early season at just the start of spring, and normal for what Hermione would have expected out of any other lazy day.
Pretty in the way that Hermione had seen many other springs, many other days. Green leaves were sprouting along the branches of old trees, flowers were spreading themselves wide to face the sunshine and luscious pelts of grass were expanding all over the ground. Beautiful, but all in ways that she knew .
She still loved it, of course, it was just expected now. Or mostly expected, excepting some rather wonderful differences that happened to involve little Delphi.
She had woken that morning with a plan in her mind and feet quickly sliding into the little rabbit slippers that Bellatrix had bought for her three years ago as an anniversary gift. A quick walk about the house to wake everyone up had led to Bellatrix grumbling as she passed by and Delphi slowly rolling off her bed to slump on the floor in protest at the sunlight streaming through the window. She left them both there, Bellatrix still cursing the turning of the earth and Delphi resolutely trying her best to be a lump, and set about waking herself.
Sipped tea, read late emails. Waved out towards the neighbours and took stock of the mess her daughter had left in the living room the night before. Quick things, easy work, time alone and time to tend her own thoughts.
Good things, even when Bellatrix finally meandered down into the kitchen with her hair set up in a nest of tangled curls and Delphi following slowly behind, a veritable miniature of her mother.
It was cute, even when Delphi missed the step down into the kitchen and nearly landed flat on her face. Hermione's niece, Nymphadora, might have been Andy’s child but Hermione could only pin that level of ridiculous clumsiness on Bellatrix. The woman was as much a danger to others as she was to herself, even when all that happened was a mistimed reach or a step that appeared from nowhere. Delphi, by all accounts, looked to be picking up on that as well.
Where Bellatrix had Andromeda beat was in reflexes though, and with expert movement she grabbed the back of Delphi’s shirt and hauled her back upright.
A good grab, and one that had Delphi laughing as she floated above the kitchen floor and back onto her feet.
A good start to the day and a fitting start to their noon-time adventure.
The fields and woods around their little home had come alive overnight, all of it ready to show off before the heat of summer beat everything back into submission. Delphi had pleaded the night before and Bellatrix, ever susceptible to little grey eyes and a pleading smile, had offered the afternoon to walk the trails that wound their way through the woods behind their home.
Of course, allergies were a handful for Hermione, and though she would have preferred to not end up downing enough-
The voice knocked Hermione from her thoughts with the shrill fury only a child could muster up, and with eyes widening in expectation of alarm Hermione turned to look for her child. Within seconds she caught sight of Delphi’s wild head of hair bobbing in line with ferns and bushes that covered the ground on either side of the trail. She was sprinting, that much was evident, but further viewing calmed Hermione’s heart. Instead of the fear that she had worried over it seemed instead that Delphi was crying out with pointed excitement, a smile upon her face and a little hand waving in the air at them.
Not that she needed to wave in order to get Hermione’s attention, not with the crashing and shouting.
Bellatrix shifted against her side and leaned in towards her ear, “Something’s following her.”
Hermione straightened her back at that, stood on her toes and attempted to peer over Delphi’s approaching form as much as she could. She didn’t have to wait for long as soon enough Delphi had advanced to the point where Hermione could indeed see that something was following her, rustling the brushes and remaining low enough that she couldn’t spot exactly what it was. She waited patiently, not exactly worried but wary nonetheless. There wasn’t much in these woods that would manage to harm any of them, no poisonous reptiles or dangerous predators, but she supposed it paid to keep on her toes regardless.
It wouldn’t be the first time that her daughter had managed to surprise her half to death and she supposed that it wouldn’t be the last, not with Bellatrix giving answers and ideas for mayhem and assorted chaos.
“Mom! Momma, look!” Delphi cried out as she burst through the foliage, turning about to point into the woods as she collided with Bellatrix’s knees. The little girl stood there and vibrated with glee, smiling and looking up Hermione and Bellatrix’s face while she waited on whatever creature it was that had been following her to make its presence clear.
“What have we here,” Hermione murmured, kneeling down by Delphi’s side and wrapping an arm around her. “Delphi, what did you find?”
The question resolved itself rather quickly. Out from the forest stepped a beautifully coloured fox kit, only so large as two tissue boxes stacked end to end and fresh as the season. It was at once the last thing she had expected and still exactly what she had expected. Delphi had a knack for finding odds and ends, and this little creature appeared to fit that bill precisely.
It was, in a word, adorable. It was also alone, and far too comfortable to be quite normal. The little creature was nursing at a paw with a tongue that didn’t seem to still, looking up at them all despite obviously being in some sort of pain. Whether that meant it was eager to find something to help or had been touched by humans before wasn’t a question that Hermione could answer, at least not without first consulting someone far more learned in the matter. Still, Delphi was proud to show them and with little in the way of fanfare or questioning, Hermione ruffled her daughter’s hair and looked at her wife with as serious a face as she could comfortably make without scaring little Delphi.
“-and I’m ‘gonna call her Vulpe, ‘cause she’s a fox! Can we keep her Momma? Mom? Please!” Delphi finished out her plea by bouncing in place with hands clasped over her chest, her eyes screwed up into a perfect imitation of Bellatrix’s pout.
Hermione was not swayed.
She was minutely swayed, but not enough to warrant making a mistake like the one Delphi wanted.
“But why?” Delphi whined, her voice just as nasal as she could make it and eyes welled up with tears. Bellatrix shrugged when Hermione glared at her, clearly expectant that she be the one to tackle the issue this time. Which, well, she couldn’t exactly argue against that. She had already let Hermione handle the bulk of the legwork, up to and including scheduling a time for them to drop off the little kit. The Burrow might have been highly recommended but the staff were a little off.
She supposed she had earned this, one way or the other.
“Phi,” Bellatrix began, tone even as she turned around in the passenger seat, one hand on Hermione’s thigh across the centre console and the other behind the headrest to steady herself. “You know how your cousin Nymph has a dog?”
Delphi raised a small fist and wiped away the stray tears falling down her face, a sign Bellatrix could only take as an improvement over the wailing that would have otherwise been unleashed. She took a breath and continued, “Well, you know that Nymph has to take care of it, right? She has to feed it, take it on walks, clean up after it. Yeah?”
Delphi nodded once more, tears dried up for now and all quiet besides the odd sniffle.
“Well, Vulpe would be like that too, but more. You’d have to watch over her all the time, even if you wanted to play or go somewhere else. You’d have to feed her, and she doesn’t eat puppy kibble like Nymph’s does. She’ll never listen to you, she’s too wild for you to train her. You get what I mean?”
Delphi looked down into her lap for a second or two before winding a loop of black curls around her finger and turning to stare off through the car window. Bellatrix knew that now wasn’t the moment to press her on the subject, Delphi would answer her when she was well and truly ready. Coaxing out an answer that she wanted would lead them nowhere fast, and likely just incense the little girl.
Her little bundle of joy - and occasional headaches - was just as willful and stubborn as her wife, more so at times. Bellatrix knew that if that temperament continued on into adolescence she would be due for a hellish few years, but hopefully she could manage to temper and mitigate the impish willfulness.
If not, well. It would be an adventure either way, of that she was sure.
“Okay.” Delphi acquiesced in a tone so quiet Bellatrix nearly missed it entirely, such a difference it was from her prior protestations. The little girl looked positively crestfallen but Bellatrix was determined to fix that. A few stories and anecdotes, maybe some jokes that Hermione would wring her head for later.
It worked, after a time.
When they arrived the next month there was another visitor waiting for them at the entrance, tall and lanky with a face filled up by a sloping, carefree smile. Saying he had a twinkle in his eye would be a stretch but Hermione thought it somewhat appropriate at this moment. Her brother-in-law Theodore was as gregarious with her daughter as he was with Narcissa’s, and any chance to spend quality time was taken up on right away.
Bellatrix exited right after Hermione and waved before turning to let Delphi out of the car, only a second passing before Hermione was nearly bowled over in the little terror’s burst of speed to hug her Uncle.
Theodore laughed, “Delphi, good to see you! Bigger than last time eh?”
The little girl jumped and squealed, informing him on where she was headed before she sprinted off through the doors to the main facility.
“Bellatrix,” he said, his voice warm and soft now that they were all alone. “Hermione, good to see ya. Thanks for inviting us out, Nymph’s already inside. It’s been all she can talk about for the past week.”
Hermione smiled and shook his hand, an effort that had her being caught up in a hug before catching up in that way most parents could and conferring all that had occurred since last they met. Antics and anecdotes were traded, family gossip and promises for get-togethers in the future. Soon enough the pleasantries were over and nothing was left to be done but trundle after the children and hope they hadn’t vexed any volunteers into leaving them somewhere on the preserve.
Not that it was large, but it was large for them. A massive facility spreading out from there contained veterinarians and offices, little bolted on additions that were meant for teaching children and visiting students. A hodgepodge of activity in every room as visitors looked and wandered about as the day wore on. The plot of land that it sat and watched over was large. Nearly a hundred and fifty hectares of protected woodlands had all been marked out to serve as a refuge for native wildlife, animals that were hurting or in need of conservation. The borders were patrolled every day, and along the interior was a large auditorium that had been set up for employees or guests to speak to children and visitors in an open-air environment through which they could directly observe the animals within.
It was lovely, if somewhat garish, and Hermione found herself naturally smiling as she walked inside to be greeted by the matronly owner who looked to be locked into a heated debate with her little darling. Delphi noticed their entrance though and sped off through the hallway to point and jump in the direction they should go.
Hermione smiled and apologized to the older woman before following along with Bellatrix’s hand in her own and Theodore happily jabbering as they walked. Delphi and Nymph kept moving, soon enough taking seats in the front row of the auditorium as Delphi pointed out all the little animals that she could see.
The foxes that were visible were small, just little creatures with excited faces and playful yips that echoed through the stage, to the constant delight and amusement of the children. An employee followed them up, another group of children and their parents filtering in before everyone settled down to listen to the class.
Bellatrix heard some of it, nodded along in time with the words and kept a smile plastered to her face. Her attentions were elsewhere though. Her eyes were only for her wife, smiling as she watched the scene before them, and for excited little Delphi as she paid rapturous attention.
Her little girl was alright, the little fox was now safe and happy.
Spring was in full bloom.