Narcissa looks at an old photograph. They were all children once.
Bellatrix and Sirius, standing in the garden.
They are smiling at the camera. Bella's hair is mussed. Sirius has his Papa's wand in his hand. He will be scolded for stealing it later, but right now he is with his favourite cousin and he is happy. Bellatrix's hand is entwined with his. There is no malice in their faces. They are just children.
The picture is crumpled and grainy. She smoothes it out, pressing the hard waves into stillness. There is dry ink on her thumb. Dry ink on her thumb and her sister beneath her fingers, preserved in her innocence like some creature choked in amber. There is something entrancing about the remains of a thing long dead.
Bellatrix looks like a boy. She and Sirius are practically twins. There are the grins, roguish and wild. There are the same mops of thick dark hair. The knobbly knees. The Black eyes. Two halves of a whole.
She turns the picture over and presses it against the grainy wood of the table, a little harder than she should. Her nails leave indentations in the white surface. Four crescent marks, and the sweaty press of her wrist as she pushes down again. Harder.
She lifts her hand away. Dust particles swim across her skin in a fall of dirty light. The air smells old.
Insanity runs in the family, or so she's been told. She's seen Bellatrix only recently, her beauty peeling off her like a diseased limb. The innocence rotted away long ago.
And Sirius is dead. There is madness in that too, perhaps.
She presses her face into her hands. The smell of sweat and ink overpowers her. There is no scent of blood in her hands. The finest creams and perfumes clutter her dressing table. She'd like to throw them to the floor; shatter their exquisite little bottles into fragments of wounded light. She hurts inside. Her breath flutters in her throat. A trapped animal.
She presses her nails into her flesh, just as she pressed them into the photograph, into the memories and the sunlight and the hot echo of laughter washing over her. She knows there will be bruises on her face. Livid red bruises, to pull at the taut skin of her cheek and jaw with the pained strings of a marionette. She will not weep. She closes her eyes. She will not weep.
The dust falls through the air.