Hi everybody! God, there is just...holy hell, so much going on right now. :-/ I miss you all. Stop by and leave me a note, let me know how you are.
Anywho, here we are for Round 6 of QLFC, where, as the Captain of the Catapults, I had to either write about a Light character displaying the sin of lust, or a Dark character displaying the virtue of chastity. I opted for the latter, but, here's the thing - you can't really have one without the other, can you?
Hope you like. :)
2 July 1972
The child was meant to be an ideal combination, a beacon of the successful unity of arguably the two most powerful pureblood families in wizarding memory: the Blacks and the Lestranges. In his rather overbearingly sentimental way, Rodolphus had suggested to Bellatrix that their offspring would inherit her eyes. As Bellatrix watched her own reflection in the glass at her vanity table, she couldn't help but wonder why on earth that would be as charming as Rodolphus made it out to be; she had always detested the traits that she and Andromeda shared. Teachers, family, and even their own parents had confused her with her younger sister for years. As far as Bellatrix was concerned, family resemblances were, at best, an inconvenience.
At any rate, she thought, the child's supposed looks, good or otherwise, were hardly a concern any longer. She slid her silver comb through her thick, dark hair, her eyes flicking up and down her reflection. She looked good, she thought, considering that it had only been three weeks since St. Mungo's, where she'd spent three days in sheer agony—and that was without the unpleasant four months of the pregnancy before she'd lost it. She'd be back to herself in no time, and that would be the end of it—at least, until the concept reared its ugly head once more and Rodolphus plucked up the courage to suggest they try again, as she knew he would.
But that day was not today. Bellatrix secured her hair into a long, shining plait down her back and rose to her feet, picking up her traveling cloak and securing the silver fastenings at her throat. She raised the hood just as a soft knock came at the bedroom door, and it opened.
"You're ready, Bella?" Rodolphus's expression was wary as he peered around the door into the room, as though he expected to find her in some paroxysm of grief, an outpouring of uncontained emotion.
The very thought made the pit of Bellatrix's stomach boil with anger. She felt a scowl flicker across her face. "Of course."
"And you're sure you want to do this? You're certain it's—advisable?" he asked, doubt in his expression.
"You have asked me that," she said, pretending to check her reflection once more.
"I—I have," he agreed, "but Bella, I—I must ask again—"
"Rodolphus, if you expect to carry on your family line—and Merlin knows your oaf of a brother will probably crush Andromeda on their wedding night, so I'm your best hope—you won't finish that sentence," she snarled, rising in a fluid motion and moving to stand inches from him.
It was a moment before Rodolphus worked out what she said; then he flushed red and looked meek. He held out his hand to her. "Moon has sent word of where we're meant to go."
"Then let's go," replied Bellatrix, arching an eyebrow. She ignored his outstretched fingers and slipped past him to the stairs.
The night was cold and clear when they arrived on the lane that led up to the stately manor house, outlined in grayish moonlight. There were lamps lit in only one of the rooms they could see from this distance; even as Bellatrix watched, the curtains were drawn.
"Moon advised us not to linger," Rodolphus said, starting towards the gate. They walked side by side, keeping pace with one another as they approached a massive iron gate, which was shut firmly against them; Bellatrix stopped a few feet away, frowning, waiting for something to happen.
"I wondered when you'd finally find your way here," drawled a nearby voice from the dark hedgerow.
Bellatrix and Rodolphus turned to see Lucius Malfoy, all of eighteen years old, leaning lazily against the gate that blocked the drive. His hood was raised, just like theirs were, but he was unmistakable. Bellatrix hadn't seen him since they were both at Hogwarts, when he was a skinny little fourth year; he'd spent as much of his time as possible getting underfoot of her, Rodolphus, Rabastan, and a handful of other Slytherins, hoping to be as well-liked as they were.
He was taller now, and his long, white-blond hair was drawn back in a ponytail, but his thin, pale face was almost exactly the same as Bellatrix remembered. With a flicker of amusement, she scoffed. "What are you doing here, Lucy?"
Color flooded Malfoy's cheeks. "This is my house, Bellatrix."
"Your daddy's house, more like," chuckled Rodolphus. "Don't tell us you're here to see him."
"My father is hosting him," Lucius said, the haughtiness in his voice pronounced.
"And I see you're in charge of opening the gate," Bellatrix smirked. She laughed when Lucius looked even more furious. "That must be a very important job, darling, well done. Let us in, then."
"Do it," Rodolphus snarled, when Lucius glowered and put a hand to his wand. He relented and touched one of the metal bars, seeming to turn an invisible handle. The wrought-iron gate swung wide, and Bellatrix strode forward, her robes flying behind her in the light summer breeze. Excitement was welling inside of her. Not long now, she thought, not long until she had all that she had ever wanted—the only thing she had ever wanted, regardless of her parents' plans and desires for her life.
The heavy oak door swung open at her touch, and she felt Rodolphus at her back; he put a hand between her shoulder blades, and Bellatrix shrugged him off. The corridor they stood in was dark but for a few flickering candles in the brackets along on the walls; at the end of the hall stood two open doors, side by side, one of which was flanked by a hooded figure whose face they could not see.
"Enter," whispered a high, cold voice from the left-hand door. The figure beckoned them forward, and Bellatrix approached, entering a small, dark sitting room with green satin wallpaper. The portraits along the walls were hidden in darkness; a low fire cast flickering shadows that shifted in the gloom.
Rodolphus stepped in behind her, and the door snapped shut of its own accord after them. From the shadows beside the fire, the lower half of a pale, skull-like face emerged.
"The Lestranges," the lipless mouth hissed. The eyes were obscured by a black hood.
"Yes, my Lord," Rodolphus replied, and he dropped to one knee. Bellatrix remained standing, watching with tingling nerves as the mouth curved into a cruel smile.
"Rodolphus, is it?" asked the Dark Lord softly. "And…?"
Bellatrix's breath caught in her throat. "B-Bellatrix," she murmured, her voice shaking.
"A Black, am I mistaken?" he whispered. Bellatrix gave a slight twitch of her head. "A fine match of noble blood…a handsome young couple, very worthy of championing our cause. We shall be gratified by your presence."
And with these words, the Dark Lord raised his pale, long-fingered hands to his hood and lowered it, surveying them both magisterially. Bellatrix's heartbeat seemed to quicken, as though she were about to take off into flight; she was seized by a longing to be nearer to him. He was both monstrous and beautiful at once, tall, pale, and fearsome, with serpentine features and livid red eyes that made him more than the mere man she had always assumed him to be. Bellatrix had seen nothing like him. He exuded intelligence, strength, and power; it radiated from his gaze in ripples across the room that made the hairs on the back of her neck rise.
"We pledge our loyalty to you, my Lord," she said, kneeling beside Rodolphus and lowering her gaze chastely. She held up both hands in a gesture of supplication. "I swear to uphold—"
The long, pale fingers were underneath her chin, tilting her face upwards, so that she had to look into the red eyes. Rodolphus was watching them intently, but Bellatrix was only barely aware of him.
"There will be time for that," whispered the Dark Lord, "when we have made you a part of our circle. Raise your hoods, now," he told them. "We shall call in the others, and mark you as our own."
His eyes flicked to the door, and a frisson moved through the room—Bellatrix felt the magical disturbance. The door opened again and, floating in twos and threes, more hooded figures moved into the dimly lit room, forming a circle around Bellatrix and Rodolphus where they knelt. Bellatrix lowered her eyes again, waiting to be spoken to, her chest rising and falling quickly as her heart continued to race with excitement.
"We are joined, my faithful Death Eaters, by two more, who have professed themselves to be in support of our most noble cause," the Dark Lord whispered. He began to tread a slow and steady path along the inside of the circle. "Our numbers grow by the day…soon, we will have more…more who are ready to put themselves forth as beacons, banner-carriers of the new age we will bring upon the wizarding world…"
There was a shifting somewhere in the shadows to Bellatrix's left; she could make out Lucius Malfoy, watching avidly, envy in his expression. The Dark Lord saw him too, and his smile was cruel again. He deliberately turned his back on Lucius and faced Bellatrix.
"Who would like the honor of being marked first?" he asked in a low hiss.
Bellatrix raised her head and replied breathlessly, "I, my Lord."
The Dark Lord's smile became colder, more pronounced. "Give me your left arm."
Bellatrix did so, and the Dark Lord drew back her sleeve, laying bare the soft, pale skin of her inner forearm. His fingers stroked her skin softly, tenderly, before he withdrew from his pocket a wand, which he pressed against the cluster of veins at her wrist.
"Morsmordre," he whispered, and a shiver passed through the room.
From where they met the wandtip, the greenish veins seemed to ripple, shift—and then she saw that it was not her own veins, but a stream of what could have been deep green ink burrowing into her skin. Suddenly, the snaking lines that poured from the wandtip began to burn like acid as they looped and swirled back and forth; it was as if molten wax was plowing angry, blistering patterns into her flesh, and blood began to trickle down her arm from the fresh burns. Her whole forearm began to shake with the effort of trying to keep still, and the Dark Lord held her hand fast, keeping his scarlet eyes locked on hers, which streamed with tears of mingled joy and pain.
The burning receded slightly, and Bellatrix looked down. The acidic coils had burned a gaping skull into her arm; from its mouth, a serpent leered. She gave a shuddering gasp and looked back up at the Dark Lord.
"Thank you," she gasped, "thank you—Master."
Bellatrix cared for the Mark; she washed the wound and kept it clean, watching with joy as it healed itself into a neat, jet-black scar. When she was alone, she traced her fingernails across it, thinking only of the next time it would burn, the next time she would be summoned to his side. She was nothing, nothing but his humble, obedient servant, unworthy of his greatness and indebted to him eternally. She would repay this gift in servitude; she was resolved.
She barely ate, barely slept, barely thought of anything for weeks on end. Rodolphus, too, was thrilled by their newfound master, but his devotion was nothing, nothing like hers—as he proved one night when his weakness finally showed. She was lying on her left side, gazing at the raised scar of her Mark, illuminated by the moonlight streaming through the bedroom window.
Rodolphus's hand closed on her upper arm, and he slid closer to her in the bed. "Your hair smells nice," he told her.
Bellatrix lay still, pretending to sleep. Rodolphus had never been very good with romantic language; perhaps he would give up when he heard the stupidity of his words. His voice came closer to her right ear. "Bella…do you…are you feeling ready to try again?"
"Don't be absurd," she whispered. "You know it's no good."
"What do I care what some Mudblood Healer's got to say about it?" Rodolphus growled. "It happened once, it can happen again."
"Go to sleep, Rodolphus," Bellatrix replied, running the nail of her index finger over one of the skull's eye sockets.
"Drop it, now," she hissed sharply, feeling herself go rigid. She looked at him over her shoulder and saw him cowed. He withdrew his hand, and she smiled coldly, returning to the soft stroking of her Mark. She would not touch Rodolphus again, and he would not touch her—she was resolved. It was her gift, her greatest virtue that she could offer the Dark Lord; if she could not produce an heir to his legacy, she would devote her entire self to his cause, free from distraction and single-minded in her purpose. She was his, a satellite in orbit of his gravity, coming close to contact, but never touching.
Bellatrix Lestrange belonged fully to the Dark Lord—mind, body, and soul.