Hi gang!

It's Round 8 of the QLFC. :) This time, we had a kind of "dystopian" AU prompt, where we had to answer a specific question about the world of Harry Potter if Voldemort won. I kind of waffled about mine, however, because I had to answer the question, "How and when does Voldemort 'win' or rise to power?"

Well, I opted to write about the biggest boost to his rise to power. Lots of Bellatrix stories lately, huh? :)

In other news, I'm only ONE STORY AWAY from #100. I have some cute ideas about what I'd like to do, but if anybody has a suggestion for what I should do for my (holy cow) Centennial Story!

xxxx


13 January 1996

Narcissa was walking back and forth in front of the window of her bedroom, twisting her fingers anxiously. Lucius was gone, on a mission, but he was meant to have returned hours since. She twisted a strand of long, white-blonde hair around her fingertip, a nervous teenage habit she had never really shaken—particularly in the last six months, she had caught herself doing it more and more frequently. Nervous habits aside, she was confident; confident that Lucius was capable, that the Dark Lord's plans would be carried out well, that whatever this mission was, it would be a success.

Whatever was happening tonight, it was important; that much, Narcissa was absolutely sure of, and for that reason, she was grateful that Draco was back at school. He had been inquisitive and prying throughout his entire holiday, to the point that Narcissa had asked Lucius to have a word with him. He was far too young to think of joining the Death Eaters yet, and, fortunately, Lucius agreed. They would have to consider it as a possibility in the near future, once Draco turned seventeen, but by then, the Dark Lord would be more securely in his place—there wouldn't be as great a risk for Draco. Narcissa didn't know what Lucius had said, but for the time being, at least, it seemed that Draco had listened. At any rate, he had gone back to school without protest.

It was an especially dark night; the sky outside was thick with woolly black clouds, and there was no light whatsoever that penetrated them; even the gleaming white of the snowdrifts was invisible. Yet again, Narcissa felt a tinge of foreboding; she was not going to be able to sleep tonight until she knew that Lucius had returned safely.

Suddenly, there came a soft knock at her door, and Narcissa almost jumped out of her skin. She turned around. "Lucius?" she asked, her voice cracking.

"Yes, Narcissa."

Lucius's voice was hoarse, but he gave her a faint smile as he stepped into the bedroom. Narcissa felt a rush of relief and ran at him, flinging her arms around his neck. He embraced her briefly, and then pried her off his shoulders. "Not now, darling. I have something to tell you."

Narcissa drew back. "What?" she asked.

"The Dark Lord is on his way here," said Lucius. "Our mission was a success; I will need your help securing the house. We have guests."

"G-guests?" Narcissa repeated, frowning in bewilderment. "What do you mean, guests?" It was then that she noticed that Lucius's cloak was soaking wet, though there was no sign of falling rain or snow outside. "Lucius…?"

"Come downstairs," he said gently. "Bring your wand, and I will explain when we have set the wards on the manor."

Narcissa, still feeling lost, followed Lucius down the stairs to the front door. Down the hallway from the foyer, she saw that a fire had been lit in the parlor; its light flickered, visible around the edge of the doorframe. But whose voices could she hear coming from the room? Narcissa frowned as Lucius laid his hand on the silver handle, in the shape of a coiling serpent, and met her eye. She tapped the handle with her wand, and so did he.

"That should suffice, for now. The Dark Lord will provide his own protection when he arrives," he said, putting his arm around her shoulders and rubbing her upper arm. "Now, would you like to see who is here?"

Narcissa secured the belt of her dressing gown and slipped her arm around his waist, joining him as they walked down the hallway together. He stopped before the door and indicated that she should open it.

Standing in the middle of the room was a tall, slight figure whose back was to Narcissa; it had long, tangled black hair that was touched with strands of white, which seemed to glow silver in the semidarkness of the parlor. Beside the figure stood a man with a thick, dark brown beard and equally long, matted hair. Both of them were exceptionally thin, dressed in ragged gray robes. Narcissa's breath caught in her chest, and she felt tears sting her eyes.

"Bella?" she whispered, and the tall figure turned around.

Bellatrix's eyes were almost her only recognizable feature; they, too, were swimming with tears as she looked at Narcissa. A second later, they were embracing.

"Cissy," Bellatrix whispered hoarsely, and Narcissa thought she could feel every bone in her shrunken body. "Oh, Narcissa…my darling, my sister…"

"H-how—?" Narcissa stammered, as she reached for Rodolphus's hand behind Bellatrix's back; he accepted it and squeezed her fingers.

"The Dark Lord provides for those who have served him faithfully," Bellatrix told her, pulling back to smooth Narcissa's hair and stare hungrily into her face, as though she could not get enough of seeing her. In that moment, Narcissa felt a rush of love for her sister; nothing, nothing that had happened could possibly have changed that. She hugged her again.

"The dementors?" Narcissa asked, her voice muffled in Bella's shoulder. "How on earth did you manage this?" She looked to Lucius.

"It wasn't just us," said Rodolphus. He, like Bellatrix, was gaunt, his eyes shadowed as they flickered nervously around the room. "You set the wards?" he demanded sharply of Lucius.

"Of course," Lucius replied with a lazy smile. He came and put his arm around Narcissa.

"We, the Carrows, Dolohov…your clever husband led the charge, didn't you, Lucius?" Bellatrix smiled. Her teeth were badly yellowed, and for some reason, the expression on her skeletal, waxy face made the hairs on the back of Narcissa's neck stand up.

"Wh-what do you mean?" Narcissa asked.

"Azkaban…the prison, the dementors…all of it," Bellatrix said, another eerie smile curling up a corner of her lips, "is ours, Cissy. The Dark Lord has won. By this time tomorrow, the entire wizarding world will know what has happened…even if they don't want to admit it, which is really the beauty of the thing. And that will make it all the easier for the Dark Lord to—"

A strange sort of silence fell on the room, sudden and stifling in its appearance; for a moment, the room almost seemed darker. Lucius, Bellatrix, and Rodolphus all looked at each other. Bellatrix's expression shifted, and Narcissa actually stepped away from her in alarm as a hungry light filled her features.

"He is here," Lucius whispered.

Narcissa looked round just as the door of the parlor opened silently. Moving like a tall, thin shadow, glowing red eyes piercing through the room full of dimly flickering firelight, the Dark Lord appeared. A cold smile spread across his lipless mouth as he surveyed Bellatrix and Rodolphus, who had both sank to their knees; Bellatrix was shaking with anticipation.

"The others?" the Dark Lord whispered to Lucius.

"Safe, my lord," Lucius replied. "They will be here soon,"

The red eyes flicked over to Narcissa. "You are happy, are you not, Narcissa, to see your sister again?"

"My Lord," Narcissa replied with a curtsy. "Our family is deeply grateful—"

"Master." Bellatrix's voice was hoarse; it seemed she could contain herself no longer. "Master…you—you are—"

"Yes, my dearest Bella," he answered, offering her a long-fingered hand. She accepted it and rose; Narcissa was sure that she had quite forgotten that anyone else was in the room. "It is I, in the flesh. And you are here, after all this time…"

"We are victorious, now," she said eagerly. "You cannot be defeated, we knew—we believed—we shall overcome them all, my Lord, we shall—"

"Yes, Bellatrix," murmured the Dark Lord. "We shall this time."