… For Maisie …
Written for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition | Appleby Arrows | Beater II | Pawn 2: Write about a character forced to fight for their family.
8. (colour) steel grey
9. (dialogue) "If I had a Knut for every time I heard that—" / "—You'd still be poor."
Written for Hogwarts School of witchcraft and wizardry || National Princess Day | Jasmin - Aladdin | Write about an arranged marriage.
A.N.: Bellatrix lives!AU
don't you know I'm not your ghost anymore
Rodolphus' felt his hands getting more and more tired with each passing minute. They were bound firmly together behind his back with very sharp and edgy shackles in order to restrain him from any sort of movement. With time, and several failed attempts to wind his ankles out of their prison, the hard material had started to rupture his skin and even small amounts of blood were to be seen now.
Biting his lip, Rodolphus tried to ignore the steadily increasing pain and straightened his back.
For a moment, his dark green eyes travelled around the courtroom he currently found himself sitting in.
The judge hovered over the assembled crowd on his throne-like armchair, the remaining members of the Wizengamot were close by; all watching the scene that was enfolding in front of them with different expressions on their faces: confusion, shock, horror, disbelief.
If he was quite honest with himself, Rod had felt the same when he first heard about it. Of course, the Death Eater would never admit it out aloud. Even though most of his old friends had been captured or killed after the final battle, that little bit of pride left inside of him prevented him from admitting such things. Weakness, a little voice in his head told him, and it involuntarily sent shivers down his spine.
Sighing, Rodolphus brushed a strand of his shoulder-long curly brown hair back behind his ear and watched as the prosecutor finished presenting the case.
"This, Witches and Wizards, are the facts," the red-headed young man declared with a grandiloquent sigh. He gathered his papers and used his free hand to point towards the small crib that had been placed into the right corner of the courtroom.
Instantly, Rodolphus' body began to tremble with what he assumed to be nervous excitement.
"It is now up to the criminal defence," the prosecutor continued and his facial expression clearly indicated that every single word that left his mouth was forced, "to converse with their clients and present their arguments. These are crucial for the decision as to which parent will be granted full care and custody of the one month old Miss Annabelle Lestrange."
Blue eyes still fixed on the small crib, Rodolphus couldn't help but give a tiny smile at the sound of his only daughter's name being spoken out aloud. Never in his life had he expected to, one day, be gifted with a child – especially considering that his arranged marriage to Bellatrix was all kippers and curtains.
And even though there might have been a time, once, when Rodolphus' feelings towards his wife could have turned into something more, Bellatrix has always been very clear on the fact that she didn't see him as an equal – much less as a worthy husband.
According to the witch, there was nothing that, apart from his pure-blooded name, would get him into her good graces.
Sure, occasionally – when none of the other man she usually went to - she needed him so satisfy some of her needs, but apart from that, she didn't see him as more than a pawn in her game.
Bellatrix didn't even feel it necessary to inform him that one of their little 'games' – the last one – had conceived their daughter!
He found out month after they had all been imprisoned in Azkaban; after the battle of Hogwarts, after Bellatrix only barely managed to dodge Molly Weasley's fatal spell.
Thinking about how he had heard about the news that Bellatrix Lestrange – his wife! – had given birth in her prison cell almost knocked him off his feet.
Rodolphus balled his hands into fists at the memories that slowly re-surfaced.
The rumours spread at Hogwarts amongst students were nothing compared to what was going on in Azkaban during that night. Many assumed the late Dark Lord to be the girl's father, but Rodolphus only needed to lay his eyes on her once to instantly know that Annabelle was his. And no matter how hard he tried to forget about the little girl, she had wormed herself into his heart the way no one had before. She had his eyes, so dark and green, and her mother's black hair.
Thinking about his wife caused his heart to suddenly beat at a much faster rhythm than it was probably supposed to.
Tearing his eyes away, Rodolphus moved his head ever so slightly, past his lawyer until he spotted Bellatrix at the opposite side of the courtroom; the witch was also talking. Though not to her lawyer, but to her brother-in-law, Lucius. Bellatrix was apparently still under the impression that she didn't need anyone to defend herself. Lucius on the other hand had insisted on being her 'advisor', though the blond probably just did it in order to get one day outside of Azkaban.
That was probably Bellatrix' reason for being here, too. She didn't care about Annabelle! The only reason she wanted to win the custody fight was because of the benefits that came with it.
It had been decided that, since it wouldn't be fair to Annabelle, one of her parents would be allowed to live with her outside of Azkaban – under constant supervision, of course, but nonetheless out of that place.
He didn't care about that. At least not anymore. All he wanted nowadays was to be a father. That had been all he'd ever wanted, and now that he had Annabelle, he had to fight for her.
He simply couldn't let Bellatrix win.
Leaning forward a bit, he studied her a little more closely. Despite the fact that she had a nasty scar across her chest – a reminder from her fight against the red-haired witch - Bellatrix looked exactly the same.
Her long, black curls tumbled loosely and wild over her shoulders. Annabelle's hair will one day look like that. It shot through his head unexpectedly and secretly, he hoped that this detail would be the only resemblance to her mother.
The only unfamiliar thing about the witch in question was the steel grey dress she wore instead of her old black and filthy robes – Rodolphus assumed it was in an attempt to appear a bit more sophisticated in court.
The mere thought of his wife, a much more cruel person than he could ever be, wearing a grey dress in order to look more caring and reliable almost caused him to laugh out loud.
Since his hands were still bound tightly together, he muffled his laugh by pressing his mouth against the fabric of his black suit. That ship, my dear, has already sailed, he thought, everyone knows who you really are.
Admittedly, Rodolphus knew that the assembled witches and wizards probably didn't think any better of him, but he had never cared about other people's opinions. If they had the choice, they'd probably sent Annabelle as far away as humanly – or magically - possible.
He still remembered the outbursts of disgust when they had first heard about Annabelle's existence outside the walls of Azkaban…
"She's the spawn of evil!"
"Away with her!"
"Someone kill her!"
"She'll be just like her parents!"
Rodolphus vehemently shook his head in anger. How dare they speak about his daughter in such a way?! If he only had his wand, he would show these bastards what -
"Rodolphus, calm down," Anthony, his lawyer and friend, hissed quietly into his ear. "These bastards, as you put it, are not important. Right now, we have to focus on presenting you as the better parent for Annabelle."
The wizard rolled his green eyes at his old friend. "Has someone ever told you to stop reading your clients' thoughts?"
Anthony laughed. "If I had a Knut for every time I heard that—"
"—You'd still be poor."
The lawyer raised an eyebrow, but smirked. "Poorer than you, perhaps, but keep in mind that, contrary to you, I can actually spent money outside of Azkaban."
Rod once again rolled his eyes.
"And now, shut up," the lawyer continued, "It's your turn to speak."
"So, have you any experience when it comes to being a father?"
Despite his better judgement, Rodolphus sighed. The interrogation had been more exhausting than he had expected. The questions were tricky, and the wizard had unknowingly stumbled into one trap after another.
So he took a moment to phrase his next sentence carefully. He didn't need to watch Lucius turn another episode of Lucius twisting and turning his words against him.
"I'm a quick learner," he answered truthfully.
"That doesn't answer the question."
Anthony objected. "Your Honor – "
Rodolphus sighed again. "No, I have never been a father. But – "
"Interesting," Lucius interrupted him immediately and Rodolphus wanted to do nothing more than to curse the man. "Does this not lead us to the conclusion that Annabelle would be in a pair of very inexperienced hands?"
"Objection!" Anthony shouted, "Speculation!"
"Accepted," the Judge mumbled.
Rodolphus sent his friend a thankful glance. That was, until Lucius opened his mouth once again.
"You Honor," he said and held up a handful of papers, which Rodolphus eyed with confusion, "I would like to draw your attention on evidence #5."
Brushing the nasty strand of hair once again back behind his ear, Rodolphus moved his head to get a better look at what Lucius presented – and immediately blanched.
"This, your Honor, is a list of crimes committed by Rodolphus Lestrange."
"Objection, irrelevant!" Anthony thundered. "My client has admitted the crimes he had committed when he served the Dark Lord. Our opponent was also a supporter of Tom Riddle's."
"Declined," the Judge said carelessly, "I want to hear more about that."
Lucius continued with a wicked smile on his face. "Taking in consideration Mr. Brooks' words, I won't deny that my sister-in-law," here he waved towards Bellatrix, "has made some mistakes before. But, looking at the whole, Mr. Lestrange's victims were, with a percentage of 80 percent – I repeat, Ladys and Gentlemen, 80 percent! – women and children!"
Deep intakes of breath were heard throughout the whole courtroom and Rodolphus turned to look at Anthony, horror and shock plainly featured on his face. "That's not true. How can he – "
"I don't know," Anthony whispered back, "but we have to keep fighting."
Lucius thundered the papers on the judge's desk, and Bellatrix grinned wickedly.
After being interrogated for what felt like an eternity, Rodolphus finally sat down and watched Bellatrix take a seat in the front of the courtroom.
His anger grew with each passing minute. Rodolphus had always known that Bellatrix was heartless, but the way she presented herself in front of the audience – small, fragile, broken – was just too much for him to take.
She had answered several of Anthony's questions and outwitted him in ways he thought to be impossible.
Now, she even faked the tears that were welling up in her eyes.
"Please, Mrs. Black," the Judge urged, "try keeping your emotions in check and answer the question."
Bellatrix skilfully sniffed into her handkerchief one last time.
"I'm sorry, Your Honor, it's just… Never in my life have I known what it is to love," she explained and even a small tear tumbled down her cheek.
Rodolphus was about to jump up from his seat and strangle the woman, but Anthony held on to the shackles that still bound his hands together.
"Yes," Bellatrix continued, her hoarse voice filled with faked emotion, "I tried to terminate my pregnancy."
She started sobbing and blew into her tissue again. "I was lonely and scared. I didn't want my beloved child to grow up the way I did. Unloved and alone."
Here she paused dramatically. "Loneliness was the reason that led me on this dark path in the first place."
Anthony got up. "As I remember correctly, you had two sisters. How can one be lonely having two sister, Mrs. Lestrange?"
"Objection," Lucius shouted from behind. "Not necessary."
Rodolphus groaned and stared at the judge in disbelief. How could he be so blind? It was clear that Bellatrix was playing with them!
His friend Anthony shook his head as well. "Alright, let's move on then. Back in prison, you insisted on the fact that your husband – "
The lawyer rolled his eyes. "Your ex-husband was not the father. This was clearly a lie."
Rodolphus watched in disbelief as Bellatrix shifted on her chair and straightened the fabric of her steel grey dress.
Then she even started crying and mumbled something incomprehensible.
"Could you please repeat that?"
Bellatrix took a deep breath and stared at Rodolphus. If he hadn't known her for so long, one could have thought that the utmost fear that was mirrored in her black eyes was real. But Rodolphus was able to see behind that well-played façade and all he saw was the wicked glimmer of power and triumph in them. The Queen was playing with her pawns again.
"I – I – " she stuttered and swallowed hard, "Rodolphus… he – he was very violent."
The wizard's jaw dropped and his green eyes widened in shock.
"E-Especially when he was drunk," she cried and shoved back one of her sleeves to reveal a very nasty looking scar.
Furiously, Rod shot up from his chair, and almost knocked over the candle on the desk in front of him.
"Liar!" he shouted, "how dare you say such things about me when it is clearly you who – "
The judge's voice thundered through the court, and Rodolphus felt Anthony's strong hand on his shoulder, pushing him back on his seat.
When he slowly sank back into his chair, his green eyes travelled back to Bellatrix, and it was then when he noticed that albeit she was covering her face with her hands, her lips were turned into an evil and wicked smile.
Seconds later, reality crashed down on him and the consequences of his earlier action hit him like a ton of rocks.
That had been her plan all along; to provoke him, to cause his temper to get the better of him.
"I never touched her," he hissed in Anthony's ear, desperation swinging along. "My father was a drunk, I never touched a single bottle."
Anthony didn't say anything, but the pity that was written all over his face was more than words could ever tell.
Rod didn't even listen as the judge spoke the verdict.
The way Bellatrix cheered, smiled, cried happy tears was enough for him to know that he had lost this fight. That his ex-wife had just gotten a "get-out-of-Azkaban" free card. But the worst of it was that she had won Annabelle.
The people started leaving the room and Aurors entered, forcing him upwards and dragging him out of the courtroom to the nearest fireplace.
With one last wistful glance, he stared at the little crib Bellatrix was approaching. Annabelle's crib.
Pretending to be careful, Bellatrix lifted their daughter up and cradled her in her arms.
When she looked up from Annabelle, her eyes met Rodolphus' and for the first time that night, the witch didn't hide her wicked smile beneath one of her well-trained facial features.
It was that kind of smile that sent shivers down Rodolphus' spine and his whole body trembled.
Then, another Auror appeared, touched Bellatrix and within seconds, they had vanished in thin air.
Rodolphus felt the tears welling up in his eyes as he watched the empty space where his daughter was mere moments ago – nothing was left of Annabelle, only the ghost of her in his memory.