CHAPTER 3

Disclaimer: Voldemort and Bellatrix belong to JK Rowlings. Thanks JK

A shiver of magic and a violet glow touched the warded door. It was one of his Death Eaters seeking access to him. He sighed, thinking of his stone basilisks who would tell him exactly who was at the door and what their intentions were. Basilisk sentries that used to guard The Slytherin Manor before it was destroyed, the likes of which were only present in the Chamber now, and he no longer had the magic to create sentient stone. Damn Muggles and their interference! Perhaps when they were all gone from the land, the magic would regenerate itself. One could hope. With a thought and a wave of his hand, he released the wards on the door.

Bellatrix Lestrange stood on the threshold. "Master." She sank to her knees, her jet black hair streaked near the front with tiny bits of silver, fell about her face as she bowed her head. Azkaban had aged her, he thought. Her flesh, never particularly radiant like her sisters, now was a sallow grayish color, and her body, once strong and tempting, was now all angles and corners, but magic was the same. The magic never changed within her. He remembered when she was born, the last of Carman's children, the last and the best, he thought, motioning her into the room with him and moving Nagini off of his shoulder and onto the sofa next to him. Bellatrix walked slowly into the room to face him and knelt to kiss his robe. He laid his hand on her head like a blessing, remembering her as a precocious toddler.

Andromeda had been Carman's first child, left too often with house elves and Hufflepuffs while He and Carman planned the domination of the world. Big plans often left little details unfinished. Andromeda was one of those details. By the time Carman and her husband, Braen, realized what was happening, Andromeda was enamored of a Muggleborn. He and Carman had wanted to eliminate the little vermin. Braen disagreed.

"It's just a phase," Braen had insisted. "Andromeda will get over him."

But Andromeda didn't get over him. She married him, and then it was too late to eliminate him. Andromeda was pregnant with his child. Perhaps it would be a Squib, they had hoped, and then killing it would be no problem. Unfortunately, it was a little witch. They named her Nymphadora. Carman had better luck with her next two daughters. Barely a year apart were the two who looked so much like his Carman, the brains and the beauty, Laurel and Narcissa. Well, he had told Carman, who had been named for the goddess of chaos, "You didn't get your three sons, but you do have three daughters."

"Yes," she had laughed as little Andromeda escaped her house elf and tripped around her mother, trying to avoid her two younger sisters combined efforts to get her to play with them. "Darkness, Evil and Violence."

"Go and play," snapped Carman shoving Andromeda from behind her.

"They're too rough," complained Andromeda.

"They're Slytherins," said Carman. "As are you."

"I don't want to hurt them," Andromeda returned. Narcissa and Laurel, however, had no such compunction and regularly joined forces against their older sister.

"You're the oldest," said Carman. "Act like it."

But Andromeda had never been a leader. The leader was born as the youngest, Bellatrix. Bellatrix who knelt before him now, Bellatrix, who had taken every trick her older sisters ever knew and improved upon them and made them her own. Bellatrix, who was faithful to him for thirteen years in Azkaban.

Her dark eyes were darting about the room, searching as if she expected some enemy in hiding. He wondered, not for the first time, if Azkaban had unhinged her.

Choosing to go to Azkaban rather than renounce him? Perhaps, she was unhinged before she went to Azkaban. He certainly would have never done the same.

"Bellatrix," he said, and her focus came back to him.

"My lord."

"Sit and tell me your news." He indicated the chair opposite him.

She sat on the chair and put her hands on the armrests momentarily, but she jerked them away, as if she expected chains to erupt from them. When nothing happened and he silently awaited her report, she seemed to relax. "The Mulcibers have found the passwords to Amelia Bone's house," she said, but they are changed every four hours. They will have to gain them again, right before we go to retrieve Madam Bones.." As she spoke Bellatrix seemed to relax a little more, and her eyes stayed on him instead of darting to the shadows.

Voldemort nodded glad that he had replaced the Scrimgoers with the Mulicibers. The wonders of polyjuice still amazed him. It was all so simple. "The Minister of Magical Law is friends with the Scrimgoers, then?" he asked.

"Yes, my Lord. They have visited Madam Bones several times in the past few weeks. It shouldn't be a problem for them to get the passwords at any given time, but having only four hours will not allow them to babysit Moody."

"I see. I'll have to consider who will be best for that job," said Voldemort. "He wished Laurel was still alive. She would have been perfect for the job--or Barty Crouch-- "It's a great pity Barty Crouch is dead," he remarked to Bellatrix. "He and Moody thought so alike it was uncanny."

"Yes, Master," said Bellatrix hesitating.

"Is there something else?"

"No, Master." She looked down. Not at the shadows. Not at his face.

It was obvious to him that she was lying. "Come here."

She came a bit hesitantly and he stood, laying his hands upon her face, which was beginning to glow with a bit of color now. He wondered what it was that she, the most loyal of his loyal Death Eaters, was hiding from him. As he touched her, she hid nothing from him. Desire struck him full in the face. It was hot and insistent. She raised her smoky black eyes to his and parted her lips waiting.

"You should have a husband—" he began.

"I don't want a husband," Bellatrix sneered. "I never wanted a husband. That was my parents doing. Not mine." Boldly she laid her fingers on the skin at his neck, letting the magic flow between them. "Tell me when to quit," she cooed like a giddy school girl, pressing her lips against the dry scales that mingled with human skin on his neck.

He hesitated, exploring the feelings coursing though him. Surprise mostly, that anyone would in any way desire what he called his body now. Surprise and regret that her magic, which should have felt wonderful, felt like bugs crawling on his skin. He had traded pleasure for power when he attained immortality and he felt no desire at all for her. The only feelings that moved him at all were those associated with death and pain.

"I want to feel—your magic," she whispered

He knew well what she wanted, but he was no longer capable of participating, and he was not magnanimous enough to give her pleasure without equal gain. He knew well what he was missing and regret twisted inside of him, as he caught her hands and pushed her roughly away. "Do you think I care what you want?" he growled.

"Then kill me now," she shouted, flinging her Laurel's borrowed wand to the ground and pacing away from him. "Do you think I waited all that time in Azkaban for a dream of wizard superiority? For Muggle killing and raids on Dumbledore and Aurors? Do you think I waited for that?"

Her outburst surprised him, excited him, angered him. She advanced on him as no other Death Eater would have, her black eyes flashing fire, and her angular body gaining some measure of grace with her emotion. "Go ahead then," she demanded, throwing her arms out to the side. "Kill me now. I have nothing left to live for." She threw her head back, dark eyes flashing, her red lips pulled back in a sneer. He never thought her so beautiful, so full of life.

He grabbed her hair and pushed her against the wall. "Be careful what you wish for, Bellatrix," he said in a threatening hiss. "I could just as easily use Crucio as Avada."

"Do it then!" she said in a low voice. "After thirteen years without magic, there is nothing you can do to me that scares me. Nothing. The Dementors have done it all already." Her black eyes challenged him and mocked him and beckoned him. He wanted to protect her from the Dementors, to kiss her, to make her bend to his will. He wanted so much more than his snake body would give him.

He wrapped his hands more tightly in her hair and placed his fingers against her throat. He felt the bravado starting to slip from her and he smiled. "Crucio!" he said.

Through his touch, he felt the hot smoke of his crucio curse fill her lungs and in her mind she screeched with pain, but there was no breath with which to scream. She struggled for a moment to breathe, before she expertly switched to breathing magic. He felt her make the switch, and held his breath himself in concert with her for a moment and then drew heavily on the Air Elemental. Her body quivered with the fear of death. Regardless to what she said, she was afraid. He felt the fear through the Legilimency. Fear, primal and stark within her, and the magic laced with pain and fear excited him like nothing else she could have done. He tightened his hands around her as she struggled against the pain and fear, both increasing until he felt her suddenly go limp in his arms and he released the Crucio, burying his face in her hair, and releasing to the Air Elemental several shuddering breaths.

Voldemort re-warded the door and sat, holding her in the darkening room. He shifted her in his arms and pulled the container of Phoenix ointment from his robe. He rubbed the last dregs of the potion from the container, and shared it between his scarred and burning palms. He would have to tell Snape he needed more. His basilisks, confused and wary of the heightened emotion and smell of burnt flesh, stirred uncomfortably, hissing and tasting the air.

"Hisssuss? Prey?" one asked, confused.

"Not hisssuss," answered Voldemort, "Not this one. She is not my prey, but she is part of my power nonetheless."

Nagini moved close to his warmth, saying nothing.

"She knows I didn't feel her magic," Voldemort hissed softly to Nagini, but still Nagini said nothing, and, at last, Bellatrix drew a long breath into her lungs and opened her eyes. She seemed surprised to find herself held in the Dark Lord's arms and she struggled to a sitting position. A wrack of coughing assaulted her, and, eyes watering, she looked at him, her huge dark eyes full of questions.

He said nothing, only touched her face with a long finger. He dragged it down from the corner of her cheekbone to her chin, with unaccustomed gentleness, waiting for the thoughts to come, willing them to come. He was not disappointed, although he sensed that she was trying to hide these from him.

"He is as empty as I am," she thought. "Feeling nothing but the strongest emotions, death and fear and pain—" Pity. She pitied him. He clenched his fists. He would not have her pity. He would rather have her hate.

"I have a task for you, Bellatrix," he said flatly. "Since your lack of a husband seems to have turned you into a slut." He felt the pity immediately disappear from her thoughts, replaced by a simmering anger and he met her cold dark eyes. "I want you to seduce Severus Snape."

She gaped at him open mouthed, and he traced a finger around her lips, sensing the anger in her thoughts. They were clear as a shout, "Go to hell!"

She wouldn't, of course, say the words out loud, but she knew he would sense them. "I'm already there," he said softly, "The question is, Bellatrix, whether or not you are going to come with me—"

He remembered her saying that when she received her Dark Mark. "I'll follow you to hell and back, My Lord—" That's what she had said-- with the Mark burning black on her skin-- she hadn't shed a tear. Grown wizards were reduced to screaming, but she was dry eyed, clenching the magic in her fists, her eyes as black as the Mark, boring into him. She was magnificent. He admired her above all the other Death Eaters, but he couldn't give her what she wanted--what He wanted--because he had traded it for his immortality, and at this moment He wondered if it wasn't His loss.

Bellatrix stood to go without asking permission and he caught her shoulder. Nagini hissed angrily at the sudden movement. "And," he said softly, "you can return to me tomorrow." He smiled thinly. "I rather enjoyed our little session, Bellatrix."

She pulled out of his grasp and stalked to the door. Her back was straight and unyielding. No that was wrong. She had yielded. She had always yielded to him. He watched as she moved, like a dangerous predator, her robe rippling as she walked. Unbeknownst to her, his red eyes softened as he watched her go. He wondered if he should summon her back just to make a point, but, in the end, he let her go. After all, he wanted her loyalty. That was all he was likely to get.

Silently He petted Nagini. The serpent's cold scales were no substitute for Bellatrix's hot skin and hotter magic.

(A/N: This chapter is a portion of THE SEERS TRUTH: BEYOND THE DARKNESS. Read the fic in its entirety on --Lady Lestrange)