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Defeat is simply a signal to press onward.
~Helen Keller

+~+

He likes to watch her as she sleeps; her dark ebony hair falling in front of her eyes and her pale, milky skin buried underneath those silk sheets and thick blankets. They had spent so much time apart -- so many years and lonely nights. But now, as dawn breaks, he realizes that time hadn't mattered.

She's still the same. Azkaban hadn't wounded her nearly as much as he imagined; though perhaps there was nothing to ruin. Perhaps she had lost everything before going to that hellish prison. She stirs in her sleep and he brushes a strand of hair away from her face. The second his cold fingers touch her skin, her eyes open sharply. For a moment, she looks disoriented, before she rasps a long breath and sits up.

She glances towards the opened balcony window, watching for a moment as the sun seeps above the horizon and dashes the sky in orange and yellow. She turns back to the man beside her, a dark scornful look on her face.

"You should have woken me up," she mutters, before climbing out of the bed and enveloping her naked torso in her long, black robes. She hurries across the room and retrieves her wand, murmuring obscenities under her breath.

"If I recall correctly," he states, matter of factly, "the last time I woke you early, I ended up limping for a week."

A small smirk tugs at her taunt lips, but she continues to move around the room, gathering up her belongings. The always strong, always proper Bellatrix Lestrange.

"And where may I ask, do you need to go so early in the morning?" he questions. She turns back to him and rolls her eyes, folding her arms and raising her chin indignantly.

"I have a husband, Severus, and he expects me home on occasion."

"Doesn't sound like the Rodolphus I remember," he scoffs lightly. His fingers push back his shoulder length black hair, and he gets up from the bed, sighing deeply as he goes in search of his discarded robes.

"Jealous?" she asks with a raised eyebrow and pursed lips.

"I don't get jealous, Bella," he mutters.

"Oh yes," she concedes. "You just end up glowering for hours."

He shoots her a warning look, before pulling on his trousers and crossing the room. Out of his back pocket, he retrieves her wand and places it in her hands, with a satisfied sneer. It was like a game with each other. They competed, they strove and they fought. But more importantly, they did it with style. She could act real tough, but he wouldn't care. He could see right through her.

He turns away from her, moving towards the window. The sky outside was clear and preached that the upcoming day would be warm and musty.

"You don't have to go," he says softly, his gravelly voice dragged out in hesitation.

Bellatrix blinks, caught between surprise and disgust. "I can't stay here forever," she objects stiffly.

Severus smirks and steps away from the window, dark eyes setting upon one another. She frowns and folds her arms. They're not usually so candid with their feelings - they're not the most open of people.

"But if you had the choice, would you?" he asks, his tone clipped and his eyes averted. He silently wishes to stray back into the shadows, where everything makes sense and he doesn't have to think or feel. Where those dark eyes watch him so intently from across the room and look down at his change in demeanor.

"Look at you, Severus," she mutters, "so old in age, yet still as vulnerable as a child."

"That's not an answer," he says bitterly, wishing for the millionth time that minute that he had held his tongue.

"And what would my reply be?" she questions, sneering. "Oh Severus, I love you and I want to be by your side forever."

Her mocking voice stings him on the inside, but he doesn't let it show. For a man of such cruelty, he's still surprised by her harsh, straight forward manner. He merely narrows his eyes and gestures towards the door, a dark, sullen look on his pale and pointed face.

"Go," he orders dangerously, and she quirks an eyebrow, obviously unimpressed.

"Sever-"

"Go!" he repeats once more, his voice harsh and unyielding. She narrows her dark brown eyes in contempt, giving him one more scrutinizing look before turning her back towards him and leaving the room, letting the door slam shut behind her.

But he isn't concerned, not in the least. And it's not like this scene hasn't happened before, where she deliberately sets him up and knocks him down back to earth in some cruel, heartless scene.

Bellatrix had always been heartless, he knew that. She was always so wild, indulgent, mysterious and kept her thoughts hidden away carefully from the prying minds of those around her.

He's alone now, though it's not like this charade will continue on until tomorrow night, where she'll return once again and bitterly steal him away from this harsh, turbulent world. So he smiles as the sun lights up the morning sky, and he heads off into his dark, foreboding manor to escape from the light.

It's just another day, which always ends exactly the same.

~Fin