Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Notes: Written for the Theatrical Muse "gifts" challenge.

"Kiss of Darkness" by Christine Anderson aka Lilly Malfoy

It is my night.

I have passed my tests, have earned the Dark Lord's regard, and tonight will come my reward.

This night, I will be given the Dark Mark. The first woman so honored.

Blood rushes in my ears, and my breath comes in quick gasps. But I steady myself. I am a Black, daughter of an ancient and noble house, and I will not meet my destiny like a trembling child on her wedding night. No. I am better than that, and I will remember it.

"Bellatrix."

The Dark Lord's voice caresses my name. He calls me to the circle and I come. I am robed for the ceremony, black with a belt of twisted green and silver. I wear no hood, no mask, and my hair flows freely down my back. Caught in the night breeze, it dances and tangles, and I make no effort to tame it. Not tonight.

In the circle stand the others- those who have been Marked, and the aspirants, those who wait, hoping, praying to be deemed worthy. They, too, stand unmasked. There will be no illusions tonight, nothing to hide behind. I will see them, and they will see me. We all stand as we are before the Dark Lord; naked, vulnerable.

I have known many of them before this night; now I memorize each face. They are unconcerned by my scrutiny, as they should be. I am no threat. I will pass this test, and become one of them, or I will never see the light of the next day.

I feel the burning jealousy of the others not yet Marked. They would have this night as theirs, and many of them Marked before I. But it is not so. Tonight is my night, and who is to say if theirs will ever come? Many serve the Dark Lord, but only a chosen few, his chosen few, become his warriors, his Death Eaters.

Tonight I join them.

"Bellatrix," the Dark Lord calls again.

"My Lord," I whisper. I forget everything but him then- forget the Death Eaters before me, though they are old friends. Forget, too, the aspirants. I am proud to stand before the Dark Lord, proud that of our group I am the first chosen (Rudolphous and the others behind me, each man wishing it was him) but in that moment I see nothing but Lord Voldemort, hear nothing but Lord Voldemort.

"Come to me..."

The Dark Lord extends a hand. I step forward, grasp his hand. His skin is hot enough to burn, but I do not pull back. The pain is slight by comparison to my pride as I stand here, my joy in this moment.

"Bellatrix... So brave, so loyal..." His hand caresses my cheek.

"My Lord..."

His grip on my hand tightens, becomes suddenly painful. He draws me up against him, moving so quickly that I think my wrist will snap. I do not care- It is not pain that fills me, but pleasure, even desire. I have never stood so close to him.

"You know what is asked of you, Bellatrix."

"Yes, My Lord."

"And will you serve me? Will you?"

"Yes!"

"Will you bind yourself to me, swear to me?"

"I will."

The Dark Lord smiles, and pushes back the left sleeve of my robe. "You know the oath."

It is not a question. "I do, my lord."

"Speak it now."

And I swear. I swear heart and magic, mind, body, and soul, to Lord Voldemort. I swear eternal, undying loyalty...

The Dark Lord nods- and raises his wand.

"Crucio," he whispers. The word is a caress, and the pain is exquisite.

"I swear," I whisper, though I can hardly speak, "I will bear any pain, carry any burden, bleed my last if that is what is asked of me by my Lord..."

He lifts the wand; I gasp for breath.

"You would bleed for me, Bellatrix?" the Dark Lord asks.

"My Lord, I would die for you."

His wand touches my forearm. "Morsmordre insignio!"

It burns into me with the force of his power, screams with a life and a voice of its own, and I scream. Joy and pain intertwine until I cannot tell one from the other, and I scream.

"Welcome, my dear," the Dark Lord says. Brings my arm to his lips, kisses the newly-formed Mark. "Welcome."

"My Lord..." But I cannot speak. The words boil up within me but I cannot give them form.

He knows, of course. Without my having to speak, he knows.

"Bella," he says. His lips burn hot over mine in a bruising kiss.

I have been granted my deepest dreams and my fondest wishes. Here, now, tonight, I have all that I ever wanted.

The Dark Lord's regard is the greatest gift of all.