A/N: Suspension of disbelief required, guys. It isn't a Slytherin!Harry challenge for nothing…
As always, I own nothing, not even the mad idea of Bella being – well – how she is. That came from a night I may not remember when I finish this story – or, rather, a morning – Friday, 23rd September 2005, from between 2 am to 4 am.
A final, if arbitrary detail – I read and edited this first bit to Fijiacion Oral, Vol. 1, by Shakira, which is a totally great album for reading and writing to without becoming too distracted. And now, on with the story.
Bellatrix Lestrange stared at the results one more time. It was inconceivable – this could not be happening – not to her –
She looked up, and felt an unfamiliar feeling blossom its way into her heart. She could not, for the life of her, remember exactly what it was – but, as she looked into her husband's dark eyes, full of rage, she remembered. Faintly.
Rodolphus gritted his teeth – a bad sign. She dropped the scrap of parchment onto the desk before them, the numbness seeming to swamp her like a tide of angry water, fiercely purging away all feeling.
We regret to inform you that you are unable to bear any magical offspring.
What did that mean? She was a Black, for Morgana's sake – she –
"Did you know about this?" The low tone of her husband's voice did nothing, nothing to conceal his anger. Bellatrix could only reread the scrap as it lay on the table, her brain screaming in confusion and anger. The sharp tickle of her husband's dry hand hitting her face helped to bring her to. "Did you know?" Rodolphus hissed.
Within her, Bella's heart seemed to shrivel. He'd never used that tone – not when it was not needed – what did he think her, a fool like her simpering twit of a sister? Of course she'd not –
"Answer me!" But before Bella could form the words on her leaden tongue, Rodolphus was already seizing her, throwing her against the wall.
Almost the same way he'd thrown her on the bed the night before, dark eyes gleaming with hunger and anticipation.
She tried to shake her head. This wasn't fair – this was better off in the lives of Muggle-loving fools who wouldn't care – she was a Black, and she was supposed to bear offspring – for the Dark Lord's bidding –
Bellatrix let out the first sob that had emanated from her lips in years.
And, as Rodolphus poured out his rage, lashing out at her with his wand and his fists, she gave into it. It was only what she deserved – failing her Master –
Darkness descended in like a heavy, smothering blanket, drowning out her vague, useless pride that she, at least, had not screamed.
Hours later, she woke up in the room. It was bloody, the couch she lay on – and she knew, oh, she knew it was all, or most, of her blood. She reached for her wand – the first time she'd done so since she'd read the damning result of the simple magical test that, even now, continued to tear at something deep inside of her.
Somehow, she knew it wasn't fair – wasn't fair that Narcissa had gotten her blond man and blonde son – wasn't fair that Andromeda, the little Muggle-loving slut, had gotten her own abomination of a half-blood, when she, she who had done everything right, she who had upheld the Black name, was to be forever cheated.
Bella closed her hooded eyes tiredly, running through the familiar cadences of the Healing spells. It was so odd, so – so unreal, somehow, realising she'd ended up with one of the most rare Wizarding conditions a witch could have – being able to bear only Squib, or, even worse, Muggle children.
She was no use, now, to the Dark Lord – to his plans –
Bella sobbed for the second time that evening, not even thinking of her husband, or his whereabouts. There was nothing for it – for her – she'd craved to help, so much, and now Narcissa would get the glory – the fame – the attention –
In that moment, Bellatrix hated her. Hated her for having the child that not only she and Lucius wanted – but the child that Voldemort could sanction, a child that would grow in his presence, be taught from birth –
Bellatrix screamed at the empty room, lashing out at the worn-down furniture with her bloody wand, because it was the only thing she could really do.
The magical drain had certainly not been what her tortured body had needed, and she sank back onto the couch, heaving with dry sobs, lights seeming to flash on and off behind her eyelids as she closed them, as she sobbed for breath.
The last thing she could hold on to before she drifted off into the darkness was that her life – was – not – fair –
She woke up, this time, to Rabastan Lestrange's odd, intense sneer. She forced herself not to sneer back, as always – the fool had always wanted her, hadn't he – always wanting everything his big brother had –
A sharp slap moved her into action.
"What do you think you are doing, Rabastan?" Bellatrix sneered as nastily as she could, not giving in to the impulse to reach for her wand and Blast him away. Hard. He was such a snivelling coward on occasion, really –
Another slap had her rearing up from the lumpy couch, despite her injuries, and trying to hit him back. She'd show him – no one was allowed to touch her, apart from Rodolphus –
"Taking something I should have taken a long, long time ago, Bella…" His eyes narrowed, hardening as his strong arms latched onto her.
Sharp fear filled Bella's gut for the second time that day, as Rabastan divested her of her wand. She fought him hard as he tried to throw her around the room – he wasn't big enough for that, thank Merlin – but he pinned her down by the door that led to the bedroom she shared with her husband, pressing his reeking body and robes against her bloody ones, and all of a sudden she really knew, and the fear and disgust threatened to overwhelm her –
"Carnatitio!" Rabastan whispered, almost lovingly, into her ear. Bellatrix screamed as she felt the curse take hold of her major limbs, screamed in spite of the fact that she knew he'd enjoy it – after all, Rodolphus was the same way – "Rabastan – you bastard – "
"Shut up, you rabid bitch," he snarled back, unconcernedly, as if she were not chained to her own bed, "I'm softening you up – you're worth nothing to Rodolphus now – I can do whatever the bloody fuck I want with you, and he wouldn't care – "
"As always, you never think things through – you'll always be a foolish bastard – bloody coward – if I had my wand – "
"If you had your only snivelling excuse for witchcraft, you'd beg for it, Bella – shut up, and you may actually enjoy this – "
But Bellatrix was already using her last vestiges of will to fight, already twisting so she could draw those chains, those same chains from last night, around his filthy, gasping neck – she needed her wand –
"Y – you – bitch – " Rabastan managed to cough out. His wiry arms hit out at her – but Merlin, she wasn't going to bloody let this happen, let him condescend to touch her as if she wasn't his brother's – his eyes bugged out as he choked for air, and Bella began to think that he might actually expire –
She grudgingly tried to loosen the grip of her chained arms around his neck, but the chains locked, and he thrashed, hard, against her – it was slightly sickening –
Thank Morgana he's limp now –
She only just managed to untangle herself before passing out again.
Bellatrix's dark eyes slit open cautiously – she felt weak, stretched, painful –
"My lord," a very familiar voice sneered nearby. "She awakens…" The voice was so cold, so underlain with malice that Bella hesitated to speak. Trying to sit up – it was Rodolphus, her Rodolphus, speaking as if he couldn't care if she died in his arms – she felt the bite of chains on her wrists, again. But this time they flared with some kind of magical fire, making Bella, inured to pain as all of the Inner Circle, wince in dreaded anticipation.
Now the suffering would really begin – she was in the torture chains, she knew it –
"Rodolphus…" she managed to get out, as more of a sputtered wheeze than an actual word.
"Be quiet!" her husband's voice snarled at her. "How could you, Bella?" His voice came closer – frighteningly so, in this state –
Bella couldn't understand, could simply not comprehend what on earth would have caused –
Before she could speculate, a Cruciatus curse hit her out of the blue, causing her to spasm in what was partly surprise and partly pain. She did not grit her teeth – they could fracture, in a Cruciatus of this intensity – and she tried not to move her wrists and arms too much, to lessen the pain of the heated chains, but it seemed all in vain, as her body quivered and spasmed violently with the searing pain of the Cruciatus and the localised throb of the burning chains. A murmur of voices seemed to assault her, some jaunty, which she'd expected. She was not as popular within the Inner Circle as she would like – many of the men were disdainful of her ability as a woman, and would be greatly glad to see her demise tonight.
If it was night, at all. For, as the curse finally ceased, she could barely see.
Her throat worked, but all that seemed to come out of her mouth was blood, as she'd bitten her tongue at some point.
"…you, you who I cherished," Rodolphus was sputtering out. "You killed him – you useless whore – " Bella flinched at a heavy hand came down, choking her, not because of the pain, but because he was calling her –
So his brother was dead. Bella's thoughts raced wildly – there was nothing, nothing she could do now – especially as she was near useless now –
The cold, charismatic voice, coming from far away, did nothing to restore Bellatrix's wounded, bleeding confidence. That was the voice of her Lord – and she let her head slacken and fall, because she knew, she had failed him – how he would punish her –
And, indeed, he did.
Just not the way she'd expected. The Dark Lord had come upon her, prying her sore eyes open with some spell, practically hissing at her. The words he'd used – defiled, useless – could only mean one fate.
Death. It was her fault, he explained tightly, for depriving him of a faithful follower, a member of the Inner Circle like herself, and someone had kicked her when she had tried to explain out of turn, and her side seemed to be alive with fire.
Bella knew she should be grateful, knew she should be thankful that he had not let her enraged husband wreak his vengeance for his beloved brother's death, but part of her kept asking why, why she should be marginalised, treated as thus, when the filthy bastard had tried to touch her.
She had tried to explain again, to explain, haltingly, around the pain, that she had only wanted to keep herself pure – for her husband, who she begged now – but a kick in the ribs and a Cruciatus shut her up. And the Dark Lord explained, over the laughter – she could actually hear it – that she was as useless to him, now, as a Squib. He needed fertile women – and since Bella was not, she was hitherto unnecessary in his plans to defeat the vile prophecy that had sprung up and panicked them all.
And then another Cruciatus was blasted at her, for her punishment, again and again and again, and darkness crept in.
It was only slightly better that way, she knew, even as her eyes closed of their own accord. The way their Lord was talking of her…as if she was something to be…discarded…
A tired, filthy Severus Snape stared down at the twisted, shrivelled remnants of the woman before him, wondering what to do.
The Dark Lord had become even more erratic over the last few days, and that explained this heavy loss, this purposeful destruction of such a resource.
Severus grimaced. It was folly in the extreme, just another example of his Lord's unease, just another example of his incapacity to add to the overgrown stock in Severus' keen memory. He bent closer, examining her impartially – she did not seem to be breathing, and her face and limbs were rapidly losing colour. She was almost certainly dead, or would very swiftly be so.
Severus deliberated with himself uneasily. It was one thing to shun the most foolish, inhumane acts of what he'd increasingly begun to regard as the madman who commanded his fealty, but quite another – quite another entirely, to purposefully disregard one of his express commands. The Dark Lord had told him emphatically to finish the woman off, but, faced with the task, Severus found himself hesitating.
He looked again at Bellatrix's twisted body, feeling a sort of grim satisfaction surge up in him. He sneered, watching silently as the wind on the deserted moor played with her robes – now rags, of course. She'd always been pompous, grating – not a little fanatical, and one of those he'd mistrusted on principle.
He felt a strong urge to scratch away at his itching ear and brain. Why, why had the Dark Lord decided she was unworthy? In his opinion, a Bellatrix Lestrange without children would have been all the more loyal, all the more invested in the cause, because without their Lord's approval, she would have been easily destroyed.
Just like now.
It boggled the mind, just as many of the Dark Lord's actions increasingly tended to do. It was no mistake a thinking, lucid Slytherin would make. Severus sighed inwardly, the familiar apprehension strengthening its hold on him. Gone was the sly, calculating master of strategy, these days, replaced by someone who became more brittle, more – inhuman – each passing moment. The foolish sense of godlike strength had grown, along with the Wizarding World's terror, and Severus, on delivering the garbled, chilling Prophecy to his Lord, had really begun to believe it would be the man's downfall. The problem, he repeated carefully to himself, as had become normal, was how to – ah – extricate himself from the mindless chaos. It sickened him even further, now, when he was in a position to see the inner workings of their Lord's mind, sickened and worried him to know that they were, essentially, fighting for nothing.
Severus corrected himself with a grim smirk. Not for nothing – just for the whim of a madman who dreams he can rule the world…
And that was the most irritating, and, as with all things involving the Dark Lord, fearful thing. What Slytherin allowed himself to fall into such delusions? Power was different from overlord-ship, and the latter was easy enough to attain if you had a taste for politics, like Lucius. To obtain it blatantly – to push the broken, fragmented Ministry into an emergency state – that meant deaths. And not of deaths of the ordinary, foolish people who moved too slow and didn't think in terms of pain and escape, oh no.
Deaths, Severus shivered, of his followers…
And if there was one thing that galled him, it was the idea that he would have no control over his death. Some might observe that he deserved it, but Merlin, he didn't want to die. Not now, not when he had hardly a dream left for himself, not when he could not even imagine what it would be like, living constantly under the thumb of that – of that –
Severus shook his head – he had no time for such foolish observations, if he wanted to disobey his Lord so blatantly – he had to move quickly, decisively –
He snorted. Something the Dark Lord left frequently, now, to the members of the Inner Circle, choosing to brood over his plans to raise up an heir, if he could not get at his two unknowing future destroyers.
Casting an Obscurus Charm on himself and on the corpse of Bellatrix, he simply Apparated to the nearby town of Sherringham, and dumped her body in the graveyard they normally used, careful to obliterate her Mark – one thing his mad Lord had asked that he would do.
It was the least he could do – or so Severus was starting to think. If she died, the Obscurus Charm would dissipate, and some Muggle fool would bury her. It felt more – more right, somehow, to the weary young man.
Severus snorted as he backed away from the body. More right, indeed – he was going soft.
Unknown to him, he had just changed the fate of the Wizarding world. A change which, years later, a young, hateful little boy would be extremely grateful for.
A/N: So, guys – what do you think? I'm pleased-ish with the story – will change and edit it some more before posting it as part of the challenge, of course.