Title: Two Steps Ahead
Author Name: Shy Unicorn
Rating: T
Spoilers: GoF/OotP/HBP
Genre: Romance
Era: MWPP
Main Character(s): Bellatrix Black
Ship(s): Bellatrix/Rodolphus
Summary: Bellatrix Black has an unexpected visitor who asks her a very unexpected question. Sequel to Dance With Me.
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.

"How are the Knights of Walpurgis these days?" Cygnus Black asked, turning to his dark haired daughter.

The Black family were seated at breakfast. Mr. Black was seated at one end of the long teak wood table, on a high backed chair more like a throne, and held court from 8:30 until 9:15 every morning without fault.

Bellatrix set down her cutlery and stared into space for a moment, recalling the previous night's events. All present in the room fell silent. Every tiny scrap of news was shared with the whole family who then took it in turns to dissect the discoveries. It had always been that way. Cygnus Black demanded honesty and loyalty from his family, so that no rift could be created, he was a strong believer in unity.

"What can I say?" Bellatrix sighed, thinking of all the things she wanted to say.

"It wasn't a proper meeting, just an excuse to come together, gossip, get drunk and dance. The music was good, you'd have enjoyed it, Mother."

It was always polite to begin with the good things, people thought that's what you remembered best. It was a lie.

"Although the wine was cheap, the guests were all middle class, or ministry bureaucrats, the place was draughty…"

"What did you expect, dear? The Lestrange's, though well bred, don't tend to think passed themselves. The heir of the that household has had to work harder than any other since Salazar knows when because of their innate hedonism."

Bellatrix smiled, thinking of Rodolphus dressed in his expensive robes looking like a Byronic hero. How he had pressed her against him. He was the younger son. There would be no hard working for him, only the pursuit of his passions, so long as Rabastan could keep him well financed.

"Rodolphus Lestrange was the good looking one, in my opinion," she said, her dark eyes sparkled merrily.

Mr. Black paused and observed his daughter's face. They shared many physical features, which pleased him, but inside of her he could see a spirit, which succeeded him. He disliked this in a girl, but felt a stab of pride. He had had no sons but Bellatrix made up for that in part, her name had long foretold them that.

"What do you make of that, Druella?" Cygnus turned his attention to the blonde woman seated to his right.

Mrs. Black, laughed. "Darling, no mere mortal man will bridal her heart," she said, blue eyes flashing to her eldest daughter. She smiled knowingly.

Bellatrix felt a stab of surprise, a cold creeping sensation spread across her back. Did her mother know? She straightened in her chair and continued to return her mother's gaze with insolent blankness.

"She's given us no cause for concern this far. There's no reason why she shouldn't hold out a couple of years, find someone worthy of her, if marriage is what she wants," Mrs Black said fondly.

"There was something profoundly Rosier-ish in her eyes when she mentioned the young man," Mr Black retorted darkly; referring to his wife's side of the family who had a reputation for being exceptionally lusty.

"The only daughter you need to worry about is Andromeda," Mrs Black muttered. "The things she gets up to at school! I don't know what kind of example she's setting Narcissa, she certainly wasn't brought up to behave like this!"

"I do agree," Mr Black said quietly.

"Pelting Gryffindors with stink pellets is one thing but going so far as attending Hogsmeade with a mudblood boy is quite another!" he finished angrily, glowering at the vase of flowers in the middle of the table.

There was an uncomfortable silence. Bellatrix looked down at her breakfast and found that she wasn't hungry anymore. Surely Andromeda wasn't fool enough to actually be interested in this boy? It was just another of her pranks. It must be.

"You have to talk some sense into her, Bellatrix. She might listen to you," Mr Black said at last, looking defeated.

"Now Bella," her mother began trying to regain a flow of light-hearted conversation. "I thought we might go into Madame Malkin's this afternoon to choose you some nice summer robes. All of your clothes are much too thick - heavens, you needed that when you were in Poland - but now, I think -"

A timid knocking at the door announced the entrance of a House Elf.

Some things never changed, as with breakfast, the ritualistic shift of society never left the Black family unscathed. Mid spring the family would begin planning who they were to holiday with and begin making the necessary arrangements. It all seemed so dull to Bellatrix. Compared to the thrill of freedom, living abroad, and studying magic that would never find its way onto the Hogwarts curriculum, being back home was beginning to feel like being in prison.

"What's your business interrupting our breakfast, vermin?" Mrs Black said without looking at the piteous creature. It blinked its large grey eyes before answering.

"Please Ma'am, there's someone here to see Miss Bellatrix," it said in a quaking high-pitched voice.

Mrs. Black was temperamental at the best of times, but she was certainly not a morning person. Her cool blue eyes swept her daughter for any hint of emotion, she raised one eyebrow questioningly. Bellatrix knew who her mother hoped it would be. Oh yes, Druella Black had grand designs for her oldest daughter, and although no one ever dared to speak his name she hoped that Bellatrix would one day be honoured with it.

"Who is it, Slinky?" she asked adding a spoon full of sugar to her tea, turning impatient.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, he wouldn't say," the elf said looking fixedly at the floor, trembling from head to foot. Mrs Black made an irritated noise.

"It's alright, Mother. I'll go," Bellatrix said heavily, rising from the table, hazarding a good guess as to who it would be.

She was not properly dressed, which she knew would be her Mother's main concern. However, she thought appearing in front of Rodolphus Lestrange wearing her black silk night dress and green robe the perfect attire. Mrs. Black sniffed knowing that as long as Mr. Black did not intervene there was nothing she could do to stop her eldest daughter going.

"Don't be too long," she said catching Bellatrix by the wrist, "remember that we're going to Orion and Walburga's for brunch."

The girl acknowledged her mother's words and left the room unable to stop an excited tremor plucking at her flesh. Taking a deep breath she reprimanded herself for getting carried away.

Slinky lead her down to the first reception room at the front of the house. They passed intricate tapestries of wizards slaying Muggles and overcoming trolls, various portraits of family members and underneath a chandelier, which hissed like a snake, the metal bonds writhing dangerously. At the top of the stairs was an average sized painting with a spectacular woman pictured. She had flowing ebony hair and heavy lidded black eyes, quite like Bellatrix's own, dressed in a glittering green dress with fox furs around her shoulders. The woman had a permanent superior look in her eyes and a constant sneer creasing her regal features. This was her great-Grandmother, Violetta Bullstrode, as she looked on her wedding day.

Bellatrix thought it remarkable that the same woman would be joining the family later on in the day, where she would sit, watching them with black eyes, which were truly a mirror of the blackness within her. Bellatrix admired her for battling onward, her life had not been plain sailing. However, deep inside she greatly pitied her great-Grandmother. She had achieved nothing and was now simply a black-hearted old woman, waiting to die.

Bellatrix would never settle for that. She was certain of it.

She smiled affectionately at the portrait as she passed. After all, it was such good artwork.

The reception room the house-elf was approaching was a simple, welcoming sort of place, which was used for common visitors. It was one of the less dramatic rooms in the house.

"You can leave me now. I have no need of you."

She kicked the house-elf smartly so that it tumbled a good few meters and into the front door with a loud crash. Bellatrix smiled, pleased with her improving aim. Her heart jumped in her chest as she began opening the door, knowing that she would find him inside.

Rodolphus Lestrange had been on her mind for a long while previous to the Walpurgis Night celebrations, to finally have ensnared him was something of a victory to her.

Shutting the door quietly behind her Bellatrix was mildly pleased to find him examining a picture of her that hung on the wall along side her sisters. Freshly cut flowers had been placed on the windowsill, the air was thick with the scent of lilies and vanilla pods. The room was sparsely furnished so that a giant green mosaic serpent was visibly set into the floor surrounded by a middle English riddle in gothic silver lettering. It was something that Bellatrix had admired since she was a young girl.

Rodolphus had his back to her, giving her a moment to observe him at ease. He was taller than she remembered him to be, she knew he had been broad during their school days but was surprised to see just how much like a Beater he was built now he had reached maturity. She leaned against the doorframe, a finger in her mouth as she continued to study him. She remembered how fierce he could be. Last night had shown he still was a live wire, and yet she was surer of herself than she had ever been. She knew how easily she could make him as weak as a flobberworm if she wished it. She amused herself for a while thinking of many different ways she could break his spirit and make him need her.

Rodolphus turned to see Bellatrix watching him, her black eyes dark and mischievous, a salacious smile on her lips. He was suddenly very self-conscious and wondered how long she had been there.

"Very kind of you to come by. I wondered how long it would be before we had the pleasure of meeting again, Mister Lestrange," she said pointedly.

There was a pause in which they both sized the other up.

"Please, do sit down," she said after a moment, sweeping across the room to take a seat herself.

He turned his head slightly, watching her settle herself into one of the practical green cushioned chairs. Bellatrix turned on him, her eyebrows arching in interest, prompting him to speak.

"A year and a half away has changed you beyond recognition," Rodolphus said leaning back against the mantelpiece.

"Oh, I don't know about that. You didn't look closely enough to begin with, when we were both at Hogwarts," she smiled coldly.

"I noticed you, how could I not? But I'll not deny that I had more serious things on my mind," he said quietly, bowing his head in reverence.

She turned in her chair to look at him. Her black eyes were smouldering with emotion, had he too taken that daring step from words to actions, and entered into the war in a more active roll than most?

"I thought we'd keep in touch. What's kept you so busy?" he asked lazily, beginning to circle her chair. Circle his prey.

"I had the good fortune of finding myself an excellent tutor and the opportunity to lie low abroad. The magical laws in eastern Europe are much laxer than they are here, Dippet would faint if he knew what sort of magic I've been learning."

"No doubt," Rodolphus said, his eyes dipping from her face to chest and back again. "If you've been having the time of your life why bother coming back to the rainy motherland?" Rodolphus asked quizzically. "Surely you didn't miss it?"

"Merlin, no! Family matters brought me back," Bellatrix replied quickly.

"Care to elaborate?" he asked smoothly as he completed his circle.

"That's imprudent," she said sharply.

"Would it be imprudent of me to ask you to marry me?" Rodolphus asked, bending down on one knee in front of her seat, fixing is eyes on her face, his hands gripped the arms of the chair.

"It would," Bellatrix replied leaning forwards in her seat so that their noses nearly touched.

She pinned him with a probing stare trying to calculate his motives. She saw his pride, his arrogance, his blood lust, and his thirst for power. What caught her heart was his passion, his daring and the recklessness of his loyalty. Closing the gap between them in a swift motion she found herself kissing him with all the strength she could muster.

His large, rough hands seized her immediately, drawing her close to him so that she was no longer sitting on the chair but awkwardly on his knee. A feline purr escaped Bellatrix's throat. She threw him backwards by his shoulders and stood to her full height. Sprawled out on the stone floor he looked up at her, hunger burning in every crease of his face.

"How will you answer me?" he said gruffly. "My bloodline can be traced back to the 11th century, pure enough to satisfy even your parents, Bellatrix. You wouldn't have to bow to their whims any longer, you'd be at liberty to do whatever you wished with your time. I don't want to chain you down. You know me, you know I'd be good to you."

Bellatrix couldn't deny that freedom was something that she longed for. She felt herself burning up inside and trembling all over. He was so powerful; she thought his embrace would break her into a thousand pieces and how wonderful that would be.

Taking a deep breath she turned back to him. The fire burning in his eyes made her want to drop to her knees and punch him - or kiss him. She couldn't decide which.

Rodolphus had remained exactly where she'd put him. His fierce eyes followed her, wreaking scorches through her heart, which wanted to burst already, her lungs felt tight, as if she couldn't quite satisfy her need for air without his iron arms around her. She was suddenly angry with herself - she didn't need him. She didn't need any man! She paced a long moment, screwed up her face and pressed her hands to her head and groaned. Whipping around to face him she pressed a hand to her chest trying to hold her emotions in. She found feel her heart thumping in her chest and wasn't surprised by the vehemence in her voice when she spoke.

"How dare you make me come undone? I hate you! How dare you be so self-assured? Do you know who I am? You will worship me like a goddess, like the precious blood in you veins!" she hissed.

"How dare I?" he shouted back, getting to his feet. "Who was it that came uninvited to my house demanding a dance? Who was it that kept me awake last night? That tortured me with their touch? Who is it that is driving me out of my mind?"

He strode over to her and stooped to look her directly in the eyes.

"I should hate you more," he whispered, nostrils flared and panting for breath.

Neither of them moved, their expressions were set and deadly, the silence lengthened and still they remained unmoving. He wasn't going to back down. Bellatrix smirked, taking half a step back, it was enough to defuse the tension without weakening her position.

"I can't see how you could make me happy."

Rodolphus laughed at her.

"It works both ways my dear. I'm not at all romantically inclined, there are much more important things than fuzzy feelings and empty words to base a marriage on."

"That's something we agree on. Are we going in the same direction though, Rodolphus? Do we want the same things?" Bellatrix tilted her head trying to judge his response.

He grabbed her left forearm, forcing his thumb down into the flesh. She gave a shriek of pain and tried to struggle free from him, but his grip was too tight.

"If this is what you want, if this is where you're going," he said emphatically, pushing his thumb harder into her arm, she gasped and glared angrily at him, "then I'm already two steps ahead of you. I think it's you who needs to think through their values. Are you devoted?"

"More than you can imagine," she said with relish, pulling her arm free.

He was a cunning piece of work. He always had been, but she had never been so impressed by him before. Only those who had the Mark knew of its existence and for him to find hers with such ease meant that he too knew its serpentine shape by heart.

"Good," there was an air of relief and finality in his tone.

"I think you need to talk to my Father, don't you?" she said, her husky voice rang clearly through the room.

"Fine. I'll see him now, since I'm here. We'll have the ceremony next Wednesday, at Lestrange Hall," Rodolphus said, his voice still harsh and guttural. "We'll honeymoon in Warsaw so you can show me all of those seedy little spells you've been learning."

"Alright," she laughed, "but I want a nice, expensive engagement ring waiting for me at the breakfast table tomorrow morning!"

Bellatrix caught one of his hands in hers as she regretfully turned to leave. Her eyes once more had that uncanny brightness that had first drawn Rodolphus to her. He wanted to pounce on her, to push her to ground and pull off that silly little nightgown she was wearing.

With a swish of her wrist and her hips she was gone from the room before he could work out exactly what made her so captivating.