Title: Unity
Author Name: Shy Unicorn
Rating: T
Spoilers: OotP
Genre: Romance
Era: During Order of the Phoenix
Main Character(s): Bellatrix and Rodolphus
Ship(s): Bellatrix/Rodolphus
Summary: After being broken out of Azkaban, the Wizarding prison, and cloistered in the secret halls of Malfoy Manor, Rodolphus and Bellatrix find themselves united.
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.
Author's Notes: This is about as close to fluff as these two are likely to get. Enjoy.

For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone;
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown;
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one.

The Good-Morrow, John Donne

The sound of Rodolphus' voice demanded her attention. His voice, rich and dark, with that edge of arrogance made a sharp barb crackle its way through her chest. She had waited so long to hear him speak new words to her. She had traced the old ones so often they had begun to lose all sense of meaning and held no charm or comfort.

The room was a marvel. Large, light, airy, with huge windows over-looking the grounds of Malfoy Manor. Bellatrix had forgotten the world was so large. The walls were upholstered in pale blue silk and hung with exquisitely coloured landscapes in ornate gilt frames, pieces of art in their own right. She could have spent all evening looking at the colours adoringly - aquamarine, gold, lilac, splashes of deep crimson and hues of soft green. The green of Rodolphus' eyes.

Across the bare floorboards a thick, plush rug had been laid, which was squashy under foot. Bellatrix stood on it wiggling her toes and smiling at the feeling of something soft. The central feature to the room was a vast bed piled with cushions and laid with several blankets of varying textures. Such grandeur, it was overwhelming. She patted the top blanket and trailed her hand across one of the silk pillows, before taking a step back, her senses were frenzied and blurring together.

Rodolphus had discovered a door on the other side of the room. He stood between the two rooms, glancing back at her. He drew out his wand, caressing the length of wood before casting the spell. The room beyond glowed with the light of two hundred little candles.

Warm orange light met her eyes, tender light, soothing light. Not like harsh wand light or total darkness.

Bellatrix walked slowly towards him, to peer into the room. Walking was a peculiar sensation. She was caught off guard by how gaunt she was and found herself uncertain in her own skin. Standing beside her husband she saw the adjoining room was a magnificent bathroom.

The marble was white and grey and shimmering in the candle light. A claw-footed tub large enough fit three people inside it stood beside the wall. She followed Rodolphus' eyes. He was looking up at a vast, domed showerhead, which scaled the wall beside the bath like a steel sunflower.

"What luxury," he whispered and padded carefully across the marble floor to play with the pewter dials.

"One forgets these things," she agreed endeared by his enthusiasm.

Bellatrix smiled, folding her arms as she leaned against the doorframe. She had never dreamed that watching her husband turning on a shower would be so captivating.

He was thin, much too thin, but he was her Rodolphus. His shoulders were still the same broad arches she remembered, less defined beneath his ragged grey robe, but their familiar curve was a delight to behold. As he bent over, his large hands fumbling with the dials, she found herself looking at his calves, she had never imagined he could be so delicate, he had ankles like a deer!

A hiss echoed around the room followed by a rumbling as jets of boiling hot water hit the bottom of the porcelain bath.

"Hot, running water," Rodolphus sighed, his fingertips twitching beneath the running water. He turned to Bellatrix with a bemused smile on his face, "one forgets such wonders exist."

"Yes. It's been too long," she said slowly, watching the steam rise into the air. It curled and blossomed and rose upwards and outwards, expanding all the while.

She realised she was breathing deeply, it was odd for her to notice she was breathing at all. Rodolphus was looking at her, his mouth turned upwards in an unfamiliar expression, his sunken green eyes glittering. Bellatrix felt her stomach swoop. They were smiling. Slowly, with trepidation she realized the swoop was happiness.

Her smile broadened.

Rodolphus reacted to her smile with a chuckle, a deep purr that stirred her memory. He used to laugh like that when he found something ironic or surprising. What a wonder to be hearing it again!

She remembered a brief moment, he had been reading the newspaper one morning and there were lilies on the table and she had smirked and felt so glad to be there with him. She looked up from her thoughts and into his eyes. Something electric passed between them in a glance. He chuckled and Bellatrix found herself laughing, a smoky sound in the back of her throat that she had not made for at least ten years. It was a wonder she remembered something so trivial.

Something so happy.

"Come here, Bella," he said softly, motioning for her to come closer to him, with a tender smile on his face.

She had been keeping her distance.

She was torn. Part of her had wanted to seize hold of him and not let him go, grab hold of him with an iron clad grip and keep holding on until she blended into him, until she had no strength left at all from the moment they had been freed. Something had stopped her though, her own self restraint, her own strength that had kept her alive these past fifteen years, and an odd little fluttery feeling, one of shyness. She was shy of him, for the very first time in their relationship. She looked away, embarrassed at her uncharacteristic coyness.

"Come on," he coxed, holding out his hand.

A small smile curved his mouth, he watched her intently, his green eyes dancing. Bellatrix took it and found she was pulling a perfectly juvenile face as Rodolphus drew her close to him.

He took both her hands in his. His touch tickled her skin. It had been so long since she had touched a human, wanted to be touched, had even recalled being touched by him.

He bowed his head. Bellatrix looked into his eyes. He looked so tired. How she longed to be able to rub those years away with one sweep of her hand. He was more handsome than she remembered him ever being. So valiant. So strong. She brushed the tip of her nose against his. The intimacy was almost painful. She forgot to breathe. She forgot to think. They stood, barely touching, brushing skin, their eyelids heavy as the room danced with pale light and filled with steam.

"Let's rid ourselves of Azkaban," Rodolphus whispered.

Tentatively her reached around Bellatrix, unsure of touching her, unsure of his own body around him. He pinched at the ragged grey robe she was wearing.

Do it.

She was filled with a deep emotion she didn't fully understand.

Free me.

Slowly he began to lift the fabric, gathering it up in his large hands. Bellatrix lifted her arms.

Free me.

She remembered their wedding night, after fighting with layers and hooks and laces she had stood before him in a thin slip of material and he had smiled excitedly, nervously almost, as he waited to discover what she looked like beneath it. She had laughed huskily, her dark eyes glittering with mirth. How young they had been then! How heady with their own good looks they had been. How carnal!

His palm hugged her ribcage, which was easily visible through her skin. He looked alarmed for a second. She felt it too. She was no longer ivory white and satin soft, she wasn't girlishly plump and tender but she was still his wife and she was still as passionately in love with him as she had always been. She knew she wasn't beautiful anymore but there was still fire in her.

Free me.

Rodolphus drew the robe over her head and tossed it on the floor. She smirked and bit her lip. Fifteen years it had been since they'd last had the luxury of standing like this. She was almost a virgin again. Almost.

"Look at these lovely bones," she purred and turned on the spot.

Rodolphus laughed, a warm rush of sound in the back of his throat. It made her feel hot deep in her belly. He was smiling, his eyes were full of sadness but he was smiling as he sat down on the rim of the bath and placed his hands on her hips.

"So beautiful. Such good breeding," he said, looking up at her adoringly.

"Now you show me yours," she demanded, snatching at his robes.

"Easy," he said brightly, trying to fend her off.

Bellatrix laughed, her husband didn't suit being so prudish. The flash of happiness had not died, nor did it seem likely to as she eagerly pulled up Rodolphus' regulation Azkaban robe. He helped her get it over his head, laughing when she got it stuck on his chin. Triumphantly she threw it to the ground and looked down at her husband.

She would never have thought it possible for him to be so small. His chest, his thighs, so slender now, he was less than half the size he was when they had entered the prison. She touched his chest, his collarbones, ran her hands along his shoulders. He had once been a burly, olive skinned, young man whose shoulders and thighs were well defined and strong. It pained her to see him stringy and pale, his ribs visible through his skin. What did surprise her was how wonderful his dark hair looked, it had grown so long that he could easily have sat on it. She tingled with excitement at being able to touch him again after so long. A bemused expression had settled on her face.

"You're so delicate!" she marvelled, tracing his nose with one of her slender fingers.

"Am I?" he laughed, catching her hand and pressing her fingertips to his lips. They were cracked and dry, but they belonged to him. Bellatrix felt her eyes sagging with desire, such a beautiful sensation, his lips on her fingertips.

"I remember," he said lightly, getting to his feet, "that your hands would always smell of myrrh and I could always tell what books you'd been reading by how the pages smelt." He was smiling fondly at her and stepping carefully into the bath, drawing her in with him, guiding her into the porcelain tub and beneath the jet of scorching hot water.

Bellatrix could feel the heat of the water springing into the air even before it hit her skin. She let out a glorious gasp of surprise as she stepped under the shower head. It was not the heat that had surprised her, but the sensation of the many different jets of water raining down on her. The contact with her skin, the feeling of being touched by something that wasn't stone or metal had surprised her.

It was intoxicating.


Heat. Water. Light.

For the first time in her life, Bellatrix realized these things were what she prized above everything - along with the figure standing rapturously underneath the steady stream of water. Rodolphus was squinting down at her through the curtain of water and steam.

"It feels…" but he did not seem to be able to find a word, and didn't need to. His words were adequate. To simply be able to feel things was a pleasure.

Bellatrix shut her eyes and absorbed what she was feeling. She thought she would never shake off the bone chilling cold of the Isle of Drear, or the constant ache in her body as it screamed for comfort. She felt her shoulders relax and her pores pop open and her chest and cheeks flare with colour as a blistering heat enveloped her.

What a joy to be alive!

Rodolphus and Bellatrix stood for a long time, with their eyes shut, smiling, swaying slightly, simply enjoying the water and the sound of it beating against the basin. She stood facing him, her head pressed to his chest, so oddly sharp and sinewy against her cheek. Rodolphus had one hand on the small of her back and his chin resting on the top of her head, only half holding her, allowing her to be free if she wished it.

She wished to be near to him.

After what could have been an hour Bellatrix felt a new sensation against her skin, something that made her catch her breath. The hairs on her arms stood on end and her heart sped up so that it beat painfully against her chest. Skin upon skin. Rodolphus' thumb was skimming her skin so lightly but she could feel every little nerve he set alight.

Their eyes met.

Neither of them spoke but Bellatrix understood. She understood so clearly it made her ache. He cared. After all of this time he cared. Rodolphus guided her gently in a half circle so she was standing with her back to his chest.

The air was suddenly full of a flowery scent, that made her nose tingle. She hadn't smelt flowers in years.

Rodolphus had taken up a bar of soap that Bellatrix hadn't noticed. He soaped his hands and began his task. He started with her shoulders, working the skin with circular motions, worried to touch her too firmly as if she were a newborn baby. She tilted back her head and parted her lips, letting the sensations wash over her. She half opened her eyes to see the room thick with steam and flickering with tiny dancing lights.

The soapsuds ran across her skin, so pale it was almost bluish in colour, the bubbles sliding over an elbow, scudding past a hip, trickling over her shins. It was his hands that mattered the most, his rough hands that had such a tender edge as they roamed about her skin.

Bellatrix cried.

She was not the crying type, she never had been. But here, hidden by the clouds of steam, under warm water, by candlelight it seemed the most eloquent way to express her feelings. There were no words only emotions. She had the luxury to cry if she wanted, and she wasn't crying because of anger or remorse or despair.

She was crying because she alive. She was crying because there was beauty in the world again, and she had forgotten it.

Rodolphus' arms closed around her. She felt his bony chest pressed against her back. Bellatrix relaxed and let her head lean against her husband's shoulder.

They hung there for a moment, like that, suspended in time, both of them contented in their silence. This moment seemed to belong to their past, another lifetime, another universe completely. There was nothing more important than being together. Bellatrix wanted to say something to let Rodolphus know how she was feeling, why she was crying and why her chest felt so full but there were no words for it and so the silence lengthened and the water continued to drum.

Without speaking Bellatrix took up the soap.

Touching Rodolphus after all of these years was almost like touching him for the first time. No, it was less nerve-wracking. This time she could really savour the intimacy, this time around. His body stood before her like a homeland that she was returning to after a long absence. Although time has changed pathways and buildings it is still the same country, different and yet familiar, waiting to be explored and rediscovered. She kneaded his skin, scrubbing away the dregs of Azkaban. Fingers brushed his arms, palms flattened themselves over his chest, and hands cupped his face.

He had grown unfamiliar but she would learn him again.

Bellatrix looked at Rodolphus, her eyes drinking in his features. That magnificent nose, which she could look at from every angle and never get bored of looking. It was the best sculpture that had ever been formed. She ran her finger along it. Her eyes smiled. She had found something truly beautiful, made even more stunning by the fact it had withstood fifteen years of abuse.

Maybe after recuperating he would be beautiful again?

Yes, she thought he would. He was strong.

Even Azkaban hadn't broken him. Nothing could. He was her powerful equal. He was her rock.

His eyes were heavy, only half open. She knew that look. She remembered it. Oh, the times she had seen him look at her like that! Her stomach coiled. He was leaning closer to her. She was being drawn towards him. Something was pulling them together like magnets. They were so close together all she could see were his olive green eyes and his dark eyelashes and before she closed her eyes Bellatrix caught sight of his lips, flushed a deep raspberry colour and parted slightly. Her senses felt hazy as they kissed, so many things for her body to try and process at once.

So much comfort.

Her lips buzzed and pouted at the attention, Rodolphus' hands tightened on her, crushing her against his chest, his tongue slipping into her mouth - it was bliss. He was bliss. Her body was steadily coming back to life and the thrill that was surging through her veins was like nothing else she could recall.

They both surfaced for air, looking at each other intently. It was the first time Bellatrix realised this was real. That her husband was really standing in front of her, and she was touching him, that she had her hands in his hair. She smiled bewildered by this thought. She had always known the Dark Lord would return, that they would be united, but of late she had begun to forget and it seemed all the more startling that it wasn't a dream.

Rodolphus climbed out of the shower.

He left a lingering touch on Bellatrix's arm that told her he wouldn't be far away. He found a pile of towels hidden in a cupboard under the sink and held one open for her. It was thick and soft and hot from being next to the pipes. Rodolphus wrapped her up in it tightly as she climbed out of the bath. She pressed herself against him like an affectionate cat before turning to shut off the shower.

Rodolphus went into the bedroom where he hummed a tune, nothing in particular, just letting her know that he was close by. She was grateful.

It wasn't long before she trotted to his side.

He had conjured a roaring fire in the grate and was basking in its warmth. She noticed copious amounts of hair had been flung into the fire. He had cut his hair so close to his head he was almost bald. She was almost sad to see his magnificent hair gone, it had been quite an intriguing change. Rodolphus had always been particular about his hair, which was thick and curly. He disliked it long and he disliked it even more when it was short.

"It'll grow," Rodolphus and Bellatrix said in the same instant.

"It's better than the mangled mess it was," said Rodolphus with a mite of indignation.

"I think you look sexy with no hair," Bellatrix purred.

He did. It made his nose look more defined and his face wasn't covered in shadows.

"Come to bed," he said in a quiet voice.

He looked over his shoulder at her as he got to his feet. He couldn't stand being at the other end of the room to her and stalked over to the bed. She too was feeling the pain of separation. Strange, she couldn't imagine how she had spent fifteen years away from him, it seemed to her as if they'd never been parted.

She noted how peculiar this insatiable need to be near him was, which she had not felt since their engagement. It was like a rope pulled tight and Bellatrix was the centre of the strain.

She looked him in the face. He was requiring nothing of her but to be near to her.

Bellatrix let the towel fall to the ground and walked towards the bed.

Her fingers closed around a thick duvet woven from wool, her bare legs moved across sheets made of the finest cotton and her head lay on goose feather pillows. Comfort had been foreign for so long she didn't think she'd be able to sleep, she was revelling in the materials touching her skin, everything seemed a glorious distraction from sleeping.

Warmth radiated from Rodolphus, spreading itself through the blankets. Bellatrix inched closer to her husband, towards his warmth. How she had longed for a mattress and warmth and some company for so many nights and now she had it.

She'd never go back to Azkaban again.

"Can you remember the last time we did this?" Bellatrix asked, nestling herself against Rodolphus.

"No," he said sadly, brushing back his wife's hair. "But I promise you, I'll always remember this. We don't have to move again for as long as you like. This bed can be our universe."

"I like the sound of that. I don't remember you ever being a poet," she teased.

Rodolphus put an arm around her, drawing her up against him. Bellatrix draped her arm over his waist, her fingers skimming one of his hips. He shivered and smiled roguishly at her, seeking out the curve of her waist to illicit a giggle from her as a ticklish feeling erupted over her stomach.

"I can't get close enough to you," Bellatrix laughed, inching even closer to Rodolphus so that their stomachs were pressed together. He held her leg and guided it over his hip so that she was anchored to him, her toes stroking behind his kneecap.

Bellatrix felt herself getting short of breath as his fingers lazily stroked her thigh.

They stared at each other for a long time, eyes sparkling, and smiling peaceably as they lay intertwined beneath the blankets, their heads resting on the same pillow.

"This is suitably romantic," Rodolphus said thickly, his eyes flickering shut.

"But we've never been romantic before," Bellatrix laughed throatily. Rodolphus smiled and laughed through his nose.

"Your right. You're going to have to do something deviant to lower the whole tone then, my love," he teased, kissing her forehead.

Bellatrix sighed contentedly.

"I can't be bothered," she admitted, closing her eyes.

"I'll let you off this once," Rodolphus mumbled.

Bellatrix meant to reply but her body felt so wonderfully lethargic all around her she couldn't be sure if she had responded or not. He was breathing so deeply she was sure he was asleep already, and she was quite eager to join him. She forced one of her eyes open to take one last look at him before she let sleep claim her.

For the first time in fifteen years, Rodolphus and Bellatrix fell asleep in each other's arms.