A/N: Dear readers, I am sorry for my long absence. I have been doing a lot of thinking about the story and unfortunately, I have decided to let this be the last chapter. I just don't feel motivated to keep writing, especially since we know a lot about what is going to happen with the Black sisters and their friends. I had however planned to add some little twists to the story and that's what I wanted to cover in this last chapter. It takes place a year after the fall of Voldemort, in the form of a letter from each of the sisters where they let us know about their lives and what they have become.
I am sorry to be finishing things so abruptly, but it seemed like a rather good time to do it, after Andromeda's decision to leave the family and everything. I want you to know how grateful I am for all the feedback I've been getting for the story. It has made it a real pleasure to write!
Chapter 23 – Black fates
This letter is written to my enemies. To all those who are probably feeling safe and triumphant right now, since they think I am defeated. And I do agree that it might be easy to get that impression right now.
My cell is so small that I can't lie down or even sit comfortably. The little window hole does not much to light up the obscure space or warm the dampness that runs along the heavy walls of stone. I huddle in a corner and try to find some warmth in my thin, ragged robe. When I was first brought to Azkaban from my trial, I had a blanket, but it vanished, I don't know how.
They probably took it. The dementors would do anything to make me lose my mind even quicker than expected. Even when they aren't near me, I can feel their presence, their long, dark forms and the cold, hollow feeling inside me that never seems to go away.
Rudolphus is here too, but I don't know where. They parted us when we first came and put us in separate cells. Not that I think he could do anything. He was always a mediocre link in our chain. Not exactly weak, but not very strong either. We have been here for a year now and he is probably already mad as a rat. Rabastan is probably mad too and that pathetic Barty Crouch Jr. who didn't even have a shred of dignity at our trial.
There is a traitor here too, I saw a glimpse of him when I was brought in. That almost brings a smile to my lips. He is here, branded as a murderer and a death eater. I knew he would one day be punished for his sins. But there are other traitors too and some of them are still free. I want to spit when I think about them.
I never trusted Severus Snape even if he was a friend of my sister's. The Lord made a mistake when he let him take the oath. And then there is Lucius Malfoy. Narcissa must be proud to have such a clever husband. He managed to escape all accusations and is still as respected a wizard as ever. At least Regulus has been cleared out of the way. He was also a mistake. I always knew he would fail us. He was too weak.
I think about my sisters. They somehow always return to my mind. They are the only people in the world I can still allow myself to feel something except indifference or hatred for. My thoughts are usually dark, but sometimes, in the middle of my angst and misery, I can see our childhood clear as glass, three small witches in night gowns running around the house, chasing each other and teasing the house-elves. We weren't allowed to do that when mother and father were there, but were often out. Very often.
Narcissa was always the sweet one, the delicate one. Andromeda and I protected her, the way big sisters are supposed to. She was the peacemaker when we fought, which we did quite frequently. Andromeda and I always somehow competed with each other. It angered me that she always had to argue, always had to talk back to me. In a way, we were both rebels. I rebelled against my family's view of how a woman was supposed to behave. Andromeda rebelled against everything our family stood for.
I still like to imagine that it was the influence of that mudblood that finally pushed her over the edge. Him and our vile former cousin. I remember her eyes that day, standing in the drawing room at 12 Grimmauld place when she declared that she loved the mudblood and that she would have his child. It was the day that would change everything, the day she cut the bonds to our family.
"It would have been better if she was dead," our aunt Walburga kept ranting over and over again after she left. She was given the same treatment Sirius had received. We were all forbidden to mention her name again. She no longer existed.
Andromeda's eyes were sad when she left the house, as if she was the one who had been hurt when in fact she was the one who had stabbed the rest of us in the back! Still, the memory of those eyes still bothers me. I stood by when I heard the Dark Lord give our cousin his orders. I didn't object. Narcissa made some half-hearted protests when we were alone, but I brushed them off.
"Our first duty is to our Lord," I reminded her sternly.
Narcissa is at home now I suppose, with her turncoat husband and their son. Although I found her behaviour during the war cowardly, I am grateful that she is not here. She would not survive a week. I have no idea where Andromeda is. I haven't talked to her for years. When occasionally I saw her in the Diagon Alley, I would just turn away, except for that time she confronted me and Narcissa and demanded to know what we knew about Voldemort.
"Are you afraid of telling me the truth?" she demandedprovocatively.
I hate her, I despise her. And yet, there is still a choked and panting little flame of love burning inside me. It just won't die. I suppose she is smart enough to stay away. Even if the lord has fallen, she should know that she still has enemies left. And Sirius is no longer there to protect her. She needs to stay away, along with her child.
As much as I fight, my determination is getting frailer. I feel apathetic. I was stronger when I first came here, still well-fed, still beautiful. And the blooming life inside me gave me a power even the dementors couldn't take away from me. For seven months I managed to keep my secret. I cared for it with affection, knowing that it was the ray of hope for the future.
But I should have known that it would be impossible to keep the secret for very long. I was getting too weak, the dementors were too strong. I never even saw if it was a boy or a girl. They tore it away from me and I was helpless to fight them. I could swear I heard the screams as they threw it from one of the towers. The deep, dark ocean around the prison island is always furious and the waves strike unmercifully against the sharp rocks. Every moment of every day and every night, the sound fills my ears.
Or perhaps it's the screams of the Longbottoms that I keep hearing. The auror and his wife were strong, they fought us bravely, but it didn't matter. The cruciatus curse was effective, as it always is. That's why I am here now, sentenced to spend the rest of my life within these dark walls with only dementors for company.
I don't want to think about it; it brings me closer to the edge. I hold on to my sanity with all my powers. As long as I have it, I am not defeated. I am still Bellatrix Black Lestrange. I come from one of the purest and most respected families in the wizard world. Even though our name has been sullied by traitors, it is still alive and proud. I am one of the Dark Lord's most trusted servants. I am His loyal servant and confidant. Am. Not was.
I don't know what happened that night when he went off to deal with James Potter and his wife. I don't care about all the wild stories I have heard that some baby boy stopped Him. I refuse to believe it. He is not finished, I know He isn't. He will rise again and those few who remained faithful will be rewarded.
This letter is written to my son. I am looking at him right now, sleeping in his crib. I move the quill carefully, afraid of disturbing him. He looks so peaceful and innocent with his soft blond hair and his rosy skin. I want to protect him against everything in this world. He is all I've got and my fear for his safety never leaves me completely.
That is why I am sitting in his nursery in the middle of the night, in the light of a single candle. Some kind of instinct drives me there, to watch over him, to make sure that he is all right. Lucius probably thinks I am crazy. He is sleeping soundly in our room as if there was not a care in the world. He seems convinced that it's all over now, he has been completely acquitted. He has made sure that no stain will fall on his family name.
"We are all safe now," he has assured me over and over again, holding me tight. "They will never find any evidence against us, I promise you."
But as much as I would like, I can't let myself be convinced. I still have dreams every night that make me wake up drenched in cold sweat. I dream that the ministry will burst through our doors and drag Lucius off to Azkaban. Sometimes I dream that they will take me too and that I will be forced to leave Draco behind, alone and unprotected. I can hear the sound of his cries.
Perhaps it's not just my fear of the ministry that drives me, but also my guilt and discomfort by the thought of my family. Or rather, what has become of it. I still visit my parents for dinner during the weekends and we all try to act as if everything was normal and happy when we all know that it's not. They have aged during the last years. The loss of two daughters has been too much, even for them. My uncle Orion is dead and my aunt Walburga is reduced to a shadow of her old self. Her face has been a stiff mask ever since Regulus' heart was sent to her.
Somehow I feel responsible, even though I have no reason to. For all my life, I have been the dutiful daughter who always obeyed her parents and respected their wishes. I did what a good little Black girl is ultimately supposed to do; I made a good marriage.
Lucius and I got married as soon as I left Hogwarts. I had been terrified that Andromeda's disgrace would have scared him away from me. But it didn't. He assured me that he would never hold me responsible for my sister's scandalous actions. Still I knew that he couldn't be happy about it, so I was relieved beyond belief when he finally proposed to me.
He had a bottle of Verita serum in front of him and I had nervously realized that he would put me through the same test as he had once put Bellatrix through. I was afraid that I wouldn't pass; that old and forbidden feelings would come to the surface. But as I reached for the bottle, he suddenly snatched it away and crushed it with his wand. Instead, he pulled out a small box with the biggest diamond ring I had ever seen.
"Marry me," he had simply said. His eyes were firm and without doubt. He trusted me.
Ever since then I have done everything almost exactly as I was expected to. I was a lovely bride and I freely changed my name. I accepted that a wife of Lucius Malfoy was not supposed to work or study. I took care of his household, commanded the servants and played the perfect hostess when we had guests. And I gave him a son.
I have never seen Lucius look more genuinely happy than he did when he was first allowed to hold his baby boy at St. Mungo's hospital, just a few hours after he had been born. All of my family adored Draco from the first moment. He was a pure link for the future. The only one who wasn't completely happy was me. I was worn and tired after a very hard delivery. The healers had told me that I would probably not be able to have more children. I haven't told Lucius yet. I know he will be upset. He wants a big family; he made that clear to me even before we got married. He always agreed with Voldemort about the importance of producing new purebloods.
Lucius had two strong wills tugging at his sleeves and he somehow always managed to make a balance between them both, never siding completely with either part. I suppose that's why he is still a free man today. But I was never as skilful as he was. Maybe that's why I feel such guilt when I think about my sisters.
Bellatrix is a dull ache inside me. I try to imagine her, my haughty, beautiful older sister, locked up in a dirty prison cell in Azkaban, alone, degraded, but I just can't. My imagination doesn't reach that far. Lucius has made it clear that I can't visit her. It would not look good. In a way, I am relieved even though it makes me feel ashamed.
But it's Andromeda who makes me feel more ashamed. I never really managed to break my bonds with her. I never talked about her with anyone and I avoided seeing her in public, but she never really left my life. I noticed her wedding announcement in the Daily prophet. I saw her working to make a living at the Magical Menagerie in the Diagon alley and I saw her and her husband walking together, while she was pregnant with their half-blood child. They looked worn and poor, but they looked happy.
Something made me visit her in secret after she had given birth to her daughter. I still don't know what. They lived very simple, at least according to a Black's measures, but that didn't seem to bother her in the least. It wasn't a friendly meeting even though I know she was happy to see me. She tried to talk me out of marrying Lucius, which naturally made me storm away in anger.
But I still couldn't keep away from her. With all of her protectors gone, I was the only one who could help her. I found a place of hiding for her in a Malfoy estate far away. It had previously been used by Lucius' uncle who needed to hide from the authorities after some particularly fishy affairs. I obviously haven't told my husband. I haven't told anyone.
"Why are you doing this for me?" asked Andromeda when I handed her the keys. Her face was worn with grief and she seemed to have aged several years, but her eyes were piercing.
"You are my sister," I answered coldly, since I didn't know what else to say. I made it clear to her that I had not forgiven her. I don't think I ever can. Forgiveness is not in my nature, I must admit. I can still remember the stab of pain I felt when she left our family. I still feel that she abandoned me and Bella for her own selfish reasons.
Sometimes, when I think deep enough into the past, I think about Sirius. It is just as difficult for me to imagine him locked up in Azkaban as it is to picture Bellatrix in there. I wonder what Andromeda thinks. Does she think he is guilty? I try to tell myself that I am happy that the traitor has finally gotten what he deserved, but I never really manage to convince myself.
He is another dull pain inside me. Sometimes I can still remember when we were children and I used to sit quietly behind a corner and just watch him as he played loudly with Andromeda or Bellatrix. Sometimes when I look down at Draco, I find myself wishing he had dark hair and grey eyes.
By now, I am almost twenty years old and I have lost most of the illusions I had when I was younger. I know Lucius would never have married me if it hadn't been for my name and my background as a pureblood witch. Still, we respect each other and I like to think that we share the same values. We are joined by our love for our son. For some people, that might be enough.
But when Lucius touches me, I feel cold. He is never rough and he never tries to hurt me. I am not disgusted or revolted by his intimacy. I just don't feel anything. No matter how much I try, I can't find any warmth or desire in my heart. I am not sure that he notices or that he even cares. I do my duty and he is content with that.
I am writing this to my son because a part of me wants him to choose another way. I know it will be difficult. He is Lucius' son and heir and he will be expected to do certain things. The last thing I want is to drive him away from our family, like Andromeda or Sirius. We have already lost so much. But I hope he will trust his heart more than his blood
This letter is written to my daughter. I look at her now. She is four years old and she has just got her first pet, an eager and hyper little rat who likes to climb up and nest in the burrow of purple curls on her head. My daughter is a metamorphmagus who can change her looks after her own will. She discovered this talent at a very young age. Sometimes when I was nursing her, I was horrified when I looked down and found that I was suddenly holding a little green alien in my arms.
She is very gifted, smart and curious of everything to the limit that she tries my patience. She is notoriously clumsy and sometimes brutally honest, much like I was when I was younger. In any case, I love all sides of her.
Her name is Nymphadora and she has already begun to imply that the name doesn't quite appeal to her. It was me who chose it for her and no one could understand why. Sirius and his friends were visiting us and no one could hide that they found the name god awful.
When I looked into Ted's eyes, I could tell that he understood why I wanted to call her that and that he respected my choice. Even if my daughter would carry his last name, I wanted to give her a part of my heritage as well. Even if my family had renounced me, they couldn't change who I was.
My darling little Nymph, when you grow older I suppose you will ask me if it was difficult to be thrown out of your family and despised by everyone of their class. I will never lie to you. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Sometimes I thought the pain would kill me. As much as my cousin Sirius tried to claim that he was happy on his own, I know it was difficult for him too. No one can give up their past easily.
I had to pay a great price for my freedom. I lost my family and won their hostility and contempt. Ted and I were young and we had to make some sacrifices to start a life. Fortunately our headmaster Dumbledore made sure that we could finish our last school year by owl correspondence since we both had to find a work to afford a home. I worked in tea shops and in the Magic Menagerie at the Diagon Alley. When my daughter was born, I let her sleep in a trolley at the back of the shop, despite all the noisy birds and rats in there.
Fortunately, Ted was employed by the Gringott's bank and even though he had not finished his education, he was able to advance. We both worked hard and we still found it difficult to make ends meet. Things that I had taken for granted for all of my life were suddenly impossible to obtain.
But Nymphadora, I want you to know that I don't regret anything. Even though it was difficult, neither I nor your father ever doubted that it was the right choice. You were worth every sacrifice.
Slowly, things improved for us and we were able to get a nicer house for ourselves. Ted's skills at the bank impressed the elves in there and he soon started to make enough money for me to quit my job at the menagerie and take up my studies. I had never really abandoned my old dream of becoming a healer.
For a while, everything seemed peaceful, even though we were aware of the threatening clouds from distance. We heard about Voldemort and his followers, Sirius never stopped warning us, but we never really wanted to listen. We thought it was all a temporary problem that would be solved. We were busy, we had a child and we were blissfully happy. We had no place for worries in our minds.
When Sirius told me that my sisters belonged to the circle around Voldemort, I could not believe it. I decided to confront them. They had both done their best to avoid me since the day I left our home, but this time I wouldn't let them get away. That scene inside the Leaking kettle is burned into my mind
"There is nothing for us to be afraid of," Bellatrix assured me confidently. "We are many and we have powers beyond anything your little mind can imagine. And we are determined. We will not rest until every grain of mud has been erased from the wizard world. And that includes your pathetic so called husband and your filthy little half breed sprog."
My whole body turned cold. "I hope you realize that I will become your enemy if you do."
Bellatrix laughed again, harshly and mockingly. "Wake up to the real world, Andromeda. You are already our enemy. You have been since the day you chose to betray our family."
But despite that meeting, Ted and I continued to turn our backs on the unpleasant situation. Just like so many others in the wizard world. We just couldn't believe some of the horrible stories we heard about Voldemort's brutality to muggles. We ignored Sirius and his warnings. We just couldn't believe that he could ever do anything to hurt us.
We were naive, I realize. After all, in Voldemort's eyes my husband was a mudblood and I was a blood traitor. I knew that my family never forgave those who sinned against them. We paid for our naivety, our cowardice.
I close my eyes hard, I don't want to remember. Ted's still form lying on the floor in our little kitchen, lifeless, unmoving. He looked so peaceful, like he was sleeping. The Avada Kadavra curse never leaves any marks. I can still hear my own screams of horror as I sink down by his side, trying to shake him alive, trying to bring him back, pleading with him to say something, to breathe...
Next I see Regulus standing above me, his face white. His hand is shaking hard as he raises his wand. "The lord's orders must be followed," he whispers. "All traitors must die." I frantically grab Nymphadora, holding her tight, trying to shelter her with my own body. I wait for the end to come.
But it never happens. When I raise my head again, Regulus is still standing there, still looking like he is about to faint. I see the conflict inside him. Slowly, his arm holding the wand drops again. In the next moment, a barking, black dog runs into the kitchen...
Somehow it's ironic that it was Ted's death that made me open my eyes. As I watched him being buried, I grimly realized that if I had listened to Sirius, he might have been alive. I would not be without my husband, friend and lover and Nymphadora would still have a father. I didn't have time for grief, didn't even want to acknowledge it. Suddenly I realized that if my daughter would have a world that was worth growing up in, I had to start fighting for it.
Because of Nymphadora, I had to be careful though. She had already lost her father and I couldn't bear the thought of her growing up without her mother as well. I was never an actual member of the Phoenix order like Sirius and his friends, but I aided them as much as I could. I hid a few of them from the death eaters in my apartment and offered them medical treatment when they needed it. But it was often difficult to be optimistic. Like Bellatrix had told me, Voldemort seemed too powerful and his followers too many.
When he finally fell, he did so like he had done everything else, in a way no one had ever expected. An insignificant baby and his mother finished him. At least that's what I hope. He was gone, but the prize had been very expensive.
When I think about Sirius, I feel a lump in my throat, even though it's been more than a year since he was brought to Azkaban. My dearest friend, my favourite cousin. The only one in my family who always supported me. He is now the most hated man in the wizard world. He is not just considered a death eater, but also a traitor and a murderer. And everyone seems to have accepted it. Even his friend Remus Lupin. Even the Weasley clan.
Am I the only one who still can't grasp it? That he betrayed Lily and James Potter and their son to Voldemort. That he brutally killed Peter Pettigrew and wiped out so many people in one stroke? No, I can't take it in. Maybe I am still too naive. After all, I could never have imagined that my own sister would cruelly torture a man and a woman for hours, until they were reduced to less than two human beings.
But she did. She admitted it at her trial. I have heard that she even sounded proud of it. I can imagine her in Azkaban now, still holding onto Voldemort with the same stubborn Black pride she always had. Perhaps she has been given the cell next to Sirius?
I can't visit either of them. Even though it's been a year, I am still not safe. Sirius is gone and he was my protector. And even if Regulus is gone, there are still others who continue to blame me for having betrayed my own kind. Some of them are my own family members. I will not take the risk of leaving Nymphadora, so I keep myself hidden.
I had never expected Narcissa to help me and I still am not sure why she decided to go behind her family's back. Was it for my sake or for Sirius? I still don't know exactly what part she and her husband played in Voldemort's game. They have both been cleared by the ministry, but pardons have been bought before. The fact that Narcissa helped me doesn't mean that she wants to have contact with me. She still avoids me at all costs. I don't think she will ever let me see my nephew. Still, I owe her for what she did, whether I like it or not.
I am a lonely woman. I have lost so much over the years. My husband is gone and deep inside, I know that I will never find another man like him. My daughter will be forced to grow up without him and he will never see her graduate from Hogwarts or become an auror (This is what she dreams of and I know she is gifted enough to make it).
Nymphadora is what matters to me and I would do anything to keep her safe. Still, I think it's unfair that she doesn't have a family, like other children. It's not just her father that is missing. I am sorry that she will never know my family. Despite everything, half of her blood is Black and she has a right to know that side of herself.
I suppose she will ask me about my feelings for them, those people who renounced me and left me to fend for myself. Do I hate them?
No, I don't, Nymphadora, not one of them. I pity some of them for their blindness and their prejudices, but I can't hate them. Maybe it is because I know that deep down, there is a part of me that still belongs with them.
More than anything I am sorry that you will never know your aunts. Not the way I once did at least. They were my sisters and they meant more to me than anything else in this world. But we chose different paths and there is no way back.
Still, when I close my eyes at night I can still sometimes sense their presence inside of me. I feel the darkness in the soul of Bellatrix as she slowly crawls across her cell in Azkaban. And I can feel the emptiness in Narcissa's heart as she moves through the huge halls at Malfoy Manor.
We are all lonely and we are far apart, but we are still somehow connected. Whether we like it or not, we are bound to each other by a chain of blood. That blood has divided us but it has also brought us together. That will never change. I know that until the day I die, I will continue to be one of the Black sisters.