lights will guide you home

(the shorter story)

Bellatrix stumbles into the foyer, splattered with blood, sweat, mud, and tears. The blood and sweat she claims, the tears she won't see. There's a large gash on her calf, staining the bottom of her robes, from a thorn or a misplaced spell or a knife or her own clumsiness. She doesn't know, or care. Lacking the strength to stand straight, she slides down against the wall, breathing heavily, leaving a streak of something against the wall.

Her husband will not be home tonight, and she's glad. It's better that he doesn't see her like this.

It's not that things have all gone wrong, it's that they haven't gone right. She glances to the side, out the still-open door, into the starlight, and thinks that it really ought to be raining. That would just make this more... lyrical.

Her father is dead, four hours this very second, and she refuses to believe that she's grieving. He's a dead man and a cruel man, and she hated him in life. She's more concerned with the still-bleeding gash on her leg and the frighteningly absent state of her wand than about the dead man lying in her own house.

He stumbled to her, some six hours ago, half-crazed, begging forgiveness for some wrong he had committed. If she hadn't been planning to leave anyway - a mission, a task set to her by her master - she wouldn't have let him in. But she simply opened the door and ignored him, gathering necessary materials and making sure everything was ready. By nightfall, she was leaving.

She hadn't quite made it to the door, when her father reached out from the sofa, clutched her arm and looked her straight in the eyes. "Why do you hate me?" He had whispered, "What did I do wrong?"

And Bellatrix hadn't had an answer ready. Instead, she had clutched her wand tighter and tried to pry his fingers off her arm. But he wouldn't let go, insisting that he'd made some mistake, insisting that she explain it to him. Finally, she looked right back at him with all the intensity of a proper Black woman, and said -

But of course, she's in pain now, clutching her calf, and of course, she did what was required of her - killed some woman who was affiliated with some resistance member. Names didn't matter to her, anyway - just a face. But the problem was - when she looked at the dead woman, she could only see Daddy's eyes and Daddy's nose and Daddy's mouth, curled into a sneer or a look of horror or pleading with her, begging for an answer, begging for forgiveness.

The Dark Lord will forgive her, she thinks, for losing control, for torturing that lady. After all, she did what she was supposed to do, and killed the Nameless Woman. And if he requires an explanation, she'll give one, but there's no point in telling him everything if he doesn't ask.

"What did I do wrong?" Her father had asked of her.

And she'd had only one answer to give, cold and bitter, and very, very Black - "Everything. You did everything wrong."

The Dark Lord will forgive her.