disclaimer: i do not own.

notes: i haven't touched this story in so long, and i've written so many other things since then, that i might have messed up some details. if there are any inconsistencies, or whatever, please let me know. sorry for the wait. the plot will hopefully start moving forward next chapter.

warnings: torture, femslash (just a mention, i'm not going to develop it)

thank-yous: to everyone who reviewed last chapter. hopefully you haven't given up on me, and i'll do my best not to make you wait too long next time.


:brightest in the sky:

:x:

:but i still can't feel the same:

she is eighteen, and she lies on a hardwood floor with her head in her hands, trembling ever-so-slightly. her master stands over her. several other figures are nearby, but the room is buzzing and all is a blur and she is not entirely sure what is happening anymore. she is tense, because if one more cruciatus curse comes her way she doesn't think she can stand it.

"you have displeased me, rodolphus."

the words echo as though from a distance, but that can't be right. it can't be right, because it is she who is on the ground, not her husband; it can't be right, because through her fingers she can see the hem of her master's robes. she concentrates on it. if she stares hard enough maybe the world will stop swimming and she will stop hurting and her lord will take her in his arms and everything will be all right again.

"do you see what happens when i am displeased, rodolphus?"

the pain hits her like a rush of fire and she curls up as much as she can but there is no escaping it. it is his fault. it is her husband. he is the reason that her master is hurting her. he is the reason she is being torn apart. if only she could remember why –

"go to her, rodolphus."

there is a hand against her shoulder and for one beautiful moment she is sure that it is the dark lord, and he will reward her because for all these long moments she has not cried out. but then rodolphus reels into view and the look he is giving her is somewhere between concern and worry and disgust, and she hurts, she hurts so much.

and now she just wants cissy, or sirius, someone who will never try to harm her. because this was all her husband's fault in the first place, and it might as well have been he who pointed the wand at her, because it was him, it was all him. she never wants to move again.

rodolphus's fingers are warm against her cheek. "bella, sweetheart," he is saying, and he sounds like he cares, and it's so very like him that she wants to laugh. she takes an unsteady breath.

the dark lord is not done speaking. "are you sorry, rodolphus?" she can hear his sneer. "tell her. tell your wife that you're sorry. tell her that you will not question her relationship with lord voldemort again."

she is dizzy. things are coming back into focus. rodolphus strokes her hair. she needs to get away from him, but she can't move. this was his fault. it was all his fault. he is the reason that pain is throbbing though her chest, and she never wants him to touch her again.

"go on, rodolphus. say it."

her husband brushes a clammy kiss against her forehead. "i am… i am sorry. bella? i am sorry."


:here and now and then:

"...was tried and convicted."

bella is leaned primly against a tree by the side of the loch. dumbledore is talking. he strokes his beard as he speaks.

"i get the impression that you are not listening to me, bellatrix."

"hmm?" the loch is beautiful, this time of day. the sun catches it just right. maybe sometime later today she will go looking for those birds that tom the shopkeeper loves to talk about.

"as i was saying, your husband rodolphus lestrange was turned in by an innkeeper sometime last week. he was convicted as a death eater, and sentenced to the dementor's kiss."

long practice lets her keep her expression and tone neutral. "is that so?"

"yes. however, rodolphus made an interesting claim, in his last moments."

"indeed?"

"yes. he insists that it was he, not you, who tortured the longbottoms. he asserts that, in fact, you were too heartbroken over voldemort's disappearance to participate at all. you actually attempted to help alice longbottom, in the end, or so he told us."

she stares at dumbledore blankly. "and fudge… he didn't keep rodol– my husband around for questioning?"

"there was no time. the dementor took his soul before anyone could intervene."

bella's hands are clenched into fists. she leaves a moment of silence. "is that all of your news, headmaster?"

he nods his head. she wishes he'd take his hand away from his beard. "yes. that is all."


:and you and i are locked in:

1980. her wand is clenched tightly in her white-knuckled fist, but she no longer makes use of it. "tell me!" she aims a kick at her victim. she feels as though they are the only ones left in the room; they are both losing hope, in their own separate ways. the seemingly-lifeless body of frank longbottom nearby is no longer a concern.

alice moans but makes no other reaction. bella kicks again. she is too fraught with desperation to form another spell. magic takes concentration, and all she has is rage. the audience – her husband, the crouch boy, the longbottom's child – feels irrelevant. she is barely aware of any spectators at all.

bella aims another kick at the woman's chest. she gasps with fury. she drops to her knees; her wand slips from her fingers but she hardly notices; she grabs alice's shoulders and shakes her. "you know where he is… you have to know… i need… i need him… you've got to…"

bella can't hear her own sobbing.

there is a flash of light out the window, the signal that her brother-in-law has set off to warn that they have been discovered. her husband calls her name. "bella – bella, please – "

the world is crashing down, and all she has alice, alice who she clutches to herself, not sure if she is crying or screaming. there are footsteps and the sound of a struggle but none of it matters because she has to find her master, she has to, and as far as she knows this woman is her last link.

it takes three strong ministry personnel to pry alice longbottom from her arms.


:just as well for all i've heard:

sirius is seated on the kitchen counter when she returns. dumbledore has left him a pile of newspapers from the past week, and he is reading one. she glances at her own face on the front page – an old picture that is in no way flattering – then opens the refrigerator. she is surprised that she can remain so composed. when all of this sinks in, she will have time to hate and to panic, but right now she just takes out the peanut butter and makes herself a sandwich.

her cousin looks up from the paper. "the infamous trixie makes her own food like a common house-elf." he doesn't sound much like he's mocking, though, or even joking. he's oddly thoughtful, as he sets the newspaper down and crosses his arms, and the room suddenly feels cold, too cold for all the sunlight streaming in.

sirius is looking at her too closely, and it makes her uncomfortable. "i don't think i have to tell you what i just read in the daily prophet," he says tightly. he doesn't blink as much as he should. his gaze is impassive, rather than critical.

"rodolphus was lying," bellatrix tilts her head to look up through the skylight in the ceiling. the sky is so blue. this surprises her. she is not sure why.

"i know."

there is an old bird's nest against the edge of the skylight. the sun will not be setting for a while. "i wish he hadn't."

"i thought as much." from the tone of his voice, she seems to have just passed some kind of test; and he doesn't sound angry, but he's not pleased, either.

she can't bring herself to care. the sky is so blue. it's unthinkably blue. and her husband has said sorry in the only way he knew how. but she was not lying when she said she wished he had not.

she is not ashamed of that day in 1980, or of her lips against those of the longbottom woman. for all she is sure that rodolphus was only trying to help her, it's as though he's stolen away any proof that she loves her master.

she hates him for it, she hates him for more than that, she hates him in a way she couldn't before. she hates him because she had to pretend to care for him in a way that she really only cared for her lord. she hates him because he loved her, and because she never had the chance or the will to love him back.

the glass of the casement is too thick, warped, blocking the sky from her. "i think i might go bird-watching," she says slowly. it's so blue.


:but i'll hold on one more time:

sirius comes with her. she doesn't really know why. he probably doesn't, either. they stop in a meadow on the edge of the loch. it's supposed to be the best place to see the birds who nest on the island. she peers across the water, into the trees. "do you see anything?" she asks, just to break the silence. she hates the sound of her own voice.

he looks thoughtful, but not about the birds. "i remember, one time, just after christmas… it must have been fourth year… lily comes up to me. 'do you believe in love?' she asks. just like that. i said i didn't."

bellatrix pretends that she doesn't hear him. it doesn't matter what he says. nothing really matters anymore. nothing is going to matter, until she sets things right with her master. she spots something colorful on the island, but she can't bring herself to care if it's a bird or not.

"'well, i think i'm in love,' lily told me. 'we kissed under the mistletoe,' she said. she really thought it was love."

the color in question turns out to be a tourist, who has landed a small red boat on the shore of the island. this being beyond the bounds of the village, bella feels a hint of jealousy. she is never going to get that far, never again.

she hasn't thought of it like that before. never. never. it's unthinkable.

sirius continues. "i asked her who it was. she told me. i didn't believe her, but then i saw the two of them, holding hands, on the edge of the forest. they kissed."

she is pretty sure that she knows where this is going, and she doesn't like it. even the far-away form of the ugly muggle on the island can't distract her. she looks at the ground before her, mud and grass, and tries not to think about anything at all.

"lily… and alice. it made sense. the way things just make sense. i thought i could see what she meant, about love." the sun is still high in the sky. sirius stares at it. "but then with frank, and james… i never found out what happened."

"come on." bella puts a hand to his shoulder, but he shrugs off. "it's getting late. we should go back."

they don't talk, on the way home. they stop by the shop, just before it closes. tom smiles at them. "lovely day, isn't it?" he questions, and he's smiling. it is inconceivable to bellatrix that anyone can still be smiling. she gathers some groceries off of shelves, while sirius and tom start up a cheerful conversation. bella does not join in.

"yeah," sirius tells the shopkeeper, "we went looking for some of those birds you're always on about. saw loads of them. it was great."


:and then someday:

around sunset, she finds sirius standing just outside the door, smoking and gazing across the car park. she thinks he'll tell her to go inside, but he doesn't.

wind blows the smoke into her face. "filthy habit," she comments, but not spitefully. she sits against the side of the building. it's cold at night, this far north, but this does not bother either of them. it could be colder. "yesterday," she says.

"hmmm?"

"yesterday, that muggle woman" it would be inappropriate to use the name alice, "saw me from the back, and thought i was you."

sirius cracks a smile. "you should be flattered."

"but i'm not really like you at all, am i?" she has to say it. she has to explain herself, but she doesn't know how.

he shakes his head, slightly, not negating but skeptical. "are you drunk, trixie?"

she glares at him. but then, she hadn't expected an straight answer.

"go to bed." he doesn't sound dismissive, just tired. "we can talk tomorrow."

but it doesn't work out that way.