watch the stars
Narcissa cannot take her eyes off of the large white coffin in which her sister's body resides, a permanent home now.
She arrives before everyone else, just so she can be beside it, stain its marble surface with her tears. She remembers, back from her years at Hogwarts that seem so terribly long ago now, that phoenix tears have incredible healing properties. Today, she wishes she could transform into a phoenix, so the power of her tears could restore her sister to her.
She does know that her sister was flawed, at the core, a woman inclined towards madness even before Azkaban, but she cannot stop weeping, for what might have been, for what still could have been before her death.
She opens the coffin, just so she can see her sister's face one last time, all sharp, dangerous beauty, now rendered peaceful and constant, where she once was ever-changing. This, above all else, is the painful part, but Narcissa forces herself to focus on her sister's face, so that she will never forget her.
falling from the heavens
The few other people who have congregated here throw her curious glances, wondering why she of all people would attend the funeral of the woman she killed, but they don't realize that that is exactly why she is here.
She doesn't regret what she had done, by any means, but sometimes when she least expects it she sees Bellatrix Lestrange's body falling, as light as a feather, to the ground, that haunting look of shock carved into her features for eternity. She will be cooking dinner when Ginny emerges into the room, but instead of seeing her daughter she will see the woman that she killed.
Stop haunting me, she thinks, attempting to extend her plea to the coffin. She will not add a 'please'.
Narcissa Malfoy greets her, and for a moment Molly Weasley thinks that the taller woman will force her to leave, still filled to the brim with anger over her sister's death, especially at the hands of a Weasley, but Narcissa surprises her, by nodding in welcome. "I'm glad you came," she murmurs, in her melodic voice.
"You are?" Molly can't keep her incredulity out of her voice, despite herself.
Narcissa gestures sadly around the hall; there are only a handful of people here, for almost all of the pure-bloods who knew her as a girl won't want to be seen associating with a Death Eater when they want their name to be redeemed, and her Death Eater friends are fleeing the country now, unable to attend the funeral, not even the ceremony dedicated to their brightest star.
"Anyone that mourns her is welcome, today."
What she meant, Molly thinks, after she has walked away to sit beside her husband, is that anyone with the courage to show up today to honor a woman whose very core was intertwined with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, deserves her respect.
Draco considers himself the only impartial judge of Bellatrix's character in his house.
His father cannot stop seeing her as the merciless Death Eater that he saw kill and torture multiple times, that he was locked in a deadly competition with and never forgave her for winning, when she had the courage to rot and die and burn for her beliefs when he did not. His mother will only view her as the girl from her childhood, still mostly innocent and light, and refuses to see the shadows that overtook her long ago.
But he, Draco, sees all of her, he thinks, as the minister speaks of something that is completely unimportant, at least to him, for he never cared too much about his aunt – he never had a lot of reason to. But he saw the occasional spark of kindness and familial love in her eye when she looked at her sister, the only real family member she had left, and also the cold cruel pleasure she would derive from torture. While his father remembers the evil and his mother the good, he will be the keeper of the mixture, the Bellatrix that is neither demon nor angel, but human.
She'll never leave in spirit, the minister says, and for once, Draco actually agrees with him.
the light they used to shed
She is here because Draco asked her to be; it's that simple, for her.
She never knew Bellatrix, although her mother was friends with her at Hogwarts, as they were both Slytherins in the same year. Apparently her mother had considered asking Bellatrix to be Daphne's godmother, but had decided against it; from what she had heard about Bellatrix, Astoria could see why.
As she sits here at the funeral, she pieces together all the bits of information Draco told her about Bellatrix when she came up in conversation during those long conversations in the Slytherin Common Room, where he needed someone to save him and she needed someone to love. She remembers Draco telling her that Bellatrix was so fanatically devoted to the Dark Lord it was almost like she was in love with him, and today she wonders if maybe she was.
Maybe she was so fanatically devoted to him that she would have killed, tortured, crossed mountains, swam the English Channel, fought a tiger with her bare hands. And, with her hand in Draco's, Astoria knows all too well that feeling, and for the first time looks at the coffin up on the dais with pity rather than indifference.
Maybe Bellatrix was an ambitious, powerful girl, wild and free, who found herself ensnared, and couldn't quite find a way to get her foot out of the trap. Maybe it tightened when he smiled at her, complimented her, touched her. Maybe she could ignore the bad things about him, because all the good she saw in him made up for it.
Maybe, for her, it wasn't a choice.
and the way
Lucius never liked Bellatrix much, and although it is true, he will never admit to his wife, he is only at this funeral because she wanted him to be. She knows it, but it is one of those things better left unsaid.
In life, Bellatrix was turbulent, unpredictable, the wild card of all of the Death Eaters: a born killer, who lived on instinct, but lost control so easily that her fellow Death Eaters, including himself, were always unsure whether they wanted her on their mission or not. On the one hand, she could kill so easily that they would hardly have to do any work at all, but she would take her time, extending the length of the trip substantially, and worse – she was so unpredictable that Lucius sometimes wondered if she would turn her wand on one of her own by accident.
But worse, she sided against her own family, against himself, Draco, and Narcissa, with the Dark Lord, when they needed her. They could have used her support in jockeying for the Dark Lord's favor, but instead she would mock them and publicly disassociate herself with them. Lucius sometimes wondered if she ever saw the hypocrisy of shunning her own family members that were labeled blood traitors, when she, in fact, was doing the same thing.
I'm glad she's dead, he thinks, and doesn't feel guilty.
they streak across the sky
He sits beside Molly Weasley, because she is the only person he knows, but really he is observing everyone else there. He knows why Molly is present; he has no idea about anyone else.
Why, he wants to shout out at the congregation, who all sit in such solemnity and respect that the deceased does not deserve, not this woman, would you come to this woman's funeral? Don't you know that she destroyed my family before I even had a chance to know what having a real family was like?
But he is far too respectful to say anything of the sort, and so he sits through the ceremony with his arms crossed; every kind word the minister says only makes him more mutinously angry.
Why would you choose her funeral to attend, of all people? Why?
Molly Weasley notices, and whispers to him in such a low tone that he cannot be sure that he heard it at all. "These people need to believe that there was some good in her," she tells him before directing her attention back to the ceremony.
But there wasn't, was there?
He remembers his childhood, always asking his grandmother questions about his parents, and only receiving answers that portrayed them in a positive light. For a while, he was content, until he thought of himself. He was far from perfect; he was nervous and clumsy and awkward, and when he thought of the godlike descriptions of his parents, he began to see them not as real people, but as slivers of them, almost ghostlike and hardly visible, for he couldn't possibly know the whole story about them, and likely never would.
He wanted to hear that his father had a messy room or that his mother was so terrible at taking care of pets that every goldfish she had would die the day after she bought it, that they had terrible taste in music or had no idea how to dance. This was what made them human, brought them to life.
But for Bellatrix Lestrange, it is the opposite: they need to hear the good things about her, in order to see her as more than just one of the most notorious sadists that ever lived.
And for the first time, he understands and accepts.
for even when they fall
Even though he is on the run, he receives the invitation that Narcissa addressed to him, knowing that he would want to know, even though it is impossible for him to return.
And today, for the first time since her death, Rodolphus Lestrange mourns – unceasingly, slamming his body against the wall of the cave he is staying in, shouting muffled accusations and promises, which return to him through the echo of the cave, as if he is repeating himself over and over again, a broken record in grief.
It is partially because now she is wholly dead, but it's mostly because he couldn't be there, not just now but all the time she was alive – he couldn't be what she wanted him to be, which was the Dark Lord. It doesn't matter that it was impossible for him to change who he was, what mattered was that he failed her, and now she was gone and he would never be able to make it up to her.
He thinks of the star she was named for, residing far away in the heavens, unreachable. He remembers something he heard once in Astronomy, a morsel of knowledge hidden so far away from so long ago that he had forgotten he knew it until now: stars are so far away that even when they're dead, their light still shines upon us for years.
That night, he tries to remember every bit of what he learned in Astronomy about finding constellations and stars, and what Bellatrix told him, years ago, "that's my star, the Amazon star, the brightest one in Orion" and eventually locates the right one, her star. As he bathes himself in its light, he weeps.
they do so with grace
She shouldn't be up here.
This is the woman who killed her daughter, who, before dying herself, had done her best to destroy Andromeda's life. And when you considered that, being sisters hardly meant anything at all.
She shouldn't be at this funeral, period. But she especially should not be making a speech on the dais, in front of a crowd, beside Bellatrix's coffin; it gives the impression that she forgives her, and nothing could be further from the truth. But maybe it's because Narcissa's speech that only extolled Bellatrix's virtues without recognizing her vices made Andromeda want to gag, or maybe to cry. She stares at the mourners, dry-eyed, and begins to speak.
"You all know what she's done," she says, almost an accusation, blaming them for being here in the first place. "You know that she's murdered, tortured, lied." She can see Narcissa in the audience, looking concerned, and it only gives her more incentive to continue. "She murdered…"
And somehow, she can't bring herself to complete the sentence, as any true Black would be able to. She's lived in a world of kindness for too long to lapse into cruelty with ease. She doesn't take her eyes off of the mourners, and suddenly words fall out of her mouth that she didn't know she had in her. "But she didn't always; and it is our duty to remember the good with the bad, the light with the dark. I knew her back when she was a child, before she was corrupted, and she was a girl who truly could do anything, who just chose the dark. And today, her last ceremony here...we cannot forget all the things that she's done; I certainly can't. But today, just for today, we can remember the lighter days as well."
She steps off of the dais, and out of the funeral hall.