Things were finally going right in her marriage. Now that Bellatrix and Rodolphus had come to some sort of agreement – finally – about what their marriage ought to be, the feeling in the house had changed drastically. There were no more fights. Even if Bellatrix tried to provoke her husband, she found it was challenged with playful banter, which diffused the situation rather than exacerbating it. For some reason, he seemed to fall right into place after their discussion, and he hadn't done much to overstep his boundaries. They had had one meeting with the Dark Lord as a group recently, and when they finished, he didn't hover around her or whine for her to leave. Instead, Rodolphus simply departed with the rest of them and Bella remained behind, unhindered as she approached the Dark Lord on her own.

Her Master seemed exhausted. His speeches lacked the enthusiasm they normally had, and she felt as though his energy was off. She pursued him all the same, crooning and talking sweetly until he relented just enough to let her in. However, no matter how hard she worked to satisfy the Dark Lord, that night he seemed distant. There was no mirth in his eyes whenever he taunted her about something, and they lacked a certain light that normally made him charming. It concerned her. She wondered, briefly, if her lover might be sick. However, when she posed the question to him, he flew into a violent rage, blasting tombstones and shouting at her for insolence. She left at his request, disappearing into the dark night without another word. When she arrived home, she crumpled in despair, horrified at the thought of her lover falling ill to something.

He was so strong, so powerful… Someone must have poisoned him. His lethargy and moods could only be explained by an outsider infiltrating. There must have been a traitor among the ranks. She knew she had offended him terribly by asking about his sickness, and it must have been because it wasn't by his own doing. That's what he must have been using Snape for! The slimy man was a fly on the wall that no one cared to pay attention to; if anyone was going to root out a traitor discretely, it was Severus Snape.

She gathered herself up from the mess she had fallen into. Weeping would do nothing for the Dark Lord, and she knew that only action would be to his benefit. Bellatrix kicked off her heels, flinging them arbitrarily toward the wall near the shoe rank, and dumped her Death Eater's cloak on a house elf as she strolled toward the kitchen. She could hear Rodolphus clanking about, and she assumed he was picking at the leftovers from yesterday, as they hadn't arranged for the elves to make them anything else while they were at their meeting.

As she suspected, Bellatrix found her husband shoveling some sort of creamy pasta into his mouth, two glasses of wine set out in front of him.

"Expecting company?" she remarked, arching an eyebrow at him when he looked up, noodles hanging from his mouth. "Attractive…"

"I figured you wouldn't be long," he stated once he swallowed his mouthful, pushing out a nearby chair with his foot. She settled down and began filling both glasses, pleased that he had picked one of her favourites to spoil her with. "He wasn't exactly in the mood for company, was he?"

"How could you tell?" she snapped sarcastically, clutching the wine bottle as her eyes narrowed. "Something's wrong with him… He's not his usual self today."

"He just seems preoccupied," Rodolphus insisted, twirling the stringy noodles into his fork. "I wouldn't be too concerned."

"How could I not be concerned?" Bella demanded, rolling her eyes as she took a gulp of wine. "He shouted at me… He was really quite horrible."

She watched her husband continue to eat his cold pasta a little while longer, and he finally looked up at her, chewing thoughtfully.

"Well," he managed, "did you deserve to be yelled at?"

Her nostrils flared as her eyes widened angrily, and her husband quickly added, "In his eyes… Did you deserve to be yelled at in his eyes? You know he always has his reasons for everything, Bellatrix."

"I… I asked if he was sick," she stated with a shrug, "but I realize now why that might have upset him."

"You think?"

"He's just so… different," she moaned, watching Rodolphus down his entire glass of wine. "Doesn't it concern you?"

"I don't presume to be concerned for him… Unless we see something physically wrong, I think we all ought to let him do whatever he pleases," Rodolphus argued. "To me, he seems distracted, but he's been that way for months now… Most of this year, in fact. It's nothing new now."

"Of course it's new!" Bellatrix snapped, rolling her eyes at him. "He shouldn't be like this… He isn't like this! I wish he would tell me what is troubling him… I can't understand what Snape provides him that I do not."

"Bella," her husband sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "If you've asked and he won't tell you, you just need to let it go. We'll have everything sorted out in time, and you can… go back to normal with him."

She folded her arms across her chest sourly, annoyed that Rodolphus hadn't taken her side. It must have been obvious that despite her intimate relationship with the Dark Lord, Bellatrix was his favourite Death Eater. Everyone had to see it, and it must have been strange – or enjoyable – to see the man turn to Snape for something and leave his right hand in darkness.

"Maybe I should visit when he's cooled down-"

"Don't go unless he's invited you," Rodolphus ordered sharply. "If he's irritated with you now, he won't take your usual boldness in good humour. Leave him be until he calls for you." He paused, "You know he will."

She pursed her lips, and then relaxed back into the wooden chair, her back muscles tensing against the solid surface. Her dark eyes flickered up at her husband, and she noticed he was staring pointedly at his food now, as though there was something distasteful in his mouth. She should have cared about the distress she put him through whenever they discussed her special, unique relationship with the Dark Lord, but after he had accepted it; she no longer cared to spare any of his feelings. He couldn't feign ignorance anymore, so she couldn't bother to sugar-coat anything. If he wanted to partake in conversations about their master, he ought to know where they were bound to lead.

"He's so very cross with me…" Bellatrix sighed, cocking her head to the side as she gazed at her wine glass. "But I cannot simply let him suffer alone."

"We are all concerned for our Lord's well-being, of course," Rodolphus reiterated carefully, "but as I said, it's best that you let him come to you in his own time. Men are proud… Most of us to a fault-"

"He has a right to be proud," she sneered, her temper flaring a little. "He has a right to everything he does!"

"So don't question it," Rodolphus reasoned, shaking his head at her. "It'll only get you into trouble… I couldn't stand to see him make you suffer."

"I would gladly suffer for him."

"Bella, enough," he said finally, returning to his food in a snit. "If you aren't going to humour me, I'm not going to talk to you."

"Fine," she sighed, rolling her eyes a little as she clutched her wine glass close, sipping every so often.

She sunk deep into thought as the room went silent, thinking of ways she could probe her Dark Lord without him realizing it. She didn't dare assume to be brighter or cleverer than him, but there were ways in which women could goad men into sharing things they wished to keep hidden. Now, she only needed to find a way that wouldn't upset him, or insult him a second time. She pursed her plump lips; with his mind elsewhere, the Dark Lord seemed to have very little interest in any physical intimacy, but he still enjoyed speaking, lecturing. Perhaps he could give her a lesson in some area where she might be lacking… Yes, that always warmed him up.

Bellatrix smirked a little, and then flinched out of thought when a loud 'crack' permeated the peaceful dining room. She glared over at the source of the sound, and her nose wrinkled when she spotted Narcissa's house elf, Dobby, standing anxiously behind her chair.

"What?" Rodolphus snapped, "We're in the middle of dinner!"

"Dobby has been sent to collect the Mistress' sister," the creature squeaked. "Something terrible has happened to the Master, and she begs of her sister to come at once."

"What's wrong, has he got a tangle?" Bellatrix snorted, downing the rest of her wine. "Your Mistress hasn't spoken to be in nearly a fortnight… Why should I drop everything and come running to her when she asks?"

"Dobby serves Lady Lestrange's sister, and she is family… You are family, so the Mistress believes you will come in desperate times," the elf explained slowly, his eyes cast downward.

"He speaks well," Rodolphus snorted. "Perhaps he ought to teach ours a lesson sometime."

"Dobby would be honoured-"

"He wasn't talking to you," Bellatrix snapped, pushing her chair out sharply and into the creature, who squeaked at the contact. "What's wrong with my sister's husband?"

"Attacked, the manor was attacked by men in masks," Dobby explained feebly. "Mistress did well protecting the littlest one, but there were too many men in masks-"

"Come along, Bella," Rodolphus urged, grabbing her by the arm and pulling her close. "Got your wand?"

"Yes."

"Good."

Bellatrix winced as she felt her husband's magic draw her away from their kitchen, squeezing her tighter and tighter until they appeared at the doorstep of her sister's manor. The doors seemed to have been blasted open, and Bellatrix hurried inside, her feet bare against the cool floors as she shouted for her sister.

Narcissa suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs, her hands red and her eyes wild. The moment she saw her, all thoughts of their argument, of her jealousy over the Dark Lord's physical touch, and her disdain for the blonde's lack of contact faded in an instant, and she raced up the main stairwell.

"Cissy," she whispered, clutching her sister's arms. "What's happened?"

"They were surely Death Eaters," her sister stammered, pulling away and wiping what appeared to be blood on her dress. "Lucius came home tonight after… after your meeting, and they came an hour later."

Rodolphus stepped around the women, "Where is he?"

"I-I got him into our bedroom and into bed, but I c-can't stop the bleeding," Narcissa whimpered. "I would have gone for help, but I couldn't leave Draco-"

"Hush now," Bellatrix urged as delicately as she could, watching as Rodolphus hurried down the hall and out of sight. "How do you know they were Death Eaters?"

"They called him by name," her sister murmured. "They were dressed like them… They seemed young though, inexperienced with wands."

Bellatrix ground her teeth together. Lucius Malfoy may not have been her favourite person, but he was family, and someone had attacked her if they dared to attack him. From the sounds of it, they were either young Death Eaters hoping to get an older, more favoured man out of the way, or they were part of that ridiculous Order attempting to divide their tight-knit group of loyal servants. Either way, she couldn't let that stand.

Her sister shook before her, staring down at her stained hands, and Bellatrix resisted the urge to investigate the damage that had been done to Lucius. Instead, she took Narcissa to a spare bathroom down the hall and sat her down on the toilet. It wasn't in her nature to fawn over anyone, but it was clear that her sister was in shock. Her skin was paler than usual, even recently, and she seemed unable to control her jitters. Bellatrix grabbed a nearby cloth and ran it under some cool water. She then went about dabbing her sister's face, pulling her hair aside to let it rest on the back of her neck.

"Draco," her sister muttered. "He saw. He saw everything, Bella."

"He isn't even making memories yet," she mused, rubbing Narcissa's shoulders. "Don't think about it."

"Can you check on him for me?"

She nodded and set the cloth in her sister's hands, urging her to start cleaning the blood off. With that sorted, she continued on to Draco's room, stopping only for a moment to poke her head into the master bedroom. Lucius and Rodolphus were gone, but she saw her sister's white sheets stained red, and she realized the attack had been more vicious than she expected. Her jaw clenched at the thought, and she had to force herself out and into Draco's room before she did something drastic – like follow up on every junior 'Death Eater' who thought they were important because they wore a mask.

Instead, she found Draco fast asleep in his crib, his round little cheeks tinted pink, no doubt from all the excitement of the evening. He only stirred when she tucked a thin blanket around him.

"Hush now," Bellatrix purred, stroking his hair. "Auntie Bellatrix is here… Everything will be right again." She smiled dangerously, and then whispered, "Auntie Bellatrix is going to murder a lot of people for your father, and she does it because she loves you and your mother. Never forget that, Draco… Never forget your family."


AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Bahhhh. Long time and no update, and then a short update. I apologize. I had finals, and then I moved, and it's all sort of just been up in the air. But I'm finally settling down, and hopefully back to a normal writing schedule soon!

I can't decide if I think Bella is a huge hypocrite for the way she's getting stuffy over family. She hates her family, and has been pissy with Narcissa ever since the "incident". However, it felt like something she would do/say. Her moods change every moment sometimes, and it's always interesting. Either way, someone is getting screwed over in a horrible way…