Bellatrix drifted behind Hermione, staring unfocusedly at the dark, shining walls of Malfoy manor. The carpets were plush enough to muffle all sound, but since neither woman wore shoes that wouldn't be a problem.

It had had a good morning, all things considered; being woken up early was more than just compensation for the fun filled events after. While Bella had no great love for Rudolphus, she admired his ability to act and his natural sense of showmanship. She lacked both these things; what she was, she was, without reserve and without artifice, no matter the monster that was writ plain on her face and soul.

The girl was sniffling again. She no more wanted to apologize to the Malfoys than her capture wanted to take her there; but needs must is needs must. Bella dug her long nails into the girl's shoulder lightly and the sniffling stopped for now.

When she'd discovered the prisoner had gone missing, her blood had frozen thick in her veins. She had been found, just in time, in the presence of that vile werewolf. After the Dark Lord triumphed and there was no need for such demi-human monstrosities, Bella planned to ask her lord to allow her to be the one to kill Greyback and Splitnail, his second in command. The first she hated because he was grasping, disrespectful, stupidly self indulgent in ways that hurt their precious Cause. The second she hated because he held himself as good as they, or better.

Expecting terrible punishment she'd run, nightgown clad, into the atrium, to discover the mud blood ( Bella knew she wasn't suppose to use that word, but old habits are hard to break), a quaking child huddled as near to Lucius as she could, with the others between she and the idiot wolf man. To Bella this proved two things; that mud bloods were arrogant and not very sly, and that werewolves were even stupider and less subtle than mud bloods.

The Dark Lord had, of course, forseen all of this. He had told his Death Eaters that they should expect the two to try an escape, and given them a script for how that escape should go down, even how they should respond once the half blood and his little friend were caught. That they would be was of no doubt at all to Bellatrix. The Dark Lord was all mighty, the heir of Slytherin, and these grubby, half starved children lacked Slytherin wit and ruthlessness necessary to escape Malfoy manor.

Instead of being punished, Bella had been told to give a punishment instead. The Dark Lord had spoken to she and Rudolphus privately after the meeting and told them they should anticipate having to punish the girl. When she asked how, the Dark Lord had smiled archly. "Seeing how that brush of yours showed Mr. Potter the error of his ways, dear Bella, I expect a dose of the same should work an equal treat on his friend."

Bellatrix and Rudolphus decided, as they walked back up, that she would be solely responsible for punishing the girl. It was to their discretion, within reason, unless the Dark Lord ordered something else, whether to use the brush. Bella had hoped it would be soon but even in her wildest dreams she had never thought it would be that very morning.

How satisfying it had been! That rude, arrogant, miserable dirty blooded chit, bent over Bella's knee, crying and kicking like a child as Bella used the brush to make her sorry she had refused to keep to her place and obey. What fun it was!

Besides, she told herself piously, she was doing a two fold duty. The girl was wild, out of control. She really could have been hurt or killed by that slavering lupine maniac. Given the indications that the Dark Lord intended on letting the two live, at least for the foreseeable future, it seemed to Bella that she had an obligation to her peers ( and even, after a fashion, to the girl herself) to shape her to a higher, more acceptable standard.

It was all a matter of place. Purebloods learned early that their place is at the top, but, like being a king or queen, that meant that the person in question simply had a greater responsibility to behave a certain way, to show the little people how to behave, how to think.

Pureblood children learned too that their place, at least while young, consisted of obedience and being quiet while their elders spoke. The best way to learn Slytherin values was to watch them in action, and quietness often covers a depth of slyness, a depth of treachery learned from watching others act without joining in.

Not only had the mud blood acted quite without the necessary guile, she had put herself into a position that was almost the equivalent of commiting social suicide. Bella told herself she didn't care, per se, this wasn't a sentimental issue for her. It was simply that she had lacked something to do ( primarily because mewling jellyfish like Lucius and Avery were too cowardly to move against the Ministry or the Order- not because the Dark Lord was weak).

If the Dark Lord commanded it, she would kill Hermione in a heart beat; unless and until that happened, the girl was a wonderful diversion from the ennui and back biting of Death Eater life.

It followed to reason, she ruminated, that Bella should repay her, after her own fashion, by correcting the terrible lapse of judgment. For all of Rudolphus' play acting, they had both been sincerely horrified by what Hermione had done, so deeply ingrained were the taboos she had transgressed.

Therefore, in an example of business and pleasure intermingling quite enjoyably, she had made the girl bend over her lap and take a smacking she'd feel every time she sat for a good week. As Bella had said herself, she anticipated that would make the girl think twice before she acted so cheap and tawdry and…could one apply the word 'common' to mud bloods? Commonness was essentially what being a mud blood centered around; on the other hand, Bellatrix fully intended to reshape the girl enough that her filthy blood wouldn't show through.

Yes, she decided, one could call a mud blood common and have it be an insult- Snape was only a half blood, and he had been as good a Death Eater as any pureblood, thanks to Lucius' influence ( though she felt he was a little dodgy these days—too much Dumbldore did that to people). As Lucius had mentored Snape, perhaps she could mentor Hermione. For something to do.

She stopped Hermione and knocked loudly on her sister's door. Bellatrix considered Narcissa a meaningless ornament, like too many of their class. She was irritating, more concerned with new robes and anti aging spells than the future blood purity of the wizarding race.

Beside her Hermione looked terribly unhappy. She hadn't wanted to come, not like this. "Now?" she had said plaintively in response to Rudolphus' command that she go and apologize.

He had insisted. Hermione had tried to refuse and Bella had watched hopefully, thinking the girl would earn herself another smacking.

" The Dark Lord has commanded it and it shall be done as he says. Perhaps he feels, as Bella and I feel, that a dose of humility would serve to curb that unacceptable stubborn streak."

Hermione tried to find a good argument for this and was again cut short. "Young lady, you may either go and ask the Malfoys to forgive you, or I will beg loan of that brush from Bella and take you over my knee until you can be a good, obedient girl. Which will it be?"

They could see in her eyes that Hermione was desperate to say the brush, that they could beat her and starve her until she died, rather than ask the Malfoys to forgive her and reveal to them that she'd been punished as she had.

Rudolphus drew himself up to his full, two and a quarter meter height.

"Young lady, you may either go and ask the Malfoys to forgive you, or I will beg loan of that brush from Bella and take you over my knee until you can be a good, obedient girl. Which will it be?"

Bella hoped she would choose badly, because she thought the sight of the mud blood writhing on her husband's knee might prove quite stimulating to both of them. She held her breath as the girl deliberated, torn, until Rudolphus spun her and landed a few heavy swats on Hermione's rosy backside.

She was still unmoved, though she rocked with pain and unconsciously reached her hands back to rub. Rudolphus caught her wrist like a naughty child's and began to lead her firmly to the sofa next to the fireplace, asking Bella over his shoulder to borrow her brush.

Hermione relented, faced with the real possibility of another paddling. Bella felt a little disappointed but at least Rudolphus, used, as pureblood males tend to be used, to being obeyed by women, decided to make a point by turning the girl up and giving a good half dozen with his palm.

"For your stubborness' he told the crying, squirming mud blood. Not much on their own, given the cumulative effects of her previous smacking, the swats must have felt as though someone had directed a high intensity burning spell directly where she sat.

Rudolphus gave Hermione a minute to pull herself together, then lifted her off her lap. He patted her back and told her, quite gently, that Bella would take her to apologize and then she would take a nap to help her regain her lost energy. She had had a terrible shock, after all, and, having been punished, could be treated gently for a time until she recovered.

Even so, he wouldn't let her rub or wipe her eyes or fix her hair. She would go as is, he told her. "For the Malfoys must see you have been punished commiserate with your offense, and this is as good a proof as any.' Seeing her wanting to protest, he smiled and said drily "Unless you'd rather Narcissa take you into her private bathroom and pull up your gown to inspect your bum. Although, if you take that course, be aware that she has every right to add to your punishment if she deems you not sufficiently penitent."

He neglected to mention that Narcissa, as Hermione's nominal hostess and guardian of her virtue, had that right anyway. Properly horrified at showing Narcissa her burning backside, Hermione consented to skip cleaning herself up.

Before they left, Rudolphus gave her a kindly look. ""Relax, pet. No one will laugh at you, I promise."

He was correct but the walk through the atrium seemed endless. Death Eaters were everywhere. Even Draco, who sneered at her in a way that suggested he knew what had happened to her upstairs which, of course, he did. Most of the rest of them nodded their approval at Bellatrix, or even gave Hermione small, sympathetic smiles.

A horse faced woman with flaming red hair made her way over and gave Hermione a syrupy smile. " Good morning, Bellatrix."

"Hallo, Acantha. Surely you know Hermione Granger."

Acantha McNair nodded. She spoke to Hermione in the exaggerated tones one typically employs with the very young, or an unusually stupid house elf.

"Hallo, Hermione. I hear you got into a spot of trouble this morning."

"Yes, madam."

She turned her long toothed smile to Bellatrix and made a remark about how simply dreadful it was that they had to associate with disgusting creatures like that werewolf. Though Bellatrix agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment, she loathed Acantha McNair as a poisonous ninny. Bellatrix gave her a cold look and drawled at her "If the Dark Lord says it's for the best, then I am inclined to agree with him."

Acantha turned a dull scarlet. She hoped fervently that Bellatrix, known to be a favorite of the Dark Lord ( if less so than late) would not say anything. The fact she had trusted with the girl was a sure sign she was back in favor, and her bounder of a husband as well.

"Yes, yes, of course." Feeling embarrassment war with anger in her chest, Acantha did as she always did; she picked on a weaker person. "I certainly hope nothing like that happens again while you are a guest here, Hermione. Although I would guess that since Bellatrix got to the bottom of the problem, you will be more careful?"

It was Hermione's turn to go red, from the same combination of shame and anger. How dare she—How did she know? Then she realized. The door had been warded but not silenced. They had heard ! All the Death Eaters that had been anywhere near must have heard Bellatrix….

She raised her head haughtily. "Of course, madam.' Hermione turned to Bellatrix, who was at least a known quantity. "Please, madam Lestrange, may we go? I wouldn't want to keep madam Malfoy waiting."

Bella nearly laughed at loud at the look of outrage on the old McNair cat's face. Cut by a mud blood! Bella knew she should say something at once, compel an apology. Instead, she gave Acantha a distinctly nasty smile and said "Yes, let's . Good day, Acantha, I shall tell the Dark Lord your opinion of his servants." They left with the woman sputtering behind them. Bellatrix's shoulders shook with laughter, and she found herself rather delighted by the girl's spirit in spite of herself.

Narcissa bade them enter. The walls were covered in elaborate silk wallpaper done in a muted flesh pink. The ceiling was alive with carvings, and Hermione noticed that, as she watched, they moved. The furniture was Louis XIV, and seated elegantly on a carnation pink moire fainting couch was Narcissa herself, coiffed to perfection.

"Hello Bellatrix, Hermione. How are you, my dear?" She rose and made her way over to them. She waved her wand and the candles flared as she studied Hermione's face, noting the swollenness of her eyes and the tangled, sweaty mess of her hair. She was walking with a gingerness than proclaimed to all and sundry that she had just been paddled, and Narcissa knew she had walked through a crowd who had been more or less privy to her punishment. The girl's pride must be in tatters, she thought, though she's hiding it well.

It was that last thought which caused Narcissa to call Tibby to bring her a basin and facecloth. This signaled that she thought the punishment had been just right, neither too soft ( in which case she would have summoned an elf to fetch her a hairbrush or slipper to finish the job herself) or too hard ( she would have asked for salve and pain potions). Either of those options shamed the original givers of the punishment terribly, and accepting whatever had been doled out was the usual course of things but all the same, Bellatrix felt relief.

Narcissa dipped the soft face flannel in the cold water and wrung it out. Turning to Hermione, she proceeded to bathe her face, making sympathetic sounds. Hermione stood stock still, unwilling to show that the water did indeed help. Her face felt stiff and hot with tears, and the water helped cool her sore eyes.

"All done, child. Go and sit on the swans down pouf, if you would."

Narcissa indicated an overstuffed mound of feathers that sat near the white silk sofa. Hermione walked slowly, trying to delay the moment as long as she could, then lowered herself hesitantly.

OWWW! She gave an involuntary hiss of pain as itchy heat exploded wherever her bottom was touching the ottoman like seat. It was all she could do not to jump up and rub. Bellatrix was leering at her, well satisfied that Hermione had learned what happened to contrary, stubborn little girls who didn't obey their elders.

Narcissa gave Hermione an empathetic smile which didn't quite reach her eyes.

"I understand it hurts, poppet, but Bellatrix and Rudolphus were trying to help you become a better person. Isn't that right, Trixie?"

Bellatrix ignored her tedious sister and walked to the window. After the frigid cold of Azkaban, she found most places far too warm for her liking.

"Trixie, darling, I wouldn't open the--" Bella ignored her and gave the window a hard shove. It flew open, and so did the screams from the garden below. Hermione's face went white and she tried to leap to her feet but found herself restrained by Narcissa's wand pointing at her chest. Narcissa herself had gone pink from anger at her older sister, who never listened. Bella herself had a distant, dreamy look. She watched as Lucius raised his wand and cast the spell. The light flashed a deep red, like blood, and Greyback screamed again, a high, shrill sound of despair.

"Close it, Bellatrix!" Bellatrix slammed it shut with a bang and turned to glare at her sister. "Don't take that tone with me, Narcissa Euphemia Black. I'm still your older sister."

Narcissa had no urge to be drawn into a familial drama this early. "Yes, Trixie, of course you are. Why don't you have a seat?"

Bellatrix sat on the armchair across from the sofa, a ridiculous confection of white suede. She racked her fingers over the soft arms, admitting that if felt much nicer than slimy stones.

Hermione was shaking. "W-who was that?"

"What?"

"It wasn't Harry. Was it?" She almost whispered the last words, her mind assaulted with images of Harry's slow torture, while she complained about a few swats with a wooden brush.

"No, of course it isn't. Didn't I tell you Potter wouldn't be killed yet?"

"Yes. You told me that." Hermione relaxed slightly. Bellatrix could see the snarls in her hair from the way she'd thrown her head about. The girl's nails were ragged and bitten to the quick, a vile habit. Her face was badly bruised from the way the men who had brought the Trio in had treated their captives. She felt a small thrill of pleasure at the rewards the fools had reaped for their pains; the Dark Lord had thrown them to Greyback and his men, the source of the redness Hermione had noticed earlier on his teeth.

Narcissa had also noticed. She had Tibby run a bath in her private tub.

"I know you've had one, darling, but after the morning you've had, I'm sure a bath would feel nice." Hermione found sitting on the rigid floor of the tub a nightmare and, when she tried to turn on the cold water tap, was sharply rebuffed by the wizened Tibby, who had served four generations of women in the family and had no fear.

"After all Miss, you is being punished. It is supposed to hurt." Hermione huffed and laid back, determined to ignore the nasty old thing, who was probably Kreacher's sister. ( Cousin, actually).

Narcissa and Bella, of a class used to being naked in front of servants and thus without much modesty, joined her. Narcissa poured phial after phial into the water, ordered Tibby to loofa Hermione until she was pink, and personally washed and oiled her hair.

After all that, Hermione found herself being dressed in a clean sleep robe by Tibby and put to bed on the sofa, transfigured into a little bed by Bellatrix, who was better at it than Narcissa.

The former Black sisters stayed a moment to make sure Hermione was sleeping before they thoroughly warded the sofa cum bed to assure she stayed where she was supposed to.

They watched her sleep a moment and departed to find their husbands. Bella was glad the mudblood was sleeping peacefully; she suspected that once Hermione had learned of the ..unfortunate events of that previous evening, good sleep would be hard to come by.