A slow, shaking breath.

That dull pang over and over.


"Bella?" It was a tired voice, Narcissa's voice.

Morning light, perhaps, and then shadows upon shadows upon deeper shadows again and such dreams.

That familiar, dull pain.

Over and over. Light and dark.


"Has she stirred?"

A freezing hand.

A freezing cloth.

A fever dream or two.

And finally…

Her hand moved under the cold silk. Her skin was moist with sick sweat and then there was gauze.

Her eyes opened tentatively, wearily. She lifted her head and it throbbed with numbness. The room was hers and dawn or twilight was bleeding through the curtains. It was as if she were gazing out at the suite through a veil. Her eyelids were so heavy. Everything was neat and in order; someone had tidied up. Narcissa reclined, asleep, with a book in her lap and her head against the back of the armchair just a little ways away.

"Cissy." Her voice was low and weighty. Her sister did not stir until she repeated, "Cissy…"

Narcissa blinked at her. Had she always looked this old? Was it just a trick of shadows? Were her eyes always so…

"Oh, goodness. Oh, good." Mrs. Malfoy murmured, setting her book aside and rising drowsily from her chair, "Bella. Oh, good, good. How do you feel?"

With her sister's inquiry, Bellatrix remembered all at once.


Suddenly, the pain in her stomach was very real and very raw. She tried to sit up but her body hitched in discomfort. She felt her vision shudder a little as the nausea hit. Bellatrix leaned back and replied, "What's happened…"

"Are you all right?"

"I don't know. Am I? What's happened…" She hissed quietly, turning on her side. She felt the mattress bend a little when her sister sat beside her, "Cissy…"

"Nagini got at you," Narcissa explained.

And Bellatrix, through the blurry pain wondered, distressed, "How long has it been?"

"Just five days…"

"Why…" The question was heavy on her tongue.

"That isn't for me to answer."

"Was it His bidding? Is this His will? What have I done? Narcissa…" she moaned, her fright only making her stomach turn faster. Was it the dreams? Was it her fault? Did he know? He must have…

"Shh. He's not angry with you. He's not angry with you." Narcissa stopped her sister from starting to scratch at herself, "Not that he's told me. Shh. Shh, now. It's early. It's barely seven thirty. Shh…"

"Where is He?"

"I don't know. He did not say. He'll return soon enough. Relax…"

"I c-…can't move my legs properly. Cissy. Cissy, I can't move my legs properly-"

"That's fine, that's fine. You're fine. The potion is working. You couldn't move a stitch at all before." Narcissa's light voice was even lighter now, it was a wisp of what it was. "You'll be all right in a few weeks…"

"Weeks? I…I have work to do. I have to…"

"Don't." Narcissa held her shoulder down with her little hand. "Don't…Not so quickly, please. Please."

"I am to escort Greyback into Hogwarts. Draco. Dumbledore. The cabinet- I'm to see to it that Draco…" Despite her sister's efforts, Bellatrix had sidled to the edge of the bed and made to swing her dead legs over the side. "I can't…"

"You mustn't." Narcissa blocked her way, sighing, "You mustn't. Bellatrix, rest. He will attend to you and answer…"

Sitting up had stirred her head and brought on a stinging ache in her temple. Her vision wavered. She laid back and her sister's voice drifted into warm silence again…