The Strange Lestranges
Once upon a time, there was a girl. She had been poor her whole life; but at the beginning of her seventh year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, she knew she had two amazing things to be thankful for: 1, she was a witch. And 2, she had a boyfriend.
He wasn't just any boyfriend—he was handsome, brave, smart, kind, and loyal. They'd been going out for almost two years. He was older than she, and he came from a wealthy family. Leea Sharpe wasn't interested in self-deception (except when absolutely necessary) and there was no denying his wealth made him more attractive. But she felt instinctively that she would love him no matter what.
So, when he proposed to her the night before she left for her final year of school, she didn't hesitate. "Oh yes, Rabastan!" she cried happily, and he swung her into his arms, lifting her off the floor. Rabastan suggested an elopement; she thought it would be romantic (and knew it was practical, since his parents had arranged his marriage to a respectable pureblood girl of wealthy family when he was a child of three), and she agreed.
Her seventeenth birthday was in September. The elopement went off without a hitch, they honeymooned in the south of France, and for three glorious weeks she was the happiest girl on earth.
Then they returned to England.
Rabastan introduced his family to Leea in his customary casual, rather self-involved style. Something along the lines of, "Mother, Father, this is Leea, my wife," after which he felt he'd discharged that duty.
Leea was perfectly aware that the only reason Mr. and Mrs. Lestrange were willing to tolerate their son's marriage to a virtual nobody was the fact that her Wizarding ancestry stretched back at least as far as theirs. Also, she was pregnant. Mr. and Mrs. Lestrange seemed rather heir-conscious. Salazar help her, Leea reflected, if the child she was carrying was a daughter.
It hadn't taken Leea long to learn that the person whose opinion Rabastan valued most in the world was his elder brother. She had never met him as such, but she still remembered passing him in a Hogwarts corridor and feeling a thrill of terror when she was a first year. She wasn't even certain he hadn't graduated at that point, but one thing she was sure of: Rodolphus Lestrange had no idea she existed.
Until, that rainy night she and Rabastan returned to his ancestral home, and she walked into the parlor and found him, scribbling away on an incredibly long piece of parchment and sitting by the fire, that was. He looked up.
"Oh, I beg your pardon," she said belatedly. She would have retreated to the dining table (where Mr. and Mrs. Lestrange were grilling their younger son on every detail of the past month—well, perhaps not every detail), but he gestured that she should sit down.
"So you're the little bird my brother married," he said conversationally. Warily, she nodded. "How old are you?"
Twenty questions? Why doesn't he just read my mind? thought Leea wryly. "Seventeen," she said aloud.
"Maiden name?" he inquired.
"Family?" This was said with a penetrating glance. He wants to make sure I don't lie, thought Leea. Well, why should I?
"My father was Sylvester Sharpe; my mother, Abigail Montague. They both died a few years ago. I have no siblings." It was the truth, but it wasn't the whole story. She didn't mention her parents' bitter fights about money, coming to a head when her mother threatened to leave—go back to her own noble family. It was then that her father suffered his first attack. The local Healer had predicted it for some time, but it was still a shock. He never fully recovered, and Abigail Montague Sharpe wasted away after he was gone. After that, Leea spent her holidays at school, and summers at the Healer's. There hadn't been enough money to send her to school, but Professor Dumbledore had generously let her in on scholarship. The Healer was a friend to her, but she doubted either he or his wife would approve a marriage made before she finished her education.
Rodolphus Lestrange looked at her searchingly. "It sounds…acceptable," he said rather grudgingly. Leea noted with some interest that her husband's brother's obsession with bloodlines seemed to be even greater than that of his parents; this opinion was reinforced by what he said next.
"Will you submit to a Blood Test?" the question was abrupt, designed to give offense. Yet she couldn't protest; no true pureblood would.
He summoned a house-elf and sent it to fetch the required materials. "Will you object if I send for my wife as well?" he asked. "I understand most women prefer to undergo the test in the presence of another woman."
"I would be charmed to renew my acquaintance with your wife," said Leea, refusing to succumb to a desire not to seem weak. If she disagreed, he would take it as encouragement—think she wanted to be alone with him.
Bellatrix Black Lestrange entered the room in a whirlwind. "Rodolphus, darling," she cooed. "What's this? I hear you're planning a Blood Test."
"Care to do the honors?" he asked her, indicating the knife and mirror she held. It seemed the house-elf had had the good sense to allow Bellatrix to complete its errand.
"Certainly," Bellatrix said easily. Only then did she glance at Leea. "Why, I know you!" she exclaimed in surprise.
"Yes, we spoke at the seventh year formal two years ago," replied Leea cordially. "You complimented my dress."
"Of course!" said Bellatrix brightly. She gave little appearance of remembering the occasion, but it was clear she meant to make a pet of Leea. Her keen eyes had swiftly noted the way Leea's petite prettiness made her own bold beauty stand out. She muttered a spell at the knife, and then held out a hand for Leea's. In one swift motion, she cut a deep gash in Leea's index finger, and tilted her hand so a few drops of blood fell on the surface of the mirror, muttering another incantation.
Leea drew her wand and tapped her wound, glad not to have swooned or cried out at the pain. She noted with interest and some trepidation, that neither Bellatrix nor Rodolphus was at all concerned with her hurts.
Bellatrix, having set down the bloody knife, was tilting the mirror in order to better see the results of the Blood Test. Rodolphus peered avidly over her shoulder. What a matched pair, Leea thought in annoyance.
"Well, she's pureblood," began Bellatrix complacently. "And—Salazar Slytherin's locket!" she suddenly shrieked, staring at Leea. "You're going to have a baby!"
"I know," said Leea, smiling in spite of herself.
"It's a boy," Rodolphus commented, still studying the blood-drenched mirror.
"It is?" gasped Leea. It was impossible to feign indifference upon this question.
"Of course it is!" exclaimed Bellatrix. She looked pleased, but her eyes were a little too bright. "This is brilliant!"
"I know," said Leea again, grinning (she knew) like a fool. "Excuse me," she added, her one thought to share this crucial information with Rabastan. He would so be thrilled!
"Are we what you expected?" Bellatrix asked several days later, curled in an armchair and watching Leea peacefully embroidering.
"Well," smiled Leea, considering the question. "I admit I thought we might gossip over fashions together."
"If that's what you're interested in, you really should meet my sister," commented Bellatrix.
"I would be delighted to meet Mrs. Malfoy," said Leea, her composure unshaken. Bellatrix nodded, and Leea knew she'd passed another test. Probably Bellatrix had wondered if she would mention Andromeda Black—or Andromeda Tonks, now. That would have been a surefire way to destroy her fledgling friendship with Bellatrix. As it was, mention of controversial subjects like Muggles, politics, war, Unforgiveable Curses, the Ministry of Magic, or the well-known Dark Lord would trigger an instant reaction from her.
Thus, Leea was never afraid of Bellatrix, despite the power, strength and beauty she was so eager to flaunt. She wore her heart on her sleeve, as careless as any Gryffindor. Rodolphus was far more troubling. Leea played with the idea that Rodolphus had that rare ability to convince anyone of anything, simply by listening to them and guiding their thoughts in what direction he willed with well-chosen words. The influence he had over Rabastan worried her.
Leea was not ignorant of her husband's political affiliations, but usually she ignored them. There was clearly nothing she could do to rescue him from the ranks of the Dark Lord's followers, and she was not convinced it would be a good idea if she could. After all, things were changing—war was in the air. And her school experiences had taught her that only a Slytherin would stand behind a Slytherin when the need was urgent. Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster, claimed to be above favoritism—but Leea knew nothing could be more ridiculous. Only consider the Incident with Severus Snape and Sirius Black! Not the regular run-of-the-mill incidents; those had occurred daily, much to the sorrow of Severus's sympathetic Slytherins (though sympathy rarely incited them to assistance—Snape had been unpopular). Still, the Incident in fourth year had been highly representative. Leea had heard that Black had told Snape some ridiculous story about the Whomping Willow, and when Snape took the bait, he and that blood traitor friend of his, James Potter, had viciously attacked Severus. But, as you might expect, Dumbledore had hushed the whole thing up and Gryffindor hadn't even lost any points over it. In short, Dumbledore's do-gooders would never understand. Pureblood politics required the most delicate touch to navigate successfully.
Leea and Narcissa Malfoy got along immediately. Narcissa was jealous of Leea's interesting condition, and once she'd explained how much she wanted a child, their friendship was cemented.
Lucius Malfoy would have liked to have superciliously looked over the wife of his friend's younger brother, but his wife (not to mention his sister-in-law) effectively prevented this. Leea's acceptance was assured.
Still, she was glad she was enough of a little mouse not to attract the notice of the Dark Lord. Some things were better undertaken only by absolute fanatics like Bellatrix, or extremely reckless Gryffindors, like Albus Dumbledore or Sirius Black.
When her son was born, Leea was overjoyed. He was adorable! He had her eyes and Rabastan's patrician cast of countenance. His hair was dark. She knew immediately he would grow up to be a breaker of hearts. They named him Leopold (much to the dismay of his grandparents. They thought his name should begin with R, but the only boy's name beginning with R that Leea liked at all was Rigel, and Bellatrix had called that one. Bellatrix and Rodolphus didn't have any children, but it wasn't for lack of trying).
"Hello, Leopold," cooed Narcissa. "You know, darling, Leopold is a bit of a mouthful. Have you thought of a nickname?"
"So you don't think the Lestranges are too good for nicknames?" asked Leea.
"Oh, no, you mean because of Rodolphus and Rabastan? Rodolphus is so serious—he defies nicknames. And Rabastan is simply a name that doesn't lend itself to shortening. How about Leo? Like the constellation."
"Good idea. Leo. I like it," said Leea, smiling at the similarity between this and her own name. It was perfect! This way, it would be clear Leo Lestrange was her son as well as a scion of the noble family Lestrange.
Carefully, Leea continued to ignore that secret society her husband belonged to, the infamous Death Eaters, as long as she could. But then, when Leo was three, there came that fateful night at the beginning of November when Rodolphus and Bellatrix and the terrifyingly sadistic (though quite young) Barty Crouch Jr. came to their doorstep.
"The Dark Lord has disappeared," announced Bellatrix in the way someone else would have heralded the Apocalypse.
"I know," sighed Rabastan. Leea knew the Mark on his arm had faded on All Hallow's Eve. She wondered what this would mean, and came to the conclusion that it could be nothing good.
With a sigh, she rose to take Leo up to bed.
"Daddy!" said that young gentleman emphatically.
Rabastan swung Leo into his arms. "You're a good boy, Leo," he said gruffly. "Sleep well, and mind your mother."
"Goodnight, Daddy," replied Leo affectionately. Rabastan handed him to Leea, who took him upstairs. They didn't retreat fast enough for Bellatrix, who complained,
"You spoil that child, Rabastan."
When Leea came downstairs again, the four of them had come up with a plan; she could tell. Bellatrix blew her a half-sarcastic, half-genuine kiss, and headed outside, coolly sinister Rodolphus and sinisterly sadistic Barty in tow.
She put her arms around Rabastan. "Must you go?" she asked, eyes wide with fear.
"You know I must," he said gently.
With a conscious effort, Leea relaxed, his warm masculine scent comforting her. She peered up at him through her eyelashes, and then kissed him fiercely. When at last they pulled apart, she said huskily, "Hurry back."
Rabastan grinned appreciatively. "Love you, Leea," he called casually, bounding out of the house to rejoin his impatiently loitering friends. Well, Barty was impatiently loitering. Bellatrix and Rodolphus seemed to be preoccupied with one another.
She didn't see him again until the trial. Or what passed for a trial in these degenerate days. Barty Crouch Sr. glared down at his son (weeping gustily—either out of paralyzing terror or excellent tactics—or both). Bellatrix was haughty, Rodolphus cool and bored, and Rabastan nervous, but concealing it well. The travesty of the trial upset Leea, not because she thought them innocent—she was as sure as anyone who was not an eyewitness could ever be that they were guilty—but because it further eroded her faith in authority, or the law. At least the Dark Lord was upfront about his desire for world domination. To Leea, Mr. Crouch Sr. seemed the ultimate hypocrite—there was absolutely no possible way he was not also interested in world domination. His methods of getting there were different, but still ruthless.
As the Dementors escorted the four Death Eaters past Leea's place in the shadows, her eyes met Rabastan's. She knew they were filled with sorrow, but she couldn't help it. I love you, she thought, staring into his eyes and willing him to understand.
I love you, Leea, he thought back. Tell Leo I love him too.
Then they were gone.
That night Leea packed her and her son's things and demanded (or begged, depending on one's perspective) the support and influence of her in-laws. They exerted what power they had to protect her from annoyance, but she was under no illusions: they were only doing it for Leo.
That was all right, though: from then on, Leea swore to herself, everything she did would be for her son. Leo was all she had; Leo was everything.