Disclaimer: This story is a work of fan fiction. No profit is being made by the authors.
Authors' Note: We decided to stick together after Earl so that we could try our hand at another Harry/Bellatrix story. This is the product of some really long chats on the instant messenger. We're out to break some clichés and provide you with a first-rate H/B story; hopefully that happens. There's only a slight catch—this doesn't rank as top priority for either of us, so updates won't be as quick or regular as any of us would prefer.
As for the setting of the story, we're operating under the idea that books six and seven didn't quite turn out as they did in the canon. Most notably, they never figured out the horcruxes. Harry and the gang graduated and wandered off into the world to help the Order to fight Voldemort. We admit that the beginning may have some shades of Earl, but it will quickly wander into other paths.
Lord Silvere & Claihm Solais
The cell Harry sat in was small, damp, and owing to the late hour of the evening, dark. It represented the epitome of the classic dungeon, and if the situation hadn't been so dire, Harry would have been amused that Voldemort would go for such a cliché. Then again, he mused, it wasn't exactly the Dark Lord's style to supply his involuntary guests with any degree of comfort. His mind wandered back to how he had ended up in the miserable dungeon cell.
The plan for the raid on Malfoy Manor had been flawless—at least in theory. All of their reports suggested that with Death Eater activity focused on assassinating government figures and hunting down the Order, defenses would be minimal, especially since Malfoy Manor wasn't considered a vital target. Still, they had hoped to find something, anything, really, that would help them defeat Voldemort, or at least slow him down.
Ultimately, they had walked right into a trap. A very elaborate, highly planned trap that reeked of one thing: treachery. Someone had betrayed the Order and relayed the details of their plans. More than a few Death Eaters had been waiting for them, and the Dark Lord himself had even made a brief appearance.
Most of the strike team was dead. Harry assumed that even the traitor had been killed in the ensuing firefight. He couldn't care less. Had the traitor, whoever it was, really known what Voldemort was like, they should have seen it coming. On the other hand, Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, Voldemort's nemesis, and the last best hope of the wizarding world, was too good a prize to leave for dead. No, they had taken him. It was with no small amount of pride that Harry realized it had taken a full dozen of them to take him down. Since he had graduated from Hogwarts, he had become an impressive duelist in his own right, but with the odds stacked against him as they were, he had been bested.
Hence the reason that he now found himself stuck in a small cell, somewhere in one of Voldemort's hideouts. The place certainly didn't seem like it belonged to a Death Eater manor, though what they typically kept hidden in their basements, he didn't know for sure. A low moan brought his attention back to the present . . . and his current cell mate.
He had no idea why Bellatrix Lestrange was in the cell with him, nor did he really care. When he had first found out he had company, his hopes had soared, until he realized just who his cell mate was with the aid of the dim light of the early morning.
As she lay on the floor unconscious, he had considered killing her, but that had been precluded when other Death Eaters had forcibly dragged her out of the cell. He didn't know what she had done, or why Voldemort was torturing her, and honestly, he couldn't care less, after the sort of things she'd done—but her screams could be heard even down into his cell, sometimes deep into the night. It was disturbing to say the least, and caused him to wonder what she had done to warrant such treatment by her own allies.
The cell door creaked open. Why was it that most doors in the wizarding world creaked? Harry wondered absently, finding it odd that he would think of that sort of thing while in this predicament. The Death Eaters dumped Bellatrix's body back into the cell unceremoniously. When she didn't move for a few minutes, morbid curiosity got the better of Harry.
With baited breath, Harry inched his way over to where he guessed she was lying, hesitant to actually touch her. When he got close enough, he could hear her breathing. He let out a sigh, whether it was of relief of anticipation, he didn't know. He didn't know why he was so anxious to know that she was alive; he had tried his level best to kill her the few times they had met.
Maybe it was just the fact that misery loved company. As evil as she was, she was right now even more miserable than he was. At any rate, he felt absurdly glad she was still alive, though he couldn't fathom why.
He didn't know if he was going stir crazy, or if the isolation was getting to him, but somehow he felt the need to talk, about anything. The weather. Her thoughts on Fudge as a minister. The color of Voldemort's underpants. Breaking the ice would be the hard part though. He said the first thing that came to mind.
"So, what's a girl like you doing in a place like this?" As soon as the words had left Harry's mouth, he felt like slapping himself.
That had to be the most inappropriately used line of the decade, scratch that, of the century. It wasn't even meant as a come-on, simply as a query as to why she, one of Voldemort's most loyal, most brutal followers, was in a cell with the Boy-Who-Lived, and, from the sounds of it, being tortured. She couldn't like being treated like this, could she?
He had heard about people liking their relationships a little rough, but he couldn't imagine even she was that twisted. He didn't really expect her to reply, either because of who he was, or because she couldn't, so her low chuckle caught him by surprise.
"What's it to you, Potter?"
Harry leaned back against the wall. From the way her breathing sounded, raspy, heavy, and forced, she was having trouble getting air into her lungs. Talking must be rather painful, he surmised. "Just wondering how one of Voldemort's best landed herself in here with me. Did you win the grand prize at the Death Eater lottery for a weekend with the charming Harry P.?"
She laughed. It was a sound that was rather frightening coming from her parched throat. "I screwed up, Potter. That's why I'm here. I'd think you of all people knew what the dark lord is like."
"Yeah, I know that dark idiot." Harry smirked, though she couldn't see it in the darkness. "Which is why I'm surprised you're still alive."
Bellatrix coughed again. "How so?"
"Well, I reckoned Voldemort was pretty quick to dispose of failures . . . permanently. Apparently, the old chap is getting soft in his old age."
The broken woman laughed again, tapering off into a wracking cough. "He's anything but soft, Potter. Failures are never cheap with the Dark Lord. Betrayal . . . you will actually live to regret it."
It was Harry's turn to arch a curious eyebrow. Not that it mattered in the darkness; the gesture was lost on the dark witch. "You, betray Voldemort? That I find hard to believe."
"Believe it, Potter. Now, why would you even care? The last time I saw you, you were hurling killing curses at me, over in Diagon Alley."
Harry remembered the battle. It had been a few months back, before major population centers had fallen under Voldemort's control. Diagon Alley had come under attack, and the Order had responded. Harry had been there. That battle had been where they lost Fred and Neville. Neville's loss had been especially hard on them all, since the boy had taken a curse meant for Harry.
At the time, the Boy-Who-Lived had been too wrapped up in his duel with Bellatrix, ignoring the din of combat all around him. "Just curious what landed you of all people in here," he said.
"Ah." The single syllable was laden with sarcasm, something that she, in her condition, shouldn't even have been capable of producing. "Come to watch the wicked witch die, eh?"
"Don't flatter yourself," Harry snorted in disdain. "I'm not exactly here by choice."
"I could tell," she shot back in the same tone. "I mean, the chains were kind of a giveaway."
"What's with the sane act today, Lestrange? Insanity and baby Bella not doing too well on the wrong end of the torture room? Or maybe," Harry gasped dramatically, "maybe Voldemort tortured you back into sanity!"
"What are you driveling about, Potter?"
Harry shrugged. "Hey, if you can torture someone into insanity, it figures you'd be able to torture them out again, right? Sort of like knocking you on the head will give you amnesia, and another knock on the noggin gives you back your memory."
Bellatrix chortled. Was that a chortle? It certainly sounded like one. Or maybe she was just choking on her own blood. Harry liked to think it was the latter, rather than believe the crazed witch was capable of humor. "Are you certain I'm the insane one, Potter?" she commented.
"Quite," Harry replied dryly. "Especially since I don't enjoy torture, unlike someone else in this room that shall remain nameless."
If he could see her, he was certain her look would have frozen him solid. "Do I look like I enjoy this, Potter?"
He shrugged again, more for his own benefit than hers. "I can't tell. You usually look insane to me, so you'll forgive me if I can't tell the difference."
"Potter . . ." Bellatrix growled.
"That's my name, don't wear it out."
"I'll kill you!"
"Get in line. I think Voldemort wants first crack at it, so you'll have to get past him to do it. And speaking of going up against dark lords, your record with that isn't doing too hot now, is it?"
Bellatrix was quiet for a minute, and Harry wondered if she had died, when a gargling sound rose from her body. In the dim light, he could barely tell that she was shaking, even as the sound grew louder, until he realized, to his shock, that she was laughing.
"If you were as quick with your wand as you are with your tongue, Potter," she managed, "the Dark ord would be dead a dozen times over!"
"Strange, and here I thought they kept me around for my charming personality and winning looks."
"Your father you are not."
"Odd, I'm usually told the opposite."
There was no response from Bellatrix. Harry was starved for conversation, so he pressed on. "So, you betrayed Mr. Dark and Ugly. What exactly did you do?"
"Nothing that concerns you," Bellatrix growled.
"Okay," Harry shrugged. "Suit yourself." There was a brief pause before he spoke up again. "But, y'know, I thought in order to be able to betray someone you'd need to be able to think first, so I'd reckon that rules you out, right?"
Harry made several further attempts at conversation, but Bellatrix did not respond. Owing to the lack of light in the cell, he was unable to tell whether she was asleep, unconscious, or simply ignoring him. He decided that he may as well wait until morning. At least he would have a little more light to see and gauge her by.
It was a long night for Harry. There was no mattress or furniture of any kind, the floor was hard, and he was in chains. Consequently, he was unable to sleep for more than a half hour or so at a time without getting cramped and waking up. To the best of Harry's knowledge, Bellatrix didn't even shift or turn over. He began to wonder if she had died, or maybe if she was just used to sleeping in such conditions. The thought sent a shudder down his back.
Sunrise eventually came and revealed to Harry that Bellatrix was awake, though unresponsive. "Good morning," Harry said brightly. "Y'don't suppose they'll serve us breakfast in bed?"
Bellatrix's eyes shifted to look at Harry; however, her only response was a sigh.
Harry smirked. "Because, you know, considering how much I'm paying for this place, breakfast is the least I'd expect. Not to mention a decent cup of coffee. Maybe a morning paper, too."
When she still didn't reply, he shrugged and leaned back, the chains on his wrists clinking together. "You know, I'm trying to be nice here. I could try and kill you . . . "
"Why don't you, then? You hate my guts. I hate yours. If I could move myself off this bloody spot on the ground, I'd be at your throat, Potter."
"No point." Harry shrugged again. "We're stuck in this. Killing you isn't going to get me out of here. As much as you'd like to believe, you're not important enough to me that I'd place killing you over escaping."
"And here I thought killing me was your life's work," she muttered sarcastically.
"You clearly missed your calling," Harry replied evenly. "You should've been a comedian."
"That's your job, Potter."
"Maybe." Harry glanced from her to the barred door.
"What's percolating in that tiny head of yours, Potter?"
"Since when do you use big words?"
"I use them all the time, just not when you're around. Wouldn't want to overload that pea-sized brain of yours."
"This pea-sized brain of mine has done something no one else has, you know," Harry smirked.
"What's that? Being stupider than anyone else on the planet?"
"Pissing Voldemort off royally."
"You know, regular people call that idiocy."
"I call it fighting for freedom."
Bellatrix snorted disdainfully. "A fight you're losing, Potter. Face it, you suck at this."
"No," Harry replied, his eyes hardening. "The wizarding world is losing this war. They're the ones cowering behind a few, tossing their loyalties behind whoever seems to be winning for the moment."
"And you still fight for these morons?"
"I fight for myself. Voldemort is after me, so I fight back."
"The war's over, you know."
"What're you talking about?"
Bellatrix sighed and took a few moments to answer. For a while, it seemed as if she wouldn't answer him at all when she finally spoke. "The Order of the Phoenix is gone. The Ministry is shattered, the Aurors disbanded. You lost. Once the Dark Lord finds the last couple of survivors, he'll come back to finish you. He's hunting them right now and it's only a matter of time before he finds them. When he returns, we're both dead."
Harry froze in disbelief. Part of him screamed that she was lying, that the Order couldn't have been destroyed in such a short time. It was impossible, there were so many of them left when he had been captured, they were too secure, too spread out, for Voldemort's forces to break them up. Unless . . . a sickening realization hit Harry like a physical blow. Unless the traitor had provided Voldemort with more than just information about the raid on Malfoy Manor. He briefly entertained the thought that she might be lying, but discarded that quickly. In here, in their situation, she had no reason to lie to him.
He sunk down into himself, slumping into his corner of the cell in defeat. He opened his mouth to refute her claims, but found himself unable to utter a sound. The war was over. The Order was gone. He was going to die. Those three phrases repeated themselves over and over in his mind.
He was lost in his thoughts for the rest of the morning. Eventually, his days fell into a sort of sick routine. Every afternoon or evening –he found it hard to tell exactly how late it was – a group of Death Eaters would come down, drag her up for torture, and return her late at night. From what little he could glean from their taunts directed at him, he could tell Bellatrix had been correct. The war was over. Voldemort was off somewhere, hunting down the remnants of the Order.
After the cycle had repeated itself for a few days, Harry discovered something interesting. Whenever Bellatrix returned from being tortured, if she was still conscious, she would be relatively sane, giving as good as she got in their verbal duels. He even came to enjoy their conversations a little, as much as two people who were practically dead could bond. However, when morning came, she always was more subdued, and rarely spoke. It marked a sharp contrast that made him wonder. He had heard a few things about her, about what she had been like in her younger years. Sharp tongue and quick wand, Flitwick had told him once—that was what she'd been like in her youth.
It made him wonder how she'd become a Death Eater when her sister hadn't. Was she just that twisted? Had she always enjoyed torturing other people? It was a morbid curiosity, but it beat sitting around and waiting to die. After a few days, it was the only thing to occupy him, after he had resigned himself that he would not be breaking out without help. He attempted to ask her about it several times, both at night and in the mornings. She never answered those questions.
Their familiar routine ended one day. How long it had been, he found it hard to tell, but assuming that the food and water – a bowl of stale liquid he assumed was water, anyway, and a piece of mouldy, crusty bread that hardly qualified as food – came once a day, it must have been at least a week since his capture. The Death Eaters came and took Bellatrix early in the morning. They didn't return her until very early the next morning. The moment they dumped her body back into the cell, Harry could tell something was wrong.
She didn't move.
Harry moved over and gingerly rolled her onto her back. Her violet eyes were vacant, and her breaths were coming short and pained. She coughed a few times, and when she did, her hand came away slick with her blood. Unsure of what to do, he gently propped her up against the wall until she was sitting up.
It took a few minutes until her ragged breathing calmed somewhat. "Potter . . . that you?"
Harry didn't quite know what to make of that request, but did as she had asked of him. There was the sound of tearing fabric. When she stopped rustling, he turned back to face her. She was in the process of buttoning up what was left of her blouse, but what caught his eye was the object in her left hand that hadn't been there before.
It was an exquisitely carved hairpin four inches long, cut from a shimmering black crystal. The tip looked razor sharp and glinted in the dim light in the cell; it widened at the top to accommodate a teardrop-shaped piece of black onyx, from which dangled a small chandelier of crystals that were equally as black as the rest of the ornament. He blinked in surprise; this wasn't something he'd expected her to carry around with her.
Bellatrix finished with her blouse, leaving the top buttons undone as her fingers failed to respond the way she wanted, and let her hands drop into her lap. She stared down at the piece of jewelry in her hands, her expression vacant. Finally, after what seemed like a small eternity, she slowly turned her head and extended her hand, offering the pin to Harry.
"I'm not exactly one for baubles, Bella," he commented dryly.
"For once in your life, Potter, stop being a smartass and shut up." The words lacked her usual venom and force.
"All right, but I don't exactly see why you're giving me a piece of jewelry. Or giving me anything at all, for that matter."
"It's a Black family heirloom," she replied slowly. "When I was young, I found it in the family vault. It's supposed to be cursed. Or powerful. No one was quite sure, and its real purpose was lost in legend."
"Seems like its real purpose is to hold up hair to me," Harry replied.
"I told you to shut up and listen, Potter." Bellatrix slid down the wall as another set of coughs wracked her body, splattering blood across the front of her tunic. "When I was . . . young, and foolish, I thought I could use it against the Dark Lord, once."
"Why in Merlin's name didn't you pull out the damn thing sooner!"
"I never figured out what it did, you idiot!" Bella hissed. It was as close to a shout as she could manage, in her condition. "Now shut up and listen. This is the last time I'm warning you, Potter. The Dark Lord is on his way back. The Order has been eradicated. Tonight, he will return, and we will both die. That's why they took me for an entire day – it was their last chance to play with me. Take it."
He gingerly closed his hand around the wide end of the hairpin, noticing how cold the crystal felt in his palm. "And now? Something supposed to happen?"
"Now you take it and kill me."
"What! Are you crazy? No wait, I take that back, I know you're crazy, but I didn't think you were this crazy!"
She fixed him with an even stare. "We'll both be tortured until we go insane, like the Longbottoms. Then we'll be healed, only to be tortured again. I don't know about you, but I'd rather die now."
"You don't sound like Bellatrix Lestrange."
"Bellatrix Lestrange is dead. She died a long time ago. Call it justice, call it mercy, call it vengeance, I don't care. Just put me out of my misery. If you want, you're free to follow, or you can take your chances with the Dark Lord."
Harry held up the hair pin as if it was a dagger and stared at it. He would have given anything for this chance a few days ago, but now it seemed . . . wrong. Logically, he knew that they were both dead the moment Voldemort returned, and what she was asking him was a reasonable out. For both of them. But a part of him couldn't reconcile suicide with the will to live, the strength to fight, that had carried him through his earlier years of the war.
Bellatrix saw the hesitation in his eyes, but she was decided. As far as she was concerned, it was time to die. She lunged toward Harry, grabbed his arm with the hand holding the hair pin and wrenched it toward herself.
The hair pin sunk into her chest and pierced her heart. It was the only possible place that it could have gone that would produce the quantity of blood that poured from the wound. After a second the shock of her actions wore off, and Harry gasped and jumped back, watching as she sunk to the floor, dying with the hair pin in her chest.
"I guess . . . I kind of just went with the flow," she whispered softly.
"Your question . . . why I served Voldemort." Bellatrix smiled, really smiled for the first time since he'd known her, her face, though carved with pain, showed a serenity he hadn't expected, and her eyes shone with peace and relief. She sighed and stopped breathing.
He looked down at his hands and saw that they were covered with her blood. Harry began to feel dizzy and sunk to the floor on his knees, settling down next to her. It seemed as if he could hear the footsteps of his captors coming toward the cell, but the sounds seemed so far away and indistinct. The room began spinning and Harry closed his eyes. A chill passed through his body, and in that instant, the illness passed.
Harry was afraid that standing would cause the dizziness to return; so, he blindly stood and backed toward the wall, planning to use it to support himself. Oddly, the wall seemed a little more distant than he had estimated.
After a moment to catch his breath, Harry opened his eyes. To his shock, a teenage version of Bellatrix was standing in front of him. She was easy enough to recognize with her jet-black hair, piercing violet eyes, and arrogant demeanor. She couldn't have been more than eighteen years old. Her robes were pristine, her face was clean and undamaged, and she had a wand—pointed at Harry's heart.
"Who are you, and how did you get here?" she demanded with a voice laced with anger and fear.