Rabastan gen. "The framed portrait says what everyone thinks: Rodolphus and Bellatrix Black Lestrange ... and the younger brother, Rabastan." Rabastan loses himself in the background.

More

The framed portrait says it all about the trio of them – Rodolphus with a tight smile, a hand lovingly, protectively, jealously clenching Bellatrix's shoulder, Bellatrix seated like a queen, the mysterious smile with a tinge of teeth showing, and Rabastan off to the side, hands clasped loosely around a leatherbound book. The framed portrait says what everyone thinks: Rodolphus and Bellatrix Black Lestrange ... and the younger brother, Rabastan.

He smiles in the portrait, in the background, nonetheless.

People tend to think that Bellatrix is the leader. Rodolphus is far too dependent on her to give her any sort of orders, and Rabastan – well, he's the youngest, by far. For the most part, they're right. Bellatrix squares her shoulders just so and puts on that Black voice, imperious and cold, and few can withstand it for very long.

Rabastan thinks himself a lot of wasted potential. Had his brother married anyone else, perhaps he could have been the leader, the idea man, the hero. He is intelligent, skilled in most forms of magic, and courageous.

He finds solace in the background, instead. The background has something the foreground does not, and that is anonymity. No expectations. The ability to do anything he wants and never outclass those in the foreground, because no one is looking at him. All he has to do is exist to fill his role.

Dinners and lunches and lessons and meetings breeze by, with Rabastan's wand and mind solely underused, until he comes to a conclusion, and his smile grows genuine.

He is two years out of school and has never touched a drop of liquor. As the Mark burns on his arm, but not for him – only to call the others, he knows – he wanders down to the wine cellar, pulling a bottle out. Appraising the year on the bottle, he goes upstairs and opens it, pouring two glasses, and contemplates the rim. Only a moment later he writes and sends off the owl.

Rabastan is observant – observation is the nature of intelligence, after all – and has seen the way Cicely Parkinson watches him at dinners, felt her hand lingering too long on his arm, and watched the way she recrosses her legs when he looks back at her. There is a knock at the door a half hour later, and she stands on the doorstep with the faint light of the setting sun behind her, a smile gracing her lips as he holds out a glass of wine.

It later surprises him (at the time he's too drunk too notice) how easily a society woman is won over. A half a bottle of wine later and a hand on her thigh is all it takes to start a messy affair, her prim dark hair mussed and dress ripped in the rush of the moment. It becomes a habit – each time he is not called to the meeting, he calls his own, drowning himself with liquor and women in the background, different ones each time, buying them if he has to.

They are always satisfied. He is not.

Sore mentally and physically, he pushes Iris Spinks off of him, glancing back towards the stairwell to see Bellatrix there. Iris very nearly falls, catching herself. "Oh – oh, Mrs. Le - "

"You couldn't do any better, Rabastan?" Bellatrix draws her wand slowly, looking more at Iris than at Rabastan. "How disappointing."

"Iris, go," Rabastan says, fixing his trousers. She attempts to Disapparate, but her wand flies out of her hand, and Bellatrix is laughing. "Bellatrix," he says. "Let her go."

"Is drinking away your parents' wine and sleeping with half the women available your contribution to our Lord's work?" Bellatrix wonders, Summoning the girl's wand before she can attempt to grab it. "You have better things to do, Rabastan."

"No, I don't." Iris's eyes are full of tears already, but he can't bring himself to protect her. She couldn't help him, why should he help her?

Bellatrix strides over, looking over Iris critically before grabbing her by the hair and putting her wand to the girl's neck. "Do you care for her, Rabastan?" She strokes a thumb against Iris's face; the girl shudders.

"No," Rabastan says. "Kill her if you want."

"Rabastan!" Iris shrieks.

Bellatrix shoves her away. "Go home, little girl."

Rabastan watches her go, and says, "You could have at least let her put on her knickers."

"Shut up," Bellatrix hisses, grabbing him by the collar, pulling him up, and sneering with disgust as his bare chest shows. "Little more than a whore. Rodolphus would be so disappointed."

"And a drunkard, not that anyone cares," Rabastan says. "Pour me a glass of wine, Bella." Oh, he's enjoying this.

"You've had enough, Rabastan, enough of everything. It's time for you to sacrifice."

But sacrifice is not what he wants, and he gets what he wants, everything but the foreground. "Give me more."

She gives a bitter laugh and slaps him across the face.

His eyes burning, his face aflame with blush and pain, he stares at her.

"Barty," she calls.

"Yes, Bella?" Rabastan jerks at the other boy's voice, turns to see the smirk on his face, feels a surge of hatred. Younger, less talented, yet favored for his name.

"Get Rodolphus. We're going out." Bellatrix cups Rabastan's chin, a fingernail placed along a nerve, her smile more unnerving than a comfort. "You're coming with."

Sullenly, he gives her a nod, and she pulls away. She reaches for the bottle of wine, and takes a long drink, tossing her hair back, before throwing it against the wall, pouring down and staining the rich wallpaper. She laughs again, sauntering away, smiling.

It could never be enough.

Or could it?